Monthly Archives: January 2010

Breeding Rabbits

The following is paraphased from Rabbitlopaedia by Meg Brown

1) The buck is the most important member of the rabbitry. He must be in good condition and exercised regularly, but kept away from the does. Bucks should not be used until they are 16 – 20 weeks old.

2) The does should never be mated when she is in moult and should be at least 16 weeks old. The does should be put to the buck in his hutch, not the other way round. If the doe does not accept the buck then she is not in season. Repeat this until she comes into season and accepts. Does will have swollen genitals when in season.

3) 3 or 4 litters a year is enough for one doe. If the doe comes back into seasons, then she has reabsorbed the eggs as not enough were fertalised the first time round.

4) Pregnant does- They should have a large hutch. From the day of mating the doe should be well fed and have plenty of water and milk to drink. The gestation period is 28 – 31 days. A nest box should be provided, with the side of the box just high enough to allow the doe access, but to keep the youngsters in. Give the doe plenty of soft bedding (meadow hay). In cooler weather a polystyrene tile can be slipped under the nest box for extra warmth.

5) For five days the youngsters should only be touch in emergencies, such as if the doe has scattered them around the hutch, or if they are not feeding after 24 hours. Rub your hands on the does before touching them.

6) For the first 3 weeks the litter survives purely on the mothers milk. Then they shoudl be weaned at 16 to 21 days, being fed pellets, rabbit mix and hay, but not too much fibre.

7) At this point saperate the mother and the young, and split the sexes (3 hutches plus the buck hutch). Sexing young rabbits can be difficult.


Beekeeping Honeybee life cycles

The following is important honeybee lifecycle information which must be learnt. The numbers are days.

                    Queen. Worker. Drone
Hatches.         3.        3.             3
Cell sealed.    9.        9.             9
Emerges.      16.       21.          24

Variants of one day are quite common.

Roger recommends marking the queen and clipping her wings. This allows the beekeeper to have inspection intervals of 14 days.

Beekeeping, setting up

Last year we attended an excellent course run by the West Sussex Beekeeping Association. Becs has beekeeping in her family, but we still intend to join the Leicestershire and Rutland Beekeeping Association. This type of support is vital if you are going to keep bees safely and be able to look after their welfare. During the beginners course at WGBKA we were given an excellent handbook written by one of their senior trainers Roger Patterson. Some of the information below is taken from that guide.

We bought a cedar wood national hive after that course with the intention of assembling it when we have bought the land. We still have a bit of kit to get hold of before this spring, not to mention finding a reliable source for a British Bee nucleus.

Roger gives a short list of skills that need to be gained in order to become confident with Bees.

1) Know how to handle the bees confidently and gently, and know when to use the smoker.
2) Understand the workings of the colony.
3) Be able to ‘read’ the colony and judge it’s requirements in advance.
4) Be able to recognize good and bad bees, and be able to improve the bad ones.
5) Keep upto date with new research, sift out what is relevant and apply it to your own beekeeping

Rabbits for meat Care

The following is taken from Rabitlopaedia by Meg Brown and Virginia Richardson.

Most common problem is overfeeding. It helps to feed at a regular time of day.
To keep water from freezing add a little salt or glycerine. Don’t change their diet suddenly.

Young rabbits can be fed pellets from 8 weeks. Large breeds require 4 oz a day plus forgaged greens.

Molasses can be given as an occasional tonic.

Hay needs to be cut short to avoid tangling.

Don’t feed them lettuce, cabbage, parsnips or frozen greens.

Rabbits for meat

As seasoned ferret keepers, we have completed occasional pest control for a local game keeper on a number of occasions. We have therefore learnt the safe and humane dispatch of these animals. everything I read about raising rabbits for meat seems to back up the idea that they are perfect for a smallholder who is interested in cheap, healthy, freerange meat. After some research we are thinking of getting a breeding trio of Newzeland Whites. I will be getting hold of a couple of secondhand hutches and building some grazing arcs from old fireguards.

Edible Flowers

Taken from The Edible Flower Garden by Kathy Brown . The following is a list of edible flowers which might be useful in the 6. soil surface layer of a forest garden (Hart 1996).

Nasturtiums: self seeder. Grow in partial shade. Peppery taste which is excellent in salads.

Hollyhocks: Self seeder. Grow in a sunny sheltered spot. Good in fruit salad.

Evening Primrose: Self seeder. Sunny spot. 2 years to flower. Roots can be eaten, tastes like parsnip. Flowers can be eaten bud and mature flower. Fresh taste.

Sweet Rocket: Self seeder. Sun or partial shade. Mild lettuce flavour.


The following may be useful in the 4. Herbaceacous layer.

Borage: Partial shade or full sun. Used in savory jellies, decoration .

Pot Marigolds: (maybe even used in the 3. shrub layer). Sun. Slight peppery tasting petals. Can be dried in large quantiies to flavour soups.

Chamomile: Mat forming perennial. Sun. Tea.

Fennel: Sun. Root, leaves, seeds and flowers are edible.

Bergamot: Sun or light shade. leaves can be used for stuffing or tea. Petals have a strong spicy flavour so must be used sparingly.

In the beginning

“I just want to live in space”, I said to Becs, then realised how funny that sounded. ” No not that kind of space”.  She knew what I meant.

We have been dreaming, plotting and scheming about self sufficiency and smallholdings for over five years. Ever since we took on a large wild allotment, (to be honest) I have talked of nothing else.  4 years ago Becky said “not yet”, 3 years ago…”I’m still not ready to move out of town”, 2 years ago..”maybe next year”……then….last year  “oh, go on then, lets put the house on the market”.

So here we are a year later, almost completing on the purchase of a 1.8 acre plot.