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!