Friday, May 3, 2013

The Great Rabbit Adventure

We have another new addition. His name is Benjamin.

Benjamin is the *gun*, you guys. And no, that isn't Nathan in the photo. Or me. Yet.

It all started when I said that I wanted to raise rabbits to feed the dogs. Nathan pointed out that the property is overrun with wild rabbits and that it would make more sense (and be a lot less work) to kill some of them for the dogs. The rabbits are an introduced species called Eastern Cottontails. Because they're introduced, they have a negative impact on the ecosystem - and they can legally be hunted at all times of year.

My only concerns were the dogs getting parasites from wild rabbits (which can be solved by freezing the meat for awhile), and killing the rabbits humanely. When we went to buy the air rifle I wanted to go with a cheaper version than good ol' Benjamin, but Nathan played the "Benjamin shoots bigger pellets and will be much more likely to kill the rabbit instantly and humanely" Benjamin came home with us (with the agreement that I would get first shot). 

We did some target practice for awhile and then we went rabbit huntin' (what have our lives become?? date night has never been so much fun). 
The rabbits are everywhere on the property - we saw 5 of them before we even loaded the gun. I took first shot and missed (we were aiming for the head so we'd either kill the rabbit or miss completely, instead of wounding it)...Nathan took second shot and missed. 

Then I was up again and success! I shot and killed a rabbit - an adorable, furry little rabbit....wait....

In my head I was all prepared (the dogs - and us - eat meat, regardless of whether we kill the animal ourselves, and if we have no problem, morally, eating meat then we should be able to kill an animal, and the rabbits would be killed instantly, etc. etc.) but when I actually killed the rabbit I shed a couple of tears. Not quite a seasoned farmer (or hunter) yet. 

I got over it pretty fast though and was excited to give the rabbit to the dogs (the excitement over rode my plan to freeze the rabbit first - I figure dogs catch rabbits all the time and eat them so it should be fine - I'll freeze them in the future). I wasn't sure what the dogs would do with a whole animal with fur and skin since they've only had pieces of meat or chicken carcasses (without feathers) before. I thought they might not try to eat it until we'd skinned it, but we wanted to see what would happen. They've been chasing rabbits like crazy every day so they definitely know the smell of them. 

Abby grabbed the rabbit first and ...well...let's just say she definitely knew what to do. I did *not* take photos of that. Ryan was just staring at her wide eyed, so eventually we cut what was left of the rabbit in half and gave the back legs to him. This is the dog who eats *anything* - he plucks kale leaves off the plant growing in the compost, he stands under the horses while they eat treats in case they drop anything and he once ate an entire onion. He nosed the rabbit and walked away. Nathan quickly skinned the rabbit and he nosed it again (Ryan, not Nathan), then wanted nothing to do with it. What?? 

We'll skin the next one and cut it up for him, but we are stopping short of cooking it. Maybe we can just sear it for some extra virgin olive oil, with a touch of rosemary or something. 

Stick - delicious. Fresh rabbit? Meh.

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