Raising Rabbits for Meat

By Crystal Miller

 

If you are looking for a simple way to provide meat for your homestead you might want to consider raising meat rabbits.  Rabbit meat is tasty and very good for you. It is all white meat, has lots of protein, and is lower in fat than chicken, or beef or pork.  Plus it is not, in my mind at least, as much of a challenge to raise a rabbit as it is cows or pigs.  Rabbits can be raised in your backyard, even in the city!

 

Rabbits are very efficient.  I have read that they will produce 6lbs. of meat on the very same feed that a cow will produce 1lb. of meat.  The milk of mother rabbits is very rich and helps the rabbits grow very quickly.  You can have your rabbits ready to butcher in 10 to 12 weeks, dressing out at 4 to 5 pounds of meat.   

 

Meat rabbits are a certain breed.  They are usually large rabbits that will be around 10+ pounds when mature.  The most common breeds of meat rabbits are New Zealand (Reds and Whites) and Californian.  However these are not the only breeds.

 

Feed for rabbits usually consist of commercial pellets that are made of alfalfa and grains such as oats, wheat, barley, etc.  And a good quality hay such as timothy or alfalfa.  They also need fresh water at all times.  Make sure to learn how much to properly feed your rabbit.  If you over-feed your rabbits they will have problems kindling (giving birth).

 

Housing for rabbits usually consists of cages or hutches that are up off the ground.  The rabbits need protection from wind and rain and possibly predators.  They will need adequate ventilation as well. 

 

 

For breeding, the doe needs to be about 5 to 6 months old and a buck 6 to 7 months old. Fertilization takes place 8 to 10 hours after mating.  Gestation is 31 to 32 days. You will want to keep records of when a doe is bred so you know when they will kindle. A few days before she is due you will need to supply her with a nest box. She will pull hair out from herself to fill the nest box up with as her time approaches.

 

Ten to 12 weeks after the rabbits are born they will be ready for butchering. I know that for many this would be the most difficult part.  I would think that the best view would to be to know that these animals are providing food for your family. These are the realities of life.  I think so many of us have grown up not seeing this reality.  I remember asking one of my children years ago where meat came from and their answer to me was, “Albertsons” :).  Part of wanting to homestead for many people is more the thought of providing many of life’s needs for themselves.

 

I know in my home the butchering would be something done by my husband.  If your husband or father or uncle or friend is a hunter they may not mind helping with this part. There are books, websites and articles galore on how to butcher a rabbit and I will leave the research on this up to those who are interested in pursing this and save any of you the details that you would rather not know! :)

 

The benefits of raising your own meat are that you know what type of food has gone into them and you know exactly what you are eating.  When you raise your own meat you have more control over what you put on the table for your family.  Rabbits are an inexpensive way for even the small farmer to try his hand at providing meat for the dinner table.

 

 

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