Sunday, September 7, 2014

10 Reasons to Raise Meat Rabbits (and 4 Reasons Not To)


10 Reasons to Raise Meat Rabbits

1. Rabbits are quiet
They literally make no noise. If you live in the suburbans with temperamental neighbors who are bothered by the slightest disturbance, then rabbits are the right choice for you. I'm pretty sure we had our rabbits for six months before our neighbors even knew. When the chickens are squawking in the morning or singing the egg song, you will be grateful that the rabbits are mute!

2. Rabbits are delicious
For more on this, check out the post on the Verdict on Eating Rabbit. This is a lean white meat that can replace chicken in most recipes or even ground beef in much the same way that ground turkey can. It can also be used to make delicious sausage! whichever way you enjoy it, this is a great alternative to grocery story meat with unknown beginnings.


3. They multiply like...well...rabbits
The gestation period for rabbits is only 30 days, and each litter can easily have 8-10 kits. The kits can be weaned completely after 4 weeks and the mother is ready for mating again. At that rate of reproduction, a breeding pair of rabbits can produce 60 rabbits in a year. At 3 lbs. of meat per rabbit, you have just produced up to 180lbs. of meat for your family without large livestock!

4. They don't take up much space
While raising cows, chickens, or goats takes up a lot of land, our entire rabbit operation takes up only 45 square feet. We have a cage for the male, one for the female with the breastfeeding kits, and another cage for the weaned kits that are growing into processing age. Most of the meat for our family is raised in just a corner of the backyard!

5. They create garden fertilizer
We do compost most of our kitchen and yard waste, but rabbits can create amazing garden fertilizer a lot faster than the compost pile can. Rabbit manure is one of the best natural fertilizers for the garden because it is one of the only animal manures that do not need to mature before applying to the dirt. Cow and most other animal manures need to sit at least six months before going into the garden to avoid burning the plants, but rabbit manure can be shoveled straight from under the cage and into the vegetable garden. And they produce plenty of it! Your days of buying bags of Miracle Grow Soil are over!

6. They are a healthy source of very lean meat
Not only is rabbit meat delicious, but it also is very healthy for you. Rabbit meat has less fat, calories, and cholesterol than beef, pork, turkey, and chicken, and it has the highest percentage of protein. According to many studies, it is considered the most nutritious meat out there! So, yeah...delicious and very good for you :)

7. They are inexpensive to feed
While chickens can forage for up to 15% of their diet, rabbits can forage for up to 90% of their diet, which significantly cuts the cost of food. We feed our rabbits all of the leftover greens from our garden, such as beet, radish, turnip, and carrot tops, potato vines, and leaves of greens that have been chewed up by bugs. We also give them grass, weeds, tree leaves, etc. They will eat anything green and in many cases prefer it to the bagged feed. Our average price of feed per pound of meat produced is right around $2.50. That is much cheaper than any meat you can find in the grocery store, and you can rest assured knowing that it is free of antibiotics and growth hormones.

8. Easy to process
My husband does all of the meat processing. He has frequently processed chickens and rabbits. On average it takes him about 45 minutes to process a chicken (with my help to defeather), while a rabbit takes him around 15 minutes to process from live rabbit to meat in a freezer ziplock bag. No feathers to deal with, the skin peels right off, and you also don;t have to withhold food from the rabbits before processing.

9. They grow quickly
Rabbits can be processed at only 8 weeks of age. Since we feed our rabbits so many greens, we usually wait until 12 weeks to process them, but it still doesn't take long to raise a litter from newborn to dinner. It also keeps the turnover quick so that you can have another litter right behind it waiting for production.

10. Rabbits make great pets.
You obviously won't be eating your breeders, and they will become your pets. (And if you can't bring yourself to eat the babies, then you will end up with LOTS of pets). Rabbits are really sweet and cuddly, and they make great pets. Our breeders love to be petted and held, wait for treats, and even free range in the backyard occasionally.


4 Reasons Not to Raise Meat Rabbits

1. Rabbits are cute!
The hardest part about raising rabbits for meat is that they are so adorable and sweet! I have to make an effort not to get attached to the babies. One of the best parts of raising rabbits is getting to see the entire life cycle, from hairless newborn and to first opening their eyes to learning to eat on their own and growing from hamster phase to full-size rabbit. It is enjoyable to be a part of, which makes it that much more difficult when it is time for them to become dinner. It makes it easier when you think that there is always another batch on the way to start the process over again!

2. Rabbits have a lot of bones.
Lots of little bones. The legs are good, and have a lot of meat on them without too many bones, but once you get to the back, you really have to be careful. Be especially cautious if you are feeding the meat to children!

3. They need daily attention.
They drink a lot of water and food, especially when you have an entire litter sharing a cage. Sometimes we even have to refill the food and water twice a day when they are close to processing age. For this reason, you can't take a trip without having someone to check on them regularly.

4. They have claws.
They have back claws that will draw blood if you try to pick them up. They are fine being petted, but once you lift their four feet off the ground, the hind legs start kicking and they only have one motive- to be put down again. For this reason, they are difficult to move or hold unless you handle them a lot when they are young. You may start off doing well with the socialization, but truth be told, soon they are multiplying too quickly to handle them all well enough to avoid getting scratched up every now and then.

Want a great rabbit recipe? Click on one of the recipes below!