If the thought of raising rabbits never occurred to you, consider what’s been happening at your local foodstore lately.
The rising cost of meat is forcing many families to look for new sources of fresher, tastier and definitely cheaper meat.
Chicken comes to mind first. Chicks grow to maturity fast, but the downside is they’re dirty and smelly. Plus, they poop a lot!
Or how about cows or pigs? The downside there is they require lots of space and fencing. If you’re not on a large plot of land, that’s probably not your best option.
But have you thought about raising rabbits?
As a food source, rabbits don’t often come to mind. A few people get caught up in those crazy rabbit cartoons and just couldn’t imagine eating them for dinner. Another 2.2 million households raise them for pets.
But for families interested in a reliable source of tasty, easy-to-raise meat source, raising rabbits for food could be just what they’re looking for.
Judge for yourself.
Let’s look at the pros and con—that’s right, there’s just one con. Keep reading to the end to find out what it is.
Pro #1: Rabbits are an easily sustainable food source. They multiply quickly, so if you keep raising new generations, you could have a virtually endless food supply. Compare that to, say, chickens. They may give you eggs lots of eggs, but as soon as the chicken ages out or is harvested, that’s the end of the line.
The breeding speed of rabbits make it easy to expand your stock. By the time any single rabbit is past its breeding age, you already have several other generations that you can harvest for food.
Pro #2: Rabbits give you lots of meat. Any single rabbit can give birth up to 7 times a year, with an average of 10 babies per litter. Each young offspring can reach up to 3 pounds each, so breeding 7 times a year can yield you 210 pounds of meat.
That’s a lot of meat for your emergency food supplies.
Pro #3: No extra meat freezer required. If you were raising a cow, you’d need to buy an extra freezer to store the 500+ pounds of meat it would yield all at once at slaughter. But rabbits space out their yield every 6 weeks or so in smaller volume, so in all likelihood, you would not need a separate freezer for storage.
Pro #4: Processing rabbits requires no special equipment. In fact, all you need are things you may already have: a sharp knife, a length of cord, a steep pipe, a garden hose, some buckets and a table.
Pro #5: Processing is fairly simple. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to process a rabbit. In fact, once you’ve done it a few times, you’re as expert as you need to be.
Pro #6: Rabbit meat can be substituted for chicken in a huge number of recipes. Some preppers like raising chickens for all the recipes they can make with the meat. But rabbits are a great substitute.
I especially like how easy it is to break down, a much simpler process than chicken, I would say. I also like how tender the meat is, with no gamey taste. You can fry it, bake it, braise it and more. The whole family loves it!
Pro #7: Raising rabbits is more efficient than other livestock. There’s an efficiency measurement for animal husbandry called the Feed Conversion Ratio, or FCR. It measures how many pounds of feed you have to purchase to make a pound of the animal you’re raising. The lower the number, the better.
As the chart below shows, raising rabbits for food is more efficient than any other animal beside the Cornish cross chicken:
Pro #8: Rabbit feed is relatively cheap. They are vegetarians, so they’re perfectly happy with scraps from your garden or hay mound. Many builders add commercial pellets to provide needed vitamins and minerals. But that’s about it.
We often add common items like tall grasses, dandelions, fresh or dried leaves from the lawn. Compared to the expensive feed you need for cows, for example, and rabbits win hands down.
Pro #9: Rabbits are easy to house. They live in small spaces or pens, many of which can be moved around from time to time. All you need is a corner of your garage or shed, or even a space at the backside of your lot. And while they may leave some fertilizer behind, they won’t dig up your lawn (unlike chickens).
Rabbits are also very quiet. So if the neighbors don’t like living next door to livestock, they never have to know!
Pro #10: Rabbit manure is both plentiful and useful. You can add rabbit pellets for your garden or potted plants immediately, or soak them in water to make a valuable liquid fertilizer. Their manure contains twice the nutrients of chicken manure, so it’s a rich source of food for your other plants, as well.
The Only Con: rabbits are so darned cute!
If you’re going to raise rabbits, you have to avoid raising them as pets. At harvest time, looking into those big eyes and cute faces, you need to remember why you’re raising them. They’re food, not cuddly, snuggly pets.
Major tip: Never name a rabbit that might one day be your dinner!
Easier said than done, sometimes. But if your goal is to raise food for your family, the animal has to die. That’s just the way it is.
Raising Rabbits for Food:
How Many Should You Raise?
Realistically, many breeders agree that a family of four will need six breeding does to raise 48 kits each per year, enabling that family to eat rabbit 5 times per week.
If you eat rabbit only once per week, you should need only two breeding does to produce the meat you’ll consume.
Eating rabbit may not be for everyone, but it’s a great way to avoid the rising costs of meat at your local butcher shop or food store.
Bottom line: rabbits may be the low-cost alternative meat you and your family have been looking for. We encourage you to consider adding rabbit to your emergency food supplies!