On our homestead, we raise rabbits for meat. Rabbits are an easy animal to raise and process which makes them a great addition to any farm or homestead. In this post, we would like to walk you through how we raise and breed our meat rabbits.
If you are new to homesteading and want to raise meat, rabbits (in our opinion) are easier to raise than chickens. Not only are they some of the most nutritional meat you can eat (lean protein rich in vitamins B12 and E), but they are also very quiet and easy to raise. Perfect for backyard homesteading! We started with two breeding rabbits on our homestead and have since grown to 13. This consists of three males (bucks) and 10 females (does). Rabbits are known to have fast gestation periods, the breed we raise (Rex/New Zealand White cross) has a gestation period of 30 days and they can have between 1 and 12 babies or “Kits/Kittens” at a time. The kits stay with their mothers for 6 weeks and then are moved to a mobile shelter on grass that we move daily. When the kits reach 12 weeks they are butchered. When you butcher at 12 weeks you have a 2 ½ lb rabbit once fully processed. With a single male and female bred 3-4 times a year, you could potentially have 120lbs of additional meat in your freezer!
To get started with meat rabbits you will need:
- A pair of breeding rabbits (buck & doe)
- Good quality feed (we use an organic, non gmo, corn & soy free pellet feed)
- 30×30 cage for each rabbit
- water & feed holders
- nesting box (you can find plans online to build your own)
- Mobile rabbit shelter (we built ours using the plans in Joel Salatin’s Polyface Designs Book)
Your first step is to hang your cages (to be sure droppings and urine can fall through the cages). You will want to position your cages where they are under a rooftop and out of direct wind and sunlight. You want them to be protected from the weather.
When you are ready to breed, one of the most important things to remember is that the doe always goes to the bucks house. If you reverse this, chances are high that the doe will attack the buck to kill him. Does are very territorial and don’t take kindly to invasion of their space! Place the doe into the buck’s cage (does are in heat/ready to breed 25-27 days out of the entire month!) When you place the doe into the buck’s cage, she will begin to run in circles and eventually she will stop and raise her hind end to him, this allows the buck to breed. If the buck is successful, he will dramatically fall off the doe (it can look like he passes out). If the doe is not in heat she will continue to run around the cage and will not lift her back end. If this happens just try another day until you have a successful outcome. Once you have successfully bred be sure to count 28 days into the future, this is the date you will add the nesting box to the doe’s cage along with some fresh bedding so she can build her nest. The doe will give birth after 30 days and she will raise her kits inside of her cage for the next 6 weeks.
On our farm, we pull the kits from their mother at 6 weeks old. At this time they are are eating solid food and no longer need their mothers. We move the kits to a mobile rabbit tractor. We use a rabbit feeder and gravity fed watering system in the mobile tractor. We move the tractor to a fresh patch of grass every day.
When the kits reach 12 weeks old they are ready to butcher and go into your freezer. By this time, your breeding pair of rabbits will be ready to breed again, and you can start the process over!
We hope this helps answer any breeding questions you might have! If you wish to learn more about this topic, please contact us and we will try to help you with any questions you might have! Best of luck!