This is a three part series on raising rabbits. Hopefully we will have the whole series published by the end of the week. This first series is about where to start..
When deciding if raising rabbits is right for you, it is important to answer a couple questions first.
Why do I want to raise rabbits?
How much space do I need / have?
What am I going to do with the babies?
Do I have time?
There are many reasons to want to raise rabbits. On a homestead they are very valuable. Some people raise rabbits for meat, some raise for show, some raise for manure and some raise them as a pet.
We originally started raising rabbits for meat. We had tasted rabbit meat and liked it. We wanted to become protein independent, rabbits are a great way to do that in a urban setting. When it came time for us to cook our first rabbit, I got a horrible migraine. I occasionally suffer from migraines so I did not think anything about it. The second time, I suffered from another migraine. The third time I was not home when the meat was cooked. I enjoyed it for dinner and did not have a problem. I attempted to cook it myself again and was sick again. When I did some research I found out that some woman get migraines from rabbit meat. It has something to do with hormone levels. We have since decided that rabbit meat is not for us. Even though we do not raise our rabbits for meat, they are invaluable to us because of the compost they produce. The soil is rich, and my tomato plants grown in rabbit manure were 10 feet tall. You need to ask yourself, Why do I want rabbits?
Depending on why you want rabbits you need to consider the space that you have. A rabbit needs a cage that is 3 foot by 4 foot. This is a minimum in my mind. We are also looking for ways to get our rabbits more space. Also, when rabbits have babies you have to have a place to put them. Males and females need to be in different cages. We have two grow out hutches and runs. Below is a picture of one of our runs. We do not keep them in the run at night and we do not keep them in the run in the winter. This is a summer exercise area for us.
There are many ways to build your rabbitry. It is important to make sure that the rabbits have shade, enough space and protection from the elements and predators. We have built our cages inside a 10×8 shed. There are 4 female cages on one side of the shed and 4 male cages on the other.
Under the cages we have ramps with linoleum flooring so that it is easier to keep clean.
Next, you have to know what you are going to do with the babies. If you are raising rabbits for meat then you know the answer to this question. If you are raising them for show or as a pet, the answer is not as clear. We are not raising our rabbits for meat so we only breed them twice a year, based on demand. We sell our babies to other people that are interested in homesteading, 4H or just want a pet. We only breed for what we have found out we can sell. The breed that we raise, American Chinchillas, are an amazing bred. We have taken time to get a great blood line, and we want to be a part of the come back of this breed. If you only want a pet and you do not want babies, take the rabbit to vet and get it fixed. It is important to understand the purpose of your rabbits.
Lastly, you need to evaluate if you have time for rabbits. The way we have our rabbits set up, we have about 1/2 an hour worth of rabbit chores a day. Every two weeks or so we spend a couple hours with our rabbits. We take them out, do health checks, clip toe nails, brush, and give the cages a good cleaning. Make sure you have enough time to give the animal the care that it needs.
In addition, we are going to add the cost of rabbits. You can build rabbit cages out of scrap and spend next to nothing on them. We put ours in a shed, so we had to buy the shed, buy the wire and build the ramps. That was our choice, rabbits do not need to be in a shed. On average a 50 pound bag of feed cost $20. Once a rabbit is 6 months old it should only get about a cup of feed a day. We supplement with hay, which we get for $3 a bale. We have had to take the rabbits to the vet twice. It was under $100 each time. Other costs to research is a tattoo kit, water bowls, feeders, nesting boxes, clippers, traveling cages, show stand, ARBA membership, and bedding if you use it. Our rabbits are also litter trained, because we want to get as much of that compost as we can, so we buy bedding for the litter boxes. Brain storm the type of rabbit set up you want and figure out the cost of your rabbits before you get started.
We love raising our rabbits, we have found that it is worth it for us. If you need more information on raising rabbits we encourage you to read Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits.
The next post in this series will be which animal to choose and how many!