Yes – they are really cute
and they are furry and soft. Sometimes they are super cuddly. Its true they don’t take up much room or cost a lot to maintain and they turn our weeds into a complete protein, that I am still going to eat.
ARE BACKYARD MEAT RABBITS REALLY WORTH IT?
The short answer, yes. The really long winded answer that involves math explains below…
Our herd of rabbits consists of 2 females (does) and one male (buck).
Based on meat alone, yes, the math is hard to argue with. Starts up costs will be different for everybody based on shelter supplies, quantity of breeding stock and even brand of feed. On average a rabbit has 7 babies (kits) per litter and 4-5 litters per year.
|# OF DOES||1||2|
|2023 HARVEST [# OF KITS]||35||70|
|TOTAL HARVEST WEIGHT [#]||87.50||175|
|AVERAGE KIT HANGING WEIGHT||2.5|
With Bomgaars 16% layer @ $16.50/ 40# = $.41/#
1# feed/day @ $.41/# * 30 days = $12.30/month
$.41X100# = $41/average Litter ethically raised rabbit.
$205/35 kits = $5.85/rabbit to slaughter age
$5.85/3# average = $1.95/# ethically raised rabbit.
Where I live, the cheapest animal protein I can get is chicken that costs $3.99/ # and rabbit specifically is $10.95/#. Either way, I am coming out on top financially.
Meat isn’t their only thing though…
Rabbits are minimal waste: Raising meat rabbits provides the opportunity to use every part of the animal. In addition to the meat, bones can be used for stock, and the feet, ears, tail, and hide can be made into dog treats
They provide natural fertilizer: Rabbits produce a significant amount of manure that is rich in nitrogen and other nutrients. Their manure can be used as a natural fertilizer for plants, and it can be applied directly to the garden without harming plants.
Not to mention, they’re low maintenance: Rabbits are easy to care for and require only a few minutes of attention each day. They can be raised in small spaces and are a great option for those who want to produce their own food but have limited land.
SO… DO THEY REALLY MEAN BY “BREED LIKE RABBITS?”
YEP! Rabbits can control their ovulation meaning they release the egg once they’ve done the deed. This means they are almost guaranteed pregnant each time.
With 7 kits per litter and a short 30-35 day gestation period, you can see how quickly things can get out of hand.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO RAISE BACKYARD MEAT RABBITS?
Like anything you can make this cost as much or as little as you want. We Rather than starting with a small hutch or a DIY style cage, we found a 3 tiered rabbit cage on FB Marketplace. It is on wheels and fits perfectly inside or out.
HOW LONG WILL THEY BREED FOR?
Rabbits can begin breeding between 5-7 months old and here in Colorado, we take a break from breeding during the hottest months. Rabbits are extremely cold hardy and have better luck breeding and raising kits in cooler weather.
They continue to breed for several years but their hit their peak around 3 years old. They can live until they are around 7-10 years old.
WHAT DO THY EAT?
Rabbits are vegetarians and can eat a lot of the vegetables and weeds that grow in our own backyard. In addition they need access to unlimited hay to keep their gut healthy.
The easiest way to feed is with a nutritionally complete feed in a pellet form sold in feed stores. The rabbits will also benefit from being supplemented with a salt block.
We complicate things a little bit at the Fry Farmette by providing ample weed and tree forage from our property and vegetable scraps as a supplement. It isn’t necessary but it allows us to use less feed overall and afford a higher quality feed for our flock!
Where do I buy Rabbits?
Unlike chickens, rabbits rely on on mothers milk to survive and are not weaned until at least 6 weeks old. Unfortunately this means you cannot order them online and have them shipped (like chicks). They also do not sell them in feed stores.
Therefore the best place to find them is locally. Look for rabbit groups on facebook, craigslist or talk to your local farmer. Chances are they know someone in 4h who is raising them!
Time to turn the tables!
DO YOU HAVE WHAT YOU NEED?
Rabbits are cute and so easy to bring home – trust me, I know! but making sure you have the equipment you need to keep them healthy and safe is crucial! Its one thing to grab a few last minute items and another to have a rabbit pooping all over the floor.
We take raising animals very seriously and we have learned a lot of tough lessons along the way. Domesticated livestock don’t really just figure it out. We alone are in charge of their well being and safety. That starts with having what you need when you bring them home.
WHAT OTHER CONSIDERATIONS DO YOU NEED TO MAKE?
Do you travel for work or take frequent vacations? Animals need fed and care even when you go away! Will your regular house sitter engage with rabbits? Can you afford extra charges for that?
Does your current pet have a high prey drive? Are you able to train them? Or will you have to hire a professional?
Make sure you consider everything before getting started!
WHY DO YOU WANT BACKYARD RABBITS?
There are a variety of reasons why you may want to raise chickens! Whether it is more control over your food supply, teaching your children to care for animals, or starting a business there are several factors to consider!
What is most important to you and your family?
- Meat/Fur/Manure OR companionship
- Rabbit size – larger rabbits need more square footage in their housing
- Temperament – temperament is equally important whether you have rabbits as pets or are raising meat rabbits. A mean rabbit, is a mean rabbit.
- HOA or zoning restrictions – I think we can all agree that it would fundamentally suck if you spent all this money and time researching and installing only to find out you have to get rid of them or enter a lengthy legal battle (HOA rules are no joke!). Know the laws and codes in your area first!
RACOONS, AND HAWKS, AND SKUNKS… OH MY!
Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you don’t live in the mountains or the woods that you do not have predators in your area. Chickens don’t have a lot of natural defenses they don’t fly or see well night and that leaves them vulnerable to a number of predators. We are responsible for their safety. I recommend you pay attention to the local predators in your area so you can make a plan of action for a secure coop!
Below is a list of predators we saw almost daily in our city rental!
- Ariel Predators
- Bald Eagle
- Climbers and Diggers
Rabbits also have a number of issues that can arise that may lead to a life or death situation. Vets for rabbits are easier to find but are likely to be very expensive.
This may be the unpopular opinion in suburban circles but I can assure you in ag circles it is completely normal – make sure you are comfortable culling an animal. Predators and disease happen. Not all problems or diseases are necessarily a death sentence and we have found a lot of very helpful people on facebook groups and other forums who are willing to physically help or talk you through treating your rabbit. However, sometimes the bird is beyond repair and they will recommend culling.
It is not humane to keep an animal suffering to make yourself feel better.
Have I convinced you yet?
I truly believe that every family could benefit from a small herd of meat rabbits. What do you think?
No matter what you decide we love to see and hear about your adventures on your property, big or small! Please leave a comment or tag me on Instagram with @TheFryFarmette and #TheFryFarmette so we can cheer you on!