by Kati D – this is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest.
Raising rabbits as a source of meat for your family is an excellent addition to any prepper’s homestead. I realize that this is not an original idea, people have been raising meat rabbits for years. In fact, rabbits were a common backyard food source during the Great Depression and during World War II Uncle Sam encouraged families to raise rabbits and chickens for protein to go along with their victory gardens. Even the poorest of families could provide a steady source of meat for their children because rabbits were relatively inexpensive to raise. Their diet is made up entirely of grass, vegetables (fresh from the garden or scraps from the table), and clean water. There are also numerous commercial feed options.
The rate of reproduction for rabbits is pretty astounding! Gestation is about 31 days and the does nurse the kits until they are about 5-6 weeks. Litters range from 4-12 kits. The kits will reach butcher weight between 8 to 12 weeks and, depending on the breed, can provide about 5lbs of meat each. A doe can be bred every 45 days to produce the maximum number of kits each year. So under optimal conditions, a single doe can easily produce 150lbs+ of meat in a year! Rabbit meat is lean and packed with protein.
If you’re not yet convinced that rabbits would be a great addition to your homestead think about this, they are a “no waste” animal. By this I mean they provide meat, furs, and their waste makes the perfect fertilizer for your garden. You can put rabbit manure directly on the plants and it works great. So you basically use everything they produce. Isn’t that what our goal is as preppers, homesteaders, etc. to use and reuse everything on our journey to being self-sufficient? They are also quiet, they take up little space, and most cities/HOAs consider them to be pets, not livestock. This makes them perfect for those urban preppers out there that want to provide a steady source of meat but are limited on space and regulated by city by-laws.
So now that I’ve explained why rabbits are a good addition to any homestead let me tell you about my rabbitry and why I decided to start raising rabbits. I have thought about adding rabbits to our homestead for some time but I always seem to talk myself out of it for one reason or another. That changed a few months back when I read William R. Forstchen’s “One Second After“. In the weeks after reading the book, all I could think about was how better off the main characters would have been if they had a steady source of meat. I realized that my family needed a way to produce a good supply of meat in a grid-down situation. I decided that it was time to get some rabbits.
So I did some research on cage setups and decided to build all wire cages so I bought the supplies and got to work. (PSA: be careful when working with wire! I looked like I had lost a fight with a wildcat by the time I finished the cages!) My cages are setup at the back of my chicken pen, next to my garden. They sit on a wood frame for support with a tarp for a roof. I plan to put up a tin roof once money and time permit.
While I was building the cages I searched online to see what breeds of rabbits were available in my area. After a few days, I found an ad for some American Chinchilla and New Zealand/Californian cross rabbits that were only about 30 minutes away. After touring the lady’s rabbitry I decided to purchase two Chinchilla does and a New Zealand/Californian buck. The lady also offered to breed both of my does to bucks of my choice at no extra charge so I bred one to a New Zealand Black and the other to a Silver Fox. All of my rabbits were proven (they had previous litters) so they were $25 each.
So I built the cages, bought and bred the rabbits, and 31 days later we had two litters with seven kits each. In the first week, we lost two runts and one of the does accidentally suffocated a third one. But here we are at week 3 and the remaining 11 kits are doing great. All of their eyes were opened by day 14 and they are hopping in and out of their nest boxes. They’ve started to nibble on grass, hay, and vegetables so they’ll be weaned in another week or two.
My plan is to keep 2 or 3 does for breeding stock and to sell/butcher the rest. Now I’ll be honest, I have never butchered an animal that I have raised! I’ve been hunting and fishing my whole life but it’s just different when it’s something you’ve raised. My dad and my fiance have offered to help me with the butchering process. This is something that I am determined to do even though I know it won’t be easy because I know it is one more step on the road to being self-sufficient. And that is my ultimate goal. Thanks for reading and God Bless.
- Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, 4th Edition
- The Rabbit-Raising Problem Solver: Your Questions Answered about Housing, Feeding, Behavior, Health Care, Breeding, and Kindling
- Raising Rabbits For Meat
- The Basics of Raising Chickens for Eggs
Prizes For This Round (Ends on June 7, 2017) In Our Non-Fiction Writing Contest Include…
First Prize a $999 value:
- Numanna Organic Family Pack Bucket a $399 value from LPC Survival Ltd.
- CampingSurvival Gear Pack a $400 value from Camping Survival.com.
- A $200 gift certificate of prepper books from Prepper Press.
Second Prize a $650+ value:
- A case of .308 ammo or $300 off Ammo selection of your choice from LuckyGunner.
- A Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Mill with the Masa/Nut Butter Auger, Drill Bit Attachment, and Bicycle Sprocket Kit a $325 value from ChefBrad.com
Third Prize a $310+ value:
- $300 gift certificate from GunMag Warehouse.
- A copy of The Prepper’s Guide to Surviving the End of the World, as We Know It: Gear, Skills, and Related Know-How