On our 4 acre homestead, we don’t have any large livestock. We just don’t feel like we have the room right now.
Meat rabbits are an awesome solution for us. They provide a lot of meat in a small space.
We bought 3 rabbits last week: 1 white buck, 1 white doe and 1 tan doe. They are big and fluffy and almost breeding age.
Why do we want meat rabbits?
We have had meat rabbits in the past. We butchered all of our rabbits last winter when we thought we were selling our house. After it was decided that we would stay in our current house, we wanted to start with rabbits again.
Rabbits are fairly easy to raise, multiply quickly and aren’t too hard to butcher. For these reasons, meat rabbits are a good addition to any homestead.
Rabbit manure is an excellent source of nutrients for the garden. It doesn’t even need to be composted first!
What breeds are right for meat rabbits?
New Zealand White (10-12 lbs) good meat production
Californian (10-12 lbs) good meat to bone ratio
Standard Rex (7.5-10.5 lbs) most common breed for fur
Silver Fox (9-12 lbs) rare breed, good meat to bone ratio
The rabbits we bought are New Zealand and New Zealand/Standard Rex Cross from different parents. They are good sized rabbits with pretty furs.
How do you care for them?
Meat rabbits need the basics of life: food, water, shelter, and protection from other predators.
In the winter, you will most likely feed them with commercial feed and hay. In the summer, you can feed them greens from your garden and they will love it!
Rabbits get hot easily, so in the summer time they need shade, constant water and you can even add a frozen water bottle in their cage to keep them cool.
Rabbit hutch plans:
You can build your own rabbit hutches and cages at home. Just decide how many rabbits you will have so you know how big of a hutch you need to build. Building these things for yourself will save you a lot of money on your homestead.
What age can they breed?
Rabbits can begin breeding at 6 months.
They should kept in separate cages. Bring the doe to the buck’s cage for mating. If you do it the other way around, the female may attack the male. One or two visits should do the job, and about a month later (30 days gestation) you should have some new baby rabbits.
How often do they breed?
One doe can have 2 to 3 litters a year. Make sure and give her a about a month rest between weaning and mating.
How many babies do they have per litter?
Litter size varies, but it is common to have from 5-8 per litter.
When do you butcher them?
Rabbits are usually butchering size at 8 to 10 weeks old. This is when they are the best size and the meat is the best quality. At this age, you should get 4-5 lbs of meat per rabbit. You also don’t want to spend money on extra food if it isn’t necessary.
We aren’t going to go into butchering practices in this post, but we will have a butchering post after we butcher our first batch this year (probably in the fall).
What do you use the meat for?
Rabbit meat is great for stews and fajitas. We are still relatively new at eating rabbit, so with these meals it is harder to tell the difference between rabbit and chicken.
Here are a few rabbit recipes to get you started:
Honey Rosemary Baked Rabbit Recipe @ The Imperfectly Home
Hearty Rabbit Stew with Vegetables Recipe @ The Spruce Eats
Rabbit Fried Rice @ Hostile Hare
We love having rabbits on our homestead. They are fairly inexpensive to get started and don’t require too much daily care.
Meat rabbits have been an important part of our homestead diet in the past, and we hope they will continue to benefit our family in the future. They are the easiest livestock to raise and the meat is very lean and healthy. It may be hard to butcher an animal that is so cute, but the rewards for self-sufficiency outweigh this difficult task.
Do you have rabbits on your homestead? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!