Raising Rabbits As a Sustainable Meat (& Income) Source

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Looking for a simple, sustainable way to feed your family and generate some income on the homestead? Try raising rabbits!

While backyard chickens are all the rage these days – even for urban homesteaders – rabbits remain a novelty even among hobby farmers. Though Asian and some European countries consume rabbit on a regular basis, America lags behind, despite the relative ease of raising rabbits for meat.

If you’re looking to add a sustainable source of income to your homestead – and meat to your table – raising rabbits may be worth a look. After all, rabbits reproduce at astounding rates, plus they’re quiet, meat-heavy, and fairly easy to raise – and according to the article by Modern Farmer quoted below, “the meat is higher in digestible protein and lower in fat, cholesterol, and calories than chicken, beef, or pork.”

That said, you will need to put up some money upfront for housing and some other specialized bunny needs. Here are some considerations to keep in mind if you are looking at raising rabbits for meat:

 As little as $30 can buy a mating duo capable of producing some 40 offspring in a single year. Roughly half will be females, who can yield their first litters at 7 to 11 months of age. Three-month-old meat rabbits fetch roughly $10 per pound (up to $20 for choice cuts), versus about $3 per pound for chicken…

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The first step in developing your own rabbitry involves connecting with an area breeder to purchase at least one female (doe) and one male (buck); raising-rabbits.com maintains a national breeder registry…

…A single doe and her nursing kits require a hutch at least 2 feet tall and 6 feet long. Same goes for each buck, which must be kept separately due to aggression. A hutch this size—which should sit a few feet above the ground so droppings can fall through the wire floor—will set you back $100 to $180 at sources like hayneedle.com, though frugal, handy types might want to check out morningchores.com for building plans and some fun IKEA hacks.

Ideally, rabbits should be granted access to an enclosed outdoor run for a few hours each day to exercise; a 6- to 8-foot-diameter area, with a chicken-wire roof, floor, and walls, will suffice for a backyard hobbyist raising a few dozen animals and rotating the gang through the run.

Another major expense, for Wixson anyway: Organic rabbit pellets—not yet manufactured on the scale of other organic feed—go for roughly 60 cents per pound. From spring through fall, she’s able to save on feed by providing a natural grass diet, via movable “rabbit tractors” that allow for rotational grazing. That, too, has a financial downside. “It takes longer to get the rabbits to slaughter weight,” Wixson explains, “because I’m not shoving grain down their throats, so to speak.”

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Regardless of whether your herd spends most of its time in mobile tractors or stationary hutches, you should outfit each shelter with a hanging waterer and feeder. Stock the latter with alfalfa-based pellets, supplementing the feed with weed-free Timothy or other grass hay for fiber, plus healthy snacks like oats, black-oil sunflower seeds, carrots, and apples. (Visit kwcages.com to find feed and accessories.)

Though relatively robust, rabbits do exhibit a few notable sensitivities. First, they scare easily—so much so that they’ve been known to die of heart attacks if a barking dog runs up to the hutch. Susceptible to heat-stroke when the temperature surpasses 80 degrees, bunnies can faint on hot days. Site hutches in a three-sided, shaded shelter for some insurance against disaster…
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One last item that belongs in every hutch: a faux burrow. You can buy a ready-made version (at kwcages.com) or retrofit a cardboard box by cutting out a rabbit-size door. The box should measure about 12 by 18 by 10 inches and have a removable lid for easy cleaning. “It gives the animals a place to scoot into where they feel safe,” says Wixson. And when it’s time to make bunnies, the box acts as a nest.

Check out the full article at ModernFarmer.com for more tips on raising rabbits…

 

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