Thinking about getting into meat rabbits

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by Shannonmcmom, Sep 22, 2005.

  1. Shannonmcmom

    Shannonmcmom Well-Known Member

    Jul 18, 2005

    We have been thinking about getting some rabbits for meat. First off how do you start? What do you need? Do you over winter them? We live in the North Central portion of Alberta and it gets to around -30 to -40 degrees C. Sorry I am not sure of the conversion to Fahrenheit. But needless to say it gets pretty cold up here. Lots of snow too... We currently have chickens, 20 layers and 49 broilers (soon to be in our freezer), 5 sheep, 3 lambs, and 7 goats. We have dogs and cats and children (5), as well.

    Any information would be great.

    Thank you,
  2. rabbitgal

    rabbitgal Ex-homesteader

    Feb 11, 2005
    My best advice would be to check out a couple of rabbit books (like Rabbit Production, 8th Edition by McNitt, Lukefahr, Patton, and Cheeke, or Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits by Bob Bennett--don't believe all you read in SGRR, especially the antibiotic treatment bit) from the library and do some research before you make a decision. I know, I know, research is obnoxious, but believe me, you'll be glad you did. :) Oh, and search the archives on this site for specifics, and get breeding animals from a respected breeder. :)

    Wish I knew of a practical book specifically for people interested in a backyard meat production. All the ones I've read are directed at showing or large-scale commercial production. Neither of which may be entirely practical for some folks. I know I sure don't want to spend $$$$$ on a huge barn and automatic feeding and waste removal systems!

    Best of luck (muahahaha, we'll hook you yet!),

  3. BeesNBunnies

    BeesNBunnies Schnauzer nut

    Aug 14, 2005
    Mena, Arkansas
    If I remember my math lessons from school 0 is freezing on the celcius scale whereas 32 is freezing on the farenheit scale. So ya'll get down to -8 and 2 degrees farenheit. The good news is that rabbits handle cold better than they do heat. They do not handle drafts well. You would need to worry about the kits(baby rabbits) freezing but not if they were in proper housing with insulation. I would like to highly recommend J. D. Belangers book ...The Homesteaders Handbook to Raising Small Livestock. Great rabbit info and great basic information on lots of other small livestock. Rabbits are really easy to take care of. Actually from what I've observed that is the biggest problem with rabbits. It's too easy to go throw a scoop of feed in the hopper and give them a bit of water and then forget them. I've seen a lot of different set ups for rabbits and frankly most of them stink, and are unsanitary, unhealthy for the rabbits and just an all around eyesore. Which is ridiculous because it isn't hard to keep a very nice rabbit area. Some people raise worms underneath their rabbits. Talk about a wonderful idea! You can use the worms to go fishing or feed to your chickens as a source of protein. The worms turn the rabbit droppings into excellent fertilizer. Start wtih some moistened peat moss in a bed underneath the cages and introduce some worms. When I did this I would keep a garden fork in the rabbit shed and take a minute or two to stir in fresh droppings and especially the 'pee' spots. Currently I use sawdust under my cages because I haven't had a chance to get the worm beds started. With sawdust you want to stir in new droppings and add fresh sawdust periodically. I was at a rabbit yard the other day where the mold on top of the droppings was beyond was the smell!! Reading through a couple of books will give you all the specifics you need for when to breed, how often to breed, etc. Of course those same books will scare the beegeevus out of you about rabbit diseases too. The only problem I've ever had was the sniffles and that was my fault for allowing drafts and not being as constant on my sanitation as I should of been(this was when I first started with rabbits). Rabbit waste puts off quite a bit of ammonia and can adversely affect their breathing. If you keep things clean and with most other should do fine.
  4. Jennifer L.

    Jennifer L. Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    New York bordering Ontario
    Whoa! -40 C and -40 F are about the same. She's talking from about -20 to -40 F.

    I've only overwintered rabbits once so far and they came through fine with decent insulation (hay) inside of an unheated building. I don't get the cold that you do but it was -15ºF here this past winter. Cold should not be a deterent to you to keeping rabbits, anyway.

  5. westbrook

    westbrook In Remembrance

    May 10, 2002
    Rabbits live in cages each one having their own cage. The doe is
    always taken to the buck for breeding. If you take the buck to the doe
    the doe usually feels territorial over her domain and might hurt or
    even kill him. When starting out I think 2 bucks and 4 does are best
    in case you loose a buck or doe. Does shouldn't be bred until they
    are about 6 months old.

    Meat rabbits need a protein ratio of 18% which can be found in a
    complete feed, each rabbit eats about 1 cup a day, while the smaller
    pet rabbits need 16% and eat about ½ cup a day. I like the outside
    feeders as it helps stream line my operation and because I am feeding
    and watering 60 rabbits I use an automatic watering system. The
    waters can be the standard water bottles hung on the outside of the
    cages (I have ½ gallon bottles) or crocks that you fill with water
    inside the cage (large tuna can wired to the inside of the cage). If
    it ain't tied down, the rabbits will play with it! You might want to think about a heated watering system later when you have many rabbits.

    Rabbits can be bred the day after they kindled when they are most fertile. Usually homestead breeders breed every 42 days. Because fryers are usually at weight 4.5 - 5 pounds by 8 weeks old. So once the kits are 4 weeks old you can pull them out and put them in another cage to finish growing out before butchering. I breed at least 2 does at a time so if I loose a doe or she doesn't want to raise her kits, I will then foster those babies to the other

    During the summer if the temperature gets above 85 degrees the bucks
    go sterile until the temperature cools back down again. They will
    remain sterile for about 3 months. If you keep breeding them on your
    regular schedule they will come back to fertility faster then if you
    stop breeding them. Also this can be stopped if you can maintain
    cooler temperatures, misting is one way.

    So now what do you do with all of these rabbits? Your freezer is
    full….sell them! Contact your local pet store! Snakes love them,
    people buy them butchered for dog food, establish yourself at a
    farmers market, should you decide to do the butchering then it becomes
    a courtesy or point people in the direction of a butcher. Rabbit meat
    is so lean and delicious! Any chicken recipe can be used for Rabbit

    Rabbit manure is wonderful for your garden. I can be put right into
    the garden with out having to compost or age it. If you are interested
    in raising worms, you can't find a better medium to raise them in.

    Here are a couple of links if you are interested in raising rabbits: