Monday, April 23, 2012

Raising Rabbits for Meat, Fur, Wool & Fertilizer

Unconventional Livestock

For many people new to homesteading or self-sufficiency efforts, raising rabbits may be a foreign concept. Although rabbit is considered a delicacy in many fine restaurants, many people are unaware that rabbit is one of the best small livestock ventures for a homesteader or survivalist. They require little space and have many beneficial uses other than as a traditional source of food.
Rabbit meat has the highest concentration of protein and is one of the leanest meat sources commonly available to humans. But rabbits are also a valuable source of warm rabbit furs, “black gold” fertilizer, wool, and are prolific breeders. Their fertilizer is in such demand by gardeners that many breeders make a profit from selling the natural waste.

The start-up costs for rabbits can be minimal to extensive depending on the sophistication of your system. Raising rabbits can be as simple as establishing an outdoor pen or having a temperature regulated rabbit barn. Most people fall somewhere in the middle, maintaining several wire cages or hutches for their rabbit herd.

Basic Care and Set Up


As with any small livestock, providing secure shelter that is predator proof is very important to successfully raising rabbits. Dogs, foxes, cats, raccoons, coyotes, and weasels of all kinds have been known to pull entire rabbits through the wire bottoms of their cages or chew off rabbit toes. Securing your barn, shelter, or simply having a vigilant dog on the premises can help deter these predators.

Most rabbits are raised within a metal cage constructed of sturdy wire mesh no less more than 16 or 14 gauge. Because rabbits spend the majority of their lives within these cages, ensuring they are clean, safe (no sharp edges), and of sturdy construction will help ensure their comfort and viability. They must also be sheltered from direct sunlight which can be fatal.

Rabbit cages can be bought at most farm and feed stores or ordered online. They come in a variety of sizes, set ups, and structures. Hutches are another popular option but are much more expensive to purchase new. For those competent in building or willing to learn, there are many free tutorials and designs available online for rabbit hutches, barns, and even cage assembly.

Like other small livestock, rabbits are often fed a commercial pellet feed. Contrary to popular belief, feeding rabbits vegetables or fruit is often detrimental, leading to intestinal gas that often proves fatal. Alfalfa and grass hay are better substitutes and in instances of crisis or complete self-sufficiency, there are many breeders who have successfully raised rabbits on a self-formulated feed.

Choosing a Rabbit Breed

One of the most enjoyable parts of starting up your rabbit herd is deciding which breed(s) of rabbit to acquire. With over 50 breeds of rabbits, there is a lot to choose from. However, there are different types of rabbits, some better suited for meat and fur production, while others are primarily focused on aesthetics of the breed and temperament. Again, as with most livestock, heritage breeds perform consistently and are excellent options for your backyard herd.

In focusing on meat, fur, and wool production, there are several popular breeds to consider, for example:

The American – it is unfortunate that the American has become the rarest breed in America. With one of the best meat to bone ratios and a delightful temperament, Americans make excellent breeding stock. Even with its rare status, there are many dedicated breeders working to bring the American back into the lives of backyard hobbyists and homesteaders across the country. It is well worth considering acquiring American stock for a successful meat and fur herd.

New Zealand – A popular meat breed, the New Zealand has an excellent meat to bone ratio and is very popular with homesteading efforts. New Zealand rabbits have compact, rounded bodies and are completely white.

By on September 9, 2011


  1. While we have New Zealands,we also have Silver Fox rabbits,which is another of the heritage breeds.

    The Silver Fox is also on the endangered list,has on average a 65% meat to bone dress out weight,and a plush,luxurious fur that would be awesome for crafters.They are also more mellow and easier to handle than the New Zealands.

    While New Zealands do have their pluses,such as fast growth,and they seem to be everywhere for sale,if not handled regularly(nearly daily)they forget,and get pretty wild.

    We don't seem to be having that issue with the Silver for some,the Silver Fox would be a great addition to the homestead.

    I forgot to mention that we are raising them in town,rabbits are quiet,so as long you can keep things clean,they are relatively odor free and less likely to cause neighborly complaints than other animals.

    We got our first rabbit last July,and it wasn't until just a couple weeks ago that our neighbors even discovered that we had them.

  2. Yes, rabbits are excellent as a home raised meat source. If everyone had a few breeding rabbits in their backyard and utilized all the free grass clippings from neighbors, they could easily produce 100% of their meat for the year. Plus beautiful, many colored hides that are fun and easy to tan and create warm clothes from! Everyone should have a few rabbits. Even apartment dwellers can raise them indoors as they are clean animals! We have Satins, which are a meat breed with shiny coats that come in colors from white to black, broken, red, grey, siamese, you name it! Silver fox are great too!


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