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Why Raise Rabbits?

by Mary-Frances Bartels


          Each family or individual considering raising rabbits does so for different reasons. Usually the prospective breeder desires to raise their own meat rather than buying it at the store. This has benefits in that a breeder knows the history of the meat; how it was treated, whether drugs were used, and how it was slaughtered, handled, and stored. Beaglers tend to raise both wild and domesticated rabbits for the purposes of training hunting Beagles. Besides the benefits of the rabbits for dog training and meat for the family table, there is also the added benefit of rabbit manure for the family vegetable or flower garden.

          The issue remains: why raise rabbits? There are other choices. Questions to consider before settling on rabbits include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Do you live in the country or a suburban setting?
  • Do you want to raise meat to save money over that spent at the store?
  • How much time do you have to dedicate to this project?
  • Do you enjoy hand-raising animals?
  • What about cholesterol or digestibility of the meat?
  • Do you want a market for your animals?
  • Do you want something that is easy to raise or do you enjoy challenges?
  • How easy is butchering the animal?
  • If noise is a concern, how much noise does the animal make?
  • How much space is needed for the project?

Pros:

          Rabbits are well-suited for both country and suburban areas. Since they are not considered livestock by some governmental agencies, they are permitted where other animals would not. It is still a good idea to check with local zoning authorities to determine if rabbits are allowed before making many plans. Rabbits make very little noise, making them better for suburbia than chickens, squabs, turkeys, or ducks. In fact, if odor and flies are kept to a minimum, and the cages are well hidden by vegetation (a good idea anyway to protect them from the elements) it is possible that neighbors might not even know rabbits are in the yard.

          Rabbits are fairly easy to raise. The does take care of the young themselves, so no hand-raising or special equipment, such as an incubator, is needed. There is rarely a need for intensive on-the-spot care.

          Butchering is fairly simple and straight-forward. A skilled person can take a rabbit from the cage to freezer in 15 minutes or less. No plucking is needed.

          Since rabbits are considered as pets by some people, some pet sitters will take care of them if the owner desires to take a vacation, or must be away for business or family emergency. This probably would only apply to a very small rabbitry.

          Space is often not a problem because cages can be stacked. Especially when comparing to larger meat animals such as cattle or hogs, rabbits are much more efficient space users.

          If high production is not a goal, they can be fed kitchen scraps and forage food. There are many stories of rabbits being raised during the Depression or in third world countries fed what people would normally discard or that which can be easily gathered from the surrounding area. Some food such as elm or apple branches may already be easily available.

          Rabbit meat is extremely low in cholesterol and has an exceptionally high percentage of digestible protein. It is quite low in fat as well.

Cons:

          Rabbits might not be the best choice if one desires to make substantial money from selling the meat. It can be fairly difficult to find a market for rabbit meat. Individuals are permitted to process their own meat for their own use, but not for anyone else. Some folks can get around this problem by selling the fryer live and butcher the animal as a free service. This can work for friends or relatives, but not for any commercial endeavor. Processors in the US are few and far between. There also might not be a "bunny runner" available to take the fryers to a processor. Even if a processor is nearby, there is no guarantee it will accept shipment from a new source.

          Rabbits do not thrive in hot weather. Therefore, they are much better suited for temperate or cooler climes.

          It is more expensive to produce one pound of meat from a rabbit than other small meat animals. Likewise, on a small scale, as most backyard setups are, the meat is often more expensive than if it were purchased in the store.

          If high production is a concern it can be difficult to find good quality breeding stock. Additionally, very few veterinarians are very knowledgeable about rabbits. So, if a problem arises, getting valuable information can be troublesome. Also, most likely any rabbit breeders in the area are probably "show" breeders. A meat breeder might not be familiar with any show rabbit folks. Likewise, those he does know might not be familiar with problems found predominantly in a high production situation.

          In some parts of the world, especially the large metropolitan areas of the United States, rabbits are not commonly considered a meat animal. Consequently, a prospective breeder needs to be selective when choosing with whom he discusses his avocation. He must be sensitive to those who view rabbits as a pet. Pets are loving members of a family, and most people would never consider eating their dog or cat. Rabbits are cute and furry, so many people are repulsed at the thought of killing and eating them. This is called the "Easter Bunny Syndrome."

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).