Anti-Overwhelm Strategy #1: Quit Raising Meat Rabbits.
There are SO many great reasons to raise meat rabbits. They are one of the least expensive sources of lean protein because they grow out to processing weight so quickly. They are prolific, producing litters of 6-10 or more kits with each breeding. They’re tasty, healthy, and don’t require a lot of space or pricey equipment.
However, we found that meat rabbits are just not a good fit for our family. Some of the very same things that are such great benefits to raising rabbits are also a detriment for families like ours. Let me explain what I mean.
1.Rabbits are poopers. As in, they poop like you wouldn’t believe. They could easily be sold as poop factories instead of meat sources. It’s pretty astounding. Now just imagine the poop one rabbit makes, and multiply that pooing power by when you have two litters and about twenty rabbits. Should I show you a picture? No. Maybe I’ll spare you that.
While the poop is just awesome for disciplined people who really want manure for their garden, it is dishearteningly difficult to keep up with for people like us who are too busy to manage it on a regular basis. We both work outside of the home and often have weekend gigs as well. This means that a weekly poop-recovery program is hard for us to commit to… so you can imagine what kind of a stinky situation we kept finding ourselves in.
If you are a disciplined pooper scooper, more
pooper power to you. Meat rabbits may still be in your future.
2. Rabbits are destructive. They dig in the ground. They dig at their cages. They chew wood. They chew plastic. They scrape at the wire on their cages. In fact, if your rabbit house has any weaknesses, you had better believe that the rabbits will point them out for you. Since our hutches were fashioned together from a different original structure, their flaws were easily spotted by our rabbit-demolition team.
Some people seem to think this is cute. “Oh yes. The rabbits will show you any poor planning on your part!”
I do not think this is cute. Clever escape artists though they may be, we have chased our bunny Houdinis one too many times. My poor husband had to keep fixing up the cages… again… and again… Not to mention the ground digging they manage through the broken spots in the bottom of their tractors. Our backyard was a veritable mine of ankle-twisting pits of doom.
However, if you can manage to build or purchase a proper hutch- or set up a rabbit colony– without going insane, don’t let me deter you. I think having the right set up is half the battle.
3. Rabbits breed like rabbits. You know what I mean? These guys are unstoppable. What’s more, if your cage has weaknesses it’s not all that hard for a buck to wriggle over to the does’ side, and then you’ve got more babies than you had planned on. This could be a pro for some people, but for us it was just more rabbits to manage.
4. We are procrastinators. Unfortunately, this extends to the realm of raising meat rabbits. This means we would wait too long to butcher them, and we end up with exorbitant rabbit feed bills. Meat rabbits are supposed to be one of the most frugal homestead meat sources. However, due to our idle ways, ours were premium rabbits.
But it gets worse. We once waited so long that we had a litter of 6 month old rabbits together that still hadn’t been processed. And then it turns out that we had sexed one incorrectly and- you guessed it- we ended up with a buck in there, mating his sisters, and giving us a surprise double litter born just a day apart– of over TWENTY rabbits. (See point number 3.)
5. The meat part. While neither of us are opposed to raising our own meat- in fact, we’re very much in favor of it- we both had our qualms with processing and eating meat rabbits.
My husband, while able to do the process on his own, was not fond of butchering the rabbits. It’s one thing to hunt small game and butcher one or two at a time. It’s another to have to do an entire litter. It took so long that we would put it off… and then you know where that landed us. (See point #4: Procrastination.)
And I, while grateful for the meat, was not terribly excited about cooking and eating the rabbit. It tasted like chicken and was very good for you, but I found it difficult to keep it moist. Also, since we had mostly stopped buying meat from the store, rabbit became our main meat option. This meant roast rabbit on Monday, rabbit stew on Tuesday, rabbit casserole on Wednesday… and next week, oh, how about we have some rabbit? There’s some in the freezer.
You can see how we started developing some negative feelings about this.
Bottom line? We just couldn’t commit to the time that meat rabbit management demanded. They ended up costing us too much money and time for the return on our investment. What’s more, it wasn’t fair to the rabbits to not be cared for as they should have been.
So, we sold them. They have gone off to better homes, where hopefully they will be valued more and come of good use for other families.
And guess what? We still have access to good meat. We have great farmers in the area that sell healthy meat for bulk rates. If we want to have “homestead” meat, we still can butcher a rooster here or there, catch fish from our stream, or hunt the occasional small wild game without the commitment to raising a complete meat source.
And can I tell you something? It’s already taken a heavy load off our shoulders. It’s so nice to not be worrying about feeding, watering, cleaning, and processing the rabbits. I’m no longer uneasy about the mess and multiplication that I knew was occurring in our backyard.
The only problem? Our kids wanted just one for a pet. The verdict is still out on keeping it, but for the time being, little Blondie Bun Bun Hoppy-Hip is present and well.
Despite this small hitch in the plan, I still feel that Anti-Overwhelm Strategy #1 has been accomplished. Stay tuned for Strategy #2.