Let's talk about meat rabbits

Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)March 24, 2007

Let's talk about meat rabbits for the small family farm, hobby farm, homestead or whatever. They are a much overlooked source of meat for the family dinner table and are easy to raise even in a backyard setting. Heck, if I lived in an apartment, I'd likely still raise meat rabbits.

We've had ours for almost two years. They were "yard sale" rabbits and I wasn't too impressed with them when Brian brought them home as a "surprise". We had intended to keep rabbits soon - the cages were almost ready - but I was thinking of purebred Californians and these were clearly mutts. There were six of them: two does, three youngsters and a buck. They had been kept in a large community cage, all except the buck, and only the youngsters looked healthy. Their coats were rough and dirty and the buck had ear mites.

We put them into individual cages out under the box elder tree and gradually added a mix of dandelions, plantain and clover to their diet. An amazing thing happened. They cleaned themselves up, the buck's ears cleared up after being treated with olive oil and they became sleek and sassy. By fall, I decided they were in good condition for breeding and the two does produced lovely litters of 7 and 12 kits. The youngsters we culled since the doe had been crossed with a dwarf and they were not meat types - although they were tasty.

We bred our trio for about a year and rabbit became a regular item on our dinner table. Delicious white meat, a little firmer than chicken but NOT tough, and as versatile as chicken too. We were hooked.

We saved promising looking kits from the litters. Three of these I sold to a man who was wanting to start raising meat rabbits. One doeling I kept for ourselves and one buckling that was just too nice and promising to cull, I "loaned" to my sister's boyfriend on the understanding that if it didn't work out that he could return it to us. He did a lovely job of socializing the rabbit and was fond of him, but as circumstances evolved it was clear that he could not keep him. So Tao, as he called the rabbit, came back to us.

We bred him back to his dam last summer and the resulting kits were the best yet. Bred to his older sister, the kits were even better. I know many people think that inbreeding is a bad thing, but if the qualities are good ones they are enhanced and if they are not good, you cull the offspring. With rabbits you can always eat your mistakes.

That fall, we reassessed our little herd and decided to cull one of the original does and the original buck. The doe produced huge litters, but there were usually a couple of runts and because she was an aggressive and overvigilant mother, her kits were too nervous to be good breeders. The buck had done well by us, but he was on the small side and his son Tao was better in all respects. So we culled those two and one of the doe's daughters that had not been a success.

We started into the winter with our one original doe, Patches, her daughter Tuppence with her litter of nine and son Tao who was the father of Tuppence's litter. Just before Christmas I made contact with a woman in the area who wanted to increase her herd. She bought all five young females and the best young male. That left three less promising bucks who are now in our freezer.

I'm fond of my breeders and I always enjoy the youngsters, but I am not sentimental about them. The best work for us and we give them the best care and food we can. They are livestock, not pets.

For those who had never raised rabbits, two good does and a buck bred four times a year can easily produce 160 pounds of table ready meat each year. All that bunny manure is a valuable by-product for your garden. Rabbit manure is "cool" and does not need to be composted before adding to the garden. You'll be amazed at how your garden improves over a season or two.

I've been feeding my rabbits pellets supplemented by greens, apple, hard maple and willow branches and alfalfa/timothy and grass hay. They do well on this, but I would like to get them off pellets entirely. My goal for them this year is to make a gradual transition to an all-natural diet. I expect to still have to buy hay and perhaps a little grain, but the processed rabbit food would be eliminated. The rabbits don't really enjoy it, it contains ingredients I don't approve of for rabbits (animal tallow?) and it is increasingly expensive - $2 a bag more now than in summer of 2005.

Let's talk meat rabbits. Who has them, how do you like them and how do you raise yours? If you don't have rabbits, but think you might want some, please jump in and talk about it.

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sullicorbitt(z5 MA)

Hi Maggie,
Great thread, I look forward to hearing others chime in :)

Just a few questions:

Do you use the skins/fur?

Are they difficult to process?

What is the optimal age for processing?


Sheila :)

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 3:53PM
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I have raised rabbits since I was a kid, off and on; and have had many breeds. I now concentrate on the mini rex breed in blacks, blues & brokens.
Any rabbit could be considered for meat, never noticed a difference in flavor from breed to breed but, some breeds are selected for the purpose of meat production, mailly the New Zealand White and the Californian. These 2 breeds are selected to carry the most meat to bone ratio and will have the best gain for feed to meat ratio. I have seen some crossbreeds which were selectivly bred as meat production animals and they were high percentage New Zealand of california.

I do think rabbit is an under appreciayed meat source. many get in and get out of the meat bizz because they do little research on the subject and/or begin with inferior stock, I see it all the time.
I got back into the rabbit hobby business partially to breed quality show stock, put some meat on the table but mainly to produce manure for my market garden. The above poster is aware of the quality poop!
I feed the best pellets available and supplement 3 days a week with a top quality timothy hay, also whole clean oats, 1 tbs. per morning; along with occassional chunks of tree trimmings and grape vine pieces. I rarely use any greens or other feed stuffs as I want the fastest gain without pushing too fast, and am looking for a good show finish.

There is a local buyer who pays up to $1 per lb. and seels dog food made with the rabbits. There are a few good markets around the country for meat, usually near larger cities. A friend and I sold about 25 rabbits every 2 weeks to a bar which specialized in Hassenpfeffer. We kept them in the hay lost of an old barn, loose housing. It was an experimental management method and in the end we discovered it was a poor way of doing things so we went back to the industry standard of individual housing.

I still have mittens and a hat that my mothet made me when I was a baby made from Angora ool she grew, harvested and sent to a wool pool and had made into yarn.

Raising rabbits for the meat trade requires top management skills and the profit potential can be sketchy but for home use, thats less of an issue. We lived on rabbit meat for a few lean years and I got kind of burned out on it!~

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 4:12PM
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I agree, about how it is overlooked often. In fact I used to breed meat rabbits and now after five years of dormancy I have bought two rabbits to breed for meat. My kids were not yet born or very young last time I had rabbits. and they are looking forward to the new experience.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 5:55PM
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We'd like some and actually have a couple of nice cages - 2X3'! We could get a third easilly off craig's list for a buck.

We'll need to research this a little though. For added protection, since we don't have a barn, the cages would have to be located in the chicken pen area - which is a fortress and quite large. Empty at present, the cages are dry docked up under the eves of the coop. Would there be some health issues with rabbits so near the ducks/chickens? Also, how long can one leave the youngsters on the doe? WOuld we have to get more cages for the offspring before they are butchered? That would be an awful lot of cages!

One more question, how do you go about dispatching of them?
My family raised them when I was a kid. My older brother bonked them over the head, which seems more quick and humane to me than going for the throat. (SOrry for the graphic content). Maybe there's a better way though.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 6:38PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Hey Sheila!

Q.Do you use the skins/fur?
A. Not at present... I have tanned a few skins and it is quite time consuming. Maybe later.

Q. Are they difficult to process?
A. Not difficult at all. Much quicker and easier than chickens. Once they are dead, cut the head off and bleed them out. Then skin them... They don't have the expression "skin the bunny, one, two. three" for nothing. Remove the paws and the piece of skin and fur around the genitals and vent. Slit the rabbit along the convenient line that runs down the centre of the belly, being careful not to cut into the guts. Remove the heart, liver and kidneys and save. Everything else is garbage or chicken food. Your dog will enjoy the paws and ears. When the carcass is clean, cut into sections: legs and loin for frying, roasting etc. and rib cage for soup or cooked with the giblets for rabbit pie. I'd rather process five rabbits than one chicken.

There are two slightly tricky things to watch out for. If the bladder is full, be careful the urine doesn't get on the meat. Some people remove the water a few hours before butchering. The other is the gall bladder, located in a fold of the liver. It is greenish in colour and the bile will ruin anything it touches. It is easier to trim the liver from the gall bladder than to remove the gall bladder. I usually chill the liver before attempting it... it's easier that way. Just like chicken in that respect.

Q. What is the optimal age for processing?
A. For best feed/meat conversion, usually 8 to 12 weeks or when they reach 5 pounds live weight. Dress out rates typically run 50 to 60%.
Hi Fancifowl.
"I have seen some crossbreeds which were selectivly bred as meat production animals and they were high percentage New Zealand of california."
I agree. And selectively breeding any line can bring about significant improvements, mutt or purebred.

"I feed the best pellets available and supplement 3 days a week with a top quality timothy hay, also whole clean oats, 1 tbs. per morning; along with occassional chunks of tree trimmings and grape vine pieces. I rarely use any greens or other feed stuffs as I want the fastest gain without pushing too fast, and am looking for a good show finish."
Raising rabbits commercially for meat or show is a whole different ball game. My goal is to provide meat for our table while providing the best quality of life for the rabbits (short lives ought to be GOOD lives) at the least cost. If the no pellets diet does not work well, I'll go back to pellets. But I want to give this a try.
Hi LF & RJ. You've raised some interesting points.
"We'd like some and actually have a couple of nice cages - 2X3'! We could get a third easilly off craig's list for a buck."
A 2' x 3' cage is fine for a buck or for a dry doe, but a tad small for one with a litter, once the little ones pop out of the nest. Mine are 30"x36" and sometimes even they seem crowded when eight or nine bunnies are all busy using momma for a trampoline. Perhaps you could join two together for litters or else get a couple of larger ones to use as the babies grow.

"Would there be some health issues with rabbits so near the ducks/chickens?"
As long as the birds can't get on top of the cages and poop into them, there should be no problem. The rabbit droppings will not hurt the chickens and ducks. Rabbits need lots of ventilation but don't like strong winds. They need shelter from excessive heat and sunlight.

"Also, how long can one leave the youngsters on the doe? WOuld we have to get more cages for the offspring before they are butchered? That would be an awful lot of cages!"
There are several ways of handling this. Some people leave the kits with the momma right up until butchering. Some have a larger communal grow-out pen. A chicken tractor set-up would work in good weather. Still others have a couple of extra cages and wean the largest kits first at about 5 weeks and leave the smaller ones with the momma.

"One more question, how do you go about dispatching of them?"
Bonking or bopping is fine if you can do it quickly and cleanly. If you make a bad blow you may bruise the meat on the shoulders. The last time we butchered rabbits, we used the pellet gun at point-blank range to the back of the neck, just below the skull. We found that much easier, cleaner. The rabbit was instantly dead and there was almost no thrashing about. A .22 with "shorts" would also work well.


Shelleybabe, I think it's great you are getting back into rabbits. It will be good for your kids to know where their food comes from and caring for them is a great family project. Looking forward to hearing more about your experiences.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 10:22PM
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patrick_nh(z4/5 NH)

I raised rabbits for show for some time, and also for meat.

I love to raise my own meat, but hate to process poultry and cannot do larger animals. This, along with the scarcity of processing facilities here in New England, made rabbit a very attractive meat source.

The main problem for me, and I know that others will disagree, is that I just don't like the taste of rabbit meat. To me it is not bad, however I just find it to be rather bland and unflavorful, no matter how it was prepared.

I still keep a few Flemish Giants for enjoyment, allowing some of them the freedom of my 1/2 acre community waterfowl and turkey pen. In that environment, it's much more enjoyable to observe them, than keeping them in small cages.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 11:31AM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Patrick, you are not alone in finding rabbit meat bland. My brother and my aunt -- both more accustomed to wild rabbit meat -- agree with you. You might like it better in highly seasoned dishes.

One of the things I hope to find out by feeding a natural diet instead of pellets is whether or not it will affect the flavour of the meat. Personally, I find domestic rabbit more flavourful than chicken, more satisfying, and just as versatile. Except for our excess cockerels and unproductive hens, we rarely eat chicken anymore.

Your Flemish giants have a nice life. Some people on another forum are experimenting with colony-style rabbit raising. It certainly does provide a more natural life-style for the rabbits, but it brings its own set of challenges.

Anyone out there who has tried colony raising?

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 11:46AM
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patrick_nh(z4/5 NH)

Unfortunately, highly seasoned dishes are not for me either. One of the reasons why I like to try or continue to eat certain types of meat, is because I like the taste of the actual meat itself. I don't like it covered up or masked by a lot of other ingredients. If I were going to do that, then I might not bother going to the effort of raising and slaughtering the rabbits, I'd just use a big lump of tofu. Not really, but I think you get my idea.

Your natural diet sounds like a good idea, but also a great deal of work. They'll have to eat so much more volume than they do of the concentrated pellets. That's how rabbits were fed on the farm prior to the mass production of commercial pellets, which did not begin all that long ago, comparatively. Have you read any of Bob Whitman's work on rabbit histories? If not, I highly recommend his latest book on the history of the rabbit breeds. It also contains a good deal of information on early methods of keeping and feeding rabbits prior to the industrial revolution.

Just to be clear, I'm not breeding rabbits in a colony situation. I'll let several does out together in a month or so, as soon as most of the mud dries up. Sometimes I'll pull them back in and allow a buck a week or so of freedom, but otherwise they'll stay out until December. I tried some breeding once, with a Flemish doe and a Britannia Petite buck, just for fun, and it turned into a nighmare, mostly because the pen is not set up properly for rabbits, it's a forage pasture for turkeys and waterfowl. Some day I would love to set up a colony rabbit pen, when I have all the time and money to devote to it to do it right.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 12:27PM
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patrick_nh(z4/5 NH)

Sheila, re: skins and furs. They're worth less than it takes to tan them into workable, clean skins. Bucks County Fur products in PA did tan small amounts for individual breeders at one time, don't know if they still do. It wasn't all that expensive, but still cost more than you could easily sell them for. Still, it was a nice way to have your own skins done, especially if you wanted the satisfaction of using the byproduct to make something functional from your own animals for yourself or your family, or as gifts.
You can tan yourself. There are chemical solutions and books out there that describe how to do it. It is an acquired skill, and not one that is as easy as simply soaking the skins in a solution for X amount of weeks. Like anything else worthwhile, it takes agood deal of work.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 12:48PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Another problem with tanning the skins is that the young rabbits at 10 - 12 weeks old do not have prime fur. I believe there is still a market for rex rabbit skins (think Velveteen Bunny) but only if the fur is prime. In France, where many of the rabbits are sold as roasters rather than fryers, I believe there is a reasonable market for pelts.

One thing I do plan to try someday is making rabbit skin glue for artwork. I also have natural mineral pigments from a visit to France and, of course, a good supply of fresh eggs for making my own egg tempera. I think it would be fun to indulge my creative urges by playing about with some of these time-honoured natural art materials.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 1:48PM
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Roberta_z5(Z4/5 IL)

Terrific post for people like us that are just getting started. At first we thought we would like chickens and goats. Then after getting lots of info on goats, we realized we needed to learn all we could about chickens first. Well right now, we have way too many chickens (and eggs) and we don't have a market.

For our own meat use, adding rabbits might be a good 'next project'.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 2:17PM
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I learned a form of 'processing' rabbit that I use and have never had a problem with. I prepare a small piece of rope (1/4" thick, not twine- don't want it cutting into their feet) so that it has a small noose at each end and about 12" in between.

Then I hold the rabbit in my arms and gently slip it's feet into the loops and tighten them to a snug, but not painful fit.

The rabbit, with its head tucked under my arm all the while, is very calm. I have already prepared a stationary hook from the overhead beam of my barn- something very substantial.

When the moment is right I walk over and very quickly hook the 12" section of rope over the hook and simultaneously run my hands down the rabbit and pull its neck firmly down. It all happens very fast and there are no 'accidents' like bonking it with a bat, but not quite hard enough, or pushing with thumbs, but not quite far enough. It is sure-fire.

A gun would be just as fast and painless, but I'm not really a gun person and wouldn't want to shoot my thumb off. (lol)

I have 8 does (six breeding), a buck and 28 kits of various ages right now. About to process 8 of them this week. I'm new to this, so that should take me all day, what with prep and cutting up and vacuum sealing and clean up and all.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 2:43PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Roberta, it's a common problem, ending up with too many chickens and eggs. If you are okay with eating some of your chickens, I suggest a little culling: All excess cockerels and roosters, nasty hens, unproductive hens, poor specimens of their breed.

I ordered 30 chicks my first year with chickens. They were straight run since we intended to eat most of the cockerels but even 14 hens was far too many. I think 10 - 12 chicks is a good number to start with. And last year when I switched breeds, that is all I ordered. We still have too many eggs.

As far as rabbits, two does and a buck are plenty to start. Three cages and perhaps a spare as a "grow out" cage for weaned kits. If you decide to expand you can bring in some new stock or keep promising young ones. There are few "social problems" among rabbits because they are in separate cages. They don't usually escape or bother the neighbours. They are pleasant to work with, usually gentle and altogether an excellent investment for the homesteader or hobby farmer.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 5:50PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Gunieagarden, that sounds like an excellent way to dispatch rabbits... and it is one I had never heard before! Thanks for contributing it. It is sometimes difficult for people to find a method they are comfortable with, so the more ideas the better.

A second advantage of your method is that the rabbit is already humg ready to bleed out and skin.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 5:54PM
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I used to tan rabbit skins years ago, mostly opal & castor rex; I wanted to make something with them, like sew then on a light weight jacket to make it look like a rabbit jacket. I never did, BUT, I did live in a college town with a art college. I had an art student take the tanned hides and he put all sorts of cool art work on them then we sold them; as I recll we were selling them for $25-$50 each? I used them under lamps on the end tables and for just odd little things, even making lucky rabbits feet. Rabbits might not think they were lucky!

Tanning is not that difficult but it does require attention and some effort. I started out using just a salt and alum tan which leaves a rather white hide to do art stuff on, then tried a brain tan and several different methods.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 8:06PM
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patrick_nh(z4/5 NH)

Roberta, if you haven't joined the ARBA, do so. They put out a guide book to get you started, that at one time anyway was included in your membership and mailed to all new members. It's not the final word, but IMO is worth the cost of year's membership alone, with all of the info that it contains to get you started on nearly every aspect of rabbit raising, from pets, to show, meat, fur, ect. I haven't looked at mine in some time, but I think that it even had sections on raising worms, compost and manure, and lab animals.

Maggie, I envy those rabbit breeders so much with all that they have going for them. I now live in the country, and so don't have those worries anymore, but when I didn't, there was always a concern when raising poultry with close neighbors. With some imaginative landscaping and/or stockade fencing and shed or garage placement, I can envision a suburbanite who pays close attention to cleanliness, able to raise even a few dozen rabbits without the neighbors ever knowing a thing.

No AI concerns, and few look at you cross eyed when told that you raise and show rabbits, like they do with, WHAT, they actually have chicken shows??!! You have a harder time when telling them that you slaughter the Easter Bunny for food, but by and large, rabbits are more socially acceptable than poultry any day.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 1:20AM
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I'm curious how long it takes others to run through the whole process of dressing a rabbit. From prep to sealed package/ cleaned work area-- how long does it take you?

Less per/ if you have more rabbits? Anyone have any tips?

Do you leave all meat in an ice bucket and package at the end? (I haven't, I do one at a time, but am considering this. Good idea?)
Do you have several buckets for various 'parts'? (I do- some for dogs, some for chickens, some for me)

Do you quarter your rabbits, or is there a preferable way to part them?

I feel like chickens take a LOT longer- that plucking thing... well, "for the birds" isn't the right clich but it's all I can think of right now. ; )


    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 10:39AM
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patrick_nh(z4/5 NH)

I've never timed it myself, and never have done more than a litter at one time, I don't think, but I've just done all, hung together and gone down the line skinning, then going back and gutting everyone, then brining them in to rinse and cool. I've never done it on an extremely hot day that I can recall, so the few minutes or half hour or so that the first is hanging there until I get to the last has not concerned me all that much.

Yes, they're easier and quicker than any poultry.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 1:45PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Guineagarden, I can't give you an exact figure of how long per rabbit, but it is much quicker than processing chickens. Your idea of different buckets for different parts is a good one if processing a lot of rabbits at a go. Usually I prefer to process no more than eight at a time and just put all the parts in a big pot of cold water to cool. If we have two litters to do, we do the largest ones from both litters one day and the rest a day or a few days later.

I have evolved my own method of processing rabbits. Brian does bleeding out and skinning and I take it from there. First I remove the piece of fur and skin from around the tail. Then I take off all four legs, being sure to get as much meat with the hind legs as I can. Then I open the rabbit, reserve the giblets (heart, liver and kidneys) and dispose of the guts. I remove the rib section by bending it back until the spine snaps and then cutting through. This leaves the loin with the bony pelvic area still attached. I remove this as well.

There are three of us so I package the three loins per pack, three hind legs or six front legs. Sometimes I have to make up a mixed pack to make things come out even. I package all the rib cages and pelvic sections together for soup, stew or rabbit pie. When I make rabbit pie or stew, I add the giblets to it. It is amazing how much meat there is on those rib sections -- ample for soup.

I think most people have their own way of sectioning the rabbits. It depends a lot on how you plan to cook them. I like to half fill a roasting pan with carrots, parsnips, turnip and onion, sprinkle with herbs and pour a cup of apple juice over it. Then I season the rabbit pieces with black pepper and herbs and lay it on top and cover with a few strips of bacon. Into the oven for an hour or a bit more at 400 degrees with some spuds in their jackets... and there's a really nice supper.

Sometimes if we are in a fast food mood (not often) I make shake n bake rabbit legs and oven fries. But nothing beats a big pot of rabbit soup. (Even you would like it, Patrick.) One thing I have found is that apple juice is the perfect cooking liquid for rabbit. For soup I dilute it with twice its volume of water, but it is just wonderful for pulling the various flavours together.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 4:20PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

I haven't come across any of Bob Whitman's books, but I'll check out abebooks.com and see what I can find there. It's a great site for inexpensive second hand books. Awhile ago one could pick up copies of Ann Kanable's excellent book "Raising Rabbits" for about a buck. Lots of others too. Anyone looking to to get into meat rabbits would be smart to take a look - you could build a nice little library for the cost one one book new.

Here is a link that might be useful: abebooks

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 4:26PM
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That apple juice is a great tip, Maggie. I'm going to try that. And your roast recipe looks good too. Thanks for sharing!

I made a great rabbit soup the other day with lambsquarters, rosemary, onions and garlic, salt and pepper, a dash of olive oil and noodles. Yum!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 4:41PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Sounds great, Guineagarden. Maybe we should start a thread for rabbit recipes. :)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 6:11PM
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patrick_nh(z4/5 NH)

Storey's Raising Rabbits is probably one of the best all around guides out there, other than the ARBA guidebook.

Here's a link to the Breeds of the World book, also highly recommended, IMO.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rabbit Breeds and Histories

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 9:33PM
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A friend of mine used to cross a Mini Blue Dutch with her New Zealand. The bunnies were much smaller than the doe, but they were easier for Mary's city backyard. She used two or three pens as I remember. Her husband and I used to go rabbit hunting frequently and she had to clean his rabbits. He got ill from the smell of the wild rabbits when processing them.

Personally, I have always enjoyed simple fried rabbit. It is as good as chicken. I never tried them stewed with dumplings, but I think they would adapt very easily to this recipe.

Right now I do not have any animals, other than some cats, but am thinking about getting some chicks, and maybe a couple of does and a buck. The chicks will be for meat and eggs, whereas the rabbits will be for meat and bunnies to be sold live as breeders and pets.

An earlier writer had asked about keeping thier cages inside a poultry coop. The issue of the poultry roosting on top of the cages is a problem. Either make tin covers to go on top of the cages or paint them with a product that the name escapes me. It is like tangle foot with a chemical added to it which is slightly caustic. If birds decide to roost on it, they get a "hot foot". It doesn't kill them, just makes them find another roosting spot. Of course when you apply it you will need to be cautious and not get it on any surfaces the rabbits will come in contact with. The stuff used to be used a lot in cities where there were problems with pigeons roosting on buildings.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 2:31PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

I understood the earlier poster (LFRJ) had the cages under the eaves of the chicken house... which I took to mean outside. If rabbits are kept inside a chicken house there can be concerns about air quality. Many rabbits are prone to allergies and respiratory problems can result if the air is full of dust or ammonia fumes from droppings.

A chicken house would need to be very well ventilated and kept very clean if rabbits are to be housed in it. The cages could be hung from the rafters on chains, with a solid top so that the chickens can't poop on the rabbits, just as Mokevinb said. I don't think the idea of giving the chickens a chemical hot-foot is a good one.

Another problem with close proximity to chickens is the amount of noise the birds make. Rabbits can be nervous and may not breed well under those circumstances. Just some things to consider when planning your set-up.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 3:45PM
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Okay, I've always been a bit afraid that I would think they were too cute to kill...same issue I have with goat kids. But, if one were to think about getting into rabbit meat (and maggie, I like your natural approach ro feeding), would there be any special precautions for heat problems? We live in AZ, and while it's not as hot here as the Phoenix area, we easily get into the 110's in july/aug. Also, if one were to make a rabbit tractor, you would wire the bottom, right? (No burrowing). We like fresh meat, but don't care much for processing chooks. But, if rabbits were easier, and we liked the taste...Dannic

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 6:45PM
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Well, in response to this post, we've actually got a lead on some New Zealanders that "need a good home", and since we already have the cages...so it's on to the next big experiment! Boy have we got a lot to bone up on!
Yep. I think we'll skip the hot foot idea just to be on the safe side. Buffy & Buffy will be disspointed enough to lose their roosting spot - though I have an idea I'll be forced to cover the cages with roofing of some sort. They are located outside, not in the coop, so we'll have to give some thought toward keeping the tenants dry and comfy in the winter.
Don't know how much of a zoo it will be for them come breeding season. They will also share the premisis with 4 curious ducks who are noise makers and busy bodies, but of no threat. It's a large penned area though, so maybe it will not be too much of an interference - but thanks for the heads up. Another thing to consider.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 8:52PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Dannic, heat is a real problem for rabbits. It can kill them fast. There are some things you can do to help keep them cool, but I don't know if they would be sufficient at 110 degrees. I can't even imagine 110!

For sure they will have to be in the breeziest, shadiest place you can find. You can hang wet burlap over the cages with the end in a tray of water (a plastic windowbox with the drainage holes sealed would work)and let evaporation cool them. You can freeze plastic gallon jugs of water (leave room for expansion) and place one in each cage. Have at least twice as many as you have cages so you can rotate them. A fan helps if there is no breeze. They need constant access to cool water... maybe float a chunk of ice in their crocks. If you have air conditioning and can bring them in during heat waves, it will cut your work and worry.

Another thing to consider is when to breed -- or more accurately, NOT to breed. It's an extra stress on a doe being pregnant or kindling (giving birth) in hot temperatures. I try to avoid it even here in Ontario where a very hot day is 90 degrees. We get about six weeks (mid-June to beginning of August usually) when I make sure my does are not going to be pregnant or kindling.

If a rabbit does get heat stroke, sometimes you can save them by immersing their body in cool (not cold) water. But prevention is easier and safer for the bunnies.

On rabbit tractors... you can wire the bottom, but it does flatten the grass some. I'm still working on a design, but if I get it perfected to my satisfaction, I'll post about it.

LF, that's great that you've got a line on some New Zealands. I'd let them settle in for a bit and get accustomed to the noises before attempting to breed them. Fortunately, rabbits are most active at night when the noisemakers will be asleep. :)

For those of you who are looking for more information on raising rabbits, you might want to hop over to the Homesteading Today Rabbit Forum. I hang out there a lot. There are some really knowledgeable people there and it's usually a very friendly group. There are boards for many different kinds of livestock plus other topics as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: HT forums

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 9:47PM
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I understand that many rabbit raisers use 2 liter pop bottles that have water frozen in them to help cool the rabbits. They just place them in the cage, laying on the side, and the rabbits snuggle up to it as they need. I was wondering about possibly using misters to help cool the air. I know they seem to have really taken hold in the livestock industry, particularly those using confinement systems. I know rabbits generally prefer a dry environment, so I don't know how they will react to being under a mister.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 10:11PM
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My this thread is getting lengthy!

Over time, we'd be interested in providing our own food for said rabbits as opposed to relying soley on pellets...over time.

We won't allow the health of the animal to be compromised, so we're looking for information regarding a varied diet which will provide all necessary nutrients. We're still researching like mad, but I couldn't find any articles immediatly that discusses this topic - 'homemade feed', as it were. So far, every thing we've found merely defers to commercial pellets, AND we've read some conflicting info on the hazards of feeding some vegetables...i.e. to feed or not feed broccolli...which could cause enteritis. Any comments?

(Given the turf war last summer that the hares and I engaged in over my brocolli patch, there must be a lot of wild bunnies in the neighborhood with enteritis!)

tx as always


    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 1:27AM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Ah, yes, the old "don't feed greens" thing. As you have observed, wild rabbits and hares eat an awful lot of greens. In my experience, feeding greens is good for the rabbits, provided you know your plants. Brocolli and other brassicas are "gassy" vegetables and can cause digestive problems.

It is probably best to stick to a list of safe plants at first while you gain experience. I'm going to start a new thread about natural feed for rabbits.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 10:44AM
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from what i have read you can put misters in the room with a fan blowing it around, but do not have it directly on the rabbits because if they stay wet they will catch pneumonia. you can also put sprinklers on the roof of your rabbitry to lower temp. swamp coolers also help.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 9:23PM
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Hi, I'm in Texas and used to raise rabbits for the pet market. I had put a used air conditioner in my rabbit shed. One day it went out while I was at work. The results were very ugly and heart-breaking.

I'm hoping to get back into rabbits, for meat this time, and I'm looking at building a semi-open rabbit shed out of an amazing, experimental material called papercrete. It's easy and cheap to mix and work with. We looked at a house under construction with this material. With the papercrete blocks on the walls and in the ceiling, absolutely no doors or the double windows installed yet, the temperature in there, in the humid, hot San Antonio area, was amazingly cooler. I think it would be perfect for a rabbit shed, with little or no ac costs and providing a gread deal of fresh air.

You might look into the yahoo group of papercreters as a cheap way to build a rabbit shed.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 9:36PM
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I am recently getting into the meat rabbit market (for personal food only) and have 2 New Zealand Does and 2 NZ Bucks. The process is starting off a little slower then I had hoped so we are going to get a few more does. As I read it NZ are the best for meat to bone ratio for food. I have a local breeder trying to push Crème D'argents on me though and she swears the quality of meat is not necessarily better but f a different quality and taste. I have no doubt that different breeds have different tastes, but I was wondering if anybody had thoughts on which would be better. Obviously I am looking for good moms, big litters etc.
Thank you

    Bookmark   August 10, 2008 at 11:51AM
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If skinned properly the skins are pulled off and are like a tube of skin and fir on the inside. We used 1/2" plywood forms to pull the skins onto (fur on inside toward the plywood). We made several different sizes of plywood forms so that the hides were stretched very tight. They were then hung up to dry for about a week to 10 days at which time the fats were pealed off the skin carefully as not to tear the skin. Then we would sell them to a fur dealer who would give us $2 for pure white and for the different colored furs as little as $.50 each. That was good for the late 1950's to early 60's.

During the summer I would keep them in large fenced in areas and the feed cost was nothing. We buried the fence 1' deep and 1' flat away for the fenced area like an "L" for a total of 2' under ground. We used several 4'x8' sheets of marine plywood and put these on top of cement blocks so the rabbits had a place the was shaded and gave them cover form weather and hawks and owls. There were many bushes and pines in there for them to nest and hide in also. Only one buck and 20 does were in each 3/4 acre pen. We usually culled the young every 30 days or so and pen raise them to butchering size-about 8-12 week depending on the breed. During the winter only the buck was left in the pens. There was enough food for 1 rabbit for the winter months. Sometimes we would give them so hay if we noticed that they were over browsing the shrubs due to deep snow. They were so much healthier this way.

Ma would fry the rabbit that she dipped in her herbal blend of flour mix. After they were 1/2 way cooked she would transfer them to her famous 'Dutch Oven' over low heat and added a cup of cheap wine (MD, it was the brand Charlie Weaver used to push on TV) and of course the cook always saved herself a wee bit of wine to sip on while preparing the rest of the meal. VERY TASTEY-the rabbit I mean.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 11:00AM
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I had a few questions about raising rabbits. Me and my 4 sisters have sold vegetables at farmers market for a few years now and have a couple thousand dollars we were thinking about using to buy rabbits. First of all I was wondering if it was very hard to sell them, and how do you go about selling them? I personally don't know anyone who eats rabbit meat. Do you sell them to a company like Tysons or to individuals or what? Second I was wondering if it would be hard for 2 older teenagers 3 adults and a 10 year old to take care of 50 or 100 of them? And last of all what is the best breed for meat? Can't wait to hear what Y'all have to say.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 4:43PM
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There is a guy around here who has done rabbits for years. He sells them for $15 for meat some 10 years ago or more. He said he can sell all he can get at the price. He feeds them free food from food stores. scrap basically.

They are mutt rabbits and not big to my eye. I mean not real big rabbits. He has a lot of rabbits. Probably over 30 so he must get a lot of babies.

I raised giant rabbits many years ago. Rabbit meat is better than chicken. The problem with the giant rabbits is they are slow to grow to full size and reproduce. But I still like them big.

At the time I also raised chickens. I bought some meat birds and for raising meat they are easy. You simply buy how many you want and raise them up. Rabbits are more of a long term committment and require long term care to get babies.

But overall rabbit meat is much better than chickens.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 5:14PM
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we are full time rv'ers we live in a 37ft. motor home other wise if we didnt i would so love to do this it would save alot on spending $$$ for food sounds like a awesome source of protein and like you bambi didnt make me cry at the age of 2 nor again at the age of 4 i would love to go hunting as it is and taste deer the only other food i have tasted besides your regular meats that is out of the ordinary is gator and omg is it yummy!!!! good luck on your breeding hope you do very well send me some meat i would love to taste it!!!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 8:56PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Lillybelle21, so much depends on where you live. Location affects every aspect of raising and selling rabbits. I don't come here regularly anymore, and I suggest anyone wanting detailed rabbit information check out some of the forums dedicated to raising rabbits. There is one at the Homesteading Today website and there is also my own site, the link to which is posted below.

Here is a link that might be useful: RabbitTalk

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 10:19AM
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    Bookmark   December 12, 2010 at 2:07PM
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I'm in Northern Arizona and want to raise some myself . Not only for meat but also a growing medium for worms . Euro nightcrawlers to be exact . They would be for our greenhouse , garden and perhaps selling to fishermen .The rabbits would be for food and perhaps for barter for stuff we don't grow .

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 4:24PM
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Hi, I'm new to the forum. My husband I are buying a little over 5.5 acres. We'd like to be more self sustaining. Rabbits seem to be a logical choice since we both like rabbit. We are thinking 10-12 does and a couple of bucks will provide quite a bit of meat for the two of us per year. We are also investing in chickens, but rabbit being our main meat source. Does that seem to be a good amount of rabbits for what we're looking to accomplish?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 1:08PM
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I just got a buck and a doe Californian/New Zealand mix a week or so ago. Canât wait to start eating their children, making hats and whatnot out of their fur and fertilizing the garden with their turds!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 3:19PM
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My husband and I have just decided to get 2 does. We have 2 young children and thought they would enjoy helping to care for them. At this point, all I really want them for is for family enjoyment and for their quality poop for our garden. We live in town and can't really do any other animals, but thought rabbits would be a good choice. At some point, we might add a male so we could breed for meat, but we're not ready for that yet. I was planning to build a hutch of some sort (researching styles now) and a covered run of sorts, for them to get exercise. this would be in the shaded part of our yard. We live in Oklahoma and our summers can get VERY hot, so I also thought we might try to get a cage for inside, in case they need some reprieve from summer heat. Thoughts and suggestions? Should we try to find the New Zealand or California breeds, since meat production *might* be an interest in the future?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 1:42PM
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