Today, I ground up the rabbit meat and trimmings I designated as sausage to try it out. It was a pretty small batch of sausage, but there's nothing wrong with that.
In fact, that's one of the things that I'm loving about rabbits. We've raised pigs in the past, and two 300 lb pigs makes a whole lot of meat. Since we were doing all the processing ourselves without a walk-in cooler, it was a marathon operation. Our fridge had to be pretty much completely empty, and then it was jam-packed with meat from top to bottom. It took a lot of effort to get everything packed away for long-term storage. Then, over the course of the next few weeks, we'd cure bacon and hams, and finally smoke them.
Yes, the end product was great, for the most part, but it was also a heck of a lot of effort. Nowadays, of course, I see how I could have made things a lot easier on myself... but the fact remains that processing two big pigs is a lot of work and takes some planning ahead.
With such a huge amount of meat all at once, there also was more risk. The first time we dry-cured hams and hung them for 6 months, they turned out great - fantastic. The 2nd time, it got really hot and humid and the mold grew thick on them (which is pretty normal). When we finally got to try them, after a lot of work scrubbing off mold, I thought the taste was a bit off. Not bad... but not real great. A heck of a lot of work went into those hams for them to turn out mediocre.
We made sausage after everything else was stowed away, and ended up with about 60 lbs. So we seasoned it a couple of different ways. Most of it was great, especially the first year. But the next time, the seasoning was too strong on 30 lbs of it.
So I began to see all that meat at once as more of a liability than advantage.
Chickens, even though they are small, can also be kind of a batch operation. If you are incubating or ordering birds, you can't just get a few at a time (nor would you want to manage the different ages with their different requirements). So you end up with a big batch of at least 25 or 50 birds. For a few weeks, you have to run a brooder. Then you hopefully get them transitioned to a longer-term environment, without many losses.
When it is time to process them, chickens need scalding, and it isn't worth heating up all that water just to do a few birds. So butchering chickens becomes a marathon too. And if the weather is nice and people are there to help and it all goes smoothly... then it can be a fun event. But it can also be a not-so-fun event, when you have a lot of birds to do, a busy schedule, and no decent weather to take advantage of. And even though chickens take up a lot less space than pork, when you process 25-50 of them, they do take up some space. (Note that I'm not talking about culling a few older hens or roosters here, I'm talking about raising chickens specifically for meat).
That's the livestock I have experience with. A person could talk a lot more about buying, breeding, alternate feeds, and so on, but I'm mainly talking about the butchering and meat-preserving experience here.
Now, contrast and compare that to rabbits.
With just two does, you get a steady supply of meat. Our litters have ranged from 5 to 10 so far, and we've staggered them so we are just processing one litter at a time. The other day, we butchered and refrigerated 5 rabbits in about an hour and a half, without any rushing. There was no scalding, plucking, or hoisting involved - just a sharp knife and a piece of pipe.
Then, at my leisure, I pulled those rabbits out of the fridge and cut them up on the kitchen table. No need to be working outside in the heat or cold.
Finally, I could package them into packs that are the right size for our meals, and stick them in the chest freezer. No need to make a ton of space or plan far in advance.
And here's the best part - with a steady stream of meat, instead of a large batch operation, there is a lot more opportunity to experiment and refine. So I made a small batch of sausage today. In a couple of weeks, if I thought it needed less seasoning, or wanted to try a different flavor - no problem. I'm not stuck with 30 lbs of sausage that Mel and Abby won't eat because I got it too spicy.
This time, I had about a cup and a half of ground meat, and added 1 tsp of sage, 1 tsp of ground rosemary, and a bit of pepper. I meant to add a pinch of salt, but I forgot. Abby and I thought it turned out great, though. Mel thought it needed a bit more seasoning.
I'm very happy to have a very good substitute for pork sausage now.
I also started marinating the bellies in a little bit of Worcester sauce and liquid smoke, after cutting them into strips. Tomorrow, I plan to dry them on low heat in the oven to make jerky.
I love having these little batches to play with, knowing that more is coming and I can always tweak things better.
People have different reasons for raising different kinds of livestock, and I'm not judging what anyone else does here. I just wanted to put forth my opinion on the differences in butchering and meat-preserving experiences with rabbits vs. pigs/chickens.