Talk to me about meat rabbits - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 02-02-2011, 03:26 PM - Thread Starter
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As we move towards raising the majority of our own meat for our family of 4 (plus extended family dinners about once a week) I'm looking for an easy way to vary our diets. I've done some reading on meat rabbits and decided to add them to our farmette this year, preferably this spring.  Out of curiousity I checked out the price of a whole rabbit at the grocery yesterday and it was $18! Wowzer. Made me think perhaps it's not as easy as I'm imagining. We also recently paid a premium for a rabbit dish at a restaurant (had to try it before I commited myself :)


What is your set up like? Any pics or good links?


How many breeders do you keep and how many people do you feed and how often?


What age to you cull at?


I have a friend who grew up on  a rabbit ranch who is willing to demonstrate skinning. Anyone cure and use their pellets?


We tend towards heritage breeds. What breeds do you have? Why?


Any tips/advice?


Anyone not feed pellets? What do you feed them instead?


Thanks mamas! It's so cool to have a place to come and ask these q's.


Erin sharing life with a burly husband and two rad boys 7/06 & 5/09 : : Zone 9-ish
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#2 of 7 Old 02-02-2011, 03:54 PM
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We are raising meat rabbits but haven't butchered any yet.

What is your set up like? Any pics or good links?
We started off with a tractor but it really doesn't work well with rabbits. You're either smashing down the grass or leaving gaps wide enough for the rabbits to burrow through. We ended up putting it up on posts and then moved it into the barn for the winter. We'll revamp to more traditional cages this year. All our rabbit pics are here.

How many breeders do you keep and how many people do you feed and how often?

We have 2 girls and a boy but want to add another girl or two.

What age to you cull at?

12 weeks.

I have a friend who grew up on a rabbit ranch who is willing to demonstrate skinning. Anyone cure and use their pellets?

We plan to using this method.

We tend towards heritage breeds. What breeds do you have? Why? Californian and New Zealand. Because they produce the best growing bunnies.

Anyone not feed pellets? What do you feed them instead? We feed pellets but I want to work towards not doing so. If you go to in the rabbit forum, they have a list of plants you can feed them instead. A good quality hay also goes a long way.

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#3 of 7 Old 02-02-2011, 04:17 PM
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Well we started on our adventure with meat rabbit last year. We got Red Rexs. In part because my DH happened to be at someones house where they had a bunch and decided to bring some home.  I forget how much they were but I think it was like 3-5 dollars per rabbit. they weren't sexually mature yet but they weren't tiny either. We got 3 females and 1 male. By the time they were mature it was late summer and all three got pregnant- you can't tell till they have them. It was a bit of a surprise to find them. so then we put the male in his own cage and each female in their own too as they make a nest for their babies and don't like to be crowded. Definitely get or make a nesting box for them so the babies can crawl away/fall out. once they got a bit bigger and had all their fur etc we put the moms and their babies into a large cage with a run. Definitely don't put males together or they will fight and of course if a male is with a female she'll get pregnant. Now I'd say we didn't need to get 3 females to start with one would do although for breeding two would be better so you don't get too many weakness from in-line breeding. Two does had 5 each and one had 9. the one that had nine also had a miscarriage with her first litter -almost full term-of 9 as well. Loss of the first litter is not usual but if it continues then she should be culled. Also sometimes they will eat their little ones-usually due to stress and if you handle the babies too much too soon. We never had this happen but if a doe does it repeatedly then she should be culled too. This year we will prevent late breeding in the year as the babies did not get big enough before winter. Once the real cold set in we lost about 6 of the young ones over night. The rest are thriving which is surprising in a way cause we wouldn't have been able to tell which ones won't have survived the day before. They were mainly the same size and from different litters. Also  it is a lot cheaper to feed them in the spring and summer when you can give them lots of clippings and supplement pellets. Winter requires a lot more pellets and we give hay too for feed and bedding but they mainly rely on pelletts right now and of course some veggie and fruit snacks. We have culled two so far one was a different rabbit that a friend gave us that had shown up in their yard it wasn't meant to be  a meat rabbit so the meat on it was less but otherwise tasted the same. The other was one of the does. We didn't weigh her but she was quite big! The way I cook them to get really tender meat is to boil them till the meat falls off the bones then I pick the meat off- I got 2 quarts of meat off her. I made a pot pie and froze the rest. I'd guess our family will get at least 4 more meals out of that not including leftovers which might be several more meals in addition to each above meal. For the money I think rabbits are the most economical and easiest to do. We also have chickens for eggs mainly and pigs- which give lots of met and the bacon alone is worth it but costs alot to get to butchering size. also before cooking I recommend soaking over night in salted water-it helps draw the blood out and remove a filmy covering and some of the meat. We are curing the furs but are waiting to get several before tanning in a batch. BTW rex are also know as fur rabbits as well as meat rabbits. They feel soo nice. I felt a little bad but I could help but pet one and imagine fur lined mittens. I have never seen rabbit in the store but their is no way it costs us 18 per rabbit of course we butcher our selves-(warning details follow) or well DH does with a hammer you could use a 22 but it's a bit overkill and all The we quickly remove the head with a hatchet. as well as the feet. Oh and squeeze the bladder out before skinning so you don't get it on the meat. then we slit the fur from the legs to the middle and peel it back. then dh grabs one end usually the fur and I grab the other the body and it will peel right off. then you just clean it .their is a great youtube video by mark somebody I have to go look again but he shows you the whole skinning cleaning process really easy as well as how to cook and a recipe.real professional. he does a game as in rabbit, venison cooking show. i probably forgot stuff- if so just ask.

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#4 of 7 Old 02-03-2011, 12:58 AM
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I would check out the rabbit forum on or . They are the forums where I got all of my info from. (I was planning on starting a small rabbitry to produce humane, organic meat for my children who eat meat. I had two rabbits. One recently became very ill and I knew he needed to be euthanised, so I thought to myself, "This is a good time to test out whether I actually have the guts to go through with this - long story short, he was PTS by our vet for $55 - so I don't think meat rabbits are going to work out for me! LOL)

Kath contented vegan mama to my trio of free-range boys
Permaculture Design Student & Wannabe Urban Homesteader
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#5 of 7 Old 02-07-2011, 01:16 PM
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What is your set up like? Any pics or good links?  here is our setup, which is.. um.. a little more elaborate than might be necessary.  that's how my dh does things.  the hanging setup is most excellent, and we put our kitchen compost underneath and layer with straw (not in the picture) or hay.  that way we can clean out the most excellent manure for the garden mixed with our compost.  that's for sure the way to go with that.  we took the bottles out and put in an automatic waterer (very easy to make, just have to get the end parts that clip in the cages) you can google that.  it's pretty effecient.  we also put a tarp on it in the winter and roll it up/down. 



How many breeders do you keep and how many people do you feed and how often?

4-5 and we just have the meat on occasion.  it's def. not an every day thing.


What age to you cull at?  haven't done it yet but i think most folks do 2 yrs.  or by cull do you mean harvest?  we eat the little ones- big enough to be meaty, but not too big.


I have a friend who grew up on  a rabbit ranch who is willing to demonstrate skinning. Anyone cure and use their pellets?

my dh is a big time user of hides/skins, etc. but he says that the rabbit is so much trouble for such a little bit of skin/fur and he is too busy to do that.  if you have time, though, it might be worth a shot. 


We tend towards heritage breeds. What breeds do you have? Why?  we just have plain ol white ones (new zealand?) - they were what we found at the time.  it helps me b/c i am a little squeamish and they are certainly not pretty or 'cute' in any way.  plus, i think if you are going to cage them, these are domesticated to exist in the cage much better than the other breeds (and we love heritage breeds- which we have other livestock, but not the bunnies).


Any tips/advice?  don't forget that they have to breed twice in an 8 hr period to catch.  time the nest boxes well.  the night gurard blinking light is good and cheap protection.  you're not supposed to mix bunnies and chickens b/c of disease. 


Anyone not feed pellets? What do you feed them instead?  we do pellets.  according to storey's guide to rabbits (a good guide) too much green food is bad for them.  they get treats like sweet potato and timothy hay from time to time. 

Is it getting lonely in the echo chamber yet?

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#6 of 7 Old 02-17-2011, 07:29 AM
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Here is my old thread.


we currently have 4 senior does and 2 junior does.  I have a doe due to kindle today.  We have 2 senior bucks and 1 junior buck. 


We raise Californians.  Why?  Because the feed:meat is excellent.  Plus they make me $.  We sell meat pens (pens of 4 rabbits) for $150 for county 4-H shows.  Then they don't know what to do w/the rabbits if they don't make the sale barn so they bring 'em back for half off a meat pen next season.  Sweet deal!  I dont' always get them back as we've sold quite a few Grand Champion pens!


We try to butcher at 8 weeks, but absolutely no later than 12 wks.  Unless of course we are butchering a breeder who needs to go for some reason.


We don't currently keep the hides, but my oldest dds want to try it.  I keep telling them to have their stuff ready after they are done butchering (yes, my 22 and 12 yo dds do the butchering) but they never get it ready, lol.


Tips:  Never put rabbits of the opposite sex together unless you are ready to write down the date and the date you should give the doe a nesting box. 


Always, always take the doe to the buck, never the other way around unless you want to risk your doe castrating your buck.  Do not EVER walk off and leave them alone together.  It only takes a minute for them to breed.  Not worth walking away.  As previously mentioned breed again 8-10 hrs later since the doe doesn't actually release eggs until 8-10 hrs after she is first stimulated.  When breeding, watch for the doe to lift her butt and the buck to grunt and fall over on his side and maybe start thumping his back feet.  that is a good breeding.  Write down the date, and give the nesting box 27 days later--don't miss it!  I've had does kindle (give birth) on day 28, and some as late as 34 days. Usually it's day 31.  Do not breed in the heat of the summer if it gets hot or very humid where you live. 


We keep our rabbits in an air conditioned rabbitry.  We converted a carport w/a 10'x20' enclosed shed.  We have grow out pens in the outside part, but only use them in the summer if it's only for a few days before butcher day.  Usually we have big enough doe pens to accomodate a litter until butcher day.  Again, we try to butcher at 8 wks.  There is WAY more meat on an 8 wkr than you would realize. 


Rabbit meat is more filling than chicken.  it has more protein, and less fat and calories than a chicken breast.


I never have to do anything special to make our rabbit tender.  We don't really have to chew ours it's so tender!  We butcher and toss 'em in some marinade of some sort (blueberry basil vinegar and garlic and sea salt is great!)  and then onto the grill whole.  Or bbq, or breaded and oven fried.  Or sauteed and stir fried, or in a casserole, soup, or sandwich.  They are very very versatile.  You can use them in any chicken recipe.  If we are butchering alot at once (not uncommon for us to have 40-60 to butcher at a time) I'll cut them into "parts" like back legs, front legs, backs, and soup parts. 


We feed Purina rabbit pellets.  We have more consistent results w/that feed than any other.  They don't waste very much because the pellets are the right size.  We also give hay (long stem, which is what we feed our goats), and after they kindle the doe gets a special treat of banana or raw sweet potato.  Don't feed green stuff and esp. not to bunnies!  they can get diahrea and die.


After the doe kindles, pet her, give her a treat, and check those bunnies thoroughly.  Pet her first to get her smell on you.  Take the nesting box out of the hutch and dig around and count the bunnies.  Remove any dead ones (not uncommon), and any uneaten afterbirth.  make sure the doe has pulled enough fur, or you can yank some more out of her.  I save fur in the summer when they shed or if a doe pulls more than she needs.  Check those bunnies every single day (we check twice) because if one dies it can get the rest of the litter chilled and they can die.


If you find what you think is a dead kit, don't give up til you try to bring it back.  Often if you catch it soon enough you can save them.  Put a chilled kit in between your boobs and rush it into the house.  Get warm (*not hot*) water in a bowl or your sink.  Put the kit into a sandwich baggie (don't zip closed!).  Hold the baggie w/the kit in it down in the water.  After a few minutes it may start to wiggle and cry.  Keep warming it!  Then wrap in a soft towel and make sure it is thoroughly warmed before putting it back into the nest.


A doe may have her litter on the wire (floor of the hutch) the first time.  If you are aware that she is about to kindle you can scoop those babies up and put them in the nesting box.  Make sure there is plenty of fur.  If the doe does this on the next litter, give her one more shot to do it right.  On the 3rd try if she doens't have them in the box and make a nice nest, she needs to go in the freezer as that is a bad mother.  Sometimes (esp. a first litter) the mom may accidentally stomp the babies to death.  That would be because she got startled.  Doesn't mean she'll do it next time, necessarily.  Don't let dogs or children near the rabbitry if you have does about to kindle. 


I've got more experience w/fostering kits, etc. if you ever need it.


FWIW, rabbits have been our best livestock choice and the ones we would keep if we needed to downsize.  We really don't even care for chicken anymore.


Oh, and dd prefers to use a .22.  My dad use to whack them in the head w/a broomstick.  then he'd slit the throat and go from there.  we dispatch, hang upside down by the hind feet, cut around the ankles, then slit down the inside of the hind leg.  Cut out the anus and pull it backwards (towards the back) and let hang there as the rest is done.  Pull the fur off rather like a sweater being pulled over your head.  Once the fur is pulled down around the neck and front feet, the head and front feet get cut off (there is a 5 gallon bucket underneath for everything to fall into) and the fur "sweater" comes off.  Then the guts are removed and the hind feet cut off and meat gets washed in another 5 ga bucket.  Then into the cooler waiting w/ice in it.

Happy Homesteading Homeschooling Homebirthing Beekeeping Dready (& a bit redneck even) Mama to 4 fab kids :  dd (23), dd (13), ds (11), dd (5)

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#7 of 7 Old 02-17-2011, 08:27 PM
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wow, just wanted to thank you all for such helpful info!!!  the butchering part totally spooks me out and I don't know if I could do it but I appreciate the info to learn about a different meat possibility.  someone mentioned a book - will have to look for that.  thanks again!

blessed Catholic mommy to DD 10/07 and DS 2/09, little one due 8/12!

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