Our family lives on a little piece of land that we have used to create a mini-homestead. One type of animal we raise on our little farm is rabbits. They are beautiful to look at and so sweet. The main reason we raise them is for the meat. I want to share with you what I have learned on this journey so far. As well as the mistakes we have made in the process.
1.Rabbit meat is supposed to be the best meat for you.
It is all white meat and according to all of the sources we have read on the internet, it is supposed to be some of the best meat for you to eat. That is awesome that you can raise the healthiest meat to feed your family right in your backyard and it requires very little space.
2.Rabbits require very little space.
Now, I will be honest. I have an issue with animals in cages. We do not give our animals full rights to all of the land. However, each different animal we raise has a larger than needed house and an uncovered free range area that gives them room to forage but also keeps them safer than if we just let them run completely loose. Our rabbits have hutches and then we have a fenced area with lots of grass that they can hop around in all day and then climb back in their bunny hole at night.
3.Rabbits cost very little to raise.
We feed our rabbits protein pellets, fodder, and hay. They love all of them. Between all of those food sources plus the free range area, they don’t run through food quite as quickly as some other animals we have. (cough….chickens and ducks….cough) We have two girl rabbits and each one will litter around 7-8 babies each time. We do not breed ours as often as “they” (whoever that is) say you can, but they will definitely produce meat for your family. So if you breed your bunnies around 3-4 times per year you will have plenty of meat for your freezer.
4.When your rabbits litter….let them be!
It is so tempting to keep checking on the baby bunnies, but you shouldn’t. Don’t touch them and pay very little attention to them at all until they are around a week old. Don’t panic if you think mama bunny isn’t feeding them. She does about two times a day when no one is looking. They are animals that unfortunately are chosen for many predators’ lunch. They know this and therefore do everything they can to protect their young from being harmed.
5.Be careful to only put fresh straw as bedding for Mama Bunny.
We have read but did not experience first-hand that if you put pine shavings in the bedding for the babies it can actually kill them. We did this one time and did not experience that particular outcome but have been very careful not to push it.
6.Be patient with Mama Bunny….it may take her a few litters to figure it out.
It is very common when bunnies start to have babies that it takes them 3-4 litters to figure out how to be a mama. Often the first litters will be born stillborn, or they won’t survive because mama makes mistakes. Don’t get frustrated with mama bunny. She is learning and eventually will get it figured out. It is sad to lose a litter but it is just part of nature.
7.Be sure to secure EVERY part of the bunny’s hutch.
We ran into the issue of a predator with our bunnies not too long ago. We are now in the process of putting up a full perimeter fence. However, we made a horrible mistake with our earliest rabbit hutches. My husband built all of our hutches. The girls’ hutches are attached to our outbuilding with the free range area attached. Our boy bunny’s hutch was outside of that area. A dog finally realized we had bunnies and destroyed our boy bunny’s hutch and unfortunately, we lost our boy rabbit. If the entire hutch is not framed a dog will grab their waterer, feeder, anything and pull the feeders off. Then they will proceed to pull and pull until they break the wire. Now that we know this, we have reinforced all parts of the hutches to make sure they would have to pull out nails to remove the wood framing and pull the wire.
8.Know how to handle a predator.
Fencing is key in protecting your animals. Hawks are not like helicopters. So if you fence a little free range area for them, hawks will have a hard time swooping down to get them. If you have an unwanted dog, I am not a fan of harming any animal simply because they don’t know any better. It is part of nature. So you have to either fence them off of your property or find ways to stun the animal without actually harming them. One great way to do this is rat traps. If you set rat traps around your rabbits and a dog steps on it, it will not break their foot like a snare would but it will pinch their toes, and they are able to get their foot loose from those. You are able to stop predators without harming them but not allowing them to harm your livestock either.
9.Always take the girl to the male when breeding.
We learned this the hard way. One of our girl rabbits is a great mother. We just thought the other one was stubborn. No! She was territorial because we were bringing the male to her instead of the other way around. If you will take the girl to him then she won’t be territorial and will actually give the poor guy a chance to court her.
Raising rabbits is very enjoyable. They are very kid friendly and sweet little creatures. They also offer great nutritional value for your family and do not take up much space.They are a little more troublesome to butcher in comparison to a chicken or duck. However, being able to give an animal a good life, knowing what you are putting into that animal and in return knowing what you are feeding your family is worth every challenge faced when raising your own meat.