Rabbits an Alternative to Foraging

Last month we discussed sources of protein for emergency situations. An alternative to foraging for meat is to raise it yourself. The advantages of having your own source of meat include: they are easier to grow than fruits and vegetables,  you will have fresh meat whenever you need it, and they provide other products such as skins. Also, their waste is a great source for fertility to enhance your garden soil.  Rabbits are one of the easiest kinds of animals to raise and provide a large amount of meat for the effort. Two does (females) and one buck (male) should produce about 180 pounds of meat per year. Raising rabbits will require a protective hutch for them to live in. At least two sides should be made of wood and the wire used should be good quality small mesh to keep rabbits in and snakes and other predators out. An internet search will show all kinds of options for houses. Keep in mind the need to protect them from bad weather, ease of feeding, watering and cleaning the cage.

Choosing Rabbits

Rabbit hutch

002-051-01ahutchplans_Ed Robinson

Select a medium weight breed, like the New Zealand White. Their fur has value, too. Feed them good quality alfalfa or clover hay. Cut it into small lengths. They can also be fed vegetables scraps, like peelings or carrot greens. Be careful feeding them too much green food. They can suffer from bloating and diarrhea. Pellets are also available at local feed supply stores. An automatic water system saves time and keeps your rabbits supplied with cool, fresh water. In summer, fill empty plastic soda bottles 3/4 full of water and freeze them. Put one in each cage. The rabbit will stretch out beside it to stay cool. Feed, water and check up on your rabbits at least twice each day. Set up a routine and stick to it. Remove any uneaten plant material, like root vegetables and greens the next day. Soon you will learn what your rabbits likes and how much to feed them. (Storey Publishing’s “Country Wisdom and Know-How” is a good reference).

Breeding Rabbits

Rabbits can be bred every 90 days. Gestation takes about 30 days. The young are born in litters and nurse for about six weeks. They will learn to eat hay and other food as they grow. Separate the young from their mother after six  weeks. They can be eaten as “fryers” up until they are seven or eight months old. Be sure to separate the sexes at about three months of age. Alternating the breeding time between the does will give you a steady supply of rabbit to eat. Mothers recognize their young and will not tolerate mixing babies. Get a new buck every three or four years.  Make rabbit stew out of older rabbits. The Guide to Raising and Breeding Rabbits for Meat

Healthy rabbits have bright eyes, with no discharge, spots or cloudiness. Their ears look clean inside (brown crusty appearance indicates ear mites) and the nose is dry with no discharge. Check the teeth to make sure they are even. Expect to spend between $10- $25 for two does and a buck.

Additional Articles in this month’s issue:

Billie Nicholson, Editor
May 2014

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