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Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

Posted by monkeynum7 New Hampshire (My Page) on
Mon, Feb 11, 08 at 17:40

Hello,
I am new to this site and I'm not even 100% sure if this is the right area to pose this question. I am thinking about breeding rabbits for food and what ever little income I can make off of them. I have some pretty vague questions, but I only have a vague understanding of the subject thus far.

Any blatant red flags about doing this? I have read a good amount of stuff online and it seems to be pitched as "low maitnence and low cost".

How plentiful will the meat be? I don't want to eat rabbit meat every meal, but say 4-5 times a week.

I am looking to do this in the future, I am only 21 as of right now. So I am just looking to get a basic understanding of this.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

http://www.amazon.com/Storeys-Guide-Raising-Rabbits-Facilities/dp/1580172601/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203085177&sr=8-1

Everything you'll wish you didn't know.......
just kidding, I dig out the book almost daily.
have fun,

Dave


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

I raised rabbit as a young man in high school. They are good to eat similar to chicken but they do not have the wet poultry smell to the meat like chicken does.
They have a special blue gland inside the guts where you have to be careful not to break that or it will spoil the meat. I don't remeber what it is called but it will be like a blood clot 1/4" X 1 or 1 1/2" long and it's blue or dark blue color.
Culling rabbits is not fun. they will squeal if not done quickly and humanely.
They are easy to raise. Put a doe and buck together and if they don't mate seperate them as the doe is not in heat and in three days put her back and she will be in heat and they will not fight or she will not resist.
You cant handle the young for two weeks or she will smell you sent and eat them to get rid of the smell. OR she may abanden them and they die. If you had to put one or two back in the nest for her if she had them outside the box then you can put camphofanic ( Spelling?) on her nose, just a drop or two and that will keep her from smelling your hands. Does are real picky about their nest and instict tells them to get rid of anything that will lead predators to the nest. any way
Now the hard part, Selling them to the public. Most people think of eating a rabbit like eating a cat LOL! really! I would eat them. The other hard thing is you would have to start out small and the cost of feed will cost you more than you can sell the meat for. Even if you tried to cure the skins too and sell the rabbit droppings, it would be a tough go at it to make a living selling rabbits here in the USA. But if you start as a hobby and see if there is a market who knows, Get a few resturants to carry it and tell them you will dress them ( clean them ) or have a butcher do it for you ( more cost ) and that would be a better choice. Chinease resterants would be a good place to start.
Squabs used to be sold here in the early 1930 - 1950s but phased out. That is young pigeons. THey taste good too. kid of like duck meat.
Don't let me discourage you though, things change and witht he price of meat, beef, you might be able to make something work. There are businesses you can do to work for yourself, if you have the determination. You might have to work at another job to get this one going but raise a few rabbits and keep records of making pens, cost of feed each month, medication if you did this big time, time you put into it all, selling meat to neighbors or friends and family to start. Figure it all out and make sure it is not too expesive to work out. If it is keep thinking what else you can do. I am a self-employed paint contractor and work alone and really enjoy my small business. Good luck to you. BIll C


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

I have had a small herd of meat rabbits for the past three years and I cannot recommend them highly enough to the backyard homesteader. They are easy to work with as long as you have basic knowledge about them and the meat is wonderful.

I suggest starting with two or three does and a buck. If all goes well, each doe will easily kindle four litters of 6 - 8 a year. If you butcher the youngsters at five pounds or 10 - 12 weeks (which is about average) and have a moderate dress-out rate of 50%, that will mean each doe will produce 60 - 80 pounds of table-ready meat per year. These are pretty average results, but like anything to do with raising animals you may do much better or much worse. There is a learning curve and many a new rabbit keeper has had a run of disappointing results before achieving success.

Rabbits are most easily dispatched with a gun. I use an ordinary pellet gun at point blank range to the back of the neck just below the skull. It is quick and clean. There are other good methods, but I find this works much better FOR ME than bopping or trying to dislocate the neck.

I recommend the book "Raising Rabbits" by Ann Kanable as well as the Storey one by Bob Bennet. I find Kanable's book more geared to small home rabbitries and there is a good section on natural feeding in it as well.


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

Ok, old topic, but new question on the basics.

What breed would you recommend for someone to grow? And who would you recommend as a good source to buy beginning stock from?

In our case we have to keep our son on a rotating diet and would be eating rabbit about once a week. While selling some would be nice, I'm not planning on having any to sell.

Kim


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

I raised rabbits for meat, both for our home, and for a small private school, for over a decade. There are a number of meat breeds. I believe they are all good. But the two most common are New Zealand White and California. You can hardly go wrong with them. We also raised Dutch Belted crossed with New Zealand, and they were very good.

I'd like to mention, since I don't see it stated above, that hygiene is very important for long term rabbit production. Cages should be scraped and disinfected every couple months. Droppings which fail to fall through the bottom need to be scraped out every day. I found raising rabbits to be somewhat intensive. One needs to pay close attention to details, routines and hygiene. Rabbits really don't like irregular feedings, etc. They like everything the same. But, on the flip side, when properly cared for, they are intensive producers. The meat is hard to beat and they produce lots of it. The manure is fantastic for garden fertilizer. I wish more people raised rabbits!

To purchase stock I'd investigate to find out if anyone is privately raising them, for sale, in your area. Check with the local feed store. Perhaps, check the Internet. See if there are any rabbit clubs nearby. Keep in mind that sometimes the bunnies sold in feed stores, around Easter time, have been raised haphazardly. They may or may not be good for production.

One time, while living in Mexico, we couldn't find good stock. Everywhere we went we found weak, sickly neglected, inbred rabbits (when we could find them). We ended up getting a buck from one substandard rabbitry and does from another. When we crossed them POW! We got remarkably improved offspring.

George
Tahlequah, OK


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

The one important thing that you need to know is whether or no you can kill them. Raising them is pretty easy they are easy cared for and as long as you can keep them in a shady cool area in the summer and reasonably warm in the winter you should be fine. I found it very difficult to kill something that I had been caring for. As long as you handle the adults you won't have any trouble handling babies and the Mother won't object, I never found the two weeks mentioned earlier to be true. I always check the babies and make sure there are no dead ones etc...Often a young doe will have them on the wire and you have to put them in the nest box......If you handle her babies, just handle her and rub you hands across her nose. They are really lots of fun to raise...and the meat is so good.

I;ll tell you a rabbit story...I lived in the country and raised rabbits ...we had friends coming from CT for a job interview and they were coming to our house for dinner ...I had the grill going and did a mixed grill, steak, chicken rabbit etc...The previous evening we had all been out to eat and my husband suggested an appetizer of Escargot...Friend from CT didn't know what it was but when told it was snails she said ...sure I'll try it...now fast forward to the next night at our house...everyone is raving about how good the rabbit is and my friend who had been eating a dam snail the night before wouldn't even try or taste the rabbit...That's known as the bunny rabbit syndrome...you'll run into it I am sure...


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

My current plan is to find a local butcher who can process them. While I can figure out where to put a shed and all of those vitals, I'm not really sure, yet, what I would need for a butchering area. Also, I am on a very small lot surrounded by neighbors. I would rather avoid freaking the neighbors, and thereby drawing attention to why we are raising rabbits.

In the long run, within a year or two of starting, I will make myself learn how to butcher them. It's not the "cute" factor that is really a problem for me as the blood factor. I can shut it down when necessary, but would prefer that if I'm going to be learning I get someone to demonstrate. That way I can avoid doing things that will make it harder for me to process them. Once I've been doing it for a while, the mistakes will be easier for me to handle mentally. Anyways, I've learned my mentality and know that once I deal with the "These rabbits were live and in my cages yesterday" shock factor, I will be able to deal with the rest of it.


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

Check around, ahead of time, to see if there is a place which will do the killing and butchering. They are probably the easiest of all the animals I've worked on. Ruthie does have a point though. Some folk really struggle. All one needs, really for butchering, (in my system) is a place to hang the carcass for skinning and a solid surface upon which to make some cuts (as in quartering and removal of the head).

As a child I had no contact with butchering or killing of any kind, other than fish. I learned because I concluded that it's the right thing to do. So, I worked into butchering little by little, starting with chickens. Chickens, by the way are a lot messier and involved than a rabbit.

Kim, if you can find someone to show you, it'll be much easier.

Oh, one more comment; I agree with Ruthie on touching babies. I always reached into the box and felt them, often even removing them for inspection, just after birth. It is not uncommon for one to die during the first few days. If it is not removed it will rot and kill the rest.

George


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

I am checking everything in advance. I don't have much money to spare and would hate to get started then have things FUBAR.

I saw a way to build a "butcher" station in the Storey book, and will most likely go with that. But hopefully will be able to find someone to walk me through it the first time. I used to, as a child, love to fish and prep fish and watch hunters do field dressing, but that was a long, long time ago. (and I'm so glad that chickens are not high on my list.)

Oh I will handle them. I don't want them to be frightened of me.

Now new question: Do you use antibiotics and other medical supplements as a regular part of their diet? I would like to avoid this if at all possible.

Thank you.

Kim


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

No. I never successfully used medication with rabbits. I tried once or twice to cure a sick animal. But at best, the "cured rabbit" only survived for a short while. It was never again a productive animal.

If rabbits are kept out of direct wind and kept from getting wet; and if they are properly fed. They very rarely get sick. Those which do get sick should simply be culled.

Oh, one more thing: perhaps the most important part of a rabbit cage is the floor. If you build your own cages use something like 1/2" mesh hardware cloth and be sure that it is stretched tautly. It is even a good thing to place a piece of board somewhere in the cage where the rabbit can sit, to get off of the wire. If you ever have a rabbit come up with raw, sore feet, cull it. That's a serious defect. Still, it's good to provide the animal with a comfortable environment.

Commercial cages will probably be cheaper in the long run. But I've built quite a few, since I used to teach rabbitry to people who didn't have access to store bought feed or cages. When we built our own we designed them in panels, which could be taken off, rebuilt and replaced. Any wood and wire cage will break down over the course of 4-5 years.

Another sanitary practice is to flame your cages from time to time. Besides scraping, we would periodically "retire" a cage for a couple weeks to let it dry out real well. Then we'd scrape it real well and use a torch to flame/disinfect the floor and any place were urine and feces had accumulated. This is a very important practice for long term rabbit raising. Without it, it's just a matter of time before disease builds up and affects the herd.

George


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

Thanks, George.

I was planning on a 6 hutch shed. Then I could rotate the cages. Two breeding pairs should provide us with plenty of meat.

The designs I've seen for sheds have me confused though. They have open sides with canvas/plastic for protection. I am in zone 6/7. Would this be sufficient protection during the winter or should I plan for more? I currently plan to place it in a shady spot in the backyard that is fully sheltered under a maple tree and against the back of my garage.

Also, there is a warning about noise around a doe that has just given birth. Is this just atypical noises or any noise?


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

I believe that would be sufficient protection. The canvass or plastic across the front would be good in bad weather. Just be sure that it faces away from prevailing winds. Rabbits handle cold better than they do heat. But wind, and even worse rain nor sleet, are very bad for them.

The main thing for a doe that has just given birth is to avoid unusual and especially loud noises. Normal noise which she has been hearing all along shouldn't be a problem. Another common problem for rabbits is that predators, like cats or raccoon may go under the cage and try to get in. This is VERY disturbing to the rabbits. If you have a good outdoor dog, which is not inclined to bother your rabbits, he (or she) would probably be the best remedy for this problem. Most people who either don't have livestock, or who don't trap, don't realize how extremely common it is for coon to come and investigate the pens of small animals.

Rats can be a big problem. I've had rats get into a nest box with new born kits and eat their feet off! So plan on rodent control.

Be sure your cages are sturdy and high up enough to prevent stray dogs from trying to break in (or breaking in). They can be a big problem. Once again, a good guard dog might be the remedy. A fence could also help. And, I'm not of the opinion that a pet cat, which hangs around, will necessarily make a doe hurt or neglect her kits. If the cat isn't doing anything nefarious, but only hanging around, chances are the rabbits will be okay with it.

George


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

I have a cat, which loves to hunt squirrels and rats. So I might have to train him to leave the rabbits alone, but since he's reaching kitty cat middle age, I don't think he'll fight it too much.

My son has a service dog, who is very easily trained to leave things alone, no matter how much he wants to play. And when they get common place to him, he will just ignore them.

The backyard is fenced and the entire rabbit shed will be enclosed by either that fence or closed sides. So no strays dogs inside. Stray cats might be a different problem, but I'm thinking that if I enclose it in lattice and put white plastic roofing, they will get light and cats can't get in easily. And who knows, I might get some of the strays to come out of hiding for long enough to semi-tame them. My cat seems to have decided that as long as the strays leave his porch and backyard alone, and do not hang out in sight, then they are allowable. (major change of attitude for this cat.)

As far as ground pests, I think I'm going to go with the hanging cage layout that is in the Storey book, and have the does in the top cages. It may not completely eliminate their ability to bother the rabbits, but it will make it very difficult for them.

I was just worried cause my son can be noisy in the backyard when he goes to play, and that is really the only place to put a rabbit shed. But if they can get used to his noise on a regular basis then everything should be fine.


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

Your son playing should pose no problem for the rabbits. They'll learn really quickly, that he is not a threat.

Sounds like you have a good plan.

George


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

Thanks, George.

Now to bring the plan into being.

"No plan survives the enemy unchanged."


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

There is lots and lots of information on the WWW so don't hesitate to google for info too. You'll just enjoy reading about raising them. I have a friend who got into rabbits about the same time as I did and she progressed to having a small business and breeds and sells lots of pet and show bunnies so if you want a little extra income, you might want to consider raising some pet type bunnies ...she is very particular about who she sells to but she has lots of show bunnies....and if they are not what they should be, she sells them to pet stores and individuals ...but again very particular about who gets her animals.

Here is a link that might be useful: Award Bunnies


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

You mentioned two breeding pairs and I just thought I'd mention that one male can easily service several femals. Usually when starting out with the meat for home type operation, they recommend one male and two or three females. Of course a back up male is a good thing but it is still a mouth to feed that you don't really need.


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

Don't overlook the small breeds (not dwarfs). They take up less room, eat less, and are ready to butcher quicker. They also make nice pets when the treehuggers catch wind of what you are doing.

Dave


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

Only have 1/2 a sec between two toddlers but wanted to post and say rabbits are easier than you think and not to over worry. I bet you'll do great as you've clearly thought things out very well. I would encourage you to start small 'till you confirm your own system and needs. They DO multiply FAST! ;-) We had 1 buck and 2 does and too much meat (butchering) for our busy family of 4 to keep up with. We do also have chickens and eat venison... Goats are next!

Anyway, wanted to provide encouragement to those trying to humanely raise their own healthy food. It's so important and too many would rather not think through their food choices or are (wrongly) intimidated by the process. You'll feel soooo secure providing for yourself. The folks here are an awesome source of great advice and help when you need it too. Best wishes to you!


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

Hi I hope things are going well for the girl that first posted this.I to have started raising rabbits for food i have started out with 5 young does and One 8 month old doe i recently bought a male and put the female in the cage to mate and she fought him.I don't want to do this if it is gonna be somthing the girls don't like.I can buy 12 week old rabbits for 5 dollars each and butcher them myself.But i wanted to raise my own.i was thinking it would be cheaper to raise my own.And what about breeding in the summer I have fans in there but they still seem hot


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

Hey, I have just got 2 does and 1 buck. The girls are together in one cage and boy in another. When i breed them, do i have to separate the girls and get another cage? I understand that once the babies are born ill need more cages, but while they are preggers should they be separated.
how often should i clean out the cages? once an week, every two weeks?
Also, right now they are wintering in my garden shed. Do they need to be in the sunlight during winter? During the spring i was planning on building more cages. Will being inside affect there health?


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

If the doe fights, she is not ready to mate, just wait a couple days and try again.

If your bunnies are hot, freeze water in a pop/soda bottle and put it in their cage, this acts as an air conditioner, the rabbits LOVE it.

I would separate the does after a certain age(breeding age), putting them in side by side cages will be better for them, and they will still be friends, does need their own space.

http://www.hattiefarms.com/


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

I am a newby here with only a desire to investigate and a bright idea to insure a food supply in case of worse case scenario . I have done some investigating and seem to have come across some good info regarding "hybrid vigor". That is to cross 3 breeds in a selected way so as to produce a highly producing combination . This is done in 2 lineages that can produce well but must be bred across to the other line . This reduces inbreeding .You can check out this web site for further info . It is rather factual bordering on the boring BUT looks like they know their stuff .
http://irishgiantbreedrabbits.yolasite.com/crossing-for-meat.php
I will check back to see just how many posters we have here and hopefully will be able to submit some useful information . A friends daughter (18) has a desire to also do this . They already have animals and land . She keeps sheep , chickens and geese . I have decided to buy the breeding "starters" and let her do the "mixing" for both of us . After the breeders are established I will take half and leave her half and we will both have 2 sets of breeders . "Sweat equity" on her part and "get what you pay for" on mine . By the time she has it all done I will have built my area here at my small acreage . I'm looking forward to sharing and getting information .
Tom in Kingman AZ


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

This topic fades away and is brought back time and again. I will add my thoughts here for anybody who happens by this thread in the future.

The MOST important thing when getting into rabbits is to get the right type of cage, IMO. In the past, people used to recommend stacking cages with droppings pans underneath to catch the droppings. Let me tell you, this type of arrangement is a nightmare to deal with, especially once you get a doe with a litter that is hopping around with her. If you don't empty it daily, it will quickly start to overflow onto the rabbits beneath it. It is MUCH easier to just get a long row of cages with wire bottoms and let the droppings fall directly on the ground. You can corral it with cinder blocks or something and add some worms, and they'll turn it into worm castings for you, or you can shovel it once every month or two into a compost pile. The urine will soak into the ground and this method is about 10 times less smelly than the droppings pan method! I wish somebody had told me this back when I was beginning!

For breeds, just research. I liked the rare breeds such as American Blues and Silver Foxes, but New Zealand Whites are fine, too. Just make sure you get your initial stock from somebody who is raising the rabbits with production goals in mind rather than "show" quality. There's nothing wrong with showing, but a show rabbit may average 4 or 5 kits per litter, while a rabbit that is raised from a mother who regularly throws 10 or 12 kits is more likely to be a good investment.

Rabbits cannot take the heat. If you live in a place like Texas or Louisiana, you will probably lose rabbits during the summer unless you install a swamp cooler or misting system to keep them cool. Pigeons do much better in the heat--it doesn't seem to bother them at all. I would seriously consider the cost of a cooling system and the electricity to run it before I invested heavily in rabbits if I lived in a very hot location (I do--I live in Austin, TX, and my rabbits had a $500 swamp cooler blowing on them all summer long).


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RE: Breeding Rabbits for Food and Extra Income

Okay i have a question i know this is an old site but I raise flemish giants i have 5 rabbits and 8 new born babies that are 7 days old.
I have never had a problem with touching them or holding them they are all healthy and the mother is happy. i have had her over 4 months now. but i have another doe that won't let my buck breed with her i got her about a week ago and the guy tried to breed her with his buck but i don't know if she took to him and neither did he so iwas wondering could she be pregnant right now that is the reason why she isn't letting him breed her. also her fur comes out when he grabbes at her does that mean she is close to giving birth.


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