Backyard meat rabbits are the perfect addition to any homestead. Even for someone who thinks they can’t get past the cuteness factor. And they’re especially beneficial to a homesteader that is limited on space, like we are.
We’ve been considering adding meat rabbits for a while and are just now taking the plunge. While we strive to think outside the box and become more self sufficient on our little acre of land, raising meat has become a huge consideration.
Sure, we hunt and get wild game that way, but if you’ve ever hunted you know it’s not a guarantee. Especially with the amount of poachers, deer-car accidents, and diseases like chronic wasting disease wiping out the populations before they can be hunted.
We also source local meat. Last year we were lucky enough to find someone who was selling pastured hogs to be butchered, and we butchered our first pig. There is a local farm that raises grass fed beef as well. But, none of those give us the security of raising our own meat.
While I trust these small, local farmers and I asked the right questions and have gotten to know more about their practices, it’s still not us raising them.
So, while I find rabbits incredibly cute and we even have a pet rabbit, we’ve found that the pros of raising backyard meat rabbits far outweigh the cons, and I think you’ll find you come to the same conclusion.
And yes, I do believe that anyone can, and should raise meat rabbits. There are ways to get past thinking they’re adorable, but I’ll talk about that in another post. For now:
11 Reasons You Need to Raise Backyard Meat Rabbits
1. Meat Rabbits Don’t Require Much Space
We only have an acre lot, that acre lot also has a house and a garage on it. Add in a chicken coop, gardens, a shed for dairy goats (that we currently have converted into a feed shed) on top of the fact that we have a septic field that takes up the majority of the back portion of our lot and you’ll see we won’t be raising any beef steers any time soon.
Since we’re pretty limited on space, backyard meat rabbits are the perfect solution. They only require a hutch for each rabbit and depending on the breed (and your personal preferences) those don’t have to be very big. I would suggest leaving them enough room to hop around a tad and to stand, but some don’t find that’s a necessity.
If you’re limited on space or even just have a small urban lot, you can raise rabbits for meat.
2. They’re an Inexpensive Investment
Rabbits don’t require a large investment. Most people recommend a buck and two does, but you could even start with just a breeding pair. Most pairs sell for around $50-$60 so they’re not going to cost much to purchase.
Then, you just need hutches, water bottles, feeder, and feed (which can actually be as simple as grass, read below) and you’ll be all set. If you have some scrap lumber and some hardware cloth, you can easily make their hutches for free. So, not a ton of cost up front.
3. Backyard Meat Rabbits Are Prolific Producers
Yep, it’s no secret, rabbits reproduce like… rabbits. And their grow out time is short. In about 12 weeks you’ll have a large quantity of healthy, lean meat to feed yourself and your family. A trio of rabbits can produce upwards of 600 pounds of meat in a year which is more than a dressed one year old steer. That’s pretty impressive.
4. They’ll Fertilize Your Garden For Free
Rabbits have a knack for creating a ton of poop in a short amount of time. I don’t know what it is, but what goes in the one end comes out the other times two it seems. However, rabbit manure can be put straight on the garden. It isn’t hot and it does not have to be composted, though its a great addition to the compost pile as well. This is great, because you can just bucket it up and put it right on the garden for some great, natural fertilizer.
I’ve even seen rabbit poop for sale! So, it could be a way to make money on your homestead if the little critters are making too much for you to use up.
5. Backyard Meat Rabbits Don’t Require Much Care
Unlike a lot of livestock, large or small, meat rabbits don’t require a lot of care and intervention. As long as you provide them with a safe environment the only real involvement is occasionally cleaning up the cages and putting out fresh food and water every day. It’s nice that they’re something that doesn’t require a lot of investment of time and care. Which makes them ideal not only for small spaces, but for beginning homesteaders and weekend homesteaders that are pressed for time.
6. They Don’t Need Special Butchering Equipment
A .22 for dispatching and a good knife is really all you need to butcher rabbits. They don’t need a plucker, no equipment to boost them up and hang them. No cones. Nothing special. Most of us have these things lying around. Also, some people dispatch rabbits by breaking their necks. While it may seem cruel, it isn’t, I just can’t see us doing it that way. A .22 is quick and humane.
7. You Can Feed Them for Free (or near free)
Rabbits are perfectly happy eating grass, weeds, flowers, and vegetable ends. You don’t have to feed them pellets. In fact, we’re currently working toward not using processed, pelleted feeds for any of our livestock, so I’ll share more about that later.
In the winter, when you don’t have grass readily available, you could grow fodder for them or purchase (no spray) hay. And they won’t require much of that. If you’re blessed to live in an area that has grass available year-round you’re even luckier. But, fodder is a really low cost, easy option to feed year round. No going to the feed store and spending lots of money. Awesome, if you ask me.
8. They’re Quiet
Live in a space where you’re not supposed to have livestock? Rabbits are a fantastic way around this. Not only do most municipalities not have rabbits on their list of “illegal” animals to have in your own backyard…. Ahem. No one will know they’re there.
They don’t make noise. They’re not going to be crowing at the crack of dawn. And as long as you keep their cages clean and their poop cleaned up and put in the compost or garden, you won’t get a lot of flies out of it, either. See? No one will ever know….
9. They Can Be Multi Purpose
Some rabbit breeds, like the silver fox, can be multi purpose. I say multi instead of dual because not only can you use the meat and the fur, you can also sell the offspring as show animals. So, while that may cut into your total meat yield, it can bring in about $25-30 per bunny. That may be worth the loss of meat once in a while.
10. You Can Help Conserve Heritage Breeds
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Heritage livestock breeds are fantastic for homesteaders. These breeds were bred specifically with small farms and homesteads in mind. And many, many breeds are at the risk of becoming extinct. There are several rabbit breeds that are threatened, or critical status. You can help conserve these breeds and keep our heritage alive by raising meat rabbits.
They’re usually pretty easy to locate, as well. Unlike some really rare poultry or goat breeds. I’ve not had much trouble locating breeders nearby of some threatened rabbit breeds.
11. Rabbit Meat Is Good
And it’s healthy for you. It’s high in protein and low in calories. It has a mild chicken-like flavor to it. It’s fairly easy to prepare and you can even substitute it in a lot of recipes that call for chicken and you’ll never notice the difference.
Rabbits are a great addition for any homesteader looking for a little more food security and self-sufficiency. I can’t wait to get started with our rabbits and see where it takes us!
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