Meat rabbits make a great addition any homestead operation. They especially make sense for small scale homesteads. Lets look at some the reason why you should consider adding meat rabbits to your homestead food production system…
Rabbits Don’t Require Much Space
Compared to other meat producing animals, rabbits don’t require much space at all. Breeding does can be kept in wire cages and the young fryers can be fed out in small pens or in movable pasture pens. I’ve seen people grow a lot of rabbit meat in a shed behind the house or in an unused corner of the barn. Even on a suburban plot, a sizable portion of meat can be produced.
Quick Turn Around on Investment
If you buy breeding age does and a buck you can be eating your first rabbits fairly quickly. A rabbit’s gestation period is only 31 days. The average meat rabbit has a litter of 8-12 babies. These can be fed out to a 5 lb slaughter weight in about 12 weeks.
Efficient Producers of High Protein Meat
A pair of does can produce 600 lbs of meat in one year. Rabbits have the distinction of being extremely good converters of feed to meat. Rabbits require 4 lbs of feed to produce 1 lb of meat. Compare this to beef which has a 7 to 1 ratio. When you factor in the small amount of space required and small capital investment, rabbits are a “no brainer”.
A home scale rabbit operation has many useful byproducts. The most important is rabbit manure, which is an excellent garden fertilizer. Rabbit manure can be applied raw to gardens without even being composted. You can compost it using worms, because worms love it, and then get a crop of worms and worm castings as well. You can learn more about worm farming here. Another useful byproduct is the rabbit pelts. These can be made into hats, gloves, and other clothing products.
Easy To Process
Of all the meat animals that can be raised on a homestead, rabbits are by far the easiest to butcher. They are easy to handle and don’t require anything more than a kitchen knife as far as equipment. No other animal is as simple to butcher as the rabbit.
Rabbits are an excellent meat animal for homesteaders. They don’t require much space, have a quick turn around, are efficient producers, have useful byproducts, and are very simple to butcher. I hope you consider adding rabbits to your homestead and give them a try.