For many years my Paternal Grandfather raised rabbits and quail commercially on the gulf coast of Louisiana. I always wanted to try my hand at it on a smaller scale. My reasons for wanting rabbits are deeper than pure sentiment.
Number one is my quest for greater self-sufficiency. While no one can be totally independent in today’s America, Rabbits are an easily grown source of protein. I have read many stories from Great Depression I where children gathered grasses on the way home from school to feed their families meat supply.
Rabbit meat is sustainable. Which means “green” – While I am no eco-fascist, I believe that when God gave man dominion over the earth, he entrusted us with the responsibility to use the resources he entrusted us with in a manner that best serves our needs while preserving his bounty. I can feed my rabbits vegetation from my garden, as well as forage I can harvest from the wood lot behind my home.
Rabbit meat is healthy. It is extremely lean and has little cholesterol. I have an abundance of food stored near my midsection, and can use some extremely lean meat. Early arctic explorers learned of “rabbit starvation” where it is possible to starve to death if you eat a diet of high protein lean meat without any fat. Being able to raise my own meat without hormones and without the high fat of my normal food will make it that much easier for my goal of “getting healthy” (Genny does not let me use the word diet…)
Rabbit feces is the only animal feces that can be used directly on plants without “burning them” No composting required. I have heard of serious gardeners buying this byproduct to use on their gardens. Myself, I plan on using the waste to raise worms. I then plan on using the worms to supplement food for my chickens (and fish as soon as I get the gumption to dig the pond.)
Rabbit breed fast. Their gestation period is 28-35 days. And the rabbits reach market weight (4-5lbs dressed) in about 8 weeks. They also have a high feed to meat conversion factor. According to Vet Scan, they convert aver 20% of their feed into meat. This coupled with a high meat to bone ratio means you get a lot of meat for the cost of feeding.
Basically, rabbits need fresh water, 1 ¼ cups food a day, protection from the elements (very heat sensitive) and basic care.
I have mounted a set of 4 cages with built in nesting boxes in my carport. These cages have a water trough attached that I can easily refill and clean out as necessary. Being this close to the house, watching them is easy. However, being this close to the house cleanliness is a BIG concern. I made a composting bed of 8ft 2×4’s and 3mil thick plastic. But this is a catch basin for anything that doesn’t hit the plastic tubs I set in the bed. Once I get a couple inches of waste in the tubs, I will seed them with a few handfuls of red worms.
This weekend I am getting a trio (two does and a buck) of New Zealand White meat rabbits. Once they settle in I will report back.