A lot of homesteading and sustainability enthusiasts are adding rabbits to their homestead as a more cost effective way of bringing additional varieties of meat to their homesteads. Even those Homeowners Associations or town ordinances which will not allow for chickens within their limits are choosing rabbits because it is a healthier alternative to store bought meats.
Lets face it folks, meat in the stores is getting expensive and every little bit of meat that we can raise on our own is one step closer to attaining the sustainability that we all are looking for, plus the fact that there are more and more reports coming out of meat that has been tainted with steroids or growth hormones… it is just plain smarter to raise your own and if you cannot completely replace your meat supply from store bought for your home raised meats, then every little bit you can replace will help.
Breeds for Meat
There are several different kinds of breeds that will suit your needs for a reliable meat supply such as New Zealand Whites or the very popular Flemish Giants that sometimes weigh up to 20 pounds. Other meat breeds to consider are: The American Chinchilla, Californian Rabbit and Rex Rabbits with each breed giving you approximately 8 to 12 pounds of meat per rabbit.
We were given Dutch rabbits from a friend of ours who’s 6 year old daughter wanted to raise them for 4H, but shortly afterwards lost interest in them, so I was quite happy to adopt them into our homestead family.
The average rabbit reaches reproduction maturity at 3-8 months old, and they have the rest of their 12+ years to have offspring. Rabbits gestate for only 30 days, and usually have litters of between 4 and 12 kits, of course depending on which breed you have. Once the babies are born, the doe can mate and get pregnant again as soon as the following day, If maintained and all the kits survive, the large-litter breeds are looking at about 100 babies per season.
A Rabbits Home
Rabbits are very sturdy animals and survive through a lot, but they need a good home. A good rabbit home or hutch will have a good strong roof, lots of ventilation, shade for the hot summer days and a place they can go to get out of the wind during the winter. Our current hutch came with the rabbits from my friend and is on my list to replace, but hey when it is free we use what we got until we can get or build better.
The size of your hutch does come into play with the larger breeds that you get, just make sure that whatever size you get will accommodate the rabbit.
The animals quality of life is always the deciding factor in any decision you make in their regards.
A Rabbits Food
As with any animal we raise on the homestead we have to make sure that they are getting the best diet possible usually consisting of pellets and grain, protein supplement, hay, green fodder, salt and water.
Alfalfa Hay or clover is used as roughage combined with greens from the garden such as cabbage, carrots, and lettuce. Just remember that either the alfalfa or clover hay is to be provided at all times, the greens should only be provided once a day and only enough that it will finish at one feeding. Provide each rabbit with fresh, clean water, everyday and add a small salt block hooked on the wall of the hutch.
Until next time,