Ten Commandments for Raising Healthy Rabbits

Kansas State University veterinarian Randy Kidd shares essential information about raising rabbits for food and profit.

  • 061 raising rabbits - 01 new zealand doe
    A doe of the popular New Zealand White breed.
  • 061 raising rabbits - 02 gender identification
    LEFT: The female has a slit-like genital area. MIDDLE: The male has a rounded protuberance. RIGHT: A standard nesting box combining ventilation and shelter.
  • 061 raising rabbits - 03 holding technique
    TOP LEFT: A small young rabbit can be held by its loin area. RIGHT: Calm an agitated rabbit by securing its head under your elbow. BOTTOM LEFT: Lift a grown rabbit by its neck and tail, not by its ears.

  • 061 raising rabbits - 01 new zealand doe
  • 061 raising rabbits - 02 gender identification
  • 061 raising rabbits - 03 holding technique

Believe it or not, even if your back yard is no bigger than a queen-sized mattress (about 30 square feet), you can produce 200 pounds of homegrown meat every year ... by raising rabbits!

Domestic "hare" is a tasty, amazingly versatile food, too. Its flavor is often compared to chicken, and—like the barnyard fowl—rabbit is good fried, baked, stewed, cooked in casseroles, and prepared in many other ways. And the mammal's firm, fine-grained flesh actually makes for more healthful eatin' than does the bird's. In fact, rabbit has more protein—and less fat and fewer calories —per pound than any of our popular meats!

Rabbits are a wise choice for the small livestock fancier for other reasons, too: The critters are quite easy to raise, feed, and—because of their clean habits—care for. They're also quiet (which is an absolute "must" consideration for folks who're rearing animals in an urban area).

Of course, if you do get into caretaking a batch of the furry beasts, you'll want to keep your livestock as healthy and productive as possible. And—to help you in such efforts—I've prepared the following ten rules for raising rabbits free of disease.

I. Recognize Your Market

The main reason for raising your own rabbits is, obviously, to produce meat. So before you get started in your venture, you should know just how much food you can expect to get. A good doe (female rabbit) will yield four or five litters—with six to nine youngsters a batch—per year. Each of the young animals should reach a weight of 4 to 4 1/2 pounds (at which point they'll dress out to between 2 and 2 1/2 pounds) by the standard butchering age of eight to ten weeks. Therefore, a single doe can contribute 60 pounds—or more—of meat for your larder in one year. That ain't a bad output from one 10 or 12-pound animal. (What's more, unlike the steer that yields all its 500 freezer-filling pounds of "harvest" in one lump sum, your rabbit meat will be produced—in meal-sized portions—throughout most of the year.)

You won't need to throw out your rabbits' innards, either. In my household, we slice the kidneys in half, deep-fry the segments, and serve them—with beer—as hors d'oeuvres. Rabbit liver can be cooked and chopped up into a tasty sandwich spread, or fried with mushrooms and bacon. Even the offal from your butchered fryers can be utilized ... as a tasty treat for dogs or pigs.

Mary Reynolds
5/17/2010 8:24:45 AM

You shouldn't keep rabbits and chickens together, there is a disease the rabbits can catch from chickens. We keep one male from each breed. More than one male will cause fighting for females and territory. Once a rabbit has an injury with broken skin they are prone to serious infections that can kill them. Search your area for a local vet that treats rabbits. You can not use common antibiotics like amoxic's this family of meds will kill your rabbits. Sage is a natural antibiotic that has worked well for us and we have found that human respiratory antibiotics work great as well. Again, research for local vets that treat rabbits. You have to decided what is more cost effective for you! Rabbits don't show illness well but if the spine is to boney, they may have gi blockage that requires veg oil and lettuce, continue treatment for 2weeks or until you see normal bowl movements. Also rabbits never need baths this will cause their hair to fall out. We have had success with 5x9 runs for each breed of rabbits in our bunny barn. Each new mother is moved out into a separate cage until the kits are large enough to be put in the run with the other young bunnies. We feed our bunnies 16% dairy cattle feed a 100lbs bag for $12 at our local farmer feed store not the commercial feed stores.

Bill Ross_2
1/1/2009 12:05:30 PM

Why the individual cages? I have a 15 foot square chicken run. I have my chickens and rabbits in there. I also dump leaves in there to turn into compost (and will be adding worms). They appear happy as pie. Why individual small cages? Why not just go more au natural? What is the advantage? (Note: I am new to chickens and rabbits, so I am just asking - I have no idea).



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