top of page
  • Love and Liberty

Raising Rabbits

We don’t have the same amount of experience with rabbits as we do goats and chickens, but rabbit meat is good meat, and if you do it right, rabbits can provide you with a steady source of protein. Just one isn’t going to feed a large family, but rabbits are notorious for producing...and producing...and producing. Some raise their rabbits in cages, and we have done this too, but we prefer the colonization method. It is more natural for the rabbits, and healthier I think. Rabbits like to dig. They dig holes and tunnels and you can use this to your advantage. I suggest digging a trench around the area where you want to pen the rabbits, and dig it deep enough to put your fence in the ground at last a couple of feet. That way, when the rabbits dig their tunnels, they will not dig out of the area you want them to be in. You can fix it up in a number of ways, but the idea is they will make their own holes and nests and you will have a colony of rabbits before you know it. It will be up to you to decide how you will harvest the rabbits that start coming out of the tunnels.

If you are going to raise them in a cage, you will need containers for water and feed. You can buy these at a local feed store, and it is convenient if you have the money, but you can also create makeshift containers. At the feed store you can buy a water container that attaches to the outside of the cage. A nozzle extends inside the cage and it has a small bead in the end of the nozzle that keeps the water from running freely. When the rabbit is thirsty it will lick the end of the nozzle, moving the bead as it does, and water will flow through. This is the best way to water rabbits being kept in a cage. If you place a small bowl in the cage, it is better than nothing of course, but it is likely to get tipped over, and baby rabbits will potentially get in the water and drown. Feeders can also be attached to the outside of the cage and the trough section will extend inside the cage through a cut out. You can simply put feed in the top of the feeder from the outside of the cage. The day will come when rabbit feed will not be easy to acquire, so knowing what rabbits will eat is important. They will eat certain kinds of vegetables, grass, and even hay.

If you decide to colonize rabbits, you won’t need to buy or build cages, nor will you need the aforementioned feeders and water containers. The rabbits can simply access the water from whatever container you provide for the pen.

The gestation period for rabbits is about 31 days. The doe will start pulling out her fur for a nest in the days leading up to the time of birth. If you keep the rabbits in cages, you should provide a nesting box for the doe. You can put hay in the box and the doe will add her fur. The number of rabbits in the litter will vary. Baby rabbits are born with no hair, and one might think they look like long eared rats. Don’t handle them unless it is absolutely necessary, and if you do, it’s best not to use your bare hand so you don’t get your scent on them. Does will eat baby rabbits at times, and the reason is not always apparent. Most animals are good mothers from the beginning, but causing them stress can lead a first time mother to not care for the young properly. Minimizing the stress factors should always be your goal.

Rabbits grow extremely fast. They can be butchered at just a few months old. Rabbit meat can be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be fried, baked/roasted, and added to soups and stews.

Rabbits are sensitive to heat so if you live in a warmer climate you may want to consider the colonization method. The underground tunnels help keep the rabbits cooler in the hot summer months. If you are going to use the cage method, you will need a way to keep your rabbits cool in the summer. Some breeders choose to use fans to help cool their rabbits, but this is not always feasible. We have filled 2 liter bottles with water and then put them in the freezer. On hot days the bottles can be placed in the cage to help cool the rabbit.

As I said before, we have much more experience with goats and chickens than we do rabbits, but one should not overlook raising rabbits for food. Their feed to growth ratio is hard to beat. There is a lot more information in books and on the web for anyone who is interested in learning more.

bottom of page