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Raising Meat Rabbits

Updated on April 23, 2015
armygirl profile image

I am currently a stay-at-home mom and a Beachbody coach. I have two wonderful children and an amazing Marine husband.

Tinkerbell

Tinkerbell - She is our main breeding doe.
Tinkerbell - She is our main breeding doe.

Rabbits - Pets/meat

In this article I am including the information about the animals that we have, the items we use so you can buy the same thing or something similar, and the healthy things that you can feed rabbits, as well as the things you should stay away from.

My family has 4 rabbits that we currently use as pets for our 3 year old daughter. We have 2 New Zealand's, one Netherland Dwarf, and one Lionhead/ Mini Rex. We started with Milo, the Netherland, and decided that we wanted to breed him with another for some pets or for meat. We got him a mate, Tinkerbell, which is a New Zealand. Their second breeding was successful and we sold her 4 babies to loving homes as pets. We then received Peter, the New Zealand, from the town next to ours. Then right around Easter there was someone that was giving away two Lionhead/Mini Rex rabbits. My husband brought them home to butcher but I thought they were too cute so I saved them from his knife. There is one that is harlequin and one that is white with some brown. I am looking to breed the harlequin one and we are still deciding what to do with the white one.

We bred Tinkerbell with Peter (our new New Zealand buck). We wanted to see if it would take since Peter was only 4 1/2 months old at the time. We were very surprised when on 4/16/15 Tinkerbell had her second litter, of 12 babies and they were all alive and she has been caring for them like the amazing mother that she is. I will keep updating this as we get more into the process. We are learning as we go with this as well so we hope you keep coming back to this page to keep learning along with us.

My daughter is learning that we keep some animals as pets and some go to other families so that they can have the experience we do or they are going to use them as meat. She is okay with eating the ones that we decide to dispatch. This process of teaching our 3 year old the cycle of life and that we kill some animals that are cute to eat is not an easy one. She has taken us hunting deer better than the rabbits but we are getting there.

1 Week Old Baby Kits

12 Kits born to Tinkerbell
12 Kits born to Tinkerbell

Buying Breeding Stock and Quarantine

The first thing you want to look at the health of the animal. Everything else is secondary. Examine the paws for sores or crusty snot. Look inside the ears, if they are crusty the animal probably has ear mites. Make sure the fur isn't patchy with skin showing. If the animal is sneezing or has discharge coming out their nose, this is a big red flag. Clear snot is probably just from dusty hay or dusty pellets but you can't be too careful. If the snot is thick and white, it's probably pasteurella which is fatal and HIGHLY contagious.

After assuring you have a healthy animal, Make sure it's a good size for the breed. This will probably take some initial research on your part before you actually go to pick up the animal.

Make sure its a breed that you want to have. If you find New Zealand Whites boring then by all means, get something else. There are several breeds of meat rabbits that are colorful, silver foxes for example. That brings me to another point, all rabbits are made of meat, just because it doesn't have the commercial body type doesn't mean you can't eat it. If the only breed you can find is Mini Rex, by all means, breed and eat Mini Rex. They may not be ideal but it will get you started until you can find what you want.

When you buy new rabbits you want to make sure to quarantine them for at least 2 weeks but preferably 30 days. You should keep them at least 20 feet away from each other in separate cages. The reason you keep them apart that long is because the signs and symptoms of them being sick should show up no more than 30 days from the day you get the rabbit. Be careful. You do not want to get your other rabbits sick.

Milo

This is Milo, my daughters pet Netherland Dwarf rabbit.
This is Milo, my daughters pet Netherland Dwarf rabbit.

Milo

This is my daughters rabbit Milo. We are going to keep this rabbit for a breeder for when we get a doe or my daughter is going to keep him forever. He is such a great rabbit and he has a pedigree, he is proven at the fair, and he is very well mannered.

Milo is a dark gray color and we love him very much.

Accessories

I have gone to ebay for you and found the items that we like best if you prefer to order online and delivered to you otherwise you should be able to find these items at your local stores as well. We like the Pet Lodge brand cages for our rabbits. We use the 24x24 cages for the smaller rabbits so they have enough room to hop around a little bit. We use 30x36 for a doe that will have kits. For the buck, he is housed in a hutch that we received as a gift. He would be housed in a 30x30 cage. We use J-feeders for their pellets, larger water bottles, and get alfalfa hay from a local farmer. You can use smaller cages if you make sure that they get out for exercise regularly.

We like to give them a small apple slice 2 times a week and if we have no use for our leftover romaine lettuce we give them pieces of that as well.

When buying the cage we get the legs, dropping tray, and urine guard. You also want to put something in the cage such as a piece of wood or a small piece of tile. You just want to give them something to get them off the wire.

The next project I would like to try is growing fodder for our rabbits to save on rabbit pellets and to give them a more natural diet. Keep checking back to see where I have been in this adventure and what I am learning with it.

Husbandry

Rabbits are "induced ovulators" which means that the act of breeding will cause them to release eggs. This means that rabbits can be bred year round and when you want them to be bred. One important rule is ALWAYS bring the doe to the buck's cage, you can also bring both to a neutral area, like a playpen (this is what we do). Doe's are very territorial and can actually harm or even kill bucks, never leave a buck and a doe unattended. If he is a little too persistent she may harm him. (By the way, when I say harm, I mean castrate.) Many fine bucks have been rendered useless by an ornery doe.

Gestation is approximately 31 days but can be as short as 28 days or go as long as 40. Kits are born hairless with closed eyes. Unless the gestation goes long, in which case they may have some fur. Does are ready to breed immediately after kindling so be careful!. (Kindling is the act of giving birth.) You should refrain from re-breeding until her current litter is at least four weeks old, depending on how many litters you want per year.


When your doe is 28 days pregnant you will want to add a nesting box. You can buy these at your local Tractor Supply Company, Fleet Farm, or you can buy them online. Make sure that the nesting box is big enough for her and a decent sized litter (litter sizes can range from 4 to 12+). You can also find a plastic container that the rabbit is going to be able to jump in and out of without harming her kits and sides tall enough that the kits cannot fall out before they are ready. You may have to occasionally clean out the nesting box yourself. You can touch the kits, the mother will not abandon them. Make sure they are on a warm towel or blanket when you take them out because they are not able to regulate their body temperatures without lots of fur.

*Warning Graphic Content* Butcher and process rabbit

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