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Never Run Out Of Meat Again – An Introduction to Raising Meat Rabbits

meat rabbits

One of the hardest supplies to prep in large quantities is meat. Although canned meats can go a long way in a disaster, your supply is pretty much limited to what you can prepare now before disaster strikes; but what would you do in a long-term disaster? Your supplies are only going to last so long until you’re going to need to replenish them. There are various options for raising your own meats of course. Cows, chickens, pigs, there’s even a large group of people out there now that are raising quail in their suburban garages. However, for the money, space and time, you’ll be hard pressed to beat breeding meat rabbits.

 

Benefits of raising meat rabbits

The main reason rabbits are on the top of my list (as far as a sustainable meat supply) is the sheer volume that you can produce in a small space for relatively little investment. Each one of your does can produce anywhere from 5-8 litters every single year. Depending on the breed of rabbit, you could get around a dozen rabbits per litter. That’s nearly 100 rabbits every single year starting off with only 2 rabbits in a small hutch.

Although there is definitely a cost that goes into raising rabbits, there are also several additional benefits as well outside of meat production. If you’re raising rabbits then you’re most likely doing your fair share of gardening. Rabbit droppings are extremely beneficial to soil. Additionally, after harvesting a lot of rabbits, you’re going to have a good amount of pelts which could either be used or sold online to offset the costs of raising the rabbits.

 

What you’ll need to raise meat rabbits

  1. Rabbit hutch – This is just a small, basic storage shelter for the rabbits. You can buy these premade from numerous vendors or you could even repurpose an old TV stand to make your hutch.
  2. Rabbits! – There are dozens of breeds of rabbits that you can pick from. Your best option though is to look for a breed that is indigenous to your area. Some rabbits handle certain climates better than others. Having one that’s bred for your area can be beneficial for getting them through a hot summer or cold winter.
  3. Food – Rabbit food can get pricey depending on how many you have. The best option here to keep costs down is to actually grow your own rabbit food. Grains, and wild greens like Dandelions and Plantain are great feed for rabbits that can be grown for next to nothing.

 

How long does it take to raise rabbits for meat?

The process for breeding rabbits is fairly straight forward. A female rabbit (Doe) will be ready to conceive at 5 to 8 months and males (Bucks) will be ready anywhere from 6 to 9 months. It’s important to keep your does and your bucks separated until you want them to breed. To initiate the mating process, move your doe to your buck’s cage (not the other way around) and let nature take its course. About 2 weeks after the mating process, gently press your fingers on the does abdomen, if you feel a few small bumps, congratulations! Your first litter of bunnies is on the way. During the next couple weeks, prepare a small box lined with hay for the Doe to nest in.

Deciding when to harvest your rabbits is kind of a balancing act. Commercial rabbit producers typically harvest at about 5 weeks old. This is a little young in my opinion; I would rather get into the 6-7 week range just to get a little more meat out of them. This is a balancing act because you have to harvest the animal before it gets too old because the meat will be much tougher. That’s ok if you’re going to be making rabbit stew, but for most preparations, you’re going to want a tender rabbit, which is going to be right around the 6-7 week range.

If you have any specific questions about raising meat rabbits, please leave a comment below and we will respond right away!

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10 comments

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  1. Aaron

    I don’t know about the best self reliant food source. There is so little fat on rabbits you can actually starve from lack of nutrients while having a full belly.

    I think chickens would be a better option. Certain breeds are large enough to eat within 6 weeks.

    1. Ready4ItAll

      Thanks for the reply Aaron…chickens are definitely a good idea, and for some people they may even be better than rabbits, depends on your location. Heck, having both would probably be the the best. I probably should have added some info about “rabbit starvation” in there. Ive done some research on this and its not that eating rabbit itself will do anything negative, its that since it’s such a lean meat that that it doesn’t add essential fats to your diet… so if you ONLY eat rabbit you’re going to have some problems. If you add fats from other sources to compensate you’ll be OK.

    2. db

      You are confusing wild rabbits with domestics rabbits.

      While a wild rabbit is a lean mean, surviving machine with everything and its brother out to catch and eat them, the domestic rabbit is well fed, sheltered from predators, and only has to go a couple of feet to get across its living area. Domestic rabbits are the couch potatoes of the rabbit world…and as such, have plenty of fat on them.

      I’ve been raising rabbits for years, and have never dressed out a rabbit that didn’t offer plenty of fat.

      You can read a more involved rebuttal to “rabbit starvation” here:
      http://floridahillbilly.com/my-take-on-rabbit-starvation/

      And as far as I”m concerned, a variety of small animals is the way to go in providing your own protein. I live on a 1/4 acre in town and have raised ducks, quail, rabbits, and chickens here all at the same time. Each has its pros and cons. Currently, I am raising only quail (meat and eggs) and rabbits. These work best for my needs. If things were to get catastrophic, I’d suggest chickens in place of quail, as quail require a diet far more difficult to provide when compared to chickens.

      Peace,
      db

    3. Cole

      Honestly I think chickens and rabbits are great if you can have them but in my opinion there’s a better option then chickens and that would be ducks. The reason being is that chickens and rabbits share some fatal diseases that would cause your entire livestock to parish if one or the other gets sick, where as ducks and rabbits do not share the same diseases so in a worst case scenario you would at least have one or the other still around the rely upon. Plus you have to realize that some ducks are almost completely noiseless, foragers (like chickens), protective of your yard (squirrels/cats/etc), some can produce just as many eggs as chickens (and they are bigger), are also a good meat source, a lot for homestead use are flightless, and they seem to be more docile then a lot of chickens…. just my 2 cents

  2. Mark

    Aaron is correct. eating nothing but rabbits leads to a condition known as Rabbit Starvation : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit_starvation A more balanced diet would include both rabbit and chicken for the fats and other essential nutrients. Plus you can get eggs from a chicken.

    1. db

      Eating nothing but WILD rabbits MAY cause this…eating domestic rabbits does not.

  3. Prepping Preacher

    thank you for the brief yet informative article… my interest in raising rabbits is for meat so can you share which breeds are better suited to that..? I live in upper New England so I would also need a hearty breed… if I may add, if one hasn’t already taken steps to ensure fats and other essential nutritional components aren’t in their food preps, then it’s time to do so… rabbit meat is ranked near the top of the protein rich meats… chicken does provide a bit more fat while being high in protein and adds variety to the prepper menu… we plan to raise both along with a few pigs…

  4. Paul-L

    While I have never personally raised rabbits for food, I know several people who have. They all comment that it’s not always such a good idea …
    For example: Sometimes rabbits will “simply drop dead” from thunderstorms or “getting overly excited” (probably from a heart attack) when a perceived threat comes near. Also, sometimes the buck (or bucks) will get lazy and not “let nature take its course”.

    A few of those people quit raising rabbits and started raising guinea pigs. Although smaller, they’re supposed to be easier to raise. (Again, I have no personal experience in this.) Guinea pigs are used for food in regions of Africa.
    And guinea pigs are often sold in pet stores here in the US for “snake food”.
    (Perhaps that would be a small second source of income before “it” hits the fan.)

    Chickens can be a good idea, but you have to be doubly sure that you have a very good enclosure for them. All sorts of predators – from snakes … to canines and felines of every size … to hawks, owls, and such – LOVE chicken dinners and will come from relatively long distances to enjoy them.
    I’ve personally encountered every single type of those predators while raising chickens. It should be noted that when I write “relatively long distances”, I mean “relatively long” to the predator. We once had a six-foot-long cottonmouth snake travel a quarter-mile from the creek to the chicken house … my wife was NOT amused when she reached under the hen to collect eggs and came back with a handful of snake!

  5. martha

    am interested in starting to rear rabbits for meat but am confused about housing, most pictures i see appear to have individual cages/hutches for each rabbit yet rabbits are said to be social. i have plenty of space for the rabbits to roam free on which i can fence in but should i build one large hutch for them all and separate the doe when she is ready to nest or individual ones with access to shared run. i am keen to treat the rabbits as well as possible so they can be happy, at least until they are big enough for the pot ! and it might lessen the guilt i will probably feel too.

  6. Liz

    I’ve read in some places to minimize a larger litter ideal 8/9 any more are culled, do you recommend/ practice this? Also the babies are eaten at about 7 weeks…. So do they live with the mother until then or when are they moved out? To another cage or do they each need a separate living space?

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