How To Raise Rabbits For Meat
Raising Rabbits For Meat
Rabbits are commonly overlooked by many homesteader’s that are just starting out as a source of meat. Perhaps it is because many Americans are not used to rabbit as opposed to the “traditional” meats – pork, beef, chicken etc..
Here I am going to show you how to raise rabbits for meat and why the rabbit has no equal as a meat breeder in your homestead.
For many homesteaders the main goal of meat production is to is providing natural, tasty, chemically free food at a minimum cost. The rabbit excels at all these points.
- Highly nutritious low in fat and high in minerals. Rabbit meat is commonly prescribed to those with stomach issues as rabbit is easily digestible.
- Production. Rabbits generally have eight calves that will double their weight in just six days! A 11 pound rabbit can produce 30 fryers in a year, up to 12olbs of meat!
- Economical. Rabbits are inexpensive to buy and housing is cheap and/or easily made. Also the fryers can be slaughtered before weaning to save on feed costs.
- Can be raised anywhere. Rabbits are noiseless, produce no odor if properly cared for and can housed anywhere as they take up minimal space.
The rabbit requires very little work to keep up and is a cinch to butcher, the rabbit should be a staple of every homestead.
Selecting Your Rabbit
There are many breeds to choose from, Personally I prefer the Californian and New Zealand White as they are the generally the most popular and accessible.
|Breed||Senior Buck Weight||Senior Doe Weight|
|New Zealand||9 – 11 lbs.||10 – 12 lbs.|
|Californian||8 – 10 lbs.||8.5 – 10.5 lbs.|
|Palomino||8 – 10 lbs.||9 – 11 lbs.|
|Satin||8.5 – 10.5 lbs.||9 – 11 lbs.|
|American Chinchilla||9 – 11 lbs.||10 – 12 lbs.|
|Blanc de Hotot||8 – 10 lbs.||9 – 11 lbs.|
|Champagne d’Argent||9 – 11 lbs.||9.5 – 12 lbs.|
|Cinnamon||8.5 – 10.5 lbs.||9 – 11 lbs.|
|Creme d’Argent||8 – 10.5 lbs.||8.5 – 11 lbs.|
|French Lop||10.5 lbs. and up||11 lbs. and up|
|Silver Fox||9 – 11 lbs.||10 – 12 lbs.|
|American Sable||7 – 9 lbs.||8 – 10 lbs.|
|Harlequin||6.5 – 9 lbs.||7 – 9.5 lbs.|
|Rex||7.5 – 9.5 lbs.||8 – 10.5 lbs.|
|Silver Marten||6 – 8.5 lbs.||7 – 9.5 lbs.|
There are giant breeds of rabbit, but I avoid these as their dress weight is less than stellar and need more feed and space.
There is a variety of ways of housing your rabbits, it all depends on what is most practical for your homestead. If you have plenty of room in the basement or a garage this is probably most ideal as to protect them from the elements.
Cages constructed from 12 gauge galvanized wire mesh, suspended from the rafters is my prefered method. as a rule of the cages should be 36 x 36 with 14 inches for headroom. the general consensus is one square foot per pound of rabbit.
If you do not have a garage or outbuilding available, rabbit hutches are a popular choice. When constructing your hutch (or purchasing) keep in mind wood and urine do not mix well, this is why i steer clear from the all wood hutches. You can use wood shavings or any sort of bedding to reduce this but it’ll still stink.
An All wire cage made with wooden posts, wooden 2×4 frame and a strong plywood roof is easier to keep up and easier to build. What you will do is take good quality 2 x 4’s and build a frame around your wire rabbit cage, with legs at least 3 feet, and a strong safe plywood roof. It is best to put the roof on an angle sloping down towards the back in order for rain or snow to run off it. Shingling or draping and stapling plastic to it is optional, but helps in preserving the wood.
With either option it is important to install a removable nest box for the Doe to give birth in. A 12 x 24 wooden box with a hole on top for the momma bunny can enter is enough.
Feeding rabbits are fairly inexpensive to feed, a healthy pellet feed supplemented with whole oats and dried greens is sufficient. On average i feed 1/2 to 1 cup a day and pregnant/nursing Does I free feed along with her kits.
One thing to note is suddenly changing brands of feed can cause digestive issues with your rabbits, so don’t just buy what is on sale that week!
First thing first, the rabbits reproductive and promiscuity are greatly exaggerated, when you buy your first buck you are not purchasing a fuzzy Wilt Chamberlain.
The most common issue new breeders run into is that they buy same-sex rabbits as the sexes can be tough to tell. The best method for this is to hold the rabbit on it’s back with one hand and with the other gently press down on the sex organ, male membranes are generally round and will protude as the Doe’s will form a slit. As the rabbits mature they become much easier to identify as their genitals become more pronounced.
Always bring the Doe to the Buck’s hutch as rabbits are quite territorial, and if you introduce the buck in the Doe’s cage she will lash out. The buck will begin his romance with some sniffing of the hindquarters and then mount the doe, once the buck has finished his task he will grunt and fall off, occasionally thumping the cage in male bravado. This is your cue to return the doe back to her hutch.
Most breeders will recommend mating them again after a couple of hours to increase conception rate and litter size. Just be sure to never leave the two alone as fights may occur.
How do you know if the doe is pregnant?
- The doe is cranky. Seriously…
- After ten to 14 days you can feel baby bumps
- She begins digging and desperate to build a nest.
These aren’t always sure-fire signs as each rabbit is different but these are common themes among pregnant doe.
While butchering rabbits is an easy task compared to chickens, it can be difficult to kill a cute fuzzy bunny if you allow yourself to view them as a pet. So always keep in mind that thier purpose is for meat and do not allow yourself to become attached.
First you must stun the rabbit, either by striking it right before the ears with a pipe or heavy stick, or you can dislocate the neck.
Next you must take off the rabbit’s head with a butcher’s cleaver, and string it up by one leg to allow the blood to drain. Once the rabbit is strung up I remove its 3 other legs with pruning shears.
Using the scissors, poke a small hole in the skin on the inside of the rear legs, then carefully slit the skin up along the legs to the center of the belly.
Then peel the loosened skin from around the rabbit’s rear legs and lower body. Gather the separated skin in one hand and hold the rabbit’s bottom end firmly. With one strong, constant motion, pull the remaining skin toward the rabbit’s front legs and over the shoulders to remove it. The hide holds no value but you can tan it at home and repurpose it.
To eviscerate the rabbit slice the belly open carefully as not to pierce any organs, then gently use your hands to pull out the organs saving the heart, kidney and liver dispose of the guts and everything else. It is very important not to pierce the gall bladder as this can taint the meat.
Finally wash the rabbit in cold water and rapidly cool it down in an ice bath.
Well that’s how to raise rabbits for meat, be sure to check out my rabbit recipes!