Feb 21, 2020 | Animal Care | 0 comments

Are Meat Rabbits Right For Your Homestead?

One of the biggest reasons we chose to homestead was to be able to grow and raise our own food.  We want to know where our food comes from, how it is produced, and in the case of animals, how those animals were treated.  Not every homesteader has the ability or the space to raise larger livestock, such as cattle or hogs. Meat rabbits can be the ideal meat source to start with.  Are meat rabbits right for you?

Rabbit Meat is an Ideal Protein Source

Did you know that just one pair of does and a buck on an aggressive breeding schedule can produce up to 600lbs of meat every year?  That is a lot of meat for your family! Not only will you be getting a great quantity of meat, but the quality is also superior.  

  • Rabbit meat has the highest amount of protein compared to chicken, beef, fish, pork and lamb
  • Rabbit meat has the lowest cholesterol of any meat
  • Rabbit meat is the lowest calorie option per serving
  • Rabbit meat is easy to digest

Benefits of Raising Meat Rabbits

And yes, it does taste like chicken! There are endless ways to cook rabbit, and one of my favorite ways to cook it is in the Instant Pot and shred and freeze for later. I can then add it to any dish that calls for shredded chicken…rabbit tacos, white rabbit chili, chip dips, rabbit taquitos or enchiladas…the list goes on and the recipes are limitless!

Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine sure is! Now that I’ve got you thinking about all the delicious (and nutritious!) food you can make with your meat rabbits, let’s talk about some of the benefits to raising rabbits on your homestead.

One

Meat rabbits do not require a lot of space.  The cages we built for our rabbits are two feet wide and 3 feet long.  According to the book, “The Rabbit Raising Problem Solver” by Karen Patry, the dimension requirements for the size of rabbits we have is a minimum of 24”x30”.  Sizes will vary slightly based on the weight of your rabbits and whether or not they are nursing kits.  

Because of the small space requirements, you can raise rabbits almost anywhere, provided that you are consistent with cleaning.  Rabbits can fit into most spaces, including the limited space some may have on an urban homestead. They can be housed in hutches outdoors, as long as they are protected from the rain and wind.  Their thick fur makes them ideal for Michigan winters, and rabbits do much better in the cold than they do the heat and humidity. You could also keep them in a garage or shed as long as they have good ventilation, especially in the summer. 

Two

Rabbits are quiet. If you live in a semi-rural or rural area, the noise level may not be a concern to you. But if you have an urban homestead and live in close proximity to neighbors, rabbits are a great choice for providing meat for your family, while not disturbing others who live around you that may not be as excited as you are to be self-sufficient.  Rabbits really do not make much noise. You may hear an occasional foot stomp, or squeaks from newborn kits, but all in all rabbits are very peaceful animals. On the contrary, chickens can squawk, cluck, doodle, and smell a lot worse, and are more likely to draw complaints from neighbors. Chickens are also considered livestock in many cities, while rabbits tend to fall more in the pet category.  There’s a higher probability that city regulations would allow rabbits instead of chickens (make sure to check with your individual city or township), and you are much more likely to get a complaint from a neighbor about chickens, than rabbits.

Three

Rabbits are a versatile producer.  We know that rabbits can provide your family with plenty of healthy meat, but they can also provide beautiful furs for crafts and clothing, fresh fertilizer to add to your garden, and stock for showing, 4H, and for pets.  Being able to bring in an extra income with your rabbits will depend on many factors such as breed, coat quality, and local demand, but the potential is there if you want to put in that time and effort.

Four

Meat rabbits are easy to process.  We have helped process meat chickens before, and that is not something that I would care to do again.  The process is tedious, it’s hard to do alone, you need some equipment, and it STINKS! On the contrary, the process of butchering your meat rabbits is simple, can be done by one person (but it’s much better with a friend!), you don’t *have* to buy any special equipment, and it’s easy on the nose!  There are many different methods that can be used to dispatch your rabbits, and everyone has their own preference. We chose to purchase a Hopper Popper after seeing how easy it was to dispatch a rabbit and also how humane it was.  

Preparing For Your Meat Rabbits

 

These are just a few of the many benefits that we have found to raising meat rabbits on our homestead.  Do you think that you are ready to dive in? If so, here are some things you will need to ensure you are prepared before you bring your rabbits home.

Cages.  These can be purchased, or you can make them yourself.  We chose to make ours so they could be the exact sizes we needed for the space we wanted to put them in.  You will need to decide on a location for your rabbits, and that can be a determining factor on what type of cages you will need.  Remember that you will not only need a cage for each of your breeding stock, but another larger cage or two that will house weaned kits as they grow to butchering age.  Pay special attention to the gauge for the floors of your cages. You don’t want your rabbits to get sore hocks. Also consider how your set-up will allow ease of cleaning. 

The cages will most likely be your biggest expense, but it is advisable to spend a little more to get quality cages that will last. I should note that raising your rabbits in a colony (cage-free) setting is also an option, but the specifics of that is not something I am personally familiar with.

Feed.  Rabbits are able to survive on only pellets, but we have found that they also enjoy some variety, so we additionally feed hay and occasional treats.

Water. There are many different types of waterers you can use: hanging bottles, crocks, dishes, or gravity-fed.  For the warmer months, we made a gravity-fed waterer with special nipple attachments, and they work out very well. In the winter, we purchased small heated bowls, but crocks also work out fine as long as you can replace water frequently if it freezes.  Rabbits need access to water in order to eat and digest their food.

Nesting box.  These can easily be made to fit your doe’s breed specifications.  We made ours out of plywood with a wire floor. 

Additional Resources

These are just a few of the many benefits that we have found to raising meat rabbits on our homestead.  Do you think that you are ready to dive in? If so, here are some things you will need to ensure you are prepared before you bring your rabbits home.

These are just a few of the many benefits that we have found to raising meat rabbits on our homestead.  Do you think that you are ready to dive in? If so, here are some things you will need to ensure you are prepared before you bring your rabbits home.

If you are like me, and are a visual learner, Jeremy Chambers from Independence Acres Homestead has a YouTube channel where he has very informative videos on Cuniculture (rabbit raising).  We purchased our rabbits from him, I trust his knowledge about rabbits, and he is always gracious to answer my questions.   He has been a wonderful mentor!

Meat rabbits have been a fantastic addition to our homestead.  They have been a joy to raise, and it is very satisfying to know that we will have a reliable, sustainable, and healthy meat source for years to come.  Are meat rabbits right for your homestead?

Written by Melina

Melina, her husband, and their two sons, began Shining Light Farm and Homestead in southeast Michigan with the goal of becoming as self-sufficient as possible. Over the years, they have slowly grown, and have been able to provide quality, pastured meat and eggs to their families and local community. Farming has been a continual learning process, and they strive to raise their animals as naturally and holistically as possible, and assist their land in attaining optimal health through regenerative agricultural practices. Join us on Instagram: @shininglightfarm or Facebook: Shining Light Farm and Homestead.

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