Anyone Can Raise Rabbits!
With a little bit of effort and practice, raising rabbits can be an extremely rewarding hobby/venture for a budding homesteader or a longtime farmer.
We hope this quick guide can get you started!
Here is a video showing how we process rabbits.
Fast Facts About Rabbit Meat
• Rabbit meat is all white meat.
Rabbit has 795 calories per pound. Compare: chicken at 810, veal at 840, turkey at 1190, lamb at 1420, beef at 1440 and pork at 2050.
Rabbit has the highest percentage of protein than the above listed animals.
Rabbit has a lower percentage of fat than chicken, turkey, beef, or pork with unsaturated fatty acids at 63% of the total fatty acids.
The cholesterol level in rabbit meat is much lower than chicken, turkey, beef, pork.
Research shows that rabbit meat has been recommended for special diets such as for heart disease patients, diets for the elderly, low sodium diets, and weight reduction diets.
Because it is easily digested, it has been recommended by doctors for patients who have trouble eating other meats.
Rabbit meat is actually one of the healthiest forms of protein out there with almost zero fat.
About the Meat
In comparison to red meat, rabbits do not take a long time to reach slaughter weight, you don’t need acreage to raise them on, and you get a higher amount of meat from the carcass.
This doesn’t include water per pound of meat: where it’s 2500 gallons for beef, 600 gallons for chicken.
Topsoil: beef - 35lbs beef, 5lbs chicken, rabbits = none
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has stated that domestic rabbit meat is the most nutritious meat known to man.
Rabbits have finer bones than chicken and the meat has a finer grain, shorter fiber, and firmer texture so a little fills you up. The U.S. Navy recognized this at one point in time when it allocated each sailor a 6oz portion compared to 12 oz of chicken.
A 4lb. fryer yields about 2.25lbs of meat. Each carcass yields roughly 50-60% of live weight, 75-80% of such yields is edible.
Only 3.25 to 4.5 lbs of grain is required to produce a pound of weaned fryer by two months of age, including feed from when doe was mated and until litter is fully weaned. A 4lb. fryer takes 15.4lbs of pellets within this three month span (one month gestation, nursing, to meat)
Rabbits are raised in virtually every country.
Other Uses For Rabbits
• Manure for gardening
• Fur for pelts
• Show for ARBA/4-H events
• Hopping functions
WHY RABBITS ARE SO EFFICIENT AS A MEAT SOURCE
Domestic rabbit has the potential to become a major livestock species, as the world’s booming population continues to exert pressure on food sources. While rabbits are generally raised on grains, they can be successfully raised on purely foraged plant matter. This is very important because both humans and other livestock essentially compete for diets based on grain (such as swine, cattle, and poultry). 70% of the U.S. annual grain production goes to livestock.
Rabbits have an edge over these because they do not require grain. Rabbits also convert forage into meat better than ruminant animals (cows and sheep). For example, a rabbit can produce 5x the amount of meat than a beef cow from a given amount of alfalfa.
Another edge that rabbits have as a meat source, is that they can consume vegetation that humans directly cannot, or will not, eat like weeds, table scraps, and forage.
Rabbits act as a biological “refrigerator” as the meat from one animal can be consumed without storage. They breed year round and you only need a few animals to provide a steady meat supply.
Because of the rapid renewability of rabbits, you don’t need to worry about treating rabbits with vet care. If they get sick enough, you remove them from the herd because you can easily replace them with one of your kits.
BRIEF HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
Domestic rabbits of the variety raised for meat around the world originated from European wild rabbits. The first recorded rabbitry was in early Roman times, where rabbits were kept and raised in walled gardens, known as warrens, for a food supply. A typical warren would be a large amount of land, many 100 acres or more. The warrens were surrounded by a natural moat, deep trench, fence or wall to keep the rabbits in.
Domestication can be traced to the late Middle Ages. This was probably mainly the work of monks, since it provided them with a more delectable dish than the tougher wild rabbit.
In the depression people fed their rabbits on grass clippings & lived on the meat for an abundant and thrifty source of protein. During World War II civilians were encouraged to include rabbits as a component of their victory gardens.
Raising Meat Rabbit Facts
-Rabbits are very fast and heavy breeders. A doe can produce five to six (five being more common) litters a year. An average litter is seven to eight kits. Expect 35-40 rabbits per doe per year. Butcher the rabbits at eight to twelve weeks of age, after that the food-to-meat ratio drops.
-Smaller breeds of rabbits can start breeding at 3-4 months of age. My breeds, which are medium sized, are usually ready by 4.5-5.5 months and heavier breeds like the Flemish 6-7 months.
-Some breeders breed back at 14-21 days. Litters can be weaned as early as 4 weeks.
-The nestbox goes into the cage 28-29 days after breeding. The doe will then make a nest of hay and fur she pulls from her own body.
-Kits nurse once a day.
-Kits have hair by day 4 and eyes open by day 10.
-Rabbits are the easiest small livestock to process, You can, on average, skin and butcher 5 rabbits in the time it takes to process one chicken.
-Most meat rabbits over around 5 lbs are called fryers.
-Most meat rabbits over 6 lbs are called roasters.
McNitt, James, Peter Cheeke, et al. Rabbit Production. 9. Interstate Publishers, 2013. Print.
Bennett, Bob. Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits. 4. Storey Publishing, 2009. Print.
Read more on the economics and management for meat rabbit production here or copy and paste the URL below:
Continue here to learn more about how to get started raising meat rabbits!