Last summer I bought a breeding pair of California rabbits from a local farm in order to begin raising rabbits for meat. I intended to raise them in a rabbit hutch, this being the normal course of action, but my husband had other ideas. The result has been a modified colony situation. The rabbits live in a pen where the hutch serves as their feeding station. They have dug a hole, which has an entrance and an exit, and this is where all the kits have been born. They don’t get trotted out until they are about a month old. At this point they are caught and sexed. Males go over the fence into the Buck Bunny pen, which is identical to the Female Bunny pen with the exception of a burrow. The males seem to live happily together, but this bears watching as I have heard that they will fight over females. But since the females are in a different pen, I am hopeful that this will not occur.
The main difficulty with a colony is the burrow. Rabbits not wanting to be caught simply run down the hole. If you want exercise, come visit me at butchering time. It takes about 15 minutes to catch a rabbit at my house. By the time you’ve been through the chase, you are good and ready to have at it with no regrets.
Wondering what to feed meat rabbits? We feed the rabbits Nutrena Naturewise rabbit pellets, fresh water twice a day, occasional treats of carrot or apple. They get straw under the hutches and in several places around the pen for eating or lining a nest, or whatever they want. We use an old chicken feeder to hold the food, and a gallon chicken waterer. They have their own assigned area for defecation, and this just needs to be shoveled up and composted. We have used welded wire fencing for the pen, then 4′ h x 1″ gauge chicken wire around the bottom of the fence to keep the little ones in. We have not had any rabbits burrow out. They are happy in their pen and if one somehow gets out, maybe under our feet when we enter or exit, they will sit by the gate and wait to be let back in.
When it came time to butcher, I followed an excellent tutorial from Polyface Farms apprentices. I am saving my skins in the freezer until I get enough to work with. At that point I am going to try to preserve them and make a lining for a blanket. I hope this helps you feel confident that you to can begin raising rabbits for meat. That’s how we do thing here at Good Enough Farm. Anyone with questions email me. If you are interested in raising rabbits for meat, we suggest you research rabbit facts, meat rabbit breeds and of course, rabbit recipes!
Originally published in Countryside May/June 2011