Raising Rabbits for Meat in a Colony

We’ve been raising rabbits for meat off and on for years.  From the beginning, I sought alternatives to traditional cages.  We started out with rabbit tractors, which worked great for small numbers but weren’t really scalable.  Then, at our old house, we started a colony and it was the perfect answer, until the goats pushed on the gate and “freed” the whole colony right before we moved.

It took a couple of years to start over, but now we’re raising rabbits for meat again and have settled on a colony build that works well for us.  In this article, I will answer some common questions and share the insights I’ve gained over the years. Continue reading “Raising Rabbits for Meat in a Colony”


150 Animals, Winter Chores in Under 30 Minutes

When talking about the animals we raise, I often hear, “How do you do it all?”  I’m startled at that question, because the reality is there isn’t much to do, so I thought maybe it would help to take you on a walk through my daily chores.  As much as possible, I try to automate systems.  Like most of us, I have a lot going on with homeschooling, house-wifing and small farming, so anything I can be hands off with is a help.

These photos were taken today.  The average time to feed and care for all the animals on the property is under 30 minutes, with bursts of activity once per week for feeding hay.  High capacity feeders are the key to sanity.

Even with the time spent moving hay once per week, we still average under 30 minutes per day.  Here’s how.

Continue reading “150 Animals, Winter Chores in Under 30 Minutes”


Garbage Can Chicken Feeder

We’ve been feeding whole grains to our chickens for 2-3 years now.  About a year and a half ago, we finally landed on the low maintenance, no waste chicken feeders we use today: garbage can chicken feeders.  This method allows us to feed one or two times per year and results in zero waste and grain throwing.

To get started, choose a container.  We had garbage cans on hand so used those.  We have made feeders in 5-gallon buckets and I’ve seen storage totes used as well; there are no set rules for the container type as long as it will hold up to the weight of the feed with holes drilled in it.  Because we fill ours up and then move them to the coop, we prefer garbage cans for ease of moving. Continue reading “Garbage Can Chicken Feeder”


Day 40-Something No Kibble

This should be the final post on this; I wanted to share my final thoughts.  The dogs have been eating no kibble for a month and a half now.  We’ve been adjusting upward from our last estimate of 5.8# per day.  I don’t know exactly how much we’re feeding now, but we’re ignoring the numbers and feeding them by their response.  If I were to guess, it’d probably be closer to 7# total now.

Winston, my German Shepherd, has lost some weight, but he’s been a lot more active the past couple of weeks with the improving weather.  We’re adding more food for him.  Mint the heeler, on the other hand, seems to be foraging for quite a bit of her food and is not really interested in what we feed her.  Winston is glad to clean up what she leaves so we’ll stay where we’re at for her. Continue reading “Day 40-Something No Kibble”


Creating a Feeding Station for Livestock Guardian Dogs

Before we got pigs, we just had a bowl of food out for the dogs free choice.  Those days were so innocent, so pure, so carefree.  Then came the pigs. <cue ominous music>

Now, I’ve had all kinds of livestock for most of my life, but nothing prepared me for life with pigs.  They are an entirely different animal altogether.  I remember the first time we were moving two of our little sweet adorable piglets out of one pen and into another.  Everything was going great, they were following a bucket of grain and we were thrilled with our success.  Then they quit coming.  I looked back to see those two sweet little angels ravenously devouring a whole chicken we’d fed the dogs, bones crunching in their mouths as they contentedly snorted and chewed.  Whoa. Continue reading “Creating a Feeding Station for Livestock Guardian Dogs”


Days 20-23 No Kibble, Free Meat is Great!

This is going so well I don’t really know what to write.  We’re mixing the same mix of 30% oats, 30% veggies and 40% meat, along with milk, eggs and herbs.  They might end up too fat at this rate but they sure love it.  I think when you find the right method, you just know it, and this is totally the way we should be feeding our dogs. Continue reading “Days 20-23 No Kibble, Free Meat is Great!”


Fencing for the Livestock Guardian Dog

My heart jolted out of my body for probably the 4,000th time in a month to the sound of a honking horn. In the weeks since moving to our new farm, situated right next to a paved road, it had seemed like one catastrophe after another and the honking horn was a sure clue that yet another disaster was unfolding right outside.

Blaze, our benevolent Great Pyrenees, had once again escaped the pasture where she lived and was out on the road stopping cars. This is a 50 MPH road, so you can imagine the chaos that ensued. She would refuse to move, barking at these evident trespassers and nothing we could do short of dragging her back off the road would make her stop. This was happening at the same time as the neighbor issue and I was over capacity for dog related stress. Continue reading “Fencing for the Livestock Guardian Dog”


Day 19 No Kibble, Getting Smart Edition

Yesterday was a great shopping day!  We happened to go in on a 20% off natural foods day, which included the bulk bins.  I was able to negotiate a 20% discount on a 50-pound bag of rolled oats (it wasn’t in the sale section) for the dogs, so I only paid $30, which is $.60 per pound and less than we would have paid at Azure if Azure had bothered to have it in stock, which they didn’t…again.

Since we were in the bulk section, I stumbled upon massive cans of pumpkin, over 6 pounds for around $6.50, so we bought two of those.  Frozen veggies were on sale for $1 per pound and we got 12 of those.  Even with all the dog food, we only came out over budget for groceries $22.  Our current budget is $100 a week, so we did pretty good I think. Continue reading “Day 19 No Kibble, Getting Smart Edition”


Days 17 and 18 No Kibble

Day 17

We made a big enough batch yesterday of the oats/chicken/mixed veggies to feed everyone for morning.

Winston was a bit reluctant, but sometimes he’s just weird.  After a few seconds of staring at it, he started in and ate it all.  Mint ate all but one bite of hers.  As Rob and I were talking, we remembered they’ve found a deer carcass and have been bringing back parts, so they probably aren’t overly hungry right now.

Halo the Maremma was not overly eager to eat his, either.  That’s not a good start to this method.

We forgot to pull out meat for dinner and there was enough leftover from the previous batch to feed the house dogs, so I added in leftovers, some bread slices and an egg for everyone.  It came out to enough for all four and they ate it eagerly.  Maybe this will be easier!

Day 18

I made up a new batch for breakfast this morning.  I have to say this method just feels so much better, like it’s the right way to do things.  Mixing it all together makes so much more sense to me and seems to be more palatable to the dogs.  It also takes a lot less time since we can make a batch for the whole day in about the same time as mixing up the regular morning cereal.

For this meal, I mixed 2.3 pounds of fresh turkey, 30 ounces of old fashioned rolled oats, 4 cups of milk, 1 can of canned pumpkin, 3/4# frozen mixed vegetables, 4 eggs, a couple glugs of flaxseed oil and a tablespoon or so each of dried nettles and red raspberry leaf.  Everyone dove in and gobbled it up.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see them thoroughly enjoying their meals.

Winston’s red skin is greatly diminished.  It’s still too pink, but definitely getting better.  From here on out, if he seems to have trouble, I don’t feel like it’s going to be a big difficulty to simply adjust the amount of grains down a bit and increase the vegetables and meat.  It’s what we were trying to do before, but with a formula to follow that makes it so much easier.

Free Turkey!

Two days ago someone tagged me in a post on Facebook for a free turkey who was aggressive to other birds.  He dressed out at about 15 pounds, what a blessing!  I’m saving the feathers for arrow fletching, they’re beautiful.


Day 16 No Kibble, Scrapping the Levy Method

I’ve been increasingly unsettled about the results of this method, which is heavy on grain.

It’s also been a very time-intensive process. We have to remember to get the grain soaking the night before and also in the morning for evening feeding on the meatless days. We’re finding that the cereal is not being well received by anyone anymore. I think we might have been overfeeding the LGDs, but the house dogs have hated the cereal from early on so it’s been a lot of struggling to find something they’ll take to. Continue reading “Day 16 No Kibble, Scrapping the Levy Method”


Day 14 No Kibble

After yesterday’s strangeness, I increased the morning meal for the house dogs.  They got 3 cups of milk, 2 cups of rolled oats, a half cup of dried zucchini, 2 eggs and some herbs: nettles and spirulina.  They ate it quickly and acted hungry, so I added a scoop each of the LGDs’ barley cereal.  They ate that quickly too, so I gave them each a scoop of our leftover spaghetti.  At that, they seemed satisfied, finally!  That sure seems like a lot, but I feel like at this point we need to be ignoring the numbers completely and just watching the dogs.

The LGDs had their normal barley cereal but with eggs mixed in.   Continue reading “Day 14 No Kibble”


Day 13 No Kibble

Today was the day after a fast and I’m not sure if that’s what happened, but when Rob fed the LGDs, a fight started between Mint the house heeler and Blaze the LGD.  We’d already fed the house dogs but in hindsight, I think it wasn’t enough after a fast day.

Breakfast for the house dogs was a pint of milk with a cup of quick oats and about half a pound of vegetables, with 2 eggs whisked in.  Our target daily food weight for the house dogs is 3.15# and this came to about a pound altogether.  Perhaps they need a heavier meal in the morning and a lighter meal at night. Continue reading “Day 13 No Kibble”


Day 12 No Kibble

I’m not so sure Blaze isn’t getting enough to eat.  Between the two LGDs, they’re sharing 3 dry pounds of barley soaked in milk and water with three-quarters of a pound of vegetables in the morning, and at least that much again at night or the equivalent in meat.  They’re only supposed to need about 5.5 pounds.  I’ll keep up this amount for now and watch their condition.

We’ll add more eggs when the eggs start coming on.  My flock of 25 +/- hens is probably not going to be enough for our family, the pigs and the dogs.  And to think, I had 70 hens last spring and sold down to this number!   Continue reading “Day 12 No Kibble”


Day 11 No Kibble

It’s time to re-evaluate how much they’re eating.  We were aiming for about 8# of feed for all of the dogs, which was pretty close.  If you assume a 3% of body weight daily feed goal, it looks like this:

Blaze (Pyrenees, adult): 100 pounds = 3 pounds of feed.
Halo (Maremma, adult): 85 pounds = 2.5 pounds of feed.
Winston (German Shepherd, adult): 75 pounds = 2.25 pounds of feed.
Mint (Australian Cattle Dog, juvenile): 30 pounds = .9 pounds of feed. Continue reading “Day 11 No Kibble”


Our Vision for the Sustainability of Our Goats

I like to dream about what the future holds for our little farm and the most important livestock we raise on it, the goats.  I love all of my animals, but goats are my special pals.  In terms of sustainability, they have the potential to give life to not only their kids and mine, but also to the chickens, pigs and dogs.  If we can successfully provide their needs here on what we can raise, we can use their outputs to create sustainable food for the other animals that call Little Avalon “home.”

While I thought it would be fun to share this with you, I think it’s equally important for me to put these ideas into words that I can look back on as we progress through this journey.  It’ll be interesting to see how things look a year, or five, or ten from now! Continue reading “Our Vision for the Sustainability of Our Goats”


Day 10 No Kibble

Breakfast for the house dogs was the hamburger/veggie/milk/brown rice mixture from the night before.  They ate it without hesitation, hooray!

For the big dogs, more barley cereal with milk and veggies.

When we started this, I had absolute faith in the wisdom of Levy’s writing.  I don’t doubt at all that this worked extremely well for her, but as I watch my house dogs struggling with what I presume is the amount of starches in the barley, I think some dogs already on a Western diet of kibble may not be able to go straight into that sort of diet.  I don’t know why the LGDs are doing so well while the house dogs do so poorly, but I have to admit it leaves me concerned about the high amount of barley for everyone. Continue reading “Day 10 No Kibble”


Day 9 No Kibble

As of now, the dogs have been without kibble for eight full days.  I have gone this long before feeding various things, such as raw, our leftovers, etc., so there is nothing terribly out of the ordinary about this length of time.  One thing I notice is that Winston the vaccine injured German Shepherd’s coat is getting noticeably shinier again.  This morning, he began scratching, which is what has stopped us every time we’ve tried before. Continue reading “Day 9 No Kibble”


When Your Neighbor Hates Your Livestock Guardian Dogs

Nearly two years ago, we packed up everything we owned, including 17 goats and their 2 livestock guardian dogs, and moved to our new home, a beautiful paradise you see in all the photos on this website.  It’s the place of dreams, a place I wake up every day and thank God for allowing us to buy.  Here, at last, we could fulfill our dream of becoming a sustainable farm, able to withstand life’s financial and social storms.  We were so eager to begin that we worked until midnight the day of closing to get our beds moved and sleep in our new home.

We’d lived in the house we moved from for our entire marriage and our entire goat owning career.  Nothing prepared me for the enormity of a move that involved both livestock and small children.  I’d say it took almost a full year to finally begin to feel settled in.  We were very blessed to have a fully fenced and cross fenced property to move to, but miniature goats and determined livestock guardian dogs will find ways to get out. Continue reading “When Your Neighbor Hates Your Livestock Guardian Dogs”


Day 8 No Kibble

Today’s breakfast did not go over well.  I put a little bit of apple cider vinegar in the normal barley cereal and I think that’s what turned the house dogs off of it.  Still no problem with the LGDs (if only my kids were as easy to feed!)

I’ve noticed the house dogs seem a bit depressed.  They’ve never seemed to like the barley, so perhaps I need to switch them over to the rolled oats instead.  I’ll buy a bag on our next trip into town, because the human organic ones are too expensive to feed. Continue reading “Day 8 No Kibble”


Walk-in Rabbit Tractor on Wheels Design

We built this tractor back in 2011. I’ve since gone through multiple variations and unique tractors and this remains one of the best designs we’ve used. I originally published this on a Blogger blog but am collecting all of it into one post here on my website.

This part first published 3/28/11 and the rest followed over the next couple of weeks, current notes in italics:

It’s been a long-time goal of mine to raise meat rabbits on pasture. Working out the details has taken forever! There are so many things to consider with pastured rabbits because they’re so adept at escape. After hours and hours of looking at hundreds of chicken tractors, I think we’ve finally figured out how to make our own rabbit tractor.

I plan to start small with 2 does and a buck and since no one pastures rabbits I have no idea how much space to give them. I figured a good start would be 4’x12′. 4′ wide will fit between our planned raised garden beds. We’re going to move the pen every day or as needed to make sure they have plenty of fresh grass. Continue reading “Walk-in Rabbit Tractor on Wheels Design”


Day 7 No Kibble

I forgot when writing the day 5 update that yesterday was the fast day, so they didn’t eat yesterday. No one seemed to mind much. Sunday is also our sabbath so it was a nice break to not spend time feeding the dogs. It takes a decent amount of time to gather, mix and distribute the ingredients, especially since we’re still figuring out what we’re doing. I’m looking forward to settling into a routine. Continue reading “Day 7 No Kibble”


Building a Zero Cost, Post-Free Pallet Fence

Pallets are hands-down one of the most versatile and important no-cost homesteader supplies. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever use them, if you happen upon a stash of them at a store for free, you owe it to all of your soon-to-be jealous fellow homesteaders across the world to bring those pallets home.  From instant patches in existing fences to building entire lines with only pallets and elbow grease, pallets make the easiest and quickest fence to put up.

My husband lived and worked out of state for a year and a half while I had three (now four) small children and a small farm to take care of alone.  I remember how much I appreciated being able to use pallets then.  I could put up a single line by myself while the baby napped.  (I originally wrote about our pallet fence back in 2012 on my old blog, but in an effort to consolidate info and remove myself from Google’s clutches, I am rewriting those articles here and ditching the Blogger blog.) Continue reading “Building a Zero Cost, Post-Free Pallet Fence”


Day 5 of No Kibble

Courtesy of

POOOP! I guess when Levy says the hours overnight are “strongly eliminative,” she means that quite literally. Winston, evidently showing us what he thinks of this whole thing, made a point to come upstairs to our bedrooms to poop in the middle of the night. He never goes in the house. And Mint had another mess as well.

I’m not sure if we should adjust the timing of meals, but I suspect that will be the answer. The house dogs are always hungry first thing in the morning, so perhaps we will feed them at our breakfast and dinner times, especially since I’m already soaking the cereal grains overnight and they’d be sufficiently softened by then.
Continue reading “Day 5 of No Kibble”


Nigerian Dwarf Bottle Feeding Schedule

Even if you dam raise your kids, it’s inevitable that you’ll wind up with a bottle baby at some point. Our does have large litters, as many as five at a time, and it isn’t uncommon that we end up with one or two (or three) per year that are put on the bottle. This is the feeding schedule we use for our Nigerian Dwarf bottle babies; you can approximately double the amounts and use this for standard sized goats as well. Minis would be somewhere in between.

So much of feeding bottle babies is intuition and individual decisions. I’ve tried to pinpoint specific weights to give you an idea of how much to feed, but the best advice I have is to watch your babies and their activity level/overall behavior. Well fed kids are bright, alert, active and constantly exploring the world. Kids who aren’t feeling well will be just the opposite, standing around, lethargic, crying out or frantically seeking milk. Always go by what your kids tell you over what an article online does.

Continue reading “Nigerian Dwarf Bottle Feeding Schedule”


Day 4 of No Kibble

We soaked barley overnight in a mix of goat milk, water and the juice strained from plain cooked white beans.  First thing this morning, I scooped a scoop into each house dog’s bowl and they both ate it without any trouble.  This cereal had a whole quart of goat milk instead of yesterday’s pint, plus the bean broth.  It also had no vegetables or herbs in it yet, so I’m not sure which factor convinced the house dogs to try it.

I had intended to feed the barley mix only to the big dogs, so there wasn’t enough for the house dogs too.  I added their portion but in oats instead of barley to the barley mix, then a pound of organic peas, raspberry leaves and turmeric.  The smell of this stuff is incredibly appealing to me, but not to anyone else.  I wonder what my body is missing!

When we do our next pallet order of minerals, I want to save up enough to buy a few bags of Thorvin kelp to add to the dog food.  Kelp is something Levy advocates to use every day and it’s what we feed the rest of our animals (New Country Organics minerals contain a large portion of kelp).  I’m also looking forward to being able to harvest enough nettles this year to carry them through year round, but right now we have only a tiny amount left.  Come on, spring!
Continue reading “Day 4 of No Kibble”


Physical Traits of an Easy Hand Milking Goat

In the world of dairy goats, you’ll hear such descriptive terms as “butter soft udder texture,” “plump teats” and “open orifices” to describe a hand milking udder. In an online world where words must sufficiently explain such a complex experience as milking, we often fall short of really telling readers what the udder is like. This article attempts to break down the individual traits that come together to make a doe an “easy milker” versus a doe you might want to keep as a pet instead.

I remember my first purebred Nigerian doe. I bought her as a 3 day old bottle baby and fell head over heels in love with her. She grew into a petite beauty, a light buckskin with a characteristically mellow personality and the most ridiculously tiny teats I’d ever seen. Finally, I understood the somewhat laughable term, “kitty titties.” All my dreams of enjoying the renowned sweet, creamy milk of Nigerians were dashed upon my discovery of that udder.
Continue reading “Physical Traits of an Easy Hand Milking Goat”


Day 3 of No Kibble

The house dogs definitely do not like the rolled barley. The midday feeding was largely ignored. I tried to snap you a photo of Winston the German Shepherd’s imploring stare when I put his bowl down in front of him, but he sidled up to lean his head into my belly, the serious begging, so I couldn’t get a picture.

The mix this morning was only a pint of milk; increased bottle baby demands and a hellacious cold snap decreasing supply is making a hard time of things. We’re defrosting last year’s frozen milk for tomorrow’s dog food.

I mixed up barley, milk, water, flaxseed oil, nettles, dried yellow summer squash, fresh carrots and an egg for each house dog and topped it with a slice of sourdough. It sat largely untouched for most of the day.
Continue reading “Day 3 of No Kibble”


Day 2 of No Kibble

We’ve begun feeding our dogs an exclusively homemade diet; no kibble. Read the first part here.  I’m going to try to update regularly for the first month or so or as long as there’s anything noteworthy to add.

Yesterday marked the second full day of no kibble.  The LGDs were quite hungry and excited for their morning oat cereal and they ate it down quickly.  The house dogs also ate it quickly.

The evening meal brought some changes.  Being the second night, we weren’t feeding meat so they got another round of cereal.  We had gone to the feed store earlier so this meal was rolled barley instead of our human rolled oats.  The texture is thicker and doesn’t appear to soak up liquids as well.  We also included more vegetables.  It was not well received by anyone, but the LGDs ate it quickly enough.  The house dogs took longer and there was a little bit left over this morning when we woke up.
Continue reading “Day 2 of No Kibble”


How Much Does It Cost to Produce Goat Milk at Home?

milk photoAmong the many reasons for raising your own milk at home is the expected cost savings.  I see remarks in various goat groups about how much more home raised goat milk is costing people, so this article is an attempt to break down the costs of raising your own goat milk to see where the money goes, which allows us all to make educated decisions on how to better manage our goats from a cost perspective.

I wrote an in-depth breakdown of our personal costs to raise goats.  The end result is that we need to sell about $480 worth of kids per doe per year to break even.  This includes total operating costs, such as labor, farm insurance, fencing, feeds, etc.  Rats!  There go my dreams of being a professional goat breeder! 😀
Continue reading “How Much Does It Cost to Produce Goat Milk at Home?”


Cost of Making Homemade Dog Food

We’re still in the early stages of being 100% kibble free and making our own dog food, so I’ll continue to update this post as the details become clearer.

Prior to making the switch, we were spending $4.55 per day for dog food, which gives us quite a bit of cost to work with.  If we pay the same amount but feed them homemade food instead, I’d count it a win for the health benefits.

How Much To Feed Per Day?

Juliette de Bairacli Levy says a healthy collie adult should eat 2 pounds per day with this method.  Collies average 60 pounds full grown.  Our four dogs average 66 pounds, but LGDs eat less for their weight than other dogs their size.  We’ve been averaging about 6 pounds of kibble per day (fed free choice) before switching so I’m basing our current rations on that and will adjust both the ration and this article if things change considerably.  Levy also mentions dogs eat less on this diet than on an “unnatural diet.”
Continue reading “Cost of Making Homemade Dog Food”


Our Journey Begins: Ditching Dog Food

For years now I have wanted to get away from kibble in my dogs’ diets.  It is unnatural, laden with chemicals and filled with things we wouldn’t necessarily choose to feed ourselves.  I have a six year old German Shepherd who, after having mandatory vaccines to be boarded one year, has suffered off and on with skin conditions and nervous issues.  He is sensitive to foods and has never seemed to regain full health after his ordeal.  It is mainly for him that we are finally jumping into feeding dogs naturally, with no kibble.

The thing that has held me back from making this move is the many conflicting recommendations on how best to feed dogs homemade food.  On one end of the spectrum you have the raw camp saying that dogs must only eat raw meats, bones and offal and nothing else.  On the other end is a personal hero, Paul Gautschi of Back to Eden fame, who is feeding his dogs only fruits, vegetables and eggs all grown on his property.  His dogs are sleek, healthy and vibrant, a sure testament to the fact that dogs do not need meat to thrive.  With so many opinions, it’s easy to get caught up in indecision.
Continue reading “Our Journey Begins: Ditching Dog Food”


When to Separate Kids Overnight for Milking

By the time kidding season rolls around, the kids and I are all but salivating over our favorite goat milk products. Caramel consistently tops the list, but one thing is certain: we’ve missed fresh goat milk for the past couple of months!

When those kids begin to arrive, it’s a balance between the kids’ needs, the milk quality and our own eagerness to begin tasting fresh milk. I see a lot of people asking around this time how long they need to wait before separating kids overnight, so I know we’re not the only family looking forward to milk!
Continue reading “When to Separate Kids Overnight for Milking”


Calculating Grain Costs for Goats

We buy grain in bulk from local feed mills. It saves a lot over retail at the feed store, but the tradeoff is that we spend more time handling the grain and drive longer distances to get it. We have been going twice a year now, but I’d love to get bigger storage bins to allow us to make one trip per year. That the peas are in one town and the oats/barley are in another just complicates things.

The current mix, which changes based on availability and sometimes our whims, is 3 parts barley, 1 part field peas and 1 part black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS).

Our most recent purchase put the prices as follows:
Continue reading “Calculating Grain Costs for Goats”


Costs of Raising Goats

Our methods change frequently, so while these costs are accurate now, by next season we may be doing things differently.

One thing is for certain no matter the method: raising goats is costly!

January begins kidding season, or it has the last two years anyway. The does are wintering in the barn and eating free choice second cutting alfalfa at $70/ton. Our price is drastically lower than market value because we buy at cost from a relative. Market rate is about $175 a ton.

We winter about 6 months out of the year, so I figure 180 days of feeding hay at a rate of 4% of body weight per day per goat. An average adult Nigerian weighs 75 pounds, so 3 pounds a day, or 540 per season. I round up to 600 pounds to account for increased eating during late pregnancy.

Continue reading “Costs of Raising Goats”