Everyone has a few memories of Elmer Fudd out
hunting “wabbits” during rabbit season. If you raise your own
rabbits you never need to worry about when that season is.
Many of us dream and work toward a more self sufficient lifestyle,
preferring to raise our own food and provide a healthier, more
natural diet for our families. Raising rabbits can also be a
true family project, as they are small and so easy to care for that
they can even be maintained by young children. If you’re
interested in providing a healthier meat source for your family than
you can normally get at your local grocer, then this article will
definitely be of interest to you. Rabbit is one of the meats
highest in protein content; it is delicious and nutritious and it is
also one of the easiest and least expensive types of livestock to
raise and process.
The first fact that many people look at when
considering raising their own rabbits for meat is what kind of
return they will get for their efforts. Basically, it’s rather
simple—the average, everyday corner grocers do not normally carry
rabbit on their meat counters. If, by chance, they do, then
you will find it to be much more expensive than the other meat cuts
that are regularly available. Purchasing rabbit meat
commercially is so expensive because it’s not as readily obtainable
as most other commercial meats in the U.S. When considering
today’s health-conscious consumer, rabbit meat is also leaps and
bounds above the average hamburger. For example, rabbit meat
is very high in protein at about 20%; it’s very lean with only about
10% fat compared to the average chicken meat at 11%. The
calorie value in rabbit is approximately 795 calories where chicken
has about 810 calories. To top it all off rabbit is all white
meat and low in cholesterol to boot. This type of nutritional
information is one of the main reasons that many people are checking
into the why and how of raising rabbits.
Now that you have an idea of why rabbit meat
is gaining in popularity on the family table, the next question is
how you will go about raising them to butcher. The first step
when deciding to raise your own rabbits for meat is to pick a breed
type. It is important to choose a breed that is bred for meat and
not a hobby or pet type rabbit. The most common breeds chosen
for meat production are the New Zealand White and the Californian.
Also used for meat production by some include Champagne D'Argent,
New Zealand Red, Rex, American Chinchilla. Flemish Giants can
be used but because of the amount of bone they are more often used
to crossbreed with the New Zealand White and the Californian.
The average meat production rabbit matures at
around 10 -12 pounds, of course Flemish Giant crosses might be just
a little heavier. Keep this in mind when selecting the rabbits
you use as your breeders, so as to be careful not purchase a mini
type breed by mistake.
My personal choice for a meat rabbit is the
New Zealand White, however, we also raise Californians and a couple
of Flemish Giant Cross. The reason I prefer the New Zealand is
the skin of this breed will more easily separate from the meat than
other breeds. This makes for a faster and easier butcher which
counts for a lot if butchering several rabbits in a single day.
After choosing a
breed, the next step will be your choice of housing and care items for
your family’s new meat production project. A lot will depend on your
climate and the area where you plan to keep the rabbits. Rabbits can be
kept inside or outside depending upon your type of cage. It is also an
important fact to remember that rabbits do better in the cold than in the
heat. This means if you live in a climate that gets very hot in summer
make sure to provide plenty of shade, water, and cooling for your rabbits. If you plan to have cages outside in the weather the best type cage is
usually referred to as a hutch. This is a wooden cage with wire sides and
bottom, with a solid roof. If you have an indoor area such as a barn or
shed that will offer protection from the inclement weather then you will
only require a wire cage.