I am really considering adding meat rabbits to our homestead. They don’t take up much space, which is perfect for our limited acreage, and they provide a great deal of meat for very little. While I really think that rabbits are a must have for any small homestead (well, anyone that wants a lot of meat with little investment and little space requirements) it’s not all meat and fuzzy bunnies.
Since my friend Abi from over at They’re Not Our Goats has been raising meat rabbits for a bit now, I figured I’d invite her over to tell us a little more about what we need to keep in mind before getting meat rabbits. Because we all need to think things through and talking to someone who has been there is probably one of the most beneficial things you can do when it comes to making decisions for your homestead. So, I’ll hand you over to Abi!
Points to Consider Before Getting Meat Rabbits
My husband and I ventured into meat rabbits about one year ago. They’re a popular choice for homestead meat production, and it’s easy to see why. They produce large quantities of high-protein, low-cost meat in a small amount of space. Not to mention, the meat is delicious!
Like all new homestead animals, meat rabbits can be both a joy and a learning curve. (Believe me; we have learned a lot over our year of rabbit ownership!) Researching how you will raise your meat rabbits before you bring them home will help you to have a more successful experience.
Before you take the plunge into raising rabbits, here are some things to consider.
1) How many rabbits do you need?
Many folks purchase a breeding trio of rabbits, meaning one buck and two does. This arrangement can easily produce hundreds of pounds of meat in a year! We didn’t need that much, however, so we purchased one buck and one doe. We only bred her three times this past year, and ended up with about 30-40 lbs of meat with each successful litter.
2) How will you house the rabbits?
There are several housing options for rabbits:
- Hutches: a conventional set-up where rabbits are off the ground for controlled management.
- Tractors: moveable hutches that go on the ground so rabbits can eat the grass and you can use them as a “lawnmower.”
- Colonies: A more permanent set-up where rabbits are allowed to live together in a group. The owner has less control of breeding schedule and habits, but rabbits live a cleaner, happier lifestyle.
Your yard space and management preferences will likely dictate which option you choose. Regardless, make sure that you have designated areas for food, water, and nesting. Also, be aware that rabbits are excellent diggers and escape artists. Prepare your housing accordingly!
3) How will you dispatch the rabbits?
You need to be prepared to humanely dispatch and effectively butcher the rabbits when they are of age. Otherwise, meat rabbits become a very unpleasant venture! My husband uses an inexpensive pellet gun for dispatch, and purchased one nice knife to complete the butchering process. Watch videos of the process, or better yet, invite an experienced friend to help you the first time you butcher. It will help immensely to have a guiding hand nearby.
4) What will the whole operation cost?
Consider the costs of rabbit housing, feed, butchering supplies and the animals themselves. Our initial investment was about $60 total, with recurring feed costs of about $15/month and the occasional repair cost.
Start-up costs will vary considerably depending on the breed of rabbits you purchase and supplies you already have available. Afterwards, however, rabbits are one of the least expensive meat sources that you can raise on a homestead.
If you take the time to research meat rabbits thoroughly before adding them to your homestead, they can be a successful and rewarding project that will help provide meat for your dinner table. However, even if your first attempts don’t go smoothly, don’t be afraid to make adjustments and try again!
Want to know more about meat rabbits? Check out these posts:
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Wednesday 22nd of June 2022
Despite the common opinion of colony living being healthier for rabbits, studies have shown this not to be the case. In a study I recently read, scientists in Tunisia did testing on types of bacteria in hutch vs colony style rabbit farms (colonies are still a very popular way to raise rabbits there), the researchers were disappointed to find no significant differences. They did the study in hopes of finally figuring out why colonies had significantly more sickness and death but instead they were only left with more questions.
Tuesday 12th of April 2022
Good info! We have a local swap here and last week there was a ton of rabbits. We are thinking about getting some. Does breed matter? How do we know if they are healthy? Also, as long as they couldn’t dig out from our chicken run, could we just let them hop around there? Our run is about 30’x100’ We would provide a nesting space on the ground. There’s lots of grass! Thanks!
Tuesday 12th of April 2022
A lot of folks raise mixes with good success, personally we raise silver fox. I have a post on rabbit breeds here that you can check out. Rabbits with clear, bright eyes, dry, twitching noses, a happy demeanor and a healthy appetite are just fine. If their nose is wet at all, if they're listless or appear off, I'd pass. You could raise a colony in your chicken run, but I would give them their own separate hutches for sleeping quarters.
Saturday 8th of May 2021