When my sons were kids they raised rabbits, mostly for showing. Yes, there are rabbit shows just as there are dog shows. The boys’ primary breed was Mini Rex and they did incredibly well. They were first in the country in their breed. But their secondary breed, which they showed mainly at our county fair, was New Zealand (whites) and those are the rabbits I’ve chosen for my next project; raising rabbits for meat.
Picture via Adopt a Rabbit
We ate a lot of the New Zealand rabbits the boys raised when we still had the farm. Rabbit is a fantastic meat! These USDA circulars show just how nutritionally good rabbit meat is for you.
When Mama was nearing the end of her life she couldn’t eat very much. We gave her lots of rabbit meat because she could eat small servings and get more nutritional benefits than with just about anything else. And she loved it! Her favorite was “Barbecue Bunny on a Bun.”
Our oldest son, Paul with his Reserve Grand Champion pen of New Zealand (white) rabbits in 1996!
So, although I no longer have the farm I’m going to raise rabbits for meat. It’s a frugal way to stock my freezer with a high quality meat for very little money. I can produce as little or as many rabbits as I need and butcher them myself. And I can also share rabbit meat with family and friends. Since rabbits are extremely quiet animals I don’t have to worry about annoying anyone with loud noises.
Paul & Pete with their Best In Show (multiple times) winner Indian Oaks Spirit. She was a Mini Rex which was their primary breed but not good for meat. They’re smallish rabbits. They weigh about the same as a gallon of milk.
I chose New Zealand whites (there are also black, red, and broken) varieties but I like the white because I can also use the pelts. Sure, I could use the other colors but white gives me a little leeway in what I do with the pelts.
This breed weighs a maximum of 12 pounds as an adult but, for tender meat, I’ll butcher the rabbits when they’re just over 5 pounds. And if I decide I want a bigger bit of meat I can just let the rabbit(s) grow until they’re the weight I want then butcher them. Of course I’ll have to cook older rabbits low and slow; in stew and soups for example.
In a future post I’ll talk about other breeds that are good choices for raising rabbits for meat.
I’ve already talked to an old friend from the rabbit showing days and I will get my breeding pair in the spring. That gives me time to set up the rabbits’ housing and my friend is working on better loins on his rabbits. He’ll have both better show rabbits and the rabbits will have more meat with fuller loins.
Pete has found a source for free pallets that I can use to build the rabbit hutch. We already have chicken wire and hardware cloth. Then I’ll only need a nesting box which I’ll build when I breed the rabbits. I have to keep the buck and the doe separate because she will not take well to sharing space with him and she will be decidedly rough on him when she’s going to give birth to the litters.
Because I want to feed my family from the things I grow, whether fruits and vegetables or meat, this project is one I’m really excited about!
I believe if you want to raise an animal for meat you can’t go wrong with rabbits. And you can use their droppings, without letting them “cool” in your garden! I’ll keep you updated as I build the housing and purchase the rabbits. You’ll learn about breeding and butchering rabbits. In short, you’ll learn all about raising rabbits for meat!