The Benefits of Raising Rabbits on the Homestead

Nancy Smith and Heidi Hunt discuss the benefits of raising rabbits on the homestead, including rabbits as pets, raising rabbits for meat and using angora rabbit wool for weaving.

| June/July 2003

Learn about the benefits of raising rabbits for companionship or to supply food and fur for the homestead.

If rabbits turn your head — whether your fancy runs to whoppers like the gentle Flemish Giants, to gorgeous and easygoing Angoras or to the soft and cuddly Mini Rex — you'll find plenty of these critters for sale, at reasonable prices, all across the country. And if you decide to go a-rabbiting, keeping as few as two or three bunnies lets you tap some of the "green" contributions these versatile little animals can make to your homestead.

The benefits of raising rabbits are varied and have been contributing companionship, food, fur and other products to their American keepers — urban and rural — since about 1900, when they first were imported from Europe. Today, they are raised as pets, for meat, pelts and wool, and for medical research.

Whatever their purposes, all rabbits produce a high-powered, relatively weed-seed-free manure that can be used to enrich garden plots and raise earthworms, which also do their part to improve garden soil.

If you're looking for yet another use for rabbits that doesn't involve harvesting them for meat or pelts, some breeds produce a luxurious wool that can be sheered from their coats, spun and woven into an exotic yarn.

Rabbits as Popular Pets

From childhood, many of us have known bunnies primarily for their sterling qualities as pets—cuddly, quiet and inquisitive. Glen Carr, executive secretary of the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), says his association recognizes 45 distinct breeds. The most popular for pet purposes, he says, are the Dutch, Netherland Dwarf, Mini Rex, Jersey Wooly (an Angora) and Mini-Lop; of those, the Mini Rex holds the top spot.

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