How to Raise Backyard Rabbits

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TOP: ISTOCK/CHARLOTTE MOSSBOTTOM: ISTOCK/TERRY POCHE
Dutch (top) and Netherland dwarf (bottom) rabbits make cute, quiet and inexpensive pets for kids and adults.

Don’t let their small size and cute reputation fool you, rabbits
are a great multi-purpose addition (or beginning) to any 21st
century homestead. From pets and 4-H projects to terrific sources
of wool, meat and manure ? backyard rabbits make a fun, easy
project that fulfills a variety of needs. With minimal time, space
and financial requirements, raising rabbits is a great introduction
to homesteading, or, for the more established, a simple way to make
a little extra money.

As with most animals, different rabbit breeds are naturally
suited to different purposes. Mini rex is the standard for pet
rabbits, followed by Dutch, Mini-Lop and Netherland Dwarf. Famous
for their luxurious fur, Angoras are an excellent breed for wool
while Californian, New Zealand and Giant Chinchilla are bred for
their tasty, high-quality meat. Regardless of their purpose,
rabbits in general produce potent, relatively weed-seed-free
manure. The average rabbit will generate 1 pound of manure per
week, or about 50 pounds each year! Less likely than some other
manures to burn your plants, it makes great fertilizer and is a
good choice for plants that need heavy feeding, such as roses and
azaleas.

Rabbits have basic needs ? shelter, food and water, and a cozy
place to nest. If you’re adopting a couple of pet rabbits, the most
economical approach is to purchase a hutch, since you’ll need just
one habitat. Building two or more, however, generally costs less
than purchasing multiple pre-made models, and building is as quiet
and simple as the critters you’re building for. Basic carpentry
skills are sufficient for constructing the feeder, nesting box,
watering device and wire hutch (wire is light and durable, and the
rabbits will soil and gnaw on a wood hutch). With a few materials
and regular household tools you’ll be well on your way to a
successful rabbit enterprise!

You can learn more about building a wire rabbit hutch in this
e-handbook from Mother Earth News. It offers detailed
hutch-building instructions, plus tips for creating the best living
space for your rabbits and a great guide to additional sources.

Do you raise rabbits for food, meat, manure or even just for
fun? Share your tips and stories by posting a comment below.