13 Tips to Raising Rabbits for Meat (2022)

Backyard rabbit farming is on the rise, and quite sustainable for those seeking to own their food source. Here are 13 key tips to raising rabbits for meat whether you reside in town or out in the country.

The incorporation of meat rabbits onto the homestead was a rather easy decision for us. In fact, rabbits were incorporated one year after the addition of laying hens, and prior to us raising broiler birds for meat.

I am going to be very honest about this, I made the decision to bring rabbits onto the property without much research. Luckily the woman who we purchased our small herd from allowed us to purchase stackable cages and gave us an excellent, but quick, rundown of what we needed to do.

So, we winged it, though not blindly. I had homesteading friends who were already raising rabbits for meat and they were able to answer any question I had rather quickly and effortlessly. These individuals have been raising rabbits for years, and for that I am thankful.

With that said, you’re here because you are researching before you jump in. Allow me to share my 13 reasons as to why you should raise backyard meat rabbits. I can promise you, it will be one of the best sustainable living decisions you can make.

There are two types of people – people who understand the purpose of raising meat rabbits and others who do not. Now, this is not because they won’t eat rabbit, it is because they are not comfortable with the butchering process.

Let me be honest with you, processing day is still quite difficult for me and we have been raising rabbits for many years. How do I manage butchering an animal many see as pets?

(Video) 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Raising Rabbits

Individuals seek to own a clean food source, which requires them to be able to raise and butcher their own meat. I know the importance of consuming a clean food source, and I’ll do whatever I need to in order to ensure my family is eating healthy, clean foods.

Is raising rabbits for meat easy? Yes, the process of establishing the rabbitry, daily chores, and breeding is. If you need more convincing here are 13 reasons as to why you should raise rabbits for meat on the homestead.

Raising Backyard Meat Rabbits

There are 14 incredible meat rabbit breeds to choose from. Each breed brings to the table different qualities whether it is the amount of meat provided, a breed which produces a large litter of kits, or the opportunity to work the pelt.

Before incorporating rabbits onto the property make sure to choose the best rabbit breed for your end goal.

1. Ideal for Property of all Sizes

Contrary to what many believe, raising rabbits is extremely convenient and can be achieved regardless of where you reside. There are many options as to the type of structure needed to place the rabbit cages.

  • Garden shed
  • Barns
  • 3 sided lean-to
  • and even in the garage

Below you will find the 3 options for caging rabbits.

2. Minimal Startup Cost

The start up cost for keeping rabbits is quite minimal consisting of a few basic items –

(Video) How to Raise Rabbits for Meat: Part 5 Rabbit Nutrition

3. Housing

There are three methods for housing rabbits and which one you choose will depend on the structure in which the herd will be kept. Be sure to add a resting spot (a soft spot for their feet to rest) if you use wire cages.

  • Stackable cages – this type of housing is ideal garden sheds and garages
  • Hanging cages – perfect for a lean-to, barn, or garage
  • Colony setting – garden shed or barn

4. Raise Heritage Breeds

There are 14 rabbit breeds consisting of standard and heritage breeds which are excellent to raise for meat purposes.

Standard breeds are more commonly found whereas heritage breeds are prized and slightly difficult to come by.

Heritage breeds are watched by the Livestock Conservancy and have been making a comeback due to the awareness the organization provides. Keep in mind, heritage breeds and larger breed rabbits have slower growth rates so they take longer to reach butchering age.

Our homestead raises two heritage rabbit breeds, the Harlequin and the American Chinchilla.

5. Healthy Meat Option

Rabbit meat is lean white meat similar to chicken meat. Unlike wild rabbits, domesticated rabbits have a mild gamey flavor, though rabbits raised on pasture tend to have a gamier flavor.

Unlike chicken or beef, rabbit is high in B12, which is excellent for those who are deficient.

6. Sustainable Food Source

A doe, depending on the breed, which is bred twice a year can produce up to 168 pounds of meat a year. This figure is based on a doe birthing an average of 5 kits per litter. That is a total of 336 pounds of meat a year from 2 does.

(Video) Cost Breakdown Of Raising Meat Rabbits | How To Quarter and Preserve Your Rabbit!

7. Quick to Reach Harvest Date

Rabbits can be harvested as early as 8 weeks of age, though many prefer to harvest them around 4 to 5 pounds. I prefer to harvest between 8 to 12 weeks, but no later than 12 weeks of age as the meat begins getting tough.

  • 8 weeks old – fryer
  • 12 week old – roaster
  • over 12 weeks – stewer

I prefer to dispatch between 8 to 9 weeks as the rabbit is more tender and can be used as a fryer. Anything after 8 weeks the meat is less tender, not to mention, you are losing money by continually feeding it as they will begin to consume more feed after this age.

8. Minimum Care

Good animal husbandry will require you to groom your herd as they need it, roughly two to three times a year for most breeds. Keep in mind, grooming a herd refers to your breeding pair and not your meat stock.

  • Nails will need to be trimmed as needed with a cat nail trimmer
  • Rabbits with longer fur may need to be brushed to help with molting (shedding of the fur)
  • Chew toys must be provided to help keep the front teeth filed

9. Minimal Feed Cost

Our rabbits receive free choice hay and quality rabbit complete pellet feed at their evening feeding. In addition to this they receive fresh vegetables and/or grass daily to help reduce the cost of hay and pellet feed.

Feeding rabbits naturally should never replace hay or pellet feed but act as a filler.

10. Free Manure

There is no better instant fertilizer than rabbit manure as it is not considered to be hot and will not burn crops or flowers. In addition to utilizing rabbit poop, rabbit urine also makes a great fertilizer. Both the poop and urine are high in –

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  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

Collect the manure and urine and evenly distribute throughout the garden beds.

11. Easy to Process

There are no expensive tools required for processing rabbits. The more common methods for dispatching rabbits has been the broomstick method or with the use of a pellet gun. I have recently had the opportunity to use the Hopper Popper and found that it was an efficient and humane method for dispatching rabbits. This tool is also a lot easier on the back than the broomstick method.

12. Showing for 4H

Rabbits are a great animal for children who are in 4H. Many of the smaller meat rabbit breeds are small enough for those new to 4H to handle easily. Children have an incredible opportunity to make an income with a backyard rabbit farming business. Teaching kids how to raise backyard meat rabbits creates good stewards to the homesteading and farming movement.

13. Backyard Rabbit Farming

Many counties in the United States do not consider rabbits to be classified as livestock, which means they are not closely regulated.

For this reason many families have created a backyard rabbit farming business, earning a fair amount of money yearly to compensate for the cost of raising rabbits.

  • In many states rabbit meat can be sold as “pet food” for roughly $9 a pound.
  • A pelt which has been tanned can easily be sold starting at $20 a hide depending on how well it is prepared.
  • Manure can be sold by the bucket full, set your price and people will be lined up to purchase it. I sell 5-gallon buckets for $10.
  • Kits can be sold for meat production or with a pedigree for showing. Many 4H clubs do not require a pedigree to show, however, it is best to check the club’s rules prior to registering a rabbit.

As you can see the benefits of raising backyard meat rabbits is great and the opportunity to create a backyard rabbit farm for extra income is even greater.

The only advice I will give is this, do not get carried away with breed and make sure you have a solid plan to butcher or sell the kits once they have been weaned.

(Video) How we Feed our Meat Rabbits for FREE on the Homestead : Almost FREE FOOD

Enjoy your new sustainable adventure, it is going to be a great one!

FAQs

How long does it take for a rabbit to be ready for meat? ›

Although companion rabbits are capable of living 10 to 15 years, the vast majority of “meat” rabbits are killed at three months of age. Referred to as “fryers,” these baby rabbits weigh only 1.5 – 3.5 pounds. A small percentage are slaughtered at 8 months old or 4 pounds; they are known in the industry as “roasters.”

Is it worth raising rabbits for meat? ›

They're a popular choice for homestead meat production, and it's easy to see why. They produce large quantities of high-protein, low-cost meat in a small amount of space. Not to mention, the meat is delicious! Like all new homestead animals, meat rabbits can be both a joy and a learning curve.

How much meat do you get from 1 rabbit? ›

A four-pound animal produces about two pounds of meat. Rabbit really tastes something like chicken, and it even gets cut into eight pieces like a frying chicken. However, the bones are smaller and the meat is all white. What will this lean, home-raised meat cost?

What is the best feed for meat rabbits? ›

A meat rabbit's diet usually consists of rabbit pellets and free-choice hay. Grass, weeds, twigs, and herbs are healthy additions. Just be sure to make any changes to their diet slowly. Salt licks and mineral spools are not needed if you feed pelleted food.

How long should rabbits rest after butchering? ›

Rigor mortis will take anywhere from 48 to 72 hours to pass and then it will be nicely rested and ready to cut up.

How much meat will 2 rabbits produce? ›

Rabbits breed and grow so quickly that one pair of healthy does (females) can produce more than 600 pounds of meat in a year. Compare that to the dressed yield of 400 pounds for an average year-old beef steer.

How many meat rabbits can live together? ›

Breeding Colonies

If you are raising rabbits for meat or sale and have a very high demand you can keep the bucks & does together full time. One buck can easily cover 10-15 does. If you have too many bucks, they could fight more often and overbreed the does.

Can you live off rabbit meat alone? ›

The term rabbit starvation originates from the fact that rabbit meat is very lean, with almost all of its caloric content from protein rather than fat, and therefore a food which, if consumed exclusively, would cause protein poisoning.

Is rabbit meat healthier than pork? ›

Well, rabbit is one of the healthiest, leanest, and most environmentally friendly meats you can eat. Compared to beef, pork, lamb, turkey, veal, and chicken, rabbit has the highest percentage of protein, the lowest percentage of fat, and the fewest calories per pound.

Is first cut or second cut better for rabbits? ›

Premium 2nd cut Timothy hay is preferred by most grass eating small animals (Bunnies, Rabbits, Chinchillas, Gerbils, Hamsters, Mice, Rats, and Tortoises). 2nd cutting is called “second” because it is the hay that is harvested after the 1st cutting.

How do you bulk up meat rabbits? ›

Putting weight on bunnies or rabbits:
  1. Give high-fat and high-carbohydrate treats, but remember to limit these properly or they can be deadly.
  2. Provide small portions of alfalfa hay and alfalfa pellets for small periods of time. ...
  3. Free-feed timothy pellets, so the rabbit could eat anytime during the day the mood strikes.
15 May 2019

What is the best weight to butcher a rabbit? ›

Fryers are the more common type of domestic meat rabbit. Roasters are 10 weeks to 6 months old. They are commonly 5.5 to 9 pounds live. A roaster's carcass should weigh more than half of the rabbit's live weight.

Do meat rabbits need salt blocks? ›

Contrary to popular belief, rabbits do not need salt licks, vitamins, or hard wooden objects to wear their teeth down.

What food is irresistible to rabbits? ›

What Makes the Best Rabbit Bait? The best bait for rabbits includes brussel sprouts, carrots, lettuce and apples; you can also spray the inside of the trap with apple cider. Unusual rabbit baiting tips include crumbling up cheesy biscuits and placing them inside the trap.

What food does rabbit love most? ›

What do rabbits eat? Rabbits should have a daily diet of mostly hay, a smaller amount of fresh vegetables, and a limited number of pellets. Hay is the most important part of a rabbit's daily intake. Unlimited, high-quality grass hay, such as Timothy, orchard or brome, should make up the bulk of a rabbit's diet.

Can you cook the parasites out of rabbit meat? ›

While warbles are gross and unsightly, they can easily be removed with a knife. Even if they're not removed, the rabbit meat is perfectly edible. Warbles don't spread diseases to humans, and cooking kills them.

Can I leave my rabbit for 5 days? ›

Anything longer than 24 hours is an unacceptable level of time alone for a rabbit. By the time day two rolls around, your pet will be growing anxious. She will wonder why you've not visited. A rabbit locked in a hutch for a weekend will also not be able to exercise.

What do you soak rabbit in? ›

A simple brine of 1/4 cup kosher salt to 4 cups water will do -- the rabbit is going to get plenty of seasoning later. Submerge your bunny in this brine about 8 hours. This process keeps them moist. Domesticated rabbits don't really need this, but if you want to brine them, do so for no more than 4 hours.

How many times a year can you breed a meat rabbit? ›

You breed about every 90 days. Gestation only takes 30 to 32 days. The young nurse for five or six weeks, learning to eat as they go along. At six or seven weeks you put the young fryers in another hutch or two and eat them between then and ten or twelve weeks.

How many rabbits do you need to be profitable? ›

Scale the one rabbit to 1000 and an estimated gross profit of $30,000 to $40,000 can be achieved. Before we all rush out to buy loads of rabbits, it is important to first remember that a profit (from anything) can only be made if the costs involved are tightly controlled, and you get a positive cashflow in the end.

How can I improve my rabbit production? ›

Rabbit embryos (blastocysts).
  1. Overall cost reduction.
  2. Contrastation of stallions.
  3. Optimization of the players.
  4. No use of hormones.
  5. Improvements in handling and well-being.
  6. Standardization of techniques.
  7. Development of specific techniques of Artificial Insemination (IA) and Synchronization of estrus.

Does inbreeding matter with meat rabbits? ›

Inbreeding is a great way to “set” the characteristics of the sire and dam but it can also create “bad rabbits” that must be culled because of temperament, health, or deformities, more so than with line breeding. When you inbreed you should cull heavily and only keep what you are really pleased with.

How many rabbits do you need to start a Rabbitry? ›

How many rabbits should you start with? Idealy start with a trio OR 5 unrelated rabbits. A trio is 1 buck (male rabbit) and 2 does (female rabbit). If you have the space and money to start with 5 then I would advise you to get 2 unrelated bucks and 3 does.

How much do meat rabbits eat per day? ›

Rabbits generally eat more at night than during the day. Weanling meat-type rabbits will eat about 4 to 6 ounces of food per day, depending on their size.

What is rabbit meat called? ›

Unlike beef, pork or lamb, rabbit meat does not have a special name, it is simply called, "rabbit meat." Despite it being a rarity on many Zambian menus, it is a very popular dish across different parts of the world. Rabbit meat is unique from other meats in that it is entirely white meat.

Can rabbit farming make you rich? ›

Rabbit farming is more convenient and profitable than farming in most of other animals, because to start off entails just little capital with a small space, and it is an animal that is very prolific. Starting with just 2 does and 1 buck, within one year could give you 50 rabbits or more.

What are the 3 biggest expenses of owning a rabbit? ›

Ongoing Supplies
  • Litter: $18/month.
  • Hay: $20/month (can be cheaper, >$5/month, if you buy from a local farmer by the bale)
  • Greens/vegetables: $40/month.
  • Pellets: $5/month.
  • Pet-safe cleaning supplies: $2/month.
  • TOTAL ONGOING: $85/month (or $70/month if you get your hay direct from a farmer)

How do I know when my rabbit is ready to butcher? ›

At 10-12 weeks old, the grow-outs, or fully grown rabbit kits, should weigh over 5 pounds and are ready to be butchered at any time. But there's no rush, as grow-outs will continue to grow, just at a slower rate. If you're keeping them longer, separate the males from the females 12 weeks before butchering.

How long can you leave a rabbit before gutting it? ›

You should gut furred small game as soon as possible. Especially rabbits and hares, because there's something about their innards that allows them to sour very quickly. In warm weather, it only takes an hour or so for the thin abdominal muscles to start turning greenish blue.

What months can you eat rabbits? ›

We say if the month has an 'R', then it is rabbit eatin month. So September through April. Reason is potential parasite contamination during the warm months. That's what our old timers say around here in the Rocky Mountains.

How much meat do you get from a 5 lb rabbit? ›

How much meat will you get? Each fryer will dress out at about 60% of live weight, when butchered at 5 pounds. This will get you 3.5 pounds of meat per fryer. Remember that this is a very intensive breeding plan and will only give you these results if you can keep up with the needed nutrition and management.

Do rabbits prefer first or second cut hay? ›

Premium 2nd cut Timothy hay is preferred by most grass eating small animals (Bunnies, Rabbits, Chinchillas, Gerbils, Hamsters, Mice, Rats, and Tortoises). 2nd cutting is called “second” because it is the hay that is harvested after the 1st cutting.

How many rabbits should I start with? ›

How many rabbits should you start with? Idealy start with a trio OR 5 unrelated rabbits. A trio is 1 buck (male rabbit) and 2 does (female rabbit).

What shot do you use for rabbits? ›

As far as shot sizes, 6s and 7-1/2s are both good choices for cottontails. Briars and thorns can make hamburger meat out of unprotected skin, so it's wise to wear thick clothing when rabbit hunting.

What should you not do when you handle a rabbit? ›

Remember: Hold rabbits gently but firmly - ensure one hand supports their back and hindquarters at all times. Help them feel secure by holding all four feet against your body. Never pick rabbits up by their ears - this would be extremely stressful and is highly likely to injure them.

How do you flush a rabbit out of a hole? ›

Use celery, carrots, lettuce or rabbit pellets as the bait. Place the trap outside of the entry hole and remain patient; it might take several hours for the rabbit to emerge. When the rabbit is hungry enough, it will find its way out of the hole. Rabbits are most active at dusk and dawn.

What are the disadvantages of eating rabbit? ›

Rabbit meat side effects may include:
  • protein poisoning.
  • high cholesterol.
  • lead poisoning and potential diseases if wild rabbits have been shot by lead pellets.
  • antibiotic resistance if domesticated rabbit meat.
3 Jul 2022

What is rabbit poisoning? ›

Protein poisoning is when the body takes in too much protein with not enough fat and carbohydrate for a long period of time. Other names for this are “rabbit starvation” or “mal de caribou.” These terms came about to describe only consuming very lean proteins, such as rabbit, without consuming other nutrients.

What rabbit produces the most meat? ›

The New Zealand rabbit breed is by far the most common and the most popular best meat rabbit. It's estimated that 90% of the rabbits raised for meat are New Zealand rabbits. One reason may be that this rabbit breed puts on weight quickly and has an exceptional meat-to-bone ratio.

How many cages does a meat rabbit need? ›

Each rabbit needs its own cage, so for the breeding trio of a buck and two does you'll need three cages.

Videos

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