Guide to Raising Rabbits for Meat – Many people are turning to build a sustainable lifestyle. A sustainable lifestyle is one that can be maintained and controlled through work you do yourself and is an eco-friendly way to live in conjunction with the world.
One way to embrace a sustainable lifestyle is to grow and raise your own food sources. Many people have taken on raising animals that can be used as a food source, including chickens, pigs, and even rabbits.
Why Raise Rabbits for Meat?
You may look at that cute little bunny and think they are so small why bother? You will never be able to get enough meat produced to support your family.
But you would be surprised. Rabbitry meat is becoming more popular.
The rate of breeding makes rabbits one of the best sustainable meat sources you can raise. They multiply rapidly and can, in the end, herald up to 200+ pounds of meat a year depending on your herd and the amount you breed.
It sounds like a good idea, right?
Table of Contents
Guide to Raising Rabbits for Meat
There are a lot of things to consider when raising rabbits for meat though. In this guide, we are going to take a walk through the different steps you will need to take for raising rabbits for meat.
Let’s start with where and move on from there.
Where to Raise Rabbits?
You don’t want to get in trouble with the local officials, so first and foremost you need to make sure that you can raise those rabbits on your property for meat.
You may be able to have that little fluff ball as a pet, but when you are raising it as livestock, there are an entirely different set of rules. So, take the time to investigate where you can raise your rabbits and the rules you must follow to do so.
Here are a few options for where:
Am I allowed to Raising Rabbits for Meat at My Home
As we said above, many places allow you to have a rabbit a pet, but there may be rules about raising animals for food sources.
Make sure you check with your county or city what the rules are for this aspect of rabbit rearing.
Another thing to consider is that though it may be legal for you to raise rabbits on your property for food purposes, the county or city may not permit the butchering and processing.
If you can raise rabbits for meat on your property, then the next thing to take into consideration is which breed you will want to raise and the set-up you will need to do to prep for this new venture.
Community Gardens and Farms for Raising Rabbits
However, if you are not able to raise the rabbits legally on your property, but still want to try your hand at rabbit raising, you may want to investigate community gardens or communal farms.
These are an area of land that has been set aside by the city to allow the people of a given neighborhood the ability to grow an urban farm and help build a sustainable communal area.
These areas will not allow for the processing and butchering of the animals which you will have to do at a third-party processor. However, you will be able to raise the rabbits to that point.
Now that you have an idea where you can begin your rabbit farm, you will be ready to figure out the set-up.
If you are using a communal garden, there may already be places built so this next section is really for those that can manage a backyard set-up.
What You Need to Raising Rabbits for Meat
There is a bit of prep that you must do before you rush out to get your rabbits. Setting up their shelter and having the things you need to make them comfortable is the first step in starting your new business.
Here are the things you will need to have for a proper rabbit raising farm.
Rabbit Hutch (male and female)
The first part of the hutch proposition of this set-up is to craft a hutch plan. Many counties or city ordinances will require you to file a copy for approval.
This is to ensure it meets all the standards set by the city itself regarding small livestock enclosures. The rabbit hutch is the small wooden house where your rabbits will end up spending a lot of time.
It’s like a chicken coop but smaller. You can easily move it from place to place. There are pre-made hutches available. In addition, you can DIY a rabbit hutch.
To determine the right hutch set up for your rabbit farm, you will want to consider how many rabbits you are looking to raise. The bigger the herd, the bigger the hutches. Each rabbit gender will need their own hutch. You don’t want them breeding when you aren’t ready.
Here are some things to consider when deciding on your hutch design:
What to do with Rabbit Waste
You will want to make sure that there is a place and a way for the poop and other waste to be removed easily from the hutch. If you get a pre-made one, you will find a floor constructed of wire with holes and such to allow for it to escape into a tray below.
If you are building your hutch, make sure to include this in your plan.
Nursing a Rabbit
Once you have bred, you will want a place they can go after giving birth. The nursing compartment allows for them to take care of their young away from the rest of the herd.
Just like with the waste removal system, both pre-made, and DIY versions should have this as a feature.
If you are in an area that experiences extreme temperature fluctuations, you will want to consider adding extra pieces for better climate control.
Rabbits are tough animals, but extremities of temp can cause health problems. Therefore, if you are in a hot climate, you may want to consider installing fans to help with the heat. On the flip side, if you are in a climate that experiences low temps, a heater may be needed.
Rabbit Run (male and female)
You will want to build a place for your rabbits to stretch their legs and have a little hopping time. The size of the run depends on the number of rabbits and the space you have available.
That means attaching an enclosed pen to the hitches.
One for each sex as well, so there is no fraternizing unless you want them to.
How to Protect Rabbits
Even in the city, other creatures may look at your rabbits as food and try to get to them. Therefore, it’s essential to make sure you have protection around your open enclosure. This is key.
The last thing you want is to have some other creature enjoying your rabbit before you do. So, making sure your rabbits are protected from all sides, both ground level and above will help make your rabbit farm safer.
You will want to lay down bedding of some sort in your run so that you can maintain a level of sanitation.
The type of bedding is up to you, but you will definitely want one that is easy to remove and is good at absorbing the waste from these bunnies. Straw makes excellent bedding.
Inside the hutch itself, bedding is optional. That is if you have a waste removal tray. If you do not, then you will need the same qualities as the bedding for the run in the hutch. Using the same for both areas is fine.
Food/Water & Containers
If you want good quality meat, you will want to take care of your rabbits by making sure they have plenty of clean water and the right food.
Water is important, and your rabbits will need a lot of it. The bigger the herd, the more water and so making sure that the pens are fitted with a large bottle of good clean water is a must.
You are what you eat, and that means that you are what your food source eats as well. There are a few options when it comes to feeding for your rabbits.
When you are looking for the containers, you want ones that have a tight latticework frame or even a feeder that has a sifting capability. This is so the rabbits can’t get into the container itself and contaminate their food with waste.
By getting the right container, you will be able to decrease the risk of illness among the herd.
As for the food itself, you will want to utilize a nice balance of hay, fresh veggies, and pellets. The best hay for your rabbits according to many rabbit farmers is Timothy Hay. This should be about 80% – 90% of their overall diet.
The rest of that percentage should go to the protein-fiber pellets and fresh veggies like carrots and lettuce.
You should also provide a salt lick.
Stay consistent with your feed as rabbits have very delicate tummies and you do not want to upset them.
Slaughter & Processing Rabbits For Food
When considering raising rabbits for meat, you may be thinking more about how to raise them and not about the actual slaughtering. If you are planning to do the whole thing yourself, onsite, you will save money.
However, you will need a place where you can break down the rabbits once slaughtered.
You will want this area to be stocked with the knives and implements required for the process, as well as and tools you may want to use to take the processing further (i.e., sausages).
They should have a nice flat surface, be completely sanitary, and have some sort of refrigeration close at hand. It helps to have a sink or some type of water source in this area.
What is the best rabbit for meat?
Now you have your rabbit farm set up it is time to meet your herd. Choosing the right breed is the next crucial part of the puzzle when .
Rabbits for Meat Breeds
You cannot just pick up any rabbit for your rabbit farm if you are looking for a good meat source. Rabbits good for eating tend to be longer, plumper, and have more fur. Here is a list of the best rabbit choices for your rabbit farm:
These rabbits can top off the scales at close to 12 pounds and are usually pale orange in color. Raising Palomino rabbits for meat may well be the best choice for inner-city rabbit farming as they are quite docile.
In addition, they grow quickly.
This is another breed with a good meat-to-bone ratio. They reach fryer weight in 10 weeks. This breed grows to approximately 10 – 12 pounds at maturity. The California rabbit reproduces quickly, giving you a sustainable meat supply.
American Chinchilla Rabbits
The American Chinchilla rabbit is a super fluffy and plump breed that can be kept as a pet or as livestock for meat. They can weigh in at up to 12 lbs when fully grown.
They are good breeders as well, providing you with an ongoing source of meat.
Silver Fox Rabbits
This breed is known for having a good meat-to-bone ratio, meaning you will have more meat from it than some other breeds. Silver Fox rabbits grow to be between 9 – 12 pounds.
This is a rarer breed, however, making it more difficult to acquire. In addition, you may pay more than for other breeds.
Champagne D’Argent Rabbits
This is one of those breeds that is less common to find among rabbit farms. Champagne D’Argent rabbits go all the way back to the 1600’s and is great for its meat. It has a stunning black coat as well.
Another benefit of raising this breed is the pelts may provide an additional income source.
Flemish Giant Rabbits
These are the largest breed that many farmers raise for meat. These behemoths can top the scales at 20 lbs. The fur is prized but not more than the meat.
Flemish Giant rabbits is a breed that is super docile and can be great for urban areas.
New Zealand Rabbits
These rabbits come in a variety of colors. New Zealand rabbits can get up to 12 lbs in weight. These are one of the most common breeds for meat.
When prepared, it does have a pinkish color, and some may think it isn’t cooked, but it is fine.
Rabbit Breeds for Meat
There are many other rabbit breeds, but these are by far the most popular when it comes to raising rabbits for meat. Any of these will work, but the ultimate decision comes down to how much space you have and how much meat you are looking to produce.
Once you have chosen the breed you want, be sure to do further research to ensure you are raising these animals with just the right care.
Once you have everything set-up and the rabbits chosen, now it is time to think about the next few steps. The actual business of rabbit farming which has to do with mating, birth, and aftercare of the rabbits.
Each step of this process is important. Get an idea of what to expect at each stage. We are going to look at each.
The first step of successful mating is already done.
Making sure to keep the males and females separate until you feel the time is right. You will want to be sure you have the means, including space, time, food, etc. to care for more rabbits.
There are, of course, other things you can do or need to know about the mating process.
- You should always take the doe to the buck’s pad. This will decrease the chance of a flare-up over territory and make her a little more open to the buck’s move.
- Keep track of each doe’s birthing dates for optimal fertility.
- You will know that the deed is done when the male rabbit stiffens and falls off the female. He will return to normal in a few minutes.
Raising rabbits for meat is a time-consuming feat with many levels of things you need to know. But one of the most important things to understand is what happens after the breeding.
Birthing cycle of rabbits are:
- Rabbits take 30 days to gestate. The new mother will have a few pregnancies before learning how to care for her kits properly. This means that you may lose the first few litters before being successful with breeding.
- The big day is getting closer when you notice the momma pulling out her underbelly hair and adding it to her hole. Mother rabbits do this to prepare for their young to ensure there is enough warmth for the kits.
After Birth Care for Rabbits
Once you have successfully mated and kept a litter, you will want to understand the aftercare system.
Here are a few key things to keep in mind:
- You will not want to be loving all over the kits. This could interrupt the bonding process of the mother and babies and increase the chance of the mother not caring for the kits.
- It’s okay to lightly check if they are still alive but do not pet or remove them from the rabbit hole. Let the mother do her job.
- You may never see the mother feeding the babies, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t. In nature, it is natural or them to hide their babies and only fed them when no one is looking. In the wild, this is meant to save them from predators.
- The mom will relax once the babies have fur and begin to hop on their own.
- You may want to build a new hutch so that when the babies are big enough, you can move them to their own space.
Now that you have some idea of the entire process, we want to make sure you are not doing anything that will detract from all your hard work.
So, check out what not to do when raising rabbits for food.
Things to Not Do When Raising Rabbits
There are some distinctive things that you should stay away from doing regarding your rabbit farm.
Here a list of no-no’s:
- Do not use straw in the rabbit’s hole section in the hutch. Straw can carry mites, and your herd is very susceptible to these little parasites.
- Use wood shavings as bedding only in places where newborn kits will not be present. The scent from the shavings is bad for the little one’s breathing system and can be the cause of death if not careful.
- You want to make sure to keep the pens and hutches free of flies. Install fly strips or rub everything down with vinegar. This is so that you can keep the flies from laying eggs.
Health Considerations for Rabbits
Rabbits, in general, are very sturdy and easy-to-take-care-of animal.
There are a few things regarding health that you need to be knowledgeable about to keep your herd as healthy as possible.
You want to raise healthy rabbits, and one of the things they are most liable to get is ear mites. This can be combated by making sure that you keep their hutch and pen clean and with just a few preventative measures.
You can use a tincture of olive oil and tea tree oil to fend off the small fiends. A couple of drops in each ear of each rabbit will help decrease the risk of mites being an issue for your herd.
The other big thing you must do is to clean their pens and hutches weekly. This is done by removing the rabbits (setting them up in a temp pen) and removing all bedding.
Then you need to scrap any waste off and wash the hutch down with a diluted bleach mixture. You will want to let the hutch completely dry and air out before replacing the bedding and letting your rabbits back into the structure.
While you do this, make sure the food and water containers are also waste-free and clean. Water containers in particular, need to be wiped down so they don’t get a slime buildup.
Pros and Cons of Raising Rabbits for Food
Raising rabbits for meat is not something that is suited for everyone. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the pros and cons are associated with raising rabbits.
Let us start with the pros:
Pros of Raising Rabbits for Food
It is an ethical choice. Commercially processed meat can have things pumped into the meat via the feed they feed their animals.
Then there is the treatment of the animals themselves. If you are someone who actively opposes overcrowding in pens and unsanitary conditions, then raising your own meat is a better ethical choice for you.
You will also be able to manage what they eat and end up with a cleaner, healthier product.
Everything happens fast with rabbits. The doe is always fertile, and the gestation period brief.
They wean quickly and are mature enough to slaughter quickly as well. With this cycle, you can have plenty of meat year-round for your family plus some. This means that though you may be intending to keep the meat, you could also have enough to make a little money as well.
Less Food Needed
Rabbits do not take as much food as other livestock you may consider for your backyard farm. This means you can save money on food.
They do not require much to feed, nor do they require a special diet either. They are not picky. Mostly they eat hay and some pellets with a few fresh veggies.
All of which in the end can be inexpensive.
You can even use fresh vegetables from your garden if you have one, and that saves even more money (and just like the meat itself, allows you to control what chemicals if any, you use on it).
Rabbits are Sturdy
Rabbits can be bred and farmed anywhere, and except for a few extra considerations when it comes to extreme heat or cold, they can pretty much survive anything.
Rabbits are Quiet
Unlike chickens or even pigs, rabbits are quiet. This makes them great for settings where your neighbors are close to your backyard.
If you make sure to keep up on the cleaning and build a pen and hutch that is safe from their escape and the entrance of predators, there should be no noise and even less fuss.
Cons of Raising Rabbits for Food
Now that you know all the good stuff, it’s time to lay some of the disadvantages on you.
Here are the main drawbacks of foraying into the world of rabbit breeding:
Some animals that you may consider raising for meat in your backyard have extras that come with them. We are primarily talking about any fowl that you chose. Each of these will come with the extra gifts of egg production.
Raising goats is another example as they can also produce milk, though generally there are breeds for meat and ones for milk.
With rabbits, the only by-product that you will be able to take advantage of is the fur.
Start-up Costs of Raising Rabbits
The initial start-up cost of this venture can be quite an investment. From the hutch and enclosure and the rabbits themselves to the feed, you will be making an investment.
However, if you can build the hutches and enclosures yourself, you will save on the cost of buying them. You will also need feeding and water systems as well as a rabbit run.
All in all, the money saved on groceries may not be worth it unless you are in it for the long haul and to overcome food crisis. But the hutch, fencing, rabbit run, and some other things are mostly fixed costs. You will only need to account for upkeep and repairs.
You will need to spend time making sure that the enclosures you built for the rabbits are cleaned regularly as well as make sure that they stay in tip-top shape.
This will take time away from other areas of your life, and though it is not an all-consuming project, you will need a lot of time, up to several hours a week to maintain the set-up and take care of your herd.
Susceptible to Predators
They are small and easily picked off by anything from birds of prey, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, and snakes.
Knowing the predators that live in your area is essential, and by acting when building your pens, you should be able to negate this problem with little to no issues.
If you are unable to butcher the rabbits yourself due to regulations, then you may have to deal with a third party, and this can mean an extra added cost.
This tacked-on cost could make this venture a little too costly for some, but if you are not raising a big herd, it should be easily managed.
Now that you have a few ideas of what the advantages and disadvantages of are raising rabbits for meat, you may be able to more easily decide if this is a good fit for you and your family’s meat needs.
Rabbit Raising FAQs
To help you, we have also taken the time to check out some of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to raising rabbits for meat. Here are just a few:
How Many Rabbit Does & Bucks Do I Need?
A small set-up only needs one buck, and two does to get their farm started. This is good because a lot of city ordinances only allow for this in their regulations.
What Age Can You Slaughter Rabbits?
There are two ages that work, and this depends on the method of which you plan to cook them.
At about three months old, the rabbit should weigh between one and a half to three and a half pounds and is labeled as a fryer. This means that this rabbit is great for frying.
If you wait until the rabbit is eight months old or four pounds, then this is a roaster. Either age is acceptable or will yield a different texture of meat.
How Much Does a Rabbit Cost?
When you are looking at the cost of breeds, it all depends on the type and age. Typical good meat rabbits can range from $10 to $50 apiece.
How Much Can You Sell Rabbit Meat For?
If you are looking to sell your extra meat and have processed it on-site, you can easily charge $5 – $7 per pound. If you are dealing with a third-party processor, you may only be able to get $3 – $6 per pound.
Much depends on your area and what is happening in the economy.
Steps to Create Your Rabbit Farm
Now that some of the biggest questions have been answered, we thought we would sum up the steps that you need to take to create your rabbitry.
With all that information put together, you should have a pretty solid plan for executing your rabbit farm.
Here is a breakdown of the steps to follow using the information above to help you along:
Determine how big you want your rabbit herd to be
This will play a key role in deciding how big your set-up needs to be. It will also help you estimate the overall costs of this venture.
Plan out the rabbit facilities
This is when you either choose your pre-made set-up or build your own hutch and run.
Apply for any legal permits you need
You want to make sure that you do everything on the up and up, so getting the proper permission and following the guidelines set by your city or county will help you do just that.
Build your rabbit farm
Now that you have the right permission, you can start the process of building out your farm.
Prep the space
The buildings and runs set up you will want to make sure you have the food and water system set up as well as any bedding laid that you want.
Buy Your Bunnies
Now that your rabbit farm space is set up, you can head down to the local breeders of whatever breed you chose and pick up your herd.
Set Up a Schedule
Once your herd is settling in, you will want to begin crafting the correct feed schedule for you and the rabbits.
Female rabbits are always fertile, so that is why you need to separate pen structures. Once you are ready for your chores to change, you can begin to let them mingle.
If you decided on having more than one, make you may want to keep track of who your buck is breeding with so that you can keep a close eye on who the male has the best results with.
Once the does are pregnant, you will know exactly when they are getting ready to have the babies as they will start pulling out hair and making a nest with it.
The kits will be born naked and blind and will not be seen really until they are completely weaned from their mother.
You can still check them to make sure they have survived, just be cautious. The babies are easily susceptible to bacteria, so make sure you do everything you can to minimize contact.
Also, do not be worried if you lose a few of the kits. It is common for does to lose most or their entire first few litters.
Decide on the Endgame
You will want to decide who you will be sent to slaughter and what you intend to do with them. The perfect time to do this is between 3 – 4 months. Then all you must do is keep repeating the steps.
Many people look to raising their own food source for a more sustainable lifestyle. Rabbitry meat is a viable choice. Raising rabbits can be a cost effective way to raise livestock. There are many advantages to raising them.
Raising rabbits for 4-H and FFA
Many children across the United States participate in 4-H and FFA. These organizations have a rabbit curriculum which teaches children about breeds, costs, training, proper feeding, shelter, attention, upkeep, and overall care.
Children are responsible for showing and marketing the rabbit, typically at a regional, county or state fair.
Kids learn responsibility as they are the ones taking care of the rabbit. They can help build the rabbit hutch and be involved in the entire process.
In addition to rabbit showmanship, they can market their rabbit for meat, pelts, to breed, etc.
After you are experienced at raising rabbits for meat, you may be ready to care for more of them. If you have enough room, you may consider a colony setting for your rabbits.
This is where the rabbits have more free reign. Instead of having individual hutches a colony usually consists of a large protected outdoor space — much like you would keep chickens.
It also should include an indoor shelter to protect them from the sun and the cold. Many consider this to be a more humane way of raising rabbits as they have more freedom, fresh air, exercise, etc.
Guide to Raising Rabbits
This is a big venture to undertake in the beginning and may not be well-suited for everyone.
Those that do take on the chore of raising rabbits for meat will have to pay close attention to the cost, requirements, and all the other requirements that come with building a small backyard rabbit farm.
Before diving in, ask yourself if you are ready for the commitment. These are all questions and considerations that you must answer for yourself.
We just hope that with this comprehensive guide about raising rabbits for meat, you now feel better equipped to make the right decision.
This decision is one that will have you regret-free and saving money on your groceries.
Maybe even making a little money raising rabbits for meat too!
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