Raising Rabbits for Meat - Why Rabbits Vs Other Animals

Should you grow rabbits for meat? Let's take a look at the facts and details to make an educated decision Why Rabbits? Is it worth it What's involved? Dispelling misconceptions.

When raising animals for food there are multiple considerations Lets take a look at why I think rabbits are the best animal for the family to produce at least some of their own meat. If you decide to raise rabbits for meat, you will need to read other longer articles to tell you everything you need to know. The scope of this article is to give enough of an overview to understand what is involved and why you would or would not want to raise rabbits.

Production: Essentially when one grows an animal for meat there are several factors that go into the basic efficiency of the process. It is on it's most basic level the process of having an animal turn either waste or vegetation into meat. The question then becomes what animal can conveniently turn waste or vegetation into meat. Vegetation is cheap, but waste is free. Vegetation you can effortlessly grow in your back yard is also free. It stands to reason if you can feed your animal fully or in part from what is free your likely ahead of the game. Another basic factor is what percentage of it's own weight can a mother produce in offspring in a year. There are a few other factors to consider. Here are the questions I think we should ask and answer: How valuable is the meat produced? How convenient or problematic is the killing, skinning (or plucking), of the animal? How much space is required? How much noise does the animal make? Is it legal to have on my property? How easy is it to successfully breed?

There are essentially two domestic animals that are in contention to be the most efficient at turning vegetation into meat, they are the chicken and the rabbit. At the end of one year a cow will have 1 calf that has grown to weigh 40% of the weight of the mother. Comparatively, The offspring of a mother rabbit will have grown to weigh 1000% (10X) the weight of the mother or more in a years time.

Food for the rabbits: Rabbits can eat rabbit food sold by Purina and other similar animal food producers. Only problem there is that it will probably cost you more than the meat is worth to go this route, still since animal feeds have nutrients specifically balanced for particular animals it might not be bad to give rabbits a partial diet of rabbit feed. The bulk of what one would feed rabbits is Alfalfa. They don't do well on only lawn grasses. I would plant part of my back yard with Alfalfa and when I wanted to harvest some to give to the rabbits, just run over the patch with a bagging lawnmower and give the clippings to the rabbits. Easy and free! You may also buy alfalfa by the bale. Additionally you may supplement the rabbits diet with anything green from a garden that people don't eat for example the green parts of a carrot plant. Of course any waste vegetables from the bottom of your refrigerator would also to the rabbits. If everything fed to the rabbits was free the meat would be essentially free. (After you get set up to keep them.)

Value and quality of the meat: Rabbit meat is high quality. It is among the lowest in fat and cholesterol of any out there. I think it tastes good too.

Slaughter and preparation of the meat: This is an area where the rabbit really shines! They are easy to kill, and you can choose what size rabbit you want to grow so that one harvested rabbit is the same amount of meat as your family needs for one or two meals. Fully grown domestic rabbits after butchering generally weigh anywhere between 2 and 10 pounds depending on breed. Of course larger breeds can always be harvested at any point. This is really important Chickens are in the same boat here, in that one animal makes a meal for 1 family for 1 day. Compare this with a pig, cow, or lamb. Since you can't eat all of the larger animals at once they require freezing of all the meat for future use, a major inconvenience relatively speaking. And how do you go about killing a larger animal. You basically need to live somewhere where it is legal and practical to shoot it. Moving on to ease of butchering/preparation, rabbits are the best. Comparing rabbit to chicken the rabbit wins. This is because chicken,unless you skin it, requires plucking, (a significant chore), rabbit skin can generally be pulled off in one piece starting at the neck after decapitation and being pulled straight off toward the tail with the paws being first cut off. When done right it is quite convenient.

Space required: The best way to grow rabbits for food is to keep them in a hutch with a roof and screen bottom made from wire mesh with ¾ to 1 inch squares and thick wire. This way the waste falls out for easy clean up. The wire must be thick so as not to damage the rabbits feet. Chicken wire for instance is no good because the wire is too fine. This would cause too much weight per square inch to be applied to the skin of the rabbits feet and cause discomfort or damage The hutch should be about 1.75 times the length of the body of an adult rabbit nose to tail. So if it is a small breed say 1 foot in length the hutch would be 1' 9" by 1"9" for a large breed 2' long you would be looking at 3' by 3' or a little larger. It is best to keep the rabbit all it's life in the cage. This is not cruel at all. Don't think that rabbits want the same things in life as a person or for that mater a dog. Rodents are genetically programmed to like to be in there dens because that is where they are safe. They only go out because they have to feed. If additionally it is never let out, it will not even know what being "out" is. I once had a pet rat. I would open the cage door in the evenings when I was watching TV. When I opened the door to the cage it would come out and run the perimeter of the apartment. He would look for food even though he had plenty in the cage, because this is what he was programed to do. After he made his rounds he either came to lay on my chest or went back into the cage. He did not want to stay out. They like it in the cage because they feel safe. They are not people... they don't get bored like we do and are not programmed to roam like a dog. To keep a dog in a cage all it's life would of course be terribly cruel, not so for rodents. You may elect to give your breeders some time out of the cage as they will be alive a long time, but the non breeders will only be alive generally until they are large enough to harvest. It is best if they just stay in the cage all their life and don't even know what it is to go out. In one corner of the hutch there should be a nest for the rabbit and kits (babies) to sleep in. it would be a wood or sheet metal box closed on top and all sides except for a hole big enough for the rabbit to go in and out. It is a plus if the top of the nest is removable so you can look in if you want.

How much noise does the animal make? Again in this regard the rabbit is king and this is one reason they are better than chickens. Indeed if your rabbits are out of sight, and you clean up the droppings from under the cage regularly to keep the smell down, it is possible that your neighbors might not even know you are raising rabbits. If they are terrified they will squeal and cry. Other than that they are basically silent. Compare this with chickens which make clucking sounds all the time, and of course if you have a rooster it crows every morning, for me a total deal breaker.