Last year, we finally started fulfilling our homestead dreams by raising meat rabbits. Before that, we only had a rather large garden. However, the goal has always been to have a mini-farm so that we can become more self-sufficient.
First, meat rabbits.
Next year, we’re hoping to add ducks.
After that? Who knows. My ultimate dream is someday adding goats or sheep for dual dairy and meat purposes.
Perhaps you are wondering, why are we starting with meat rabbits for our homestead? Here’s a small list of reasons why I am raising meat rabbits:
Why I am Raising Meat Rabbits
1. Rabbit is a High Quality Meat:
**If you haven’t tried rabbit meat yet, I highly recommend it! Not only is rabbit meat super delicious, it is also considered one of the most nutritious meats available. It has less cholesterol and less fat and higher amounts of protein than turkey, chicken, pork, and beef. We’ve really enjoyed trying different rabbit recipes. I’ve been saving our favorites on my Pinterest recipe board.
2. Rabbits are inexpensive to feed:
**Give them some timothy hay (around here it’s 15 bucks per compressed hay and it lasts around 3 months), some rabbit pellets (this price varies, depending on how many babies I have to feed at one time, but it’s pretty cheap: 50 pounds of pellets for about 15 bucks), water, and all the weeds and vegetable scraps you want. That’s all it takes!
3. Rabbits are quiet and take a small amount of space:
**The loudest noise that comes from the rabbits is when they are drinking from their water containers. Sometimes, if I pick up the babies and they are frightened, they will scream. However, as long as the rabbits are happy and healthy, they don’t make any noise. Meat rabbits also take up very little space. They need around 2.5 square feet of living space per rabbit.
4. Rabbits reproduce….a lot…:
**I have two mother rabbits. If I let them, they each have 8-10 babies every 30 days. However, since rabbits struggle a bit in the heat of summer, I give my does a break for a few months in the hottest part of the year. Even with their break in breeding, we get enough rabbit meat to eat one rabbit a week all year round.
5. Rabbits are very low-maintenance:
**I give my rabbits food and water once a day. Once a week, I also clean their colony cage. That’s all. Unless it’s super hot (and then I check on my rabbits twice a day to give them ice bottles to keep cool and I also refresh their water supply).
6. Rabbits are easy to harvest:
**Someday, I’ll post a tutorial on how to harvest meat rabbits (in the meantime, here’s a GREAT post on harvesting meat rabbits). It’s one of the easiest animals to butcher. When you get really good at it, it can take 5-10 minutes per rabbit. My husband and I can harvest 20 rabbits in less than two hours, and that’s including prep time and cleanup time.
7. Rabbits grow quickly:
**Meat rabbits should be butchered between 10-12 weeks old. We harvest our meat rabbits at 11 weeks old, so that we don’t risk them getting sexually mature a bit early and ruining our colony breeding system.
8. Rabbit manure is GOLD in the garden:
**Oh man, if you are a gardener, you REALLY should consider getting meat rabbits to raise for their poop! Rabbit manure is one of very few non-hot manure sources, which means you can immediately put rabbit poop into your garden. I scoop up the manure in buckets, and just dump it right on my raised garden beds. Rabbit manure is packed with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients and many minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and much much more.
9. BONUS: Meat Rabbits bring me joy.
**Every evening, after I am done with work and I’ve also finished the daily weeding of my garden, I bring the weeds to my meat rabbits. They gather excitedly, because this is our tradition. I drop the weeds into their colony, pull up a chair, and I watch them. Evening is their most active time of the day. It’s cooling off, the sun is starting to set, and they happily eat the weeds I give them, and, as if as a ‘thank you’, they entertain me. The babies start hopping adorably all around the cage. Sometimes, they play a rabbit version of tag. The does lovingly clean each other and their babies and snuggle down. The teenagers sprawl dramatically and often roll around on the ground in a full-belly happy-haze.
I watch. I smile. I often laugh. Sometimes, I sing softly to them. I never expected that raising meat rabbits would bring me so much joy. But they do. They remind me to slow down, take a few breaths, and enjoy the little things in life. It’s a wonderful way for me to feel grounded and unwind after the hectic ways of life. <3