Meat Rabbits

Yes! You read it right! Meat Rabbits!

Rabbits are bred all over the world as a sustainable meat source.

No, they are not the small cuddly pets you have, but are considerably larger.

No less cuddly, though!

The start of a Rabbitry

Six years ago, I had a bunch of rabbits dumped on me. Two adults and ten babies (kits)

What was I going to do with these?

So, I did a bit of googling, bought a fantastic book, and now I have a Rabbitry of twelve does and two bucks – so many, because I sell the meat.

 

Rabbits as opposed to Chickens

Of course I keep chickens – I live on a small-holding!

I did a feed comparison for the upkeep of twelve chickens a rooster – it cost me more to feed thirteen chickens than to feed fifty rabbits!!!

Some Facts About Chickens :

I don’t eat my chickens (they are true free-range!), but I eat the eggs.

Lisa's Chicken
One of my dilly chooks
  • A true free-range chicken is a lot tougher (meat texture) than a commercial chicken
  • A true free-range chicken takes +/-5mths to reach a meat weight
  • Commercial chooks are full of hormones and brine to grow out for retail markets in +/-24 days (nice & soft & …but healthy???)
  • What do you do with the feathers?

 

Some Facts About Rabbits :

  • A rabbit takes 3mths to grow to meat weight – without any additives!
  • You can eat the meat, liver, kidneys and heart
  • The dogs eat the feet, head & offal (all minced by a friend who sells raw food for dogs)
  • The skins – I make into teddy bears, slippers, baby blankets, cat toys (from the scraps of skins), anything!
  • The poop – excellent for flowering plants, particularly roses, great in veggie gardens – high in nitrogen!

Basically, I utilise every part of the rabbit!

 

I am not a fan of cooking, so for more than ten years Heat ‘n Eat has been feeding me – every meal, every day – until I started my Rabbitry!

In the last five years have I included rabbit meat in my diet and eat it every second day. Originally I asked Heat & Eat  to cook up rabbit meals for me using their recipes.  They were divine, but now I have learnt how to do it myself and cook every four months or so.  Then I package and freeze in portions for one. I guess you could conclude I don’t like shopping for groceries every week/month or cooking every night!

I haven’t totally cut chicken out of my diet – I love Heat & Eat chicken meals! – but I do eat a lot less chicken!

The Cages

My rabbitry is comprised of 6 double cages, each with a hutch, that houses 2 does (females) and 2 single cages that house 2 males (bucks) separately. Another cage for the weaned kits.

So why keep them in cages?

Rabbit cages
Two double cages – for 2 does and one for the weaned rabbits (separated by sex to avoid accidents!) – and a single cage for the buck.
  • Rabbits only run when they’re threatened – so they do not need masses of space
  • As they don’t have to forage, they don’t need the range
  • The cages have mesh bottoms so they can eat grass but not dig out, nor dig holes & tunnels & disappear into the wilderness to multiply ad lib!
  • These cages are moved three times a week to fresh grass.
  • Rabbits poop in the same one spot – easy to collect!
  • Nor do they poop in their hutches – easy to clean! (which is only done after weaning the kits.)

Shade, sun and protection from the elements (wind, rain, harsh sun) is very important. The cold weather is not a problem for them

 

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Rabbit hutches
The hutches have feet so the rabbits can lie under them for coolness. They also have a divider inside, which I insert just after the kits are born to stop them falling out of the hutch – they are very wiggly and bouncy!

What to Feed Your Rabbits

The diet of a rabbit is very simple, but they do need a regular diet as their digestive system can be easily compromised.

  • A hand full (80grams) of Rabbit pellets per rabbit per day (ad-lib for a doe with kits)
  • Fruit tree branches once or twice a week – they need to chew to keep their teeth down & fruit branches are non-toxic
  • 1 carrot a week – carrots have a lot of sugar & too many causes liver & kidney problems
  • Hay – real important – they need roughage more than grass for their digestive system. Too much greenery causes diarrhea and often death
  • I feed them herbs and salad greens, for the vitamins and minerals, once a week – e.g. fennel, rocket, basil, Japanese mustard leaves
  • They also get cabbage, apples (apples minus the pips – Toxic!), spinach, broccoli and cauliflower leaves (I eat the veggies!)
  • Never lettuce which has too much water and causes digestive problems.

Breeding Rabbits

Breeding rabbits is very easy! (Breed like rabbits???!)

Meat Rabbits
Maggie with 4 of her 7 kits who are 2mths old. They were weaned the day of this photo.

I breed a doe through the Autumn, Winter and Spring – Summer in South Africa is too hot and stresses the doe and kits out too much in South Africa. (You can get around this by adding a frozen 2lt bottle of water to their cage for them to lie next to).

Never put the buck in the does cage. Does are territorial – fur & blood will fly!  Bucks, well…, they only have one thing on their minds, and that’s not territory!

Mating is very quick and actually funny to watch! The buck falls off the doe with his eyes shut and squeals! Done!!!

I mate the does twice in the evening (+/-4pm) one day and then twice the next day (my method). It takes maybe 1-5mins for 2 matings.

The Timeline

30 days from mating you have Kits! (+/- 75gms each)

They average 6 per litter, often more

12 days from birth – they’re out of the hutch and eating on their own.

50 days from birth they’re weaned.

84 days from birth – they weigh about 2.5kgs

That’s the time to prepare the pot!

 

Why I Eat and Sell Rabbit Meat

Well the answer to Why?

  • They are high in protein, extremely low in fat and totally free of chemicals and additives.
  • I know how they were raised – what they were fed
  • They are fed a balanced diet and treated humanly
  • They are slaughtered humanly – therefore not stressed as they are used to us handling them
  • No additives, no adrenalin means happy meat!

 

How To Cook Rabbit

Cooking is as easy as cooking chicken!

  • Any of your favourite chicken (or stew) recipes will do! I love curry – Bunny Chow?
    Rabbit stew
    Rabbit stew, cooked with carrots and herbs
  • Just cook a wee bit slower and a wee bit longer
  • There is hardly any fat (+/-10gms)
  • No skin and no shrinkage
  • A thigh on the braai (rhymes!) is delicious and no skin to burn!
  • Try portions (very easy to joint) or even a whole rabbit – wrapped in bacon, stuffed with feta & fig jam, then roasted

Some Final Notes

Rabbits do not have to be kept in a setup like mine and have cages moved around. I am lucky to have the space, which is also used for sheep, 2 donkeys, chickens and 2 geese. They can be kept in hutches, like what you keep your pet rabbits in.They do very well either way, as long as you care for them properly – like any animal, as a pet or for meat.

 

My breeding rabbits all have names, some are friendly – particularly the bucks – and some are downright nasty – “Devil Dawn”! Although I enjoy watching the kits grow and do cuddle them when they’re nest bound, I do not get attached to them as they are bred for a purpose.

The breed I keep are New Zealand Meat Rabbits. The common colour is white (the skins you can dye, so are more valuable) then there are red and black.  I like the red, but the other colours do appear. I have 2 black does for breeding. (I make panda bears from the black & white skins.)

If you are interested in breeding meat rabbits I am more than happy to assist with advice and breeding stock.

My email address is  balaknor@iburst.co.za and cell 082 557 2816

 

 

 

 

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