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Meat Rabbit Question

Posted by Bramble_Farm Zone 7 (My Page) on
Tue, Nov 1, 05 at 12:20

We are starting to raise meat rabbits, and have been debating how often to "harvest" and breed them. I know that "fryers" are usually harvested at 10-12 weeks for commercial operations, but what about home use? It seems like an extra 8 weeks almost doubles the size of the rabbit- has anyone looked into what it costs feed-wise to keep rabbits the extra 8 weeks vs the extra size of the rabbit? Time is not an issue- I have to feed/care for Mom and Pop anyway, so a fryer pen is not extra work. Also, I've read a lot of conflicting reports on how often to breed. What is the general group consensus? Thanks everyone.

Bramble


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

So much really depends on the breed of rabbit that you choose but in my experience....the young are weaned at 8 weeks and in commercial operations often go straight to market....from 2 to 3 months of age a rabbit will weigh approx 5 pounds and will consume about 7 per cent of it's body weight in feed daily....as the rabbit matures, it is good policy to decrease that amount to about 4 percent...so as a young rabbit you would be feeding about 6 oz of food and gradually reducing that to about a 4 ozs amount....You'll have to do the math yourself because of your specific feed costs.

Remember too that a commercial operation is in business and they breed their females back fast.....5 weeks after kindling .....at this rate she only gets one week of rest after her weaning. ...you might want to give your does a bit of rest between kindlings...The above kindling averages 9 weeks or so and will produce 5 litters per year..My solution so I didn't overwork my doe was just to have more than one doe and rotate their kindling...

One more thing to...in determining the age to butcher......you have to keep in mind too the type of meat you want....8 to 10 weeks is a good fryer and the meat will be tender and succulent...and remembering that a rabbit is an adult at 5 months so a 4 month or so rabbit is getting close to the stew pot as opposed to the frying pan....not saying here that they are not worth growing out but you should keep your own needs in mind....10 or 12 week should be good eating too but I still always preferred to have them at 8 or 10 weeks...

My suggestion.....give it a try and see what you think....compare the taste of the meat and the cost of raising them the extra amount of time...


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

Bramble, I have also just started raising meat rabbits. Mine are going to be raised more for commercial than for personal use. So, I don't have a lot of info to share with you.

The breeder that I bought my stock from told me that after 10-12 weeks the rabbits are more of a roasting size than fryer size. He also said that roasted rabbit is delicious. Now, I can't personally testify to that since I haven't tried it.

My step-father raised rabbits for frying and he usually harvested between 10 and 12 weeks. This was for his personal use. My Mom says that after 10-12 weeks the meat becomes a little tough for frying.

I hope this will help you a little bit. As I stated it isn't from personal experience but heresay. I haven't tried eating any of the ones that I have raised. My DH doesn't want to clean them and I don't know how to do it. I am thinking of asking my SF to do the cleaning and I will pay him by giving him part of the rabbits for their use.


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

Thank you! Its funny- I hadn't realized the difference between "fryer" and "roaster" being the way you could prepare the meat.

Another question- anyone want to chime in on the best way to *gulp* harvest rabbits? I've had a vote for the bludgeon method, a vote for the cut the throat method (nasty- we've chosen NOT to do that) and I know you can shoot them or break their necks- what is easiest? How hard would you have to hit them? Is death instantaneous with most of these methods?

We want to use the easiest and most humane method possible. Anyone want to add their $.02? Thanks again.

Bramble


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

Bramble, I don't have any advice to offer but did want to also post a question. Hope you don't mind. I didn't grow up eating rabbit but am interested since they seem like a fairly easy critter to raise. Are they similar to chicken in texture and taste? Any nutritional info? Could you use rabbit instead of chicken in recipes and such? Just curious. Lori


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

Gardengalrn, I can answer for you....frankly rabbit taste like rabbit....I think the chicken comparison is probably closer to texture and yet that isn't even exact....Basically they have the taste and texture of rabbit which is delicious and very good for your....It is probably better tasting than chicken and even better nutritionally for you than chicken when they are young and not fat...

Bramble there are a number of ways to do the deed...My suggestion would be to do yourself and your rabbits a favor and find someone with some experience to teach you if you can. If not buy a good book on it and teach yourself. I have seen several ways and truthfully the breaking or dislocating the neck using the neck snap seems the quickest and most humane way to me but you have to be efficient at it or it doesn't work...and I can tell you that you do not ever want to hear an injured rabbit scream....trust me when I tell you that one....They are easy to butcher and easy to dress is you have the stomach for it but experience is the best teacher and perhaps someone in your area could show you how to do it...

I love to tell the story of friends that came for the weekend..the first night we went out to eat and my husband offered everyone escargot and visiting wife friend said ...Oh I have never eaten it but I will try and she tried snails and evidently liked them a lot...fast forward to the next day...we are having a barbecue and I have steak, chicken and rabbit on the grill..yum yum barbecued rabbit...better than steak...she wouldn't even taste the rabbit...I never quite forgot that she would eat a slimey crawl on the ground creature like a snail and wouldn't even try the rabbit....

Back to the butchering ...I can tell you how it is done, if you want me to do so..but if you can't find someone to help you do the first ones, my suggestion would be to buy a book....


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

Thanks Ruthie- I appreciate your feedback. We did participate in butchering at a friend's farm, but they use a knife to cut the rabbit's throat as their method. We saw several rabbits who were not easily or quickly killed, and you're right, a rabbit screaming is horrible. Our neighbor who did raise rabbits, and our breeder who still raises rabbits both chose the bludgeon method. The books I've read also recommend the bludgeon method as the most humane. I have not run across anyone who has used the neck-snap method. We would be interested in it, but what I've read seems fairly inconsistant. I would appreciate advice or tips on how to do this- I've not understood the method when I've read about it.

I have skinned and cleaned rabbits- no problem there. My DH has no qualms about butchering, so all we need now is the method. After watching the rabbits butchered in the method described above, we realized there must be a better way. As much as I look forward to homegrown meat and fresh rabbit, I do feel sorry for the fryer pen, thus my desire to find the most humane way to butcher. I'd appreciate any advice anyone would like to give!

Bramble


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

If you have access to a .22 handgun this might be your best choice. Never used it myself, since gun reguations in Canada are so strict, but from hunting in my youth I know that a headshot rabbit is going to drop like a stone. With a handgun, at point-blank range, it would be - I think - humane, fast and sure. Then bleed it out.

I think the main thing is to ensure that the rabbit is unconscious before bleeding it out. We have only culled one rabbit so far - yesterday. Brian used the neck snap method, but he said it was not nearly as easy with as with a chicken. He ended up bludgeoning it as well, to be sure it was fully unconscious before bleeding it out. Bludgeoning does work well, as long as your aim is good and you are able to restrain the rabbit.

As far as when to butcher (excuse me, "harvest") I suggest that for most of them you do it between 8 - 12 weeks. This is supposed to give you your best meat/feed ratio. But keep back the very best... you may want them as future breeders and if not, they will give you a chance to try a roasting rabbit.

This thread is very timely for us... we have two more four-month-old rabbits to cull - one is undersized and the other has front feet that splay out... not good breeding material. The new litters - almost a month old - look very promising. One doe has 7 kits and the other 11. All doing well, although there are two that are undersized in the larger litter. Even if we save the best little doe and buck from each, that is still 14 rabbits for the freezer in six weeks time.


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

I wonder if the undersized ones are because of such a large litter.....sometimes when you have two litters about the same age and one is much larger than the other, it is good to foster one or two of the larger litter into the smaller litter when possible....


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

Ruthie, you are absolutely right! Unfortunately our usually friendly doe became Cujo The Attack Bunny when she kindled, and we couldn't get near the babies for almost two weeks. Hormones???

Also, the other doe with a normal litter of 7 had (we were told) not managed to raise her previous litter(s). So I was not anxious to give her more until she proved herself. Turns out she is an excellent mother and her young'uns are confident, friendly little bunnies. Another time I would risk Cujo's fangs and claws and foster some.

The two runts are lively and seem healthy and are gaining ground now they are beginning to eat solid food. I will wean the others a few at a time and give the runts an extra week or so with momma so they can catch up a bit.


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

That's a good idea Maggie.....those mama's can behave pretty ferocious when they want too...It's been my experience too that as soon as you can, start handling the babies....My friend raises buns now and as soon as she can get into the box she starts picking them up and handling them...of course by now all her does and bucks are pretty friendly because of the way she has always handled them...


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

Ruthie, I think your friend has the right idea! Thanks!


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

I used to always grasp the fryer by the hind legs in one hand and hold them head down when they relaxed a bit wack them just back of the ears with a hammer handle in the other. I then immediately hung them, by the hind legs, on hooks on a cross bar about chest high and grasp them by the ears and cut off the head to bleed them out. During WW11 my folks saved the hides on stretchers to turn in for the war effort and a discount on the next sack of feed. When I had my rabbits there was no market for hides so after they bled out I would take them off the hooks, make a cross wise cut through the hide on the back and put my fingers in both sides of the slit and peel the hide off toward the head and tail end. Then proceed with the gutting etc.I always soaked my fryers in a pan of salt water over night before cutting into pieces for cooking or freezing.
Good luck Brent


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

Thanks for the advice everyone! We successfully harvested our first batch of fryers. DH did try the neck-snap method, but found that the rabbits just tilted their heads back and looked at him. The "bop" method worked fine.

We stir-fried some of the rabbit with veggies and rice, and I was surprised to find it so chewey. The flavor was great, but perhaps these were too old at 12 weeks to "fry" in a pan with some oil.

Brent, why do you brine your rabbits overnight? Is it to make them more tender?

FYI, I found that the meat over the rib area was so thin, that it was better handled by me boiling the rib cage whole, deboning it when cooked, and then reboiling the bones/spine, etc. to make a broth. I plan to can the broth- it is surprisingly rich, even though the rabbit was so lean. I do think that we will try 10 weeks next time- I wonder if the extra two weeks were the main cause of the toughness. I will slow-cook the remaining frozen rabbit from this bunch.


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

Whether rabbits or chickens, I like to process three at a time. Then I can package the parts together. For rabbits, the front legs and giblets are for pie, the rib section for soup and the loins and hind legs for roasting.

The other night I stuffed the loin section (I left the thin flap of belly meat attached for this purpose) with an onion and herb dressing, closed it with skewers and wrapped the whole thing in slices of bacon. Popped it in the oven with carrots and mushrooms around it and baked potatoes and It was soooooo good and tender too. And this was a four-month-old rabbit.

I think your problem with toughness may be the result of using too high a heat. Rabbit meat is very dense with less fat and water in it than chicken and slightly higher protein. Next time you might want to add some liquid to deglaze once the meat is seared. Apple juice works well for this and goes nicely with just about any meat.


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

Bramble, the reason I soak the carcus overnight in salt water is to remove any other blood in the meat.I think it tenderizes it a little also. I have always done it to rabbits whether it was a domestic or a wild shot rabbit. As I said I do this overnight before I cut rabbit into pieces for cooking or freezing. I also use the ribs,neck and belly meat for stock to give the dog food some taste and they love it,LOL. We have eaten many jack rabbits( lived on them for 3 weeks when we first got married waiting for the first paycheck to come.) My DW found that if she swissed them they were very tender. Maybe an idea if you have to butcher an older doe or something. Brent


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

Bramble, I just thought of something...

Did you age the rabbit meat in the fridge before cooking it? I know with chickens you can either get them into the pot before the joints begin to stiffen (basically while still warm) or you can age the meat for about three days in the fridge before cooking or freezing.

In between, rigor mortis causes the meat to be very tough -- or as my Dad used to put it: "You can't get your fork in the gravy."


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RE: Meat Rabbit Question

I have been raising rabbits for a short time and have been pretty successful with it. I have now learned to leave the kits with the does for a longer period of time and although lots web sites say to butcher at 56 days I feel this is way to young. When it is time to dispatch the i give them a thump behind the ears and then bleed them out, I believe this is a very humane method. I am not sure there is a nice way to kill something other than just be as quick as you can and don't miss if you have ever heard a rabbit scream for any reason you know it is a sound you will not soon forget. Good luck to all on your rabbit raising.


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