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Raising Meat Rabbits

Updated: Jan 24

Hey guys, and welcome back to the Wicked Quail and Pork Homestead blog! Don't forget to check us out on Facebook and interact with us there. We are a small family farm operating on a 3rd generation property. Prior to us purchasing the property from my grandfather, it was a beef farm. However, with 4 other beef farms nearby, and my strong opinion on chasing cattle and fixing fences.. we have changed it around a bit.

We have been raising swine for 8 years, we mentor anyone looking to get into the pork and piggo industry. Recently we switched to registered Idaho Pasture Pigs. We also have poultry, turkeys, ducks, quail. I think we may start leaning more towards the birds on the business end of things.

I am happy to say we have our meat rabbits back, that's one of my favorites due to sustainability and cost. We also recently brought in dairy sheep! Yum!

We are a small family with 2 kiddos, that love all things outdoors. We hope you enjoy all we have to offer, and we'd like to say.. Welcome, friend!

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If you live in town, in an HOA, or in a zone that has strict rules on what you can and can't do, this might be the most important blog you read all year. We will be going over a handful of options for you, yes you in the tiny apartment or townhouse, to become more sustainable and provide a valuable meat source for your family.

This is a topic that is becoming more and more important to folks all over the world as we see our food supply chains buckle under pressure and our planet become ill from our first-world conveniences.

Introducing the meat rabbit. A quiet, easily manageable, cheap-to-feed critter that yields a great amount of meat at an extremely quick turnaround rate. Before we get into the pros of having a meat rabbit on your homestead, let's talk about some important facts.

Fact 1- DO NOT give your meat rabbits baths or allow them to get wet outside in direct rain. I have seen a wet, stressed-out rabbit die within hours. Rabbits are more than capable of keeping themselves clean as long as their housing is kept well. This makes wire cages great for keeping rabbits because they don't collect urine and create an unsanitary environment.

Fact 2- Rabbits are extremely heat sensitive. Once the temperatures where you live start reaching above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, they need shade, fresh cold water throughout the day, and either a fan or frozen water bottles to lay up against. If possible plan your breeding for the colder months so your mama rabbit isn't pregnant and heat-stressed at the same time. Rabbits, even kits, thrive in the cold and will be fine.

Alright, let's chat about the reasons why you should have a breeding pair or trio of meat rabbits. Besides them being quiet, kept easily in any area, and of course cute, they are relatively cheap to feed compared to your larger livestock.... here's what the numbers look like. (This will vary based on area.)

~Our rabbit feed is at $22 or so for a 50-pound bag, breeders that are simply maintaining weight are not going to go through that bag very quickly. It will take 2 full-grown New Zealand rabbits a LONG time to go through that bag of grain.

Now let's talk hay.

~Rabbits absolutely NEED hay or grass in their diet, this is not something you can skip. As long as you have a decent-sized backyard, there's a possibility you might only need to buy hay for your rabbit in the winter! Putting them in a dog kennel or chicken tractor and moving them around the lawn every day will provide fantastic grass for them to munch on as well as help lower the feed bill.

Another thing we do often with our rabbits is throw handfuls of greens and veggies from the garden into their hutches. The garden feeds the rabbits and in return, the rabbits feed the garden! (Rabbit manure is amazing for your plants and does not need to be composted before use!)

**Do NOT buy rabbit pellets and hay from a pet store, you will spend an absurd amount of money if you do that. Find a local farmer to buy hay from (be sure to ask them if they spray their hay or not, out west that can be an issue), and ask for second crop square bales if you can find them. Then find a local feed store to buy rabbit pellets from in 25-50 pound increments.

Now that we have talked about feed, let's talk about the part that you probably want to hear about the most. What product are you getting from these rabbits and how often?

Well, meat rabbits are going to supply you with meat. Rabbit meat is extremely healthy with low cholesterol levels and high protein. I will leave a link here with the exact nutritional facts...

How quickly will I have rabbit meat and how affordable is it really?

~A rabbit's gestational period is only 30-32 days! Leaving you with 4-10 healthy kits in just over a month.

~Kits then take 8-10 weeks to reach a good meat-to-bone ratio size. This depends on the breed, I prefer a good Chinchilla, New Zealand, or Californian rabbit for meat production. A standard rex will take a little longer, but they do sport lovely fur. This is also on an 18% protein pellet diet.

~A mother rabbit and her kits (a good-sized litter) will eat roughly 100 pounds of grain from breeding to weaning.

So let's look at the numbers...

baby rabbits

$44 for 100 pounds of rabbit feed, or 2 50lb bags. Plus an $8/bale of hay give or take.

8 kits weighing out at 3.5 pounds "hanging" weight, or after culling and gutting. So that's 28 pounds total of whole, fresh rabbit in your freezer.

$52 divided by 28 pounds brings you out to around $1.85/lb for 28 pounds of rabbit meat in 3 months. Keep in mind, that if you factor in feeding your breeder rabbits year-round, this number will likely double so to be technical, you might be looking at $4/lb for your fresh, home-raised rabbit meat.

Now that you have that number in your head, go take a look at the nutritional facts and the information given. I think you'll find, it's a fairly good deal for such a high-quality meat.

New Zealand rabbit

Talking about some other products that come from the rabbit, we should definitely touch base on manure. Rabbit manure can go directly onto your garden beds, without composting or any further prep! It supplies high nutrients to your plants and can often be sold to other gardeners in your area.

You also have the hides. This doesn't always interest everyone, but I love the idea of having some super cool placemats, mittens, etc. I don't know enough about that, however there is information everywhere if you are interested in tanning and utilizing the fur.

Needless to say... meat rabbits are a must-have on any tiny homestead, ESPECIALLY a homestead that is trying to abide by HOA or in-town rules. They will cost you an initial investment. A good quality breeding trio can cost upward of $150-$200. Don't be afraid to go cheaper when starting out, you can learn about the build of a good rabbit and breed for specific traits as you go. For now, just do what you can do. That's what matters.

Comment below with any questions about getting started with these fun, affordable, and sustainable critters. Enjoy and until next time, happy homesteading!

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