10 Reasons to Keep Livestock Rabbits
Remembering back to when we first started planning our homestead lifestyle from our old home located in a large urban area, the first thing we thought to obtain was meat rabbits. We immediately looked into rabbitry and took a low-cost rabbitry informational course from our local county extension agents. If your goal is self-sustainability and the idea of “emergency” preparedness and/or if humanely-treated, organically fed, non-factory farmed meats are the only kind of meat you’d like to indulge yourself in, we recommend getting a pair of meat rabbits to raise. Below we’ve listed the top reasons we’d imagine you’d like to give rabbit raising a try:
- Requires little space (check your local zoning laws): While rabbits love to free range, their actual housing requirements are quite small compared to other livestock animals. They can be housed in easy-to-construct pens that are affordable and take up little space.
- Rabbits make little noise: Unlike chickens, rabbits are small backyard livestock you can keep without frustrating your neighbors. In fact, most rabbits make very little noise at all unless they are being harmed.
- Comparatively, rabbits make little mess: Rabbit’s feces appear as small, round dry pellets that are fabulous manure for the garden. They find a particular area to urinate and defecate and will typically only go in this spot (did you know they can be litterbox trained?). Rabbits are easy-going creatures that cause little harm or damage to surrounding areas and animals. Compared to say poultry or other pets/livestock, rabbits make very little mess.
- Rapid maturation rate: Rabbits are ready to breed after six months or so from birth. A doe (female rabbit) generally has 6-8 kits (bunnies) per litters. Rabbits are harvested for meat typically between 8-12 weeks from birth. That means, hypothetically, you can fill your freezer with 6-8 rabbits every couple of months for stews, braising, etc.
- High in protein: Rabbits are very high in protein and are lean, low-fat meat. They will give you a “full” feeling for longer.
- Tastes like chicken: No, really it does. Rabbit meat can be used in lieu of chicken in many applications. The largest and most common cuts from the rabbit are the legs and the loin (the meat that runs along the backbone). Rabbit legs can replace chicken drumsticks and thigh dishes, and can also be ground, shredded, and fried. Nothing is easier than throwing a rabbit into a crockpot, set it on low overnight and then having meat with easily removed bones ready to use.
- Multipurpose: Rabbits are a self-sufficiency jackpot. They cost little to obtain, maintain, and process. They can provide meat that is ready to harvest shortly in hard economic times, with little input. They can provide us with furs that have been made to make beautiful coats, gloves, hats and shoes. They can be sold as pets, they can be sold as meat producers, they can be sold as meat. They consistently give us manure that is very high in nitrogen , phosphorus, and micronutrients–perfect for the organic garden! Rabbit manure is one of the only animal manures that can be added directly to the garden without being aged or composted, and it won’t burn your plants. We are truly thankful for our rabbits.
- Little interference/effort needed: Need little monitoring/interference. Rabbits are hardy. Do not overfeed. Need assistance in hot weather climates. Make sure rabbits are sheltered and are not left in full sunlight. They do great in the cold.
- Natural grazers: Rabbits are natural grass and shrub grazers. They love having fresh or dried hay (grass) to munch on. Rabbits love eating raw grains and can also be fed many weeds, herbs, and flowers. Be sure to check the list of foods poisonous to rabbits (including milkweed). During The Great Depression, families were able to eat their livestock rabbits and continue to keep them fed off of grass and weeds found when animal feed could not be afforded.
- Extra Income: Can sell for $10-25 a rabbit typically. Baby Rabbits can be sold. The meat, pelt, and feet can be sold. People even have started making homemade taxidermy jewelry. Don’t believe us? Check out Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/market/rabbit_bones IF animal taxidermy is against your personal belief system, you can certainly stick to breeding and selling the animals as a farm hobby. If you decide you don’t want to process the animals yourself contact your local animal processor to see what their rates are.