Raising rabbits for meat is just about a forgotten hobby these days. Fifty years ago, they were a pretty common part of the food chain and lots of youngsters had a hutch out back. Until a few years ago, a Boy Scout could earn a merit badge for rabbit-raising. Even 4-H has relegated rabbits to “companion animals” so they are lumped in with dogs and cats rather than chickens or meat goats. In our state, the American Rabbit Breeders Association cannot get the agricultural extension agents to help or promote rabbits to youth at all. After lots of study and a little experience, I think they are a natural fit for preppers.
Reasons for Rabbits
We became interested in meat rabbits for a number of reasons. First, we dislike raising the genetically modified Cornish X birds that are typically sold for meat. Everything about them is so unnatural, despite what feed you put in them.
Second, from a prepper’s standpoint, they have some important things in their favor. Their diet is largely things we could provide for them if we had to (though we will use rabbit feed for best results as long as we can), unlike the large input of grain chickens usually need. Yes, free-range birds can hustle a good amount of their food, but being loose means they are more prone to predator attack or theft, too.
Third, they are prolific (I’ll bet you’ve heard that! 🙂 ). Most are of breeding age by 6 months old and then can produce litters of 6-12 at least every 8 weeks. (Rabbits have actually been known to have 13 litters a year, but it is not healthy for them). If each rabbit weighs in at 8 pounds (at least), you get a lot of return on your investment. Even the most conservative estimates are well over one hundred pounds of meat from the offspring of one breeding pair!
Additionally, the meat is quite lean, so it’s a healthy choice for nearly everyone’s diet. It can be used in any dish that would commonly call for chicken and is nearly indistinguishable to those who didn’t know what they were eating.
Breeding stock is much less expensive than cows or goats. From what I have seen, most rabbits are in the $20-$50 range, depending on breed and whether they are “show quality.”
They need very little space compared to many animals. Ours are housed in 2 X 4 foot cages within a larger hutch that is up off the ground and within a fence. Rabbits do pretty well in the cold, but need shade and air circulation in hot weather. For this reason, we have sited the hutch on the north side of an outbuilding that gets only morning sun.
The fact that most people just think of rabbits as “pets” these days adds another benefit- you can be prepping in plain sight with none of your neighbors aware. Some communities ban chickens and other “livestock,” but rabbits are usually exempt from that. (I wouldn’t do any “processing” in view of my neighbors, though. If anyone asks about the rabbits, you can tell them you have them because your children really enjoy them and the manure/worm compost is a great addition to your garden- you will be telling the truth).
There is little maintenance since the mess drops down into worm compost bins below. Children are easily able (and usually very willing!) to take care of them largely on their own.
Perfect Fit for Preppers
Because of these reasons, I think they are ideal for preppers. They will provide a steady supply of protein and, as a bonus, some really nice fur. Maybe the reason that sealed it for me, though, is the opportunity for charity. Two or three does would provide us with more offspring than we could eat, thus giving us some to share or, even better, the possibility of providing breeding stock to help others get started.
In the next part, I will share information about which breeds are good candidates for preppers.