Raising rabbits for food

Discussion in 'Livestock' started by Seneschal, Feb 23, 2010.

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  1. Seneschal

    Seneschal Crazy snake chick

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    Hey,
    I've seen several people mention keeping rabbits for food. Can you provide more information on that? Where do you buy the young (obviously not a pet store at $20 a pop!) and how do you keep them? Is it more effective to buy 1 male and 1 female and let them breed, or what? Also, how do you handle space issues, since they can dig and all? Feeding? What about when it comes time to slaughter? Do you do that yourself or do you have someone do it--and if you have someine do it for you, where can you find them?

    I'm interested in the idea of keeping rabbits for food and fur use (I intend to make rabbit fur hats, gloves, house slippers and stolls this year for X-mas gifts) but I'm not sure about the costs involved, or how to do it. I'm also not exactly excited about killing the rabbits.

    Thoughts? If you do it, can I get some pictures of your setup?
     
  2. NaeKid

    NaeKid YourAdministrator, eh?

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    Do you know if rabbits live naturally in your general area? If so, you should be good for raising the rabbits. Building a rabbit-hutch is similar to building a chicken-coop, except that you try to keep the hutch above the ground so that there is air-flow on all sides so that the rabbits do not over-heat. Also, when building the hutch, give them a "dog-house" that is fully-enclosed with a small opening and straw inside for bedding. The "dog-house" would help them keep warm during the night, shelter from rain and give them shade during the day. If possible, plant "shade bushes" near the hutch on the south-side of the hutch. You can pull up lots of different plans (free) by doing a simple google search - searchterm: rabbit hutch plans

    As far as killing / butchering / etc - that is something that I would recommend that you do personally. You could bring the live animals to a butcher-shop, but, the costs for them to skin and then cut the meat into usable pieces would really get old very fast.

    You might find a local who has rabbit hutches already and "pay" them with one rabbit for every couple that go into your freezer or soup-pot. You can also see about taking some of their stock to fatten in your own hutch ...
     

  3. TreeMUPKennel

    TreeMUPKennel Well-Known Member

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    MMMMMM wabbit&rice yummy. :D
    Not to mention the rabbit droppings are great for the garden.
     
  4. *Andi

    *Andi Supporting Member

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    NaeKid covered it pretty well. :D

    We keep 3 does (females) and a buck (male). They keep my family and my parents in rabbit meat. :D We do our own butchering and work up the hides.

    Check your local farm supply store they may have a bulletin board for people who have rabbits for sell. Keep in mind around Easter time the prices will go up. Check you local paper (craigslist) after Easter for 'free or very cheap bunnies. Go with a standard meat rabbit (New Zealand White, Californians or rex)

    If you do not have a copy of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living - C. Emery' see if your libary does. Carla has a great section on rabbits.
     
  5. mdprepper

    mdprepper I sold my soul to The_Blob. He had candy...

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    I have thought about rabbits also, but was unsure about the cleaning, skinning process (my Dad wlways did that where we could not watch). I went to youtube and watched some videos on the process and it does not seem all that difficult.
     
  6. NaeKid

    NaeKid YourAdministrator, eh?

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    Ya - but I did leave out a few things :sssh:

    The smells, the sights, the sounds - and - of course, the hardest part - the fact that many people start to feel like the rabbits are not food, but pets and they have difficulty doing the deed when the time comes.

    BugsBunny and friends has really ruined us as a society, eh?
     
  7. Seneschal

    Seneschal Crazy snake chick

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    Thanks for all the replies!

    Been doing some research and I've also talked with my grandparents. My grandpa has said that he would do the killing for me. I can handle skinning, butchering, and freezing them; that's no issue. I just don't want to end their furry little lives myself (call me girly, whatever, lol, I get enough of killing small fuzzy animals when I feed my snakes), but he said he would, and I'll give him meat in exchange.

    I want to start tanning the hides. I read about a European way of raising them that apparently works well, where they're kept together in a large enclosure.

    I thought that sounded good, and would save in housing costs, except the male would, I think, have a hutch to himself, to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

    What I've thought about was a 10'x'10' pen with very thin 3' tall mesh along the bottom of the walls and a solid bottom or chain links a few inches underground, with several little huts for the rabbits to live in. There'd be maybe 2, 3 does and a hutch for the male, and a smaller enclosure for keeping weaned but not-ready-for-slaughter males, while the larger pen would be for the females, babies, and weaned females not ready for slaughter. I think that having pens like that would reduce time spent cleaning (not dealing with a cage for every animal) and would also allow for plenty space for them to move around.
     
  8. *Andi

    *Andi Supporting Member

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    It's hard at first but it does get better (and quicker) over time.

    Seneschal - research is good. :D

    read, read and read some more!:congrat:
     
  9. Seneschal

    Seneschal Crazy snake chick

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    Haha, yeah, I know. I just wanted to ask to get other peoples' experiences on raising rabbits, is all. People keeping them as pets versus for meat production would have different experiences to relate, I think.

    I think I like standard rexes, as for a breed. Not the largest out there, but they seem to have many promising qualities (litters of 9+) and are good mommies. I also like their fur--they're apparently also called "velveteen" rabbits. They're not huge--8-10lbs--but still...they seem good.

    For those of you who keep, do you keep any particular breed, or just whatever rabbit you find?
     
  10. *Andi

    *Andi Supporting Member

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    I like the rex rabbit ... that is what I (we) have:2thumb: My hubby and son had a problem with the red eye rabbits. LOL But that is a whole other story. :D

    Good moms, great fur and and all around great homestead rabbit! For me the rex is the way to go. :D
     
  11. Seneschal

    Seneschal Crazy snake chick

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    That's what I thought too! Where did you find them? I can find mini rexes left, right and center, but they're too darn small! I'm having trouble finding standard rexes near me. (At least, ones listed online.)
     
  12. *Andi

    *Andi Supporting Member

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    We found ours right after Easter on a bulletin board at the local feed store. The bunny season (Easter) will soon be here, keep an eye and ear open. :goodluck:
     
  13. SnakeDoc

    SnakeDoc Well-Known Member

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    At Easter time. Start placing ads in various places saying that you'll take the rabbit that people bought their kids and have now lost interest in.

    I used to trade my babies to the feedstore for feed. It made the proposition self supporting. Rabbit poo is also a great fertilizer! Its nitrogen content is perfect and won't burn plants.
     
  14. Rody

    Rody Active Member

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    I raised rabbits for about three years. There are do's and don'ts. There are a lot more don'ts.

    Don't build hutches out of wood. Rabbits like to gnaw on stuff. You will end up replacing hutches within a year or two.

    Don't let the kids/grandkids play with them. When it comes time to eat Fluffy there will be hell to pay.

    Don't assume your rabbits are safe in their hutches. A stray dog broke into ours late one night and killed eight of them. Didn't eat them, just killed them.

    Don't assume it's going to be cheap. Feed, water bottles, housing, vet bills, it all adds up pretty quick. If you have a way to supplement their diet use it. Those rabbits I raised cost me as much as high dollar steaks. It's the costs that made me finally get rid of them. Our feed store carried one brand of rabbit food, Purina. They cost me $11 a bag. For the first year I fed them that before adding up the costs. I learned there were other grains I could get a lot cheaper.

    Mind you I didn't go into it whole hog so to speak. I raised perhaps a total of eighty rabbits in that time. I didn't attempt to make anything out of the hides, I only sold fryers. I never even broke even. You would think lots of people would want rabbit meat but it was much harder to sell them than I thought.

    One of the main problems with rabbits is that they breed like rabbits. You have to control the population or prepare to expand often. Yes, you can butcher extras and stick them in your freezer but you also have to ask yourself how often do you want to eat rabbit for supper if they aren't selling well at the moment.

    My experience is from a small town of only 2800 people. Your millage may vary. Until I know the exact date of the end of the world I'll pass on raising rabbits again.
     
  15. Seneschal

    Seneschal Crazy snake chick

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    Thanks SO MUCH for this!!! I had thought about it, and had sat down and figured much of it out. My intention is to buy used, metal cages. I don't want to raise them in tiny hutches alone, since most of what I've found says that they do better in groups. I intend to keep males firmly separated from females unless they're being bred or are not weaned yet; all weaned males will be separated to a different area until they are ready to be weaned.

    At a maximum, in 1 year with 2 females I will produce 90 rabbits. 40 will be sufficient to provide meat for my family and my grandparents' family twice weekly (though, it probably wouldn't be that often) for a full year. The remaining 50 do not have to be killed; they can be traded at my local feed store as suggested above (they sell rabbits when they can get them) for food for the rabbits, or I can sell them as pets (which factored into my decision to hunt down Rexes, since they're cute and cuddly also).

    As for kids...well, I have no kids. The only kid that lives in the house is 2, and he wouldn't know the difference (or be allowed to handle the rabbits!) anyways.

    As for supplementing the rabbits' diet...my plans for their cages include being able to move the cages, and include the cages being on the ground with wire mesh directly on top of the grass, so that they can nibble that all they want. I also plan to grow a good amount of greens such as mustard greens, collards, kale, etc. for the purpose of feeding the rabbits, since we found out the hard way last year that for whatever reason, those things grow like wildfire in our yard. Even after three harvests and weeks of below-freezing weather, we still have about thirty lettuce plants that WILL NOT DIE. I know people tell you not to feed them greenery, but that's ridiculous, because that's what rabbits eat in the wild. Wild rabbits loved our garden and our grass, and they had solid stools (I should know, I step on them sometimes).

    I know I want to make things with the hides. I'm not sure what I want to make, but I've sewn rabbit hides before, and it's not that hard.

    However, I AM concerned about making the cages predator proof. We have lots of stray dogs and cats around here, and I've seen coyotes, foxes, raccoons, possums, hawks, eagles, and bears within just a mile of our house. Any suggestions on animal-proofing? Also...snakes. I don't THINK they'll be an issue. Generally speaking, snakes aren't interested in larger prey than they can consume, but at the same time, I don't want to come out and find a rattlesnake in my rabbit cages, either. I'm just not sure how you can prevent some predators from getting in. The hawks and eagles will be foiled with just a tarp cover, but I think the dogs, cats, coons, etc. will need something more heavy-duty.

    Not to mention neighborhood children who might want to "play with the bunnies".


    Hmm. This gets more complicated the more I think about it.
     
  16. *Andi

    *Andi Supporting Member

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    You are right it can get complicated. (If you let it.)

    Read, read and read some more. :D Make a pro and con list and see if rabbits are right for you.:D
     
  17. TreeMUPKennel

    TreeMUPKennel Well-Known Member

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    Just picked me up 2 the other day a California/New Zealand mix. My female has already been breed before and is a proven producer. The male I picked up isnt ready for breeding yet. But still looking for another female. But got them a regular hutch now but starting to build me a nicen:D
     
  18. Seneschal

    Seneschal Crazy snake chick

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    Cool! Let us know how it goes, eh?

    I picked up a pair the other day, also. They're not standard rexes (those things are impossible to find. I couldn't find a pair within a 100 mile radius being offered for sale. :( ) However, these are new zealands. I wanted to step into it a bit slowly. They're about 2 months old, so I'll be used to raising the rabbits themselves before they breed. I've got them in a fairly small cage for right now, but I'm working on a bigger dog run-style cage. I'm wanting it to be about 5x10 feet. We're fairly sure both rabbits are females, but at this age we had a hard time telling. If not--oh, well. If so--great!

    I'm still going to get my rexes, since I want to try crossbreeding later on for a larger breed of Rexes, so they'll be better meat producers but still have the nice rex fur.

    So far, I'm finding that they're easy to care for, and they get along well with the cat, with whom they share the screened porch. He's actually a bit bewildered by them, and the rabbits like following him around and stepping on him, which is pretty humorous.

    In any case...they poop. A LOT. Like, a lot more than I expected. WAY more than rats or dogs or cats or snakes poop. I've just been cleaning out the cage on a daily basis and spreading the poo on the garden for fertilizer. Yeah. A lot of poop. They're really not that difficult, though, and I've been giving them time outside the cage for exercise, which they really seem to like.
     
  19. *Andi

    *Andi Supporting Member

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    :2thumb::congrat::2thumb:

    Congrats to both of you! I wish you only the best!

    read ... ask questions ... and read some more. :D

    Can't wait to hear how it goes.:goodluck:
     
  20. Seneschal

    Seneschal Crazy snake chick

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    Question! :D Do they ALL poop that much? Because it really is a lot of poop.:rolleyes: