There are many reasons that you could decide to keep rabbits on your homestead.
But in case you want to do that, here are the tips you’ll need to make keeping rabbits successful.
The tips include reviewing city code to see if you can have rabbits in your yard, planning out your herd, purchasing a hutch and run for the rabbits, keeping the does separate from the bucks, making sure you have plenty of space for the rabbits, planning on breeding the rabbits, taking care of their poop, picking the right breed you want, providing plenty of bedding for the rabbits, and making sure they have plenty of food and water in the right containers.
Read on to find out some good reasons for keeping rabbits.
As mentioned earlier, there are so many different reasons why you might want to have a rabbit on your homestead.
The first of these being that rabbits are a great source of meat.
The meat is white meat just like chicken meat, but it is less stringy and leaner than chicken.
This means you are getting more bang for your buck when you use the rabbit meat.
Also, rabbits are prolific when it comes to breeding, so you could be looking at raising quite a few rabbits within a year, which means more meat for you.
Rabbits are also very efficient in eating their food.
This means that they don’t need as much food like other animals, so you are actually saving some money by going with rabbits for your meat.
Lastly, rabbits aren’t loud animals.
As opposed to roosters, which you might hear in the early hours of the morning, rabbits will not make any noises.
So no worrying about the rabbits waking up you or neighbors in the early morning.
Review city code
First, start off by reviewing your city code or contact someone at the city office to see if keeping rabbits is even allowed in your city.
Most cities have some type of restrictions on what kind of animals you can have, how many of those animals you can have, and how close they will be to your neighbors.
So make sure to review if you can have rabbits before you begin to invest in the money to keep rabbits.
Otherwise, you might find yourself in legal trouble and no one wants that to happen.
Some cities might also require you to purchase permits before you have housed the animals.
This should hopefully be pretty minimal, but if there is a charge for the permits, you’ll have to weigh this against how much money or meat you can make from having the rabbits.
If your city allows for rabbits and you don’t have to purchase permits, then you are all set to go.
Plan out your herd
Take some time to figure out how you want to manage your herd.
As mentioned previously, rabbits have babies and they can have them frequently and fast.
So place special attention to how many bucks and does you get, because if you don’t plan well enough, you might run out of space.
A good start might be to get one buck and two does and make sure it works out for you before you decide to invest any additional money.
Purchase a hutch and run for the rabbits
Now that you have your rabbits, you’ll need to get a hutch and run for them.
It’s important to have a hutch for them for a few reasons.
First, rabbits are quite the diggers.
If they aren’t living in a hutch or something that will keep them contained, then they will easily dig themselves out from where they are.
Then, you’ll find yourself running around the neighborhood trying to catch your rabbits, which believe me is not an easy task.
Take a look at one of our previous articles here to see a picture of the hutch we built for our rabbits.
The most important part of the hutch is that there is fencing at the bottom of the hutch.
With the fencing, they won’t be able to dig under the hutch and get away.
Plan on breeding the rabbits
The nice thing about rabbits is they have a short gestation period that only lasts about 25 to 28 days.
This means that rabbits can have a lot of rabbit babies and they can have them quickly.
According to ReconnectWithNature.org:
Eastern cottontail rabbits can have between one and seven litters each year, and they average three or four litters annually, Animal Diversity Web reports. Each litter can contain between one and 12 babies, with the average being five. And female rabbits can get pregnant again almost immediately after giving birth. When you consider that the babies of each litter can begin reproducing so soon after they are born, the math can quickly become overwhelming.https://www.reconnectwithnature.org/news-events/the-buzz/cottontail-rabbits-breeding
So rabbits can get pregnant almost immediately after they give birth, though this may not be extremely healthy for the rabbit.
But also make sure to keep a close eye on the rabbits when they have babies.
Again according to ReconnectWithNature.org, somewhere around 40 to 50 percent of rabbit babies die within a month after they are born.
So not only should you plan on breeding your rabbits, but make sure you are keeping a close eye on them as well.
Keep the does separate from the bucks
This advice can seem pretty obvious, but we are going to cover it anyway.
First, rabbits breed like crazy, so you will want to keep the does separate from the bucks so you can give your rabbits a break.
Second, does can in fact get pregnant again while they are still pregnant (usually 4 days before they give birth).
This does put a little bit of a strain on the female rabbit, so it’s good to keep them separate so this doesn’t happen too often.
Third, the does can be very territorial, which can lead to fighting with the bucks in the same area.
This is also why you keep them separate because if you want the rabbits to breed, you will need to take the female and place her in the male’s territory.
That way, she won’t act territorial and will be more willing to breed with the male.
Make sure you have plenty of space for the rabbits
Again, this has a lot to do with the fact that rabbits breed a lot.
In one litter, a rabbit can have anywhere between 1 to 12 babies.
At first, you won’t need too much room for the babies, since they will be so small and won’t move around much.
But as they get bigger, you are going to want to have plenty of space so they can run around and get some energy.
A rabbit by itself should have at least 8 square feet, with an additional 24 square feet to run around in.
This might not be feasible, especially if you are raising a lot of rabbits for breeding and meat.
Take care of their poop
Some facts about rabbit manure according to Michigan State University:
Rabbit manure has four times more nutrients than cow or horse manure and is twice as rich as chicken manure. Cow, horse and chicken manure are considered “hot” and need to be composted (well-rotted) to use as fertilizers.
One of the best things about rabbit manure is it doesn’t need to be composted.
Rabbit manure is organic matter and improves poor soil structure, drainage and moisture retention.
It improves the life cycle of microorganisms in the soil.
Worms love rabbit manure.
It is not as smelly as other manures and is easy to handle.
One doe and her offspring can produce a ton of manure in one year. That’s a lot of bunny honey.
Rabbit manure is packed with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, minerals and micronutrients.https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/bunny_honey_using_rabbit_manure_as_a_fertilizer
So obviously there are a lot of benefits to having rabbit manure, the biggest one being rabbit manure doesn’t need to be composted.
We have actually known someone to grow a tomato plant in nothing but rabbit manure (that means no soil, just the manure).
Also, worms love rabbit manure, which means they are going to do a lot for processing the manure for you.
Pick the right breed you want
The top 3 breeds of rabbits for meat are the following:
- California rabbits
These rabbits are a mixed breed between the chinchilla and New Zealand white rabbits.
They are meaty rabbits and can grow between 9 to 12 lbs.
- New Zealand White
Probably the most recognizable breed because of their completely white color.
These rabbits can grow to the same size as the California rabbits, 9 to 12 lbs, but they can also get up to 8 lbs within the first 8 weeks of life.
That means they are growing faster and you can use them for meat faster.
- American Chinchilla
Mature American Chinchillas can reach up to 8 lbs.
These are the favorites of chefs because of their flavor.
Provide plenty of bedding for the rabbits
Your rabbit will have a lot of furs, but they still might need a little bit of help keeping warm.
This is why you should always provide your rabbit with some bedding in the form of hay.
The hay is very warm, so a rabbit can take it and snuggle up with it.
Plus, rabbits love to dig and the hay is a great way for them to have something to dig into and move around.
We’ve given hay to our rabbits and came back out hours later to find they had moved the hay all around the habitat and put it in a way that they like it.
And when the rabbits start to have babies, they are going to use the hay as a barrier from any wind for their babies.
So make sure you always have plenty of hay for your rabbits.
Make sure they have plenty of food and water in the right containers
Just like any other animal, it is important to make sure your animal is fed and watered.
From our experience, it is especially important to check on your water feeder to make sure it is always available for your rabbit.
Here is one of the water feeders we use for our rabbits.
I’ve watched our rabbits drink from the water feeder and for some reason, they do this action where they pull the nipple of the water feeder towards them like they can’t get enough water out of it.
But they can obviously get enough water out of it.
This action sometimes causes the water feeder to fall to the ground, which means they can no longer get their water.
So if you don’t tighten the water feeder against the habitat, then you might find yourself regularly going outside to replace the water feeder again and again.
And make sure you are feeding your rabbit enough pellets.
The larger rabbits (more than 10 lbs) will need about 1/4 cup of pellets each day, while smaller rabbits will need a little bit less.
If you decide to feed them hay, then a hay ball about the size of the rabbit is probably enough.
A doe that is feeding babies might need a little bit more feed each day, but just keep an eye on it.
Rabbits are a great source of meat for your homestead if you take care of your rabbits.
This includes getting the right kind of breed, providing a hutch for the rabbits to stay in, reviewing the city code to make sure you can keep rabbits outside, keeping the male and female rabbits away from each other, taking care of the manure, and providing some bedding.
And as you keep your rabbits happy, they will give plenty back to you.