Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Rabbitry Expansion and a Chicken Area

With death of Kinley, we were faced with some decisions to make. None of them cheap. Did we want to continue with angora rabbits? How big did we want our rabbitry to be? How will they be housed? Angoras do not do well in the summer months outside here.Where would it be? How much did we want to invest? Ready built or could we build it? Could we meet Mel's  financial needs goal in two years when she's out of a job?

Although we had a rough idea of what we wanted, there were quite a few kinks to work out like whether this would be a hobby or profitable business. Yeah, you guessed it. Profits are a good thing when talking about a sustainable lifestyle. Remember, I'm the practical one. I know how to set up a business. I have an MBA that focuses on marketing, planning and expansion of businesses. Of course, that was before I ended up with brain damage from my stroke. That's where Mel comes in. She helps focus me and keeps me thinking the right way. We needed a business/action plan. Those ready built sheds ain't cheap. Plus it would have to have electricity to run the lights and air conditioning in the summer. We'd also need water available for the rabbits for them to drink and clean them up when necessary. Yes, we will be raising English Angoras in a full fledged rabbitry.

We ran a profit, break even, and debt analysis spreadsheets. Taking what we knew and what we later researched. Gathering the information we needed was a no brainer. We knew that we could only care for two dozen rabbits at a maximum. For every two or three does, we'd need one buck so we aren't inbreeding too much. As in, breeders and woolers full time. We didn't want to over breed and stress the rabbits so we figured breeding them twice a year at most. English Angoras will have between six and ten kits a litter. We calculated the expenses and possible income in sales of babies, wool, and yarn. To make the rabbitry profitable will take fifteen Angoras. So we decided on twenty angora rabbits.

To house a minimum of twenty angora rabbits and grow out that many kits, we'd need a 10x12 building. That would give us room for the cages and work space to tend them. We calculated each cage at 30x 36 for the does and grow out with the bucks in 30x30 cages.

Mel designed a litter catchment system so we can harvest and sell the rabbit poo to gardeners. That's above what we need for our garden. We knew how much poo ten rabbits can make in a year so we doubled the figure. Our very conservative estimate was 250 lbs of poo per year that will be for sale.
Like this but ivory siding and green roof

In the essence of time, we decided to buy the building. It will still need to be insulated and a floor put in. It will have a standard door off to one side so we don't have to go through the chicken area. There will also be a window at the other end. The carport side will house the chickens and the meat rabbits. We'll hang the meat rabbit cages from the ceiling. We'll run fencing wire for added protection and corralling the blasted chickens. Yippee!!!! No more chickens in my garden!

We went to one of the local shed vendors who we've been talking to about our tiny houses to purchase the rabbitry/chicken house. With a modest $145 down we bought it and a nice sized discount. Designed and sized the way we wanted. Amazing what my added income can do for Mel's old homestead. The final payment is due in about a month. No sweat. By the time we add the floor insulation, and paneling you can add another $1,000 in cost for the materials. Mel originally wanted a concrete slab. Yikes! Not within the budget, but the rabbits and chickens will have a home. We decided on a deck type floor because it would be easy to clean and easier on the budget. Mel says she only needs a week to do it all. I'm figuring two weeks and working until the wee hours of the morning.

On the two-four year plan, the rabbitry will grow by purchasing four to five new Angoras a year until we meet our goal of twenty rabbits. Of course, we may be keeping a few of the kits born in-house too to make up that goal number. Though we aren't interested in showing our Angoras, part of our target market will be.

Now I happened across a deal on Craig's List for English Angoras. I can get all five rabbits from a person getting out of the wool trade. Combined with the buck and doe we have, we can diversify the gene pool some. Unfortunately, other than the bred buck and doe, they are all related. But being separated by one generation is better than no separation. So in two months time, the owner is holding the rabbits until the Angora shed is finished, we'll have an influx of new rabbits. By purchasing these five rabbits now together means that next year, we will have to get our stock from different breeders. But then again, they can be purchased one or two at a time too. Pure bred Angora rabbits ain't cheap. Along the way we'll be formulating a pedigree for our kits. Pedigreed angoras command a higher price tag at sale than nonpedigreed. We should be getting some interesting colors from the REW (red eyed whites). <Shivers> They still remind me of something demon possessed, but Mel loves them. Kinley almost changed my mind...almost.

Now about them chickens. If you've watched the latest videos about Mel in the workshop, then you know about our broody hen. Well on Monday. Mel went out to the shop and heard peeping. That's right, we've got a new edition to our homestead. Ms. Broody hatched a chick. She sat on the
remaining six eggs for an additional almost forty-eight hours, and no more chicks, before tossing the baby out of the nest. It's a long way down from Mel's tool chest to the floor, but it managed fine. She first got the chick's feet wet, so to speak, scratching around the straw in the barn before venturing out into the yard. By early afternoon, they were underneath the Camellias in front of the porch. If we were worried about how good a mother Ms. Broody would be, we shouldn't have. She ruffled out her feathers every time another hen or any animal came near. The chick learned fast about running under its mother when she did that. I took out some bread and cornmeal to them making sure to leave plenty for the other hens and roosters away from them. Ms. Broody (formerly known as Ms. No Comb) broke the pieces into chick size bites. She ate very little of it. She's a wonderful mother. Unfortunately, chickens can be vicious. The chick lasted in general population for three days. This was a fluke and a trial and we weren't really set up for baby chickens, but next time we will be.

Ours will be smaller, but same principle
So, we are now planning our hen house to be split between layers and a grow out place for meat birds. We don't need the mammoth meat chicken breeds neither. These New Hampshire Red provide us with two or three meals a piece at a full weigh of 4-5 lbs each unless we have company. So the 12x12 undercover (carport) area will be put to good use. We figure to deep bed the area and let them compost their waste, the rabbit waste and straw/grass clippings/weeds for us. This in itself will be enough for our garden beds until we make a lot more beds. Cleaning out the meat rabbit and chicken area three times a year is doable.

We were going to cut a hatch out for the nest boxes so we don't even have to go into the coop area to gather the eggs. We will be getting two 55-gallon drums for a water catchment system so we should have plenty of water for all the animals both inside the Angora house and the carport. I downloaded some plans for an automatic chicken feeder that will hold 50 lbs of feed. The rabbits will have 2 1/2 lb pellet feeders with their own watering system set up. All we have to do is go in with goodies like fodder and vegetables. I figure LED lights strung from the supports should provide enough other light. We've got a 45-watt solar panel power that. Mel insists on having an additional chicken run outside the covered one.  "Because my chicky babies need full sunlight." (Do I have to specify who said this??)  I'm leaving that up to her. I've a feeling after we build the fencing around the carport and the doors, she'll be saying good enough. We've got Nnyus to protect them from predators.

Mel has had to chase the hens more times than not out of the garden. This is even with installing a higher fence around the garden. Out of twenty-five green bean plants I planted (4 times) we got ONE plant to actually produce beans this year. No corn out of 200 plants. No cucumbers out of twenty-five plants. No cayenne or sweet peppers. Three sunflowers out of fifty. The chickens ate the seed or the plants before I could harvest any. Yes, the local wild cottontail population was guilty of munching most of my radishes and carrot tops, and my lettuces.They will have to be grown in gutters next year.

It's a good thing I planned this year's harvest as an experiment. If we had counted on it to feed us through the winter, we would have starved. But next year is a different story. My five-year gardening plan calls for fresh eating and 6 months worth of stores by the second year.   The third year is 9 months worth, and the fourth is a year's worth of fresh eating and stores. Where Mel likes to list things. I tend to plan things out over the long haul via some sort of scientific method. It's measurable to what you dud right and wrong.

So keep tuning in to this blog and our YouTube channel for updates. Houston, we have a plan. Now it's time to implement it.

Be blessed until next week.

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