Home Meat Production: Rabbit or Chicken?

rabbit stew

Which is best, rabbit or chicken? The answer to that question really depends on a number of factors. For the person who would produce a good amount of meat at home, one of these two is likely to be the answer. But which? Here are some things to take into account:

These two meats are very similar, though not identical.

If one likes one, they’ll probably like the other. I do, however,  have to admit that when someone in our home is sick, we don’t fix them rabbit soup. Somehow it just doesn’t seem the same. Is there a basis for this prejudice? I don’t know. Here are some considerations in deciding between the two.

How do you plan on feeding them?

If one uses straight commercial feed, from a sack, either chicken or rabbit will be a fairly expensive meat to produce. If using straight commercial feed to raise chicken, then it would be the least expensive to go with Cornish cross (meat chickens) and “get it over with.” Cornish cross chickens, raised on commercial feed are ready to butcher in 8 to 9 weeks. They’ll make a mess and consume a whole lot of feed, but you’ll have large, plump birds really fast.

Purely Poultry Blog on Raising Cornish Cross for Meat

Our family raises a dual purpose heritage breed of chicken, collecting eggs and harvesting meat. Our birds forage for part of their diet, which helps a bit on feed, however, they take 5 months to reach butcher size and certainly consume a good amount of feed, getting to that point. We simply accept that our chicken meat is not cheap. It’s far better than store bought, but it’s definitely not cheap.

Heritage meat chicken, Buckeye cock
Dual purpose chicken breeds make for good eating but take longer to mature and eat more to get to butchering size.

Cooking a range fed chicken is different than cooking a store bought or pen raised meat bird.

Remember, unless they’re pets, if you’re going to raise chickens at all, you probably should eat them at some point. How much feed or time goes into them won’t matter if you already have them for some other purpose.

adult meat rabbit, New Zealand White rabbit
Domestic rabbits can be quite large and their meat is soft and white.

Rabbits are easily raised on home grown forage.

A major advantage of raising rabbits is that they thrive on home grown forage. If you garden and weed (but I digress) then you should have something to feed rabbits. Many weeds are relished by rabbits and by feeding them to rabbits, one can cut down dramatically on commercial feed requirements. By feeding weeds and grasses from the homestead, one supplement with some form of carb such as old bread or tortillas, or even All Stock feed, which is much less expensive than commercial rabbit feed. In the winter a bale of hay goes a long way, feeding rabbits.

It’s easier to raise rabbits on your own feed than it is to raise chickens on your own feed.

Homesteading Edu has a course on raising rabbits which discusses some different approaches to feeding rabbits. For us, rabbits are a more economical source of meat than chicken. But, we like to have both!

Rabbits require a bit more, in the line of facilities.

We raise ours under a roof and mostly out of the wind. Additionally, for breeding control, we keep them caged. A decent breeding setup would include two does and a buck (2 females and a male) and five cages. This is to have available room to raise the litters to butcher size. Rabbits are ready to butcher at around 8 weeks, though I like to wait a bit longer, for a larger carcass, and they are super productive. We get about 8 to the litter, which dress out at close to 3 lb. a piece. A doe might have four litters a year! That’s a lot of meat!

As a general rule, one can produce more meat in a small area, with rabbits.

cage full of meat rabbits, meat rabbits
A single litter will require a 2’X3′ cage to grow to maturity.

Rabbits are sustainable, as one is reproducing them, when raising them for meat.

If you decide to raise Cornish cross chickens, you’ll almost certainly end up purchasing the chicks, as they are hybrids. That’s okay. They’re not expensive in light of what you get for your money. The most economical way to raise chicken meat will probably include purchasing chicks every so often. Rabbits, on the other hand, reproduce for you. That’s how you produce the meat!

Chickens are a little more simple to raise.

Don’t get me wrong. One can learn about raising chickens for an entire lifetime, but it is definitely a simpler matter to care for them than for rabbits. Rabbits require a bit more attention, especially when it comes to breeding and weaning.

So Which is Best for Home Meat Production, Rabbit or Chicken?

It depends on ones preferences and lifestyle. If you are like our family, you’ll probably end up raising both!

Related article: Raise Rabbits for Super Meat Production

 

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