Wanting to know how to raise meat rabbits?
Whether you want to know how to raise meat rabbits to have healthy meat for your family. Or you are wanting to raise meat rabbits to dip your toes in the waters of homesteading. I’ve got you covered.
There are some key things you need to think about before you go out and buy your rabbits.
- Whether you want to start with a breeding pair and raise your own babies or buy young ones.
- How much space do you have?
- How large of a rabbit are you prepared to handle?
- The speed of growth for that breed.
- Bone size.
How Do You Want To Start With Meat Rabbits
There are a few different options. You could start with your own breeding rabbits and raise the babies to eat. Or you could buy a several young ones and raise those to eat.
Or you could buy a buck and a few does with a few extras to raise to eat and hold you over until you have your own babies. Its really going to depend on the space you have.
It is not only the cage size (which I will get to in a sec) but the space that rabbits will take up in your yard, barn, or garage… You don’t want to end up with a breed that takes more space then you bargained for. I know for me if things feel like there is too much in once space I feel overwhelmed. You want this to be enjoyable, not stressful.
There are a lot of things that will take up space. One rabbit on its own isn’t too bad but once you add the babies and nesting box you need a much bigger cage.
The space that litters take.
Most meat rabbits have an average of 8 in a litter and some have been known to have as many as 12-15 in a litter. Granted not all survive. However, a litter of 7-10 is still a lot of babies, but in the end, that is the whole goal. The more babies you raise the more meat there is on the table.
You will need grow out pens.
While you don’t “have to” separate a whole litter it does help them to fill out better and get firm flesh if they are not competing for food. It is almost impossible to put each rabbit in its own cage but if you can keep it to three per cage that is best.
Meat Rabbit Housing
Rabbit housing needs to have good ventilation and the ability to keep the temperature and humidity low. If your rabbits get too hot they won’t eat which is obviously not what you want to happen.
Not to mention the health issues that come from rabbits breathing stagnant air.
The best thing that has been working for me for years are my lean-to style hutches with cages hanging inside work great. The rabbits have a three-sided shelter and I am able to put up tarps when the weather is bad. I have never lost a rabbit to respiratory issues with this setup.
Look at the space you have in the area you want to keep them and go from there.
Recommended Cage Size by the ARBA for SINGEL Rabbits
- 18x24x12 for rabbits under 6lbs
- 24×26-36×18 for rabbits above 6lbs and under 11lbs
- 24×36-48×18-24 high for rabbits above 12lbs
Recommended Cage Size by the ARBA for DOE and Litter
- 48x30x18 high for doe and litter.
You can go longer if you want but also think about the hight. French lops sit up on their butt a lot like Holland lops do. So may cages are 20-24″ inches high.
Humidity & Temperatures
Humidity and high heat are your enemies. And together they are a deadly combo. Ideally, you want to have less than 60% humidity and 80 degrees or less in your rabbitry. So this should be a factor in choosing your housing location.
I go deeper into how to keep rabbits cool here in this post.
When choosing a location for your rabbitry, choose an area for trees if possible. They are nature’s cooling system and while shade from a building is ok, it still won’t be as good. When I walk down to where they are housed, I can feel a huge difference as soon as I get under the trees.
Don’t want to forget this information? Save it to your favorite Pinterest board with the image below so you can find it later.
The larger breeds like French Lop and Flemish Giant have extremely large bone. I speak for all French lop breeders when I say we breed for it. The bigger the better.
The show quality breeders are wanting as large of bone as they can get. This will cause the butcher weight to be significantly less. So when choosing your breed take a look at the breed standard to help you decide if they would be good for meat.
Meat Rabbit Breed Selection
If you are raising rabbits for meat you want to get something you like but you also don’t want to get something that takes forever to be able to be butchered.
The breed I raise (french lops) are actually a meat breed but they have huge bone and take a while to reach a good weight to butcher. You would probably have to wait until they are 9ish months old before they would have enough meat on them. But there are other breeds can be ready to eat in as little as 12-14 weeks old.
Top Meat Breeds
Everyone has their own opinion on the right breed and to be totally honest it’s up to you and what you like. But the over all goal is to get them to grow to almost max weight with firm flesh and not supper huge bone as quickly as possible right?
Here are some breed suggestions that will meet your needs but also not be to hard to find.
- American Chinchilla (Max weight: 12 pounds)
- Californian (Max weight: 10 1/2 pounds)
- Champagne d’Argent (Max weight: 12 pounds)
- Crème d’Argent (Max weight: 11 pounds)
- New Zealand (Max weight: 12 pounds)
- Palomino (Max weight: 11 pounds)
- Satin (Max weight: 11 pounds)
Feeding Your Meat Rabbits
If you are raising rabbits for meat you want them to eat and eat a lot. Because if they don’t then they will grow slower and will not fill out nicely. I will share a list of things you can feed them as treats if you want but they should still be fed sparingly.
A rabbit’s feed should contain 14-16% protein. For show feeds you will often find higher numbers in protein and sometimes fiber as well as a few other ingredients. This goes back to do what works for you. If your rabbit is not going on the show table then there is no need for more complex feeding.
The feed should also approximately 4% fat, and at least 18% fiber. Pregnant and nursing females can use a slightly higher protein content, but an 18%+ protein content is too rich for many small rabbits.
You should also watch out for “least cost formulas” which do not have a fixed list of ingredients. By this, it means they buy whatever is cheapest at the time. All animal feed ingredients lists are in order of the highest amount in the feed to the least. If you want to learn more about what to feed your rabbit you can read that post here.
Treats And Other Options
Rabbits are funny creatures when it comes to food. They can go off feed of any reason and you have to guess at why they are not eating. So it is my thoughts not to interrupt their normal habits and just keep feeding your meat rabbits consistently.
Word Of Warning With Treats
Rabbits are also stubborn critters when they want something. Like humans, they can not live off of candy. If they get a taste for a particular food that they will only get small amounts of they can essentially get addicted to it only eat the treat and not their own food.
This is why I am very careful when using supplements (or treats) intended for better flesh conditions or fur because often there is a sweet flavor to them.
I had a rabbit that decided she only wanted to eat the supplement and it took almost two weeks of barely eating anything before she caved and started eating pellets again. She lost A LOT of wights but she would not survive only eating the supplement. Needless to say, we were done with the fun stuff.
Unless you are growing some of these things in your garden they are not worth buying from the store to “save money” on feed. All of these are much more expensive than a $16 bag of feed.
- Apples (best to remove seeds),
- Banana Peels (or the whole thing but I eat the banana and they get the peel)
- Blackberries (any part of the plant)
- Raw beets
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Strawberries (or the tops if you eat them and don’t what to waste the tops)
- Alfalfa Sprouts
- Beet greens
- Bell peppers
- Swiss chard
Breeding Meat Rabbits
Breeding rabbits for meat is a whole different ball game then raising show rabbits. Also, different breeds are going to bounce back from raising their babies and giving birth much quicker than others.
While my french lops are considered a meat breed they don’t tend to do as well if bred as often as a breed that is tailored for meat production.
How often is up to you but most meat rabbit breeders will let the mamma raise her babies to 3-6 weeks old (sometimes a little less) and breed her again. Keep in mind she is not raising babies through the winter months. When you are ready to breed a doe you always take her to the bucks cage.
The main reason is that she can become aggressive and possibly hurt the buck. But also if the buck is distracted by the new smells in the new cage he is not going to be focused and get down to business.
If the breeding is successful you will see the buck freeze and fall off to one side of the doe. You can read in more about detail rabbit breeding here.