I love raising rabbits for meat. That's right, Ladies and gentlemen, we're back in the rabbit business! Lord have mercy! Hallelujah! Can you hear angels singing? Can you see the rainbows shooting across the sky? Is it currently raining gumdrops and lollipops where you are? … and is it just me, or do I smell fresh bread coming from the oven?
Yes. Being back in the rabbit business is that good. Gooder than angels, rainbows, gumdrops, and fresh bread.
And yes. Gooder is a word. I looked it up.
… okay fine, that was a lie. It's not a word. But let's not focus on the small details, people.
The point is simply this: We're back at it! And our rabbitry is once again in full swing.
After leaving Alabama two years ago, we had to part with our wonderful rabbits that provided us with meat. That was a rough one for me. I loved my rabbits and told them so by picking them fresh weeds from our neighborhood each morning with my (then much smaller) children. As much as I begged Stuart to somehow bring all 15 of them back with him in the van he was about to drive 2,700 miles back to Washington, we ultimately had to leave them behind in ‘Bama. And since then, I've been eager to get my rabbitry back up and running. Even though it can be emotionally difficult to butcher rabbits, or any animal for that matter, the wonderful meat, compost, and fur is worth the effort.
Why I Love Raising Rabbits For Meat
1. They fatten on grass.
Grass, people. Sustainable. Easy to grow. Easy to store. Inexpensive. In fact, most of the year, they can just be fed on weeds I pull up from the garden, a variety of old leaves and such from the garden, and wildflowers. No grain. No alfalfa pellets. No money.
2. They produce rapidly.
They breed… like… ya know, rabbits. Remember the rabbit mamba? It's a productive dance, my friends. Rabbits have around a 31 day gestation, which is incredible considering they can produce anywhere from 1-15 (or more!) kits from each pregnancy. And when you've waited patiently for five months to welcome a new sheep into your herd, only to have that same lamb die a few days later, the 31 gestation starts to sound pretty dang sweet.
Let's not even talk about Calf Watch 2015 that is currently underway (… that story began almost 10 months ago). Many farm pregnancies last for awhile. Rabbits' pregnancies are not one of those.
3. The meat is wonderful.
Rabbit meat is incredibly lean and is a great combination to raise alongside pork. Pork is fatty and when you harvest your own pigs, it leaves you with a variety of fats (some in the form of bacon!) that are wonderful to pair with rabbit. Leaf fat, lard, caul fat, pork belly, etc. are all wonderful contributors to a rabbit feast. Rabbits are great roasted, baked, fried, braised, and boiled. Because rabbit is so lean, it does well with some fat added in whatever form that may be.
Don't tell me you don't like rabbit. Just don't. Because chances are you haven't had it. And if you have, then it's time to try it again. Because while it doesn't taste exactly like chicken, it is a very comparable meat and is much more sustainable for the small homestead. I love our meat chickens and will continue to raise them (if only for their feet!), but rabbits are a great way to temper our chicken eating. Watch out chickens. There's a new white(ish) meat in town.
We currently have one buck. Named “The Buck”. And two does named “The Does”. Creative, I know. But I keep naming animals and then they die, so I've given up. From now on, we're sticking with purely biological names. “Big doe” or “Spotty doe” are as creative as I'm going to get.
The 16×8′ area is fenced off with picket fencing. A rabbit-gauge metal fencing lines the inside to keep them from squeezing through the pickets. The does are theoretically supposed to be separated into the different pens within the rabbit pen, but have since figured out how to climb through said rabbit fencing (who designed this stuff?!) and a bit of mending is in order. I'm not too worried about it at the moment, as they're all happily living as a community amongst themselves. Lil' ol' rabbit community. How precious.
…until we take the little ones and butcher them for supper. But again, let's just not focus on the small details, yes?
…and speaking of rabbits, it's actually time for me to head out and encourage a little love-date for the buck and a doe. Now that her kits are weaned, it's time for more littles!
Sustainable. Quiet. Easy. Prolific. Delicious.
I love rabbits.
Other posts of mine on raising meat rabbits:
- Feeding the Rabbits
- Naturally Feeding the Rabbits
- Rabbit Breeding Schedule
- Harvesting the Rabbits
- How to Butcher a Rabbit (video)