Raising Meat Rabbits on Pasture: Intensive Grazing with Bunnies

| 4/14/2015 3:29:00 PM

Tags: rabbits, grazing, pastured meats, livestock, North Carolina, Amanda Goble,

White Rabbit 

Rabbits are a fabulously healthful, economical and ecologically sound source of meat, and they don’t have to be kept in hanging cages. I think every backyard homestead ought to have a few rabbits out back, and I’d like to share a method of rabbit production that goes beyond the hutch and gets bunnies back on the grass. Using the principles of intensive grazing, raising rabbits on pasture can create food for the family while also improving your land.

The traditional hutch or cage system of raising rabbits is a confinement operation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the hutch method has many benefits. You supply all the feed, controlling nutrition to produce a maximum of meat. You probably aren’t cleaning cages, as manure will drop to the ground below, and you have a source of wonderful organic material for the garden. Raising rabbits in cages is a simple and easy way to raise a meat animal.

However, I’ve found a pile of good reasons to keep rabbits on pasture and I’ll share them here, along with the methods that work for me.

The Basics of Raising Meat Rabbits on Pasture

During spring, summer, and fall at my place, the rabbits live in wire cages right on the ground. Bucks and does are housed individually, and growing bunnies live together. Every morning, each cage is moved one length down the yard to a new patch of grass. In the evening, the rabbits are offered hay, fresh vegetables as available and some pellets. This might sound familiar: The method just like maintaining a chicken tractor.

The bunnies eat the grass – six square feet a day per rabbit for me – to a close crop. As the cage makes its morning shift, the manure is spread, providing an instant organic fertilizer. The cages won’t be back on that spot for a few months, allowing the grass and other plants to recover.

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