Surviving by Raising Rabbits for Meat

Chris Tolliver, over at American Prepper Network, is singing my song!  He’s talking about one of my favorite topics – raising rabbits for meat in a survival situation!

This is a Californian meat rabbit. Yes, it's a "white" rabbit! (Photo Wikipedia)

Despite what you might think about rabbits, they are our friends. Even though rabbits can be extremely destructive, and some people consider them exempt from consumption due to the “cute little bunny” factor,  it’s true that if the rabbit population wasn’t controlled at least to some degree, rabbits could easily overrun their available food supply.  And to think – so much good meat on the hoof!  Double bonus!

Now, what’s so wonderful about rabbits?  Well, they’re just sooooo cute!   Oops, I mean, they reproduce quickly and easily, they aren’t dangerous if you don’t mind a scratch or two until you learn how to handle them, they are very quiet, their dietary needs are fairly simple and easily provided, and they supply a lot of meat on a small frame.   Although rabbits are mammals, they do not carry or harbor many very vile diseases, like rabies, although they are susceptible to certain respiratory problems if kept in a large rabbitry with lots of ammonia and little air circulation.  In addition, their manure is quite mild (the ammonia is a product of the urine, and often can be sequestered), and does not need to go through a “heat” process to make it usable.  You can just shovel the manure on whatever garden plants you want to fertilize, and you’re done!  The real estate below a rabbit cage is extremely valuable.  I have known people to have entire worm farms growing underneath their rabbit cages – a great way to improve the soil, help the fishermen, earn some money, and just be overall ecologically friendly.

Many people are surprised to learn that rabbits come in two main types:  meat rabbits and fancy rabbits.  The fancy rabbit breeds usually have some decorative feature, such as unusual color combinations, particular types of fur, such as Rex or Angora, or ears in various degrees of floppiness, like French, Mini, Holland or English Lops.  While their meat is certainly edible, fancy rabbits do not have the very meaty, stout characteristics of the white meat rabbits like Californians (photo above) and New Zealand Whites.

You may be wondering why people who are raising rabbits for meat call the Californian rabbit a “white” rabbit.  Well, that’s because once he has been slaughtered and skinned, the fur that is not used (ears, tail, paws and nose) is black, but all the rest of the fur is pure white.  Hence, it’s considered a “white” rabbit. One of the best things about white rabbits is that you can use almost all of the animal – for fur as well as food. Of course, you can use the fur of a fancy rabbit, too, but the end result will be less uniform than with a set of white rabbits. And who knows: you might have a need for all the rabbit fur you can grow, so it’s probably a great idea to learn how to process rabbit fur as well as to raise rabbits for meat. (affiliate link)

Rabbit aficionados spend many of their weekends attending rabbit shows, which are often sponsored by the American Rabbit Breeders’ Association.  They have very strict standards concerning what each breed is supposed to look and feel like, and they judge entrants based on these standards, both for the meat breeds and the fancy breeds.  You would be amazed to know the prices some of these champion rabbits sell for – I’m talking in the five-digit range – and you’d also be surprised to know how often champion rabbits are literally stolen from unsuspecting and less-than-watchful owners!

How did I get into rabbit breeding?  Well, it started off with buying an Easter bunny for my children, which slowly morphed into a 4-H project that the whole family got involved with.  Some of my happiest days were spent with the kids and those rabbits, but it was always a given, and my kids clearly understood,  that rabbits are for food, fur and fun.  Good lessons for them and for myself as well.

Hint: this is NOT a meat rabbit (Photo Wikipedia).

Rabbits definitely have a personality, if you take the time to get to know them.  I used to be quite friendly with my breeding stock, but it’s hard to say goodbye to all the small fry (o7-to-9-week-old fryers), so we never named the ones that were going to be harvested.  A rabbit’s temperament is a function of the breed and gender, with bucks being a little more aggressive  than the does.  Even at that, though, if you don’t mind getting sprayed a few times, you and the bucks can get along just fine.  Remember, while you might not like what they are doing, they are reacting to their world in a way that is understandable and natural to them.

Part of the discussion over at Chris’s site centered around the fact that rabbit meat is so low in fat.  It’s a fact that there’s really not enough fat on a rabbit to keep a person alive, if that was all the food that was available to them.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing about raising rabbits – it’s just something you need to be aware of so you won’t experience “rabbit starvation,” in a grid-down situation.  Rabbit starvation is a situation in which you have so much protein – and little else – to eat, that your body rebels, after a fashion.  Obviously, there is a much more technical explanation for this syndrome than I am providing, but Wikipedia talks about it in detail.  Although MY preference is to add fats – never carbohydrates – to the human diet to combat this condition, I realize that carbohydrates are cheap, plentiful, and filling, and a lot of people like to eat them.  Just keep in mind:  there’s no such thing as an “essential carbohydrate,” and fats are an absolute necessity for human life.

I could probably write a book or two about raising rabbits for meat, even though it’s been a few years since I kept any.  Rabbits were always my favorite animals, and they are absolute workhorses when it comes to providing family food.  If you decide to raise rabbits, be sure to learn how they should be cared for.  If you treat your rabbits right, they will return the favor, with their lives!

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4 Responses to Surviving by Raising Rabbits for Meat

  1. Frank says:

    “If you treat your rabbits right, they will return the favor, with their lives!”

    Maybe you should have written it as “…they will return the flavor…” for rabbit meat is really yummy.

  2. David says:

    Does anyone know where you can take rabbits to have them slaughtered in the DFW area?

    I’m in Murphy, TX, and city ordinances don’t allow animals to be slaughtered, skinned, plucked or processed inside city limits without a business license and the accompanying inspections. I realize this wouldn’t be much of a factor in a survival situation, but for an on-going program of meat and fertilizer production, I want to ensure I’m operating above board.

    So far, I’ve found you need a poultry processors license (easy) and a kill floor (haven’t found a single one). Any tips from others in DFW?

    • Georgene says:

      Interesting. I have a friend who raises grass-fed beef and chickens. I’ll check with him to see where he gets his slaughtered. He’s in the far North Texas area.

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