Renowned rabbit keeping instructor Nick Klein recently sat down with Off The Grid News to share some of the secrets of the trade. Klein is the owner of Hostile Hare, an Arizona-based business. Rabbits are perfect off-grid and doomsday preparedness critters to have around the homestead for many reasons, according to Klein. The veteran rabbit keeper will be appearing at the Arizona Survivalist/Prepper Expo in August.
Nick Klein – Hostile Hare interview:
OTG News: What led to the creation of Hostile Hare?
Hostile Hare: I have always been an alternative fuel junky. I’ve experimented with everything from electrolysis to used vegetable oils as fuel sources. I was studying gasification, a process for turning biomass into fuel through pyrolysis and reduction, when I saw an opportunity to improve the process. Instead of chipping wood or compressing saw dust or using harvested corn for the feed stock biomass, I wanted to use a “biomechanical” approach. So I started raising rabbits to turn unorganized grass clippings, weeds, some twigs, veggies and some fruits into organized compressed pellets… rabbit poop. I started with four does and a buck. I always ate wild hunted rabbits growing up, so I figured I would just eat these bunnies… little did I know that each breeding female is capable of producing 64-80 babies a year! That’s enough meat for an adult human to survive on. So I started selling the offspring and found there was demand. I soon grew the operation to 50 breeders, then 70, and I now have the ability to produce 700 head a month.
OTG News: Aiding fellow Americans toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle is not only a worthy goal, but one that will save lives after a man-made or natural disaster. Are your workshops geared to novice survivalist/preppers, or will seasoned off-grid and homesteading families learn new skills from Hostile Hare services as well?
Hostile Hare: These workshops are geared towards those getting started raising rabbits. Even if you’re a seasoned rabbit farmer, you can benefit from another view point and another opinion. It’s been my experience, though, that no one has integrated livestock, gardening, and power production like we have at Hostile Hare.
OTG News: Why are rabbits so key to survival?
Hostile Hare: Rabbits are the key to efficient food production. Your canned goods will eventually be used or expire, with no grocery store to replace them. You’ve got a time limit. Rabbits will produce 320 lbs. of live offspring per female and only require six square feet of living space (and not much head room—15 inches). So, in a 6×4 foot area, 8 foot tall, I can produce over 4000 pounds of live rabbits a year. So I propose a “Live Food Storage System.”
OTG News: As you noted on the Hostile Hare website, rabbit keeping is even a viable options for folks who are not fortunate enough to live in rural America and are forced to deal with suburban HOA rules. What specific rabbit keeping tips can you give to suburban and urban preppers?
Hostile Hare: Rabbits are the perfect HOA friendly livestock. If you have a 3×2 foot area on a patio or in a spare bedroom you can raise 960 pounds of rabbits in a year. They are quiet, naturally clean, and can be passed on as pets should a conflict of purpose arise. Just keep the poop pans cleaned and the rabbits happy, and you’ll never draw attention.
OTG News: What is the Live Food Storage System?
Hostile Hare: The Live Food Storage Systems are cage systems designed to maximize production and minimize work, all while efficiently using the minimum amount of space. They come with automatic waterers, feeders, waste pans, and upright supports.
OTG News: How expensive is it to purchase and raise rabbits as compared to other livestock?
Hostile Hare: With our system, plan on spending $100-120 per household member and anyone else you want to feed. That will get you the livestock and compartment system to hold them.
OTG News: How difficult is it to kill and prepare a rabbit for cooking? For folks who do not live in or near Arizona and cannot attend one of your workshops, how do you suggest they learn to harvest their rabbits?
Hostile Hare: Rabbits are fairly simple to prepare to eat. A novice will have an oven-ready bunny in five-ten minutes of it being alive. I do recommend a salt brine overnight to offset the muscle tension. You have to remember, all meat purchased in the store has been allowed to decompose slightly to tenderize it. For those who are not close, I will have some online classes soon and we’ll be starting an affiliates program promoting other “rabbitries” that offer similar classes.
OTG News: Please share some details about your workshops for preppers who do live near enough to your location to attend.
Hostile Hare: We offer up the how-tos of rabbit raising in our Rabbits 101 class and we get down to the nitty-gritty in the Processing Workshop. In the processing workshop, every participant will get their own rabbit and will follow the teacher cut per cut, covering all the details for quick butchering methods.
OTG News: What type of rabbits do you raise at Hostile Hare – and why?
Hostile Hare: I raise New Zealand Whites, specifically the Ozark line. I also have American Blues, Californians, and some Rex mixes. The first three are the big boys of the industry, hitting 4-6 pounds in 8 weeks. The Rexes I keep because their fur is softer than the others and they sell as pets faster than the solid white, red eyed “vampire looking” New Zealand Whites.
OTG News: What type of equipment and supplies do you need for raising and processing rabbits? Do you ship such supplies?
Hostile Hare: Honestly, if you have a pair of scissors, a filet knife, and some paracord, you’re good to go in a “Git ‘er done” sense. But if you’d rather have a dedicated work station with small game and fish butchering as its purpose, then we can get you that. We are in the process of getting our systems shippable, should be ready soon.
OTG News: If the power grid goes down or massive civil unrest occurs based upon some other type of natural or man-made disaster, grocery store shelves will be empty is as little as three days – likely less. Besides rabbit keeping, what other food growing and raising tips would you suggest to preppers living in rural, suburban, and urban areas?
Hostile Hare: Focus on utilizing the nitrogen cycle to your advantage. With multiple animal types and hydroponic gardening, you should have one nitrogen source put in to the system and have four food sources come out.
OTG News: You will be attending the Arizona Survivalist/Prepper Expo in August. Will you be participating in any other upcoming off-grid and homesteading events this year?
Hostile Hare: I will attend any that I can, but I usually stay in Arizona.
OTG News: Do you have any tips for cooking rabbit in an off-grid situation?
Hostile Hare: If the power grid goes down, cooking the rabbit on a conventional stove will become impossible. Homesteading and off-grid families often utilize a solar oven, wood stove, or charcoal grill to cook food. Do I have any tips or recipes for grilling rabbit? Just cook it like you would chicken, low and slow! That will keep it juicy. I like marinating it in herb and garlic dressing.
OTG News: How can a novice or even intermediate rabbit keeper know when their rabbit is ill?
Hostile Hare: Watch for lethargic behavior, ears laid back, tilted head, snotty nose, or fur stains on the forepaws. These are indicators of contagious illnesses known in rabbits. Quarantine and/or kill any to ensure the herd doesn’t come into contact with them.
OTG News: What type of disasters scenarios or concerns do Hostile Hare workshop attendees appear to be concerned about most?
Hostile Hare: Power loss, whatever the cause. Rabbits are hard to cool without the use of a fan, swamp cooler, or AC unit. It can be done though.
OTG News: Rabbit keepers would be able to barter with their small livestock in a SHTF scenario. What other types of items and animals do you think would make great bartering items?
Hostile Hare: Rabbits are like your very own post-apocalyptic money printing press! Food to me is worth more than gold. If you’re stuck with just your family and no one to barter with, gold will starve you. So focus on food production. Its renewable, it’s always needed, and it’s something you can use to offset your current budget needs.