Have you ever considered raising meat rabbits? Homesteaders looking for a sustainable source of protein will often turn to rabbits for their self-sufficient farm. After raising meat rabbits on my homestead, I had plenty of experience to answer the question: Should I raise meat rabbits?
You should raise meat rabbits if you are looking for a healthy source of protein that is easy to handle, quiet, inexpensive to feed, and doesn’t take up a lot of space. However, if you are sensitive or get attached easily, you may want to reconsider. There are many reasons to raise meat rabbits and a few good reasons not to. Ultimately, only you can decide once you know the pros and cons of raising meat rabbits.
In this article, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of raising meat rabbits. We’ll give you plenty of reasons to raise them and a few reasons you might not want to raise them. You’ll be able to get a better idea of what it takes to raise meat rabbits so you can make the best decision for you, your family, and your homestead. First, let’s look at some great reasons to raise meat rabbits on your homestead.
13 Reasons to Raise Meat Rabbits
1. Meat Rabbits are easy to raise.
Meat rabbits are surprisingly easy to raise. They don’t require much attention, are very easy to handle, are docile, and are easy to carry. You won’t have to worry about being headbutted by a rabbit like you would a goat. And you don’t need to be concerned with shearing, castrating, trimming hooves, or other challenging aspects of raising larger animals.
2. Meat rabbits don’t require a lot of space.
Rabbits don’t need a large amount of space. Goats, chickens, sheep, and cows all need larger areas to roam, but rabbits can live in a relatively small cage. A cage that is 3 feet square and around 2 feet high is probably big enough for each rabbit. You can use stacking or hanging cages to save space, as well.
3. Meat rabbits reproduce quickly.
The old cliche, breed like rabbits, is actually entirely accurate. Rabbits can reproduce very quickly! A mother rabbit can easily have 4 to 6 litters per year, with each litter consisting of 3 to 12 kits. If you have several does, you can breed them in succession to produce a steady supply of meat and protein.
4. Meat rabbits go from birth to processing in a short time.
You won’t have to wait months and months to have meat. Meat rabbits can be dispatched at around ten weeks of age when they weigh roughly 5 pounds. This is very quick compared to larger livestock, such as cattle.
5. Meat rabbits are easy to dispatch.
Because rabbits are small and docile, they are easy to process. There are several humane ways to butcher rabbits, as you can see here. Humane slaughter is good for the rabbit, but it also makes the meat taste better. If you aren’t comfortable dispatching your rabbits, you can take them to a butcher for assistance.
6. Meat rabbits give you great fertilizer.
If you grow a garden, you’ll love rabbit manure. This manure isn’t considered hot, so you can put it directly onto your garden without composting it first.
7. Meat rabbits have an excellent feed to meat ratio.
Since rabbits grow quickly, you won’t need to feed them much or long before reaching their ideal weight.
8. Meat rabbits can be sold for pets, showing, breeding.
You don’t have to eat all of your rabbits. Many meat rabbits can also be sold as pets, as show rabbits, and as breeding pairs. You can also make money selling their pelts and manure if you desire.
9. Meat rabbits only require a small investment to get started.
You don’t have to make a huge investment to start your rabbitry. You just need a few cages with feeders and waterers, two does, and a buck to get started. You may even be able to find used rabbit cages at yard sales, or if you are handy, you can build your own very inexpensively.
10. Rabbit meat is healthy.
Rabbit meat is one of the leanest types of protein you can eat. And, if you raise your meat rabbits, you’ll know precisely how that protein was treated, what it was fed, and how it was butchered.
11. Meat rabbits can be fed inexpensively and potentially for free.
Rabbits don’t eat a lot, and their feed is relatively inexpensive, especially when you order it in bulk. However, many homesteaders find ways to feed their rabbits vegetable scraps, garden scraps, and weeds, making feeding practically free.
12. Meat rabbits are quiet.
You won’t have to worry about noisy roosters bothering your neighbors. Rabbits are quiet and unobtrusive. Your neighbors might not even know they are there.
13. Rabbits have fewer restrictions than chickens or other poultry.
Poultry, especially chickens, are often heavily regulated due to the potential for disease, odors, and waste products. However, rabbits are not nearly as regulated as poultry is. Therefore, even though your local laws may prevent you from having chickens or turkeys, you will probably still be allowed to have a few rabbits. But, of course, you always need to check your local laws first.
9 Reasons Not to Raise Meat Rabbits
1. Meat rabbits are very susceptible to predators.
These small animals don’t have too many natural defenses and are easy prey for foxes, coons, hawks, coyotes, and neighborhood dogs. You’ll need to find ways to keep them safe, such as keeping their cages up off the ground.
2. Meat rabbits can be escape artists.
Rabbits love to dig! If you raise them in a colony setting or a ground-level hutch, be prepared for them to attempt to dig their way out. Here is the hutch I built for my rabbits. You may need to bury chicken wire underneath their pen to keep them from getting away. They can squeeze through surprisingly small spaces, so make sure their enclosures are secure.
3. Not everyone has the nerves to process their meat rabbits.
Processing meat rabbits isn’t difficult, but it can be challenging for sensitive people or people who grow attached to their animals.
4. Laws may prevent slaughtering meat rabbits on site.
Although there are rarely laws against having rabbits in your home or yard, there may be laws preventing you from butchering your rabbits on site. If you live in an urban or suburban setting or have an HOA, you may not be able to butcher your own rabbits. Of course, you can always take them to a butcher or perhaps use a friend’s yard if needed.
5. Meat rabbits can spray urine.
Although pet rabbits are typically neutered, meat rabbits are not. Raising intact rabbits means some of their natural inclination to spray could be problematic if you raise your rabbits indoors. You don’t want rabbit urine on the walls or floor of your home or even your garage. You’ll need to take this under consideration when deciding on the appropriate housing for your animals.
6. Flies and rodents can be a problem for meat rabbits.
You’ll need to check your rabbits often for signs of flystrike. Flystrike is when flies lay their eggs on the hind end of a rabbit. The eggs hatch and the larvae eat the rabbit alive. Rats can also chew on and injure your meat rabbits. Both are terrible conditions for rabbits and can be extremely painful.
7. Rabbits can be aggressive towards each other and when pregnant.
Most rabbits are docile, but when pregnant they can become aggressive. Placing a male rabbit into a female’s cage for breeding can also cause aggression. However, with a little care and respect, you can avoid these issues.
8. You’ll need a place to keep all those extra meat rabbits.
A single doe can give birth to a dozen babies in one litter. You’ll need a place to keep them until you are ready to butcher or sell them. Also, if you make a mistake sexing your rabbits, every female in the cage could become pregnant by a single male. Your rabbit population can multiply very quickly, so you’ll need a plan to take care of all of those extra rabbits.
9. It’s easy to get attached to meat rabbits.
Meat rabbits can be sweet, adorable, and loving, just like pet rabbits. But, unfortunately, it’s easy to get attached! Of course, you want to treat your animals well and give them lovely living conditions, but if you treat them like a pet, you will have a very hard time eating them. So instead of having a colony of meat rabbits, you might end up with a large population of pets!
So should you raise meat rabbits?
My biggest challenge with raising meat rabbits was becoming too attached to their adorable, fuzzy faces. However, if it came down to keeping my family from starving in a dire situation, I would find a way to make it work even if it was hard for me to do.
I also made one mistake sexing my rabbits, which created many extra rabbits that I was not anticipating! So rather than eating my meat rabbits, I ended up selling them for showing, breeding, and as pets. But just because I wasn’t very successful at raising rabbits for meat doesn’t mean you won’t be. Only you can decide if you should raise meat rabbits.
What’s the best breed of meat rabbit to raise?
Silver Foxes are an excellent breed of rabbits to raise. They are very docile and easy to manage. Silver Foxes are considered to be a heritage breed. They are often raised for their meat, pelt, for showing, and as pets.
Can you raise meat rabbits together?
Some people use the colony method of raising meat rabbits. However, care must be taken to separate males and females to reduce fighting and to prevent overbreeding.
How many meat rabbits do I need to get started?
You can start a rabbitry with just three rabbits. Two females, or does, and one buck, or male. A good breeding trio can easily produce a hundred or more kits in a year.