February 17, 2013

Preppers and rabbits

It seems more and more, we're meeting people who are "preppers."  What is a prepper? A prepper is someone who is trying to live a self-sustainable life, preparing for either end times, cataclysmic disaster or simply wanting to be prepared in case of any type of emergency that would limit access to necessities.

Not surprisingly, meat rabbits are part of the prepper planning.  They can be raised in a relatively small area, grow-out to butchering weight in a relatively short period of time, repopulate quickly, and they're very quiet.

Whether you live in a small house or apartment or if you have a large farm property, you can raise rabbits.  A basement with windows, a spare bedroom or a garage can all be turned into mini rabbitries.  With a hanging cage system, it's relatively easy to build waste disposal systems that make cleaning a breeze.  As long as you stay on top of cleaning out manure and waste, there is no smell at all.  All that waste can be used as fertilizer in your home gardening, or you could even barter with it or sell it. Rabbit fertilizer is great for gardening. Add in growing your own fodder as rabbit feed and you are well on your way to self sustainability.

With most livestock, you have long grow-out periods. Cattle can take up to two years - or more if they are exclusively pasture fed - to get to butchering weight.  Pigs are typically butchered at approximately 200 days. Chickens have a short grow out period - usually around 47 days - but they require a lot more room and tend to be much messier and noisier than rabbits.  We butcher our rabbits at 5 to 5 1/2 lbs live weight. This is usually around 12 weeks of age.  By the time they have reached 12 weeks old, their dam has already had at least one more litter, if not two.

Yes, the DO multiply like rabbits.  Our does consistently give us litters of eight or more kits with each litter.  There are breeding techniques to help ensure you have large size litters. There's a wide range of advice on when to breed back your does.  In the spring and summer, we have an aggressive breeding schedule.  If you're breeding for personal consumption, determine how quickly you eat rabbit, add in grow-out times and decide how often you need to breed your does.  Does are capable of breeding year round.  You don't want to wear out your does or cause them harm so I don't recommend pushing them to maximum reproduction capabilities.

For the prepper lifestyle, rabbits make a very attractive food source.  For anyone who is interested in a healthy, lean, delicious meat, rabbits are the way to go.  Planning on prepping and need rabbits, let us know. We'll help you get started, point you to some great online resources and teach you how we raise rabbits on pasture.

U P D A T E !

Due to the overwhelming response to this blog post, we have decided to hold a Meat Rabbits 101 workshop in September 2013.  Click for details!


  1. Great post! Backyard rabbits put a family well on the way the eating healthier, saving money and being more self sufficient. We have a small rabbitry and it is all I can do to stay in front of processing.

  2. I have rabbits, and have just started with meat rabbits. We started with mini rex, for pets and 4H, and I did pretty good at selling them at Farmers Market this last summer. But I was amazed at how many people wanted meat rabbits. So I have three does, one buck, all new zealands. However, my buck, who was born May 2012, does not seem to be breeding the does. I have tried three times now. Would love some better ideas!

  3. I have a question about does.. We have a californian doe who has had a few litters and has ignored or killed every one. We have given her plenty of space with a secure nesting area and she still seems completely uninterested in the kits. We even tried improving the area she was in after the first litter with no change. Are we doing something wrong or is she just a genetically bad mom? We are ready to make her dinner and start with a fresh doe. Just picked up a female flemish in a trade for one of my rexes. But we have not started her yet with one of our males.. Wanted to do some research first. Since we find it so crazy that we cant get rabbits to breed like rabbits. Lol

  4. Meegan - Did you check your does to make sure they were ready? Was this his first time mating? Have you checked to make sure his testicles have dropped?

    Yennifer - Some does never become good mothers. I have quite a few first time mothers who didn't do very well. One thing I've done is hold the doe in the nesting box for 5 mins or so so that the kits can nurse and the doe figures out where her kits are. You might want to try doing that for a few feedings and see if she improves. But after three failed litters, I'd cull.