We first started raising rabbits 38 years ago. Jerreth and I were newlywed. We rented a small homestead in Arkansas for year, and we inherited some meat rabbits with their cages. During that year I became absolutely enthralled with meat rabbits, seeing tremendous possibilities for bettering the lives of many people. Seriously, rabbits are great! I can hardly think of a more versatile, productive animal raised for meat.
Here are seven reasons one might consider raising meat rabbits
1. Rabbits can be raised almost anywhere.
Rabbits tolerate cold extremely well. One does not need to supply heat for them. Heat is more of a problem for rabbits. We manage to raise them in our extreme Oklahoma summers by having them housed in a shed with good ventilation, under a large elm tree, and, we set up fans during the hottest weeks of summer. Rabbits could be raised in the city, suburbs or country. All they require is shelter from wind, rain and snow, etc. Jerreth and I first met while helping out in an inner city mission in Chicago. I sometimes day dream about how wonderful rabbitry might be for people in such a setting. They could be raised in a small space and produce loads of meat! A knowledgeable person could supplement much of their feed with weeds and scraps (bread, tortilla, etc.), all things available, even in an urban setting.
2. Rabbits are quiet.
One never has to worry if if a rabbit is going to crow, bark or make any other loud sound. They’re quiet. Hence, one could have an extensive rabbitry in a medium sized shed, and no one would necessarily know about it, especially since they produce no strong odors. The neighbors certainly wouldn’t hear them. Rabbits are great for their versatility.
3. Rabbits produce a whole lot of meat and do so in a short amount of time.
There are lots of statistics out there, but let me just give you an idea from our own experience. A single doe (female rabbit) can produce 4 litters in a year. Litters can be as large as 14, though we consider 8 kits (babies) to be more normal. Young rabbits are butchered at about 10 weeks, when they dress out at about 2 1/5 lb of meat. Some of our butcher bunnies dress out at 3 lb. So, a litter of 10 would produce between 25 and 30 lb of meat. On average, each of our does probably produces about 75 lb of meat, for us each year.
4. Every part of the rabbit and all of its byproducts are useful.
When I butcher, our dogs are right there. They eat any part of the animal I don’t want. The innards, feet and head, even the skin, if one doesn’t want it for tanning, are all usable for feeding dogs. Otherwise, they could be composted. The urine can be used as a nitrogen source for the production of compost. The manure is wonderful. It doesn’t have a strong odor and can be spread directly on the garden, and, it can be put to excellent use, raising red worms.
5. Rabbits are easy to process.
I’ve butchered many kinds of animals, but rabbit is the all time easiest to butcher. It’s probably also the fastest to do, per animal. There are reports of some folk who can kill and butcher a rabbit in five minutes! I can’t do it that fast, but I can do it fast enough that I consider rabbit to be “the homesteader’s fast food.”
Compared to butchering a chicken, doing a rabbit is like a walk in the park!
6. Rabbits are a great size.
A 10-12 week old rabbit dresses out and makes a hearty meal for an average family. For our family of 3, we get a great meal and leftovers for lunches. This means that special refrigeration space is not required to properly handle rabbits as they are butchered.
7. Rabbit meat is delicious.
It’s comparable to chicken and can be used in any recipe that requires chicken. It’s all white meat, and, there is a lot of meat on the carcass, considering its size. We’ve roasted and baked rabbit. We’ve smoked it. Rabbit meat goes great in stews, soups and meat pies. It’s great in stir fry. Our latest experiment has been to do rabbit barbeque. It’s superb! Domestic rabbit meat is softer and lighter in color than wild rabbit. So, even if you tried wild rabbit, and decided it wasn’t for you, I bet you’d like domestic rabbit.
Homesteading Edu has a course on raising rabbits.
Here’s a website with good descriptions of meat rabbit breeds.