Jack,I heard that rabbits are not a decent food value.
The meat takes more calories to digest than the amount of calories that you receive from them.
In other words, you could starve to death eating only rabbit.
I think that came out right. Then again, who is going to eat just rabbit.
I have never checked this out to prove it, but have heard this from numerous farmer friends.
Better raising chickens or cornish game hens, then there's turkey, better meat and you might get some eggs.
A researcher in Alaska did an experiment about the nutritional value of eating voles ( basically a mouse ) And it was determined that to get the nutritional value to survive you had to eat the hole animal-hair and guts all. As far as eating rabbit goes it's the difference between wild and domestic rabbits, the tame rabbits are fine and good for you to eat.
I've raised and bred rats to feed to my snake colony.
Overall, so long as you keep in mind that productivity rates and the quality of the animal as a food product is directly related to the environment in which you keep it, the age of the female, how closely related the parents are, the breeding stock you start with, and the food you give them, you should be able to do it with minimal costs, once you actually get initial costs (cages, etc.) bought.
Also!! Rats are easier to breed than mice, and tend to be better tempered. I've been bitten by FAR more mice than I have rats, and I hardly ever handle mice. Mice are tiny little fluffy balls of vicious. Rats can be sweet and affectionate--I keep two as pets, who will never, ever see a snake. They respond to their names, come when I call them and have never bitten. Besides the fact that adult rats are about ten times the size of a mouse...XD
You would be able to eat them--let me stress this--SO LONG as you FULLY cooked them, and ensured them free of any external parasites (it would be preferable for them to be free of internal parasites, but if you're desperate enough to raise rats for food, I'm guessing you aren't going to spring for a trip to the vet for them.) it should be safe.
Rats would be preferable to mice in regards to quantity of meat. Adult rats weigh between 300-900g, depending on the inherent size of the rats (genetically) and the gender. Males weigh more than females.
On the up side, they reproduce quickly, and can eat almost anything, and take up relatively little space, especially if you have a rat rack. Table scraps, mixed with commercial rat foods (my reccomendation would be Mazuri 6F from Purina, as it's specially designed for rats being used as breeders) but any over the counter food brand would work for them. One important note is that the protein content should not exceed 16-18%, or you'll get (after a while) skin and fur problems in the rats, which leads to unhealthy rats, low infant survival rates and slower production.
What I found worked well was two to three large communal cages. I had one breeder adult male, bought at a store across the town from where I got the females, from entirely different suppliers, and anywhere from 6-9 breeder females. I rotated them--one cage was used solely for females recovering from childrearing and for half-grown female rats being raised up for snake food/to be breeders, one was for half-grown male rats who are either at or past 'puberty' (and for when the adult male wasn't having 'dates') and one for females ready to be bred, which the male would be introduced to. I then had anywhere between 4-5 smaller cages which visibly pregnant females would be put into where they would birth the litter, and then be left mostly isolated to prevent stress-cannibalism, where they could raise their young until the point at which the young were seen to be eating solid food on their own. They would then be transfered to the other cages, and mom would be given about a week alone in the maternity cage--freshly scrubbed with bleach--to de-stress, then put into the recovery/young female cage to rest for another few weeks.
The reason for allowing so much rest is to ensure the health and productivity of the females. None of the females were bred more than 3-4 times, because at that point their health would begin deteriorating.
Keep in mind that producing enough meat for a colony of snakes and producing enough meat for a family of humans are entirely different animals, so to speak. The general rule for snake production is this--you'll want one new litter born every week, or one breeding female per snake. For humans, you'll need to double or triple that number, assuming you intend to eat rat meat every day. One adult male rat MIGHT provide enough meat for a single person's serving. I don't know, however, never having tried to eat one myself. Keep in mind also that female rats need to be 5-6 months old before breeding. Their first litters will always be their smallest. A rat continues to grow until it reaches 7-9 months of age.
If you're raising the rats to adulthood before eating them, your need for space increases greatly. Plan for 5-7 3 level cages, or two or three rat racks. You would also need a ready and cheap source of clean bedding for them at least once a week. You would need to clean the cages once a week, with sanitizer. You will need to monitor the females with their babies, and cull any female which consistently exhibits bad mothering abilities. You will also have to cull any that display certain color patterns as it's a sign of a genetic disorder that WILL kill all of the offspring in a litter within days of birth. You will have to provide them with enough to keep their little minds occupied, otherwise they will do their best to destroy the cages. You must also be prepared for the inevitable escapees. They're ridiculously good at it. If you're really that interested, I can take a few pictures of what I used to use--I've decided that until my collection of snakes grows to be two or three times what it is now (my current feeding bill per week is $20) it won't be economical to breed rats for snake food.
It's not a cheap, easy thing to do, and it does take a lot of work and a lot of cleaning. If you're really, truly interested, I'm more than willing to write up a full caresheet for you. I only covered the basics.
Hope this helps...and if you do it, tell me how they taste. XDD I have wondered...