This post was most recently updated on March 16th, 2020
Are you looking for an ethical, affordable, efficient way of providing your family with meat in your own backyard? Backyard meat rabbits might be your answer.
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During times of financial difficulty like the previous 2 World Wars and the Great Depression, most families raised both chickens and rabbits in their backyard.
Is rabbit meat sustainable?
Backyard meat rabbits give a sustainable, clean green option for those wanting to be more self sufficient even if you are living in the city!
Chickens supply eggs, and a little meat at the end of their life while rabbits reproduced prolifically and provided a quick and easy meat supply.
Rabbits can be raised solely on grass and veggies if they need to be, and can line breed for many generations without issue. They are truly a sustainable, cheap way of raising meat in your backyard.
10 Reasons to Raise Backyard Meat Rabbits
1. Rabbits are Efficient
Rabbits are four times as efficient at converting feed to protein than beef cattle (1). You can raise rabbits on little more than grass and hay if you need to. For optimal growth you will want a higher protein feed, but if times are tight, they will grow on grass.
2. Rabbits are Easy Care
They are small, quiet, easy to keep and easier than chickens to process (NO PLUCKING!!). You can keep rabbits in your backyard even if you live on an urban plot, I have even heard of people raising meat rabbits in their basement!
Want to know all about raising rabbits in a colony?
Check out our very own book here:
3. They are Healthy
Backyard meat rabbits make super lean meat that is very high in protein, and it tastes so much like chicken that most people won’t know the difference. Domestic bunny is a far cry from the gamey, tough/stringy wild bunny you may have tried.
4. They Grow Fast
Meat rabbits reach about 2-2.5kg (4.5-5.5lb) at 8-10 weeks, processing out to about 60-65% actual meat – about 1.5-1.8kg (3-4lb) per rabbit.
5. They are Reproductive Miracles
A mama rabbit can have comfortably 5 litters per year and up to 8 if you keep the does and bucks in together! They don’t call it breeding like rabbits for no reason! With an average of 7 kittens per litter you are looking at 35 – 56 kits per doe per year, that could be 52.5- 100.8 Kg (116-222lb) of meat per mama rabbit per year.
Young meat rabbits called ‘fryers’ are processed at 8-14 weeks of age, so their meat is white and tender. And before you go getting all judgy on us eating baby animals, all that delicious chicken you get at the supermarket is usually only 35-49 days old!
These two chickens are the same age, the brown one is my 8 week old laying chicken, the white franken-monster at the bottom is a “meat breed” chicken, they literally eat all day, and left to grow to 4-6 months will break their own legs by walking as they get so big so fast their bones can’t keep up.
Aren’t humans lovely, to breed a chicken like that all so we have have cheap meat… Also the commercial chicken you buy spends its 5-8 weeks in a shed like this, yes even in clean green NZ:
To avoid the cages and cramped growing conditions, we choose to raise our meat rabbits in colonies. In a colony rabbits are free to run and prance and snuggle and do all the things bunnies love to do.
6. They take up very little space
You can keep rabbits in hutches on the lawn, or have them in stacked hanging cages several high in a carport lean-to.
Have I convinced you to keep meat rabbits on your homestead? If so, read on to see why we recommend raising them in a colony.
7. Rabbits don’t cost much to set up
To get started you could even use secondhand cages, or ones you make for free from scrap. They will need to be secure from predators and be protected from cold wind, rain and the heat.
Other than cages they need feed bowls, water bottles, a nesting box and some food.
8. Backyard meat rabbits make manure
They might be for eating, but their waste products are amazing manure for your vegetable garden. Rabbit poop does not need to be composted before it is used in the garden, and many people will pay good money for bags of bunny poop.
9. Butchering doesn’t need anything fancy
You can buy hopper-poppers and rabbit-wringers, captive bolt guns or a pellet gun. OR you can do the old tried-and-true broomstick method, it is quick, easy and quiet and all you need is a bit of re-bar (reinforcing steel, or similar – we use the fire poker!)
10. You can also sell them as pets
If for any reason you decide that you don’t want to process the kits, you can easily sell them as pets and make a little pocket money on the side.
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Check out our very own book here: