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Rabbits for food

One of the things I was looking at doing was rearing rabbits for food. I thought is must be relatively easy. They are vermin and there seems to be millions of them all over the country. There is a back road I drive down in the summer that is lined with them, all sitting there in the sun watching the cars go by. The fields I have seen down there are all grassland and used for grazing rather than growing crops and the rabbits are competing with cows and sheep for their food. Yet there are still millions of them.

My plan then was to let them run wild and shoot or trap them when I wanted some meat. Easy.

Or so I thought. I’ve just started reading this book on Commercial Rabbit Keeping and suddenly it seems that the rabbits I have been eating for years are not really rabbits after all. The rabbits you should be using for meat production seem to be more pet like being white and fluffy rather than a standard brown. Being more pet like also seems to make them more susceptible to about anything a rabbit can catch. In some cases it seems that the rabbits don’t even now how to have sex mounting the does head first, which with rabbits teeth being the way they are leads to your prized buck being the main course for tomorrow, and of course you have to help them get it on. Plus they have to be looked after in plush, in rabbit terms anyway, accommodation and fed well.

To be fair though the book is about setting up a rabbit meat production facility in the UK and so looks at meat producing rabbits. It does that very well and as such is probably not what we should be looking at for our requirements.

Our requirements are such that we want a rabbit that doesn’t need its hand held when its stud time, can feed itself from the land, stupid enough to just sit there in the evening and can be eaten. From what I can see there is much less meat on a wild rabbit but they are looking after themselves. I see that as a cost effective solution. Minimal outlay from us and a steady food supply.

The other book I have recently finished was Backyard Rabbit Farming this seems more applicable to us for our requirements as you maintained a much smaller group and the maintenance work was much smaller. The rabbits, again meat rabbits, were readily available for food as and when you wanted them. As rabbits can breed for 9 months of the year and gestate in 30 days with a litter of up to 12 kits. The first litter or the year can reproduce themselves at 6 months for does and 7 for bucks so you can get plenty of meat from a small amount of breeding stock.

I wonder though whether we should be looking at a more regimented food production facility. Not as small as the Backyard Rabbit Farming but scaled up although not as big as the facility as the commercial rabbit keeping book is suggesting but enough to feed a reasonably sized group. Perhaps putting a largish area aside for the rabbits, trapping them in place by surrounding this area with a moat or fence and leaving them to look after themselves. Culling them regularly to ensure that they don’t breed themselves out of the area.

It really depends on what the rabbit population is like where you are or looking to be. In my case I am currently not far away from two large warrens. One on public land so no hunting goes on and the other on private land right next to a set of farmers fields where the rabbits go to eat. I would be heading there in a disaster scenario and would envisage that neither of these warrens will get hunted out. Alternatively, if I moved to my own land, I think I would try and establish a rabbit warren before trying to raise my own in the backyard. Raising your own seems more work than it is worth at the moment. Perhaps, something to be re-evaluated when needs must.

4 comments to Rabbits for food

  • half

    California whites and New Zealand whites are the most popular meat breeds and can be bought over here. http://www.devonrabbits.co.uk/stock.htm. I’m thinking of breeding guinea pigs for meat, theres more fat on them than rabbits. Lack of fat will be a big problem shtf.

  • Skean Dhude

    Half,

    They look too cute to eat. The kids will go loopy.

    However needs must. After my statment above I am torn between trying something or leaving it. If I do it my way I will be reliant on wild rabbits and miss out on the meat producers.

    I’ve read about the guinea pigs. They seem a viable alternative to rabbits. I’m mainly looking at chickens and ducks myself though. Will be doing something about them as soon as possible.

  • Justin

    The Peruvians keep guinea pigs in the corner of their houses (single room usually) behind a small ‘fence’. Seems much easier for a bug in to keep them as they are so much smaller and in a worse case scenario would be a lot less difficult to keep inside the house.

  • Skean Dhude

    Justin,

    I’ve read about that. I liked the bit where they just leave them to run about and look after themselves and they just picked one up when they are hungry. In reality they are simply Peruvian rabbits so I should really try one to see what they taste like.

    I’ve an article on breeding guinea pigs for food which I should recover and put up.

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