Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Raising and Breeding Rabbits For Meat

Throughout North America there is a movement to relearn the forgotten skills of self-sufficiency. People from various walks of life are recognizing that our consumerist lifestyle has a negative impact on the planet and on our quality of life. These groups, families, organization and individuals want change and many turn towards acts of self-reliance. There are many things people can do to increase their self-sufficiency such as growing organic vegetables (in large or small spaces), learning to preserve food, hunting wild animals or homesteading.

It was our desire to be self-reliant that began our adventure in raising and breeding rabbits for meat. We considered a variety of animals for our backyard homestead like chickens and goats, but at the time rabbits were the best fit for our needs.


Rabbits are well suited for small spaces. Rabbits don't need much space to be comfortable. We keep our rabbits in all-wire cages with a floor area of 2.5 by 3 feet. All wire cages keep rabbits safe and clean. At first it can be difficult to imagine that a rabbit would be content living in an all wire cage. Wouldn't they rather be running around in the grass? Then I came across a book Rabbit Housing: Planning, Building, and Equipping Facilities for Humanely Raising Healthy Rabbits. I thought that the book would contain designs for elaborate rabbit housing and was surprise that the book was a proponent of the all-wire hutch. I still have plans to build a moveable rabbit-run for our backyard as a way to control the weeds.

A small rabbitry is quiet and should not stink. Rabbits don't cluck or bleet. The most noise you'll get from rabbits is when they run around their cages. As for the smell, rabbit urine does smell but most of it is absorbed by the soil. On occasion we might toss some lime on the ground to absorb the smell and the poop is raked up every week or so. As long as the cages and surrounding area are cleaned on a regular basis there shouldn't be much smell.

Rabbits are easy to care for. Each day rabbits need to be fed and watered. Doing this basic task takes five minutes. Handling or petting the rabbits a little each day will domesticate them and make it easier for breeding or showing.

Farmed rabbit meat is lean and mild tasting. Rabbit meat is high in protein and low in fat. It can easily substitute for chicken meat and many people would think it was chicken unless told otherwise. There are various breed of meat rabbits to choose from. We raise Champagne D'Argent rabbits and they are an excellent meat rabbit.

A couple extra rabbit perks. Rabbit manure can be used in your garden. Unlike chicken manure which needs to mature before being used, rabbit manure can be thrown right into your garden. If you have too much rabbit manure it can be composted or put into pails for avid gardeners to take home. Also, rabbit pelts can be tanned and used for at home sewing projects or sold to crafters.

Before raising rabbits it's always good to do a bit of research and reading. Here are a couple book recommendations: Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits and Rabbit Housing: Planning, Building, and Equipping Facilities for Humanely Raising Healthy Rabbits.

If you are interested in raising and breeding rabbits for meat there are a few things to consider before getting started. To start I would recommend you try eating rabbit. Even though farmed rabbit is mild it might not be to your liking.

If you do enjoy the taste of rabbit next to consider is how much will it cost to start up a small rabbitry. A rabbitry needs a structure to protect the rabbits from the elements, cages, feeders, water bottles, nesting boxes, tattoo kit, rabbit feed and rabbits of course! You can start a rabbitry with one buck (male) and one doe (female) but a common recommendation is one buck and two does. We started ours with two bucks and two does. Our start up cost was around $600, and we built our own cages and housing.

Next you have to think about the B-word, butchering. You will need to decide who will kill and butcher the rabbits. In our home my husband kills the rabbits and I do the butchering. The process is fairly simple. This set up works well for us. You might be able to out source this task if you know someone that will do it for you.

This rabbit just had it's ear tattooed which is why there is black ink in its left ear.
I hope this helps in your rabbit raising adventures, if you have any questions (or suggestions) about raising rabbits feel free to comment below or send me an email by going to my Contact page.

For more information about raising rabbits:
04/13 Reviving Cold Newborn Baby Rabbits
04/13 Preventing Nest Box Eye Infections in Baby Rabbits
04/11 Treating Baby Rabbit Eye Infections

This post is being shared at Barn Hop.

14 comments:

  1. Here in Italy rabbit is a common dish, whereas in the UK less so, as rabbits are popular pets for children. Roast rabbit combines really well with wild fennel.

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    1. Yes, you're right! It was our trip to Italy that inspired us to raise rabbits for meat. It seems fairly common out there to eat rabbit. Here in North America people see rabbits more as pets so we often get strange looks when we mention to others that we raise meat rabbits.

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    2. Were are you in Italy. I grew up in the USA but came from Italy so both my wife and I are used to eat rabbit. We would like to raise them. I trying to read up on them. Have any suggestion on what books I should read.
      Tony Pisanu

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  2. Your posts about rabbits have really peaked my interest. As a child we had rabbits. I think the time has come to teach my children about it. Also thanks for the links about canning. I've enjoyed exploring that site.

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  3. My brother raised rabbits for meat when we were young and you're right it tastes a lot like chicken. I'm not sure if I could butcher a rabbit myself but I like the idea that the manure can be used straight in the garden. Thanks for the info!

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  4. I raised rabbits for my 4H projects many years ago and did very well selling and showing. I will be adding a trio next year to add to my meat supply. The hardest decision is deciding what breed. Thank you for a very informative post. Come visit the herd when you get a chance; www.tailgait.blogspot.com

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  5. I have been trying to convince my hubby that we need to try meat rabbits. We already butcher our chickens. Our kids have a male and female pet rabbit, and I wouldn't eat them but I'd have no trouble eating their offspring! :) -Jamie

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  6. Are the pelts good? Not all rabbit breeds hold thier fur post butcher and I was wondering about this breed.

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    1. Hello Taffy, I have just started to experiment with tanning the furs. I have three that are in the process and they seem to be holding their fur well. The only thing is that the rabbits are born black and change to grey. We butcher the rabbits around 10-12 weeks of age and sometimes the fur still has some black spots. If you are interested in the fur you might want to consider a white bread so that you have the option of dying the fur or selling it. Hope that helps!

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  7. We've been on the fence about raising rabbits for 2 years or more now... mostly because of the butchering issue. Recently, we got a call out of the blue asking if we'd take some of an unexpected litter. So... now we are preparing to take the plunge. In getting ready, I came across your website and there is so much great information. I really appreciate it! I've subscribed and will be eagerly reading more so that I'm ready for our new additions when they are ready to leave their mom.

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  8. I will say, as someone who has only been raising meat rabbits a year or so, the butchering has not gotten easier. It won't deter us from continuing to raise rabbits for meat (and I cannot say enough good things about their manure!), but it certainly is not at all enjoyable to process them for eating. I'm sure most rabbit raisers would agree. Like child birth, I guess, you go on the journey and you have to finish the job, no matter how uncomfortable it is. :)

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    1. You're right, butchering rabbits isn't fun. Some people have a really hard time with it. I don't mind it too much but it does put me off eating rabbit for a few days. The end result if worth the discomfort, like childbirth :)

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  9. Hi, Josee. My roommate and I started to raise rabbits about 2 weeks ago. We have one buck, & two does. We built our own cages and just made them a Play pen in the grass. We have been looking into a few things about them and maybe you could help us: 1. I know you stated that 10-12 weeks was a good age to butcher them, would it be better to wait till 16 months of age to get more meat on them? 2. How many days should we wait to breed our does again after they had a litter? 3. Our rabbits are Californian rabbits, which I hear were very good, meat and fur rabbits. Is this true?

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  10. Can you tell me what you are using between the top and bottom cages for the urine/feces to be redirected away from the bottom cages? It looks clear and I'm wondering where you get that. Plastic would be so much lighter/easier to deal with than the heavy tin I was thinking of using....

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I'd love to hear your friendly thoughts.