The complete guide to raising and breeding rabbits to provide you with meat
Learn in this guide how to build an independent meat supply in a crisis by raising, breeding and slaughtering rabbits.
From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.
👉 The key facts from this guide
- Raising rabbits is a sustainable and cost-effective way to produce meat for self-sufficiency.
- Choose large breeds such as German Giants, White Giants, or Giant Chinchillas for optimal meat production.
- Provide a spacious barn with multiple compartments and an outdoor enclosure to ensure appropriate living conditions.
- Feed the rabbits with fresh greens, wild herbs, and cabbage leaves in winter.
- For successful breeding, at least two females and one male should be present.
- The processing of rabbit meat and fur provides additional value and can be advantageous in times of crisis.
Those who can already provide themselves with fruit and vegetables from their garden are already one step ahead in the crisis.
But what about the supply of meat? After all, not everyone has the opportunity to own a farm and raise pigs.
Since prices for meat are also continuously rising, today we are presenting a relatively affordable and, above all, sustainable project that is suitable for helping a family become self-sufficient during the crisis.
Raising rabbits does not require much experience and is also feasible in times of crisis.
Rabbits, in contrast to poultry, have the crucial advantage of constantly reproducing.
If you decide to breed rabbits and slaughter hares, this post will help you.
Step by step, I will guide you through this process and explain what you need and what you need to pay attention to successfully provide for yourself and your loved ones.
Getting Started - the Shelter
Rabbits require a space where they can live safely from predators and protected from the weather.
So you require a stable. Since the rabbits are supposed to reproduce, it should be spacious, meaning big enough.
If the breeding was successful and the rabbits have offspring, the male rabbit must be separated from the mother and the young. Otherwise, he could kill them.
Your stable must therefore include several boxes. It requires draft-protected walls and a roof to keep the rabbits dry.
The latter option is more cost-effective, as you can easily spend several hundred euros on a ready-made stable.
It is best to house the rabbits in a shed or similar. This way, you save yourself the trouble of building a separate covered stable and can install the individual stables under the already finished roof. In addition, a shed can be heated in case of emergency.
Since rabbits also need exercise and sunlight, an outdoor enclosure is recommended. This way, they can play outside and eat fresh grass for many hours during the day while you take care of other tasks.
The agony of choice - which animals to buy?
Now it's time to buy the first animals.
Of course, a pair is ideal for breeding, but it also depends on the breed. While you could technically eat any rabbit, we want to ensure the supply for a family.
Therefore, choose a large breed. To make it easier for you to get started, you can gather information in advance from breeders or online.
German Giants, White Giants or Giant Checkered are, for example, among the largest breeds overall and provide you with the optimal amount of meat.
In Germany, there is a weight standard of maximum 11.5 kg for giant rabbits, and all three rabbit breeds mentioned here weigh between 6 and 7 kg.
If you deduct bones, fur, and innards, you are left with between 4 and 5 kg of meat per animal.
So it's worth starting with large breeds for self-sufficiency. Giant rabbits also have the advantage of producing a large amount of fur.
Furs can be processed further, which can bring you a source of money or exchange.
I will go into more detail on this later in the text below.
When it comes to acquiring rabbits and hares, you have options. Many breeders offer their young animals for a small fee in classified ads.
As rabbits reproduce rapidly, there is often a constant supply, which usually results in a favorable price.
You can buy young rabbits and hares for as little as 10 €.
Generally, rabbits are more profitable compared to chickens.
- They deliver more meat
- They constantly have offspring
- They are not as susceptible to diseases
While it is always important to adhere to regulations for keeping and disease control when it comes to birds, the requirements for rabbits are minimal.
You need a roof over your head, enough space, and food.
Which food for which season?
Rabbits may like to nibble on everything, but they are not rodents. At least this has been clarified over time. Rabbits belong to the lagomorphs and, like hares, they enjoy eating greens and cabbage leaves. Their favorite foods include dandelions and clover.
When collecting green fodder, pay attention to the nutrient content. Ultimately, everything the animal eats is transferred to its meat, and you consume it in the end. So make sure to feed your rabbits a healthy diet.
Since most wild herbs contain more vitamins and minerals than cultivated vegetables, it is advisable to provide rabbits with a healthy life and always prefer wild herbs.
You can also grow extra food for your rabbit in your garden. A small blooming meadow is enough to meet the animals' needs.
Another advantage of wild herbs is their fast growth.
Wild herbs require little to no maintenance. They grow on their own, reducing your workload. The rabbits will thank you for it with good health and shiny fur.
In summer, it's quite easy because there is an abundance of food. However, in winter, the situation is a bit different. As long as the winter is snow-free, the shortage can be compensated for. Grasses and herbs also provide fresh food in winter.
However, rabbits do not run around outside as often in winter as they do in summer. They then need particularly nutritious food. Cabbage leaves can help with that. Kale, Brussels sprouts or just a lettuce head provide important vitamins and nutrients.
Carrots should never be the main food for rabbits in winter, but only given as a snack.
Observe your rabbits in the summer. What do they eat in the outdoor enclosure, what do they particularly enjoy, and which herbs do they prefer? If you have some of these available in the winter, you can't go wrong.
However, you should definitely follow the following tip:
Please do not feed hay to the rabbits. If they are accustomed to fresh food, they will not be able to obtain the nutrients they need from dry food.
You wouldn't want to eat only oatmeal or muesli all winter either. Please also refrain from using commercially available chew sticks or yogurt drops. These are not found in nature and just like industrially processed food additives, they cannot be claimed to be good.
Rabbits usually don't need too much space. However, when you start breeding, you should still make sure that you have multiple cages available. When the female rabbit gives birth, you will need to move the male rabbit to a separate cage.
Make sure that the expectant mother has as little stress as possible. Reduced stress resistance is particularly observed in large breeds.
Giant rabbits were originally bred for weight and size to ensure a high meat supply. Unfortunately, this breeding was counterproductive for the rabbits' heart and circulation.
Generally, rabbits tend to constantly reproduce and multiply rapidly. Depending on how much space you have, two females and one male are ideal to start a successful breeding.
The young animals must stay with the mother for a certain period of time after birth. Keep this in mind before planning the space for the rabbits. If you want to keep the animals appropriately, you should calculate about 3 square meters of space per adult rabbit for outdoor housing.
If rabbits are kept outside in winter, they need exercise to stay warm. However, in an emergency, no one will come and call the veterinary office if the rabbits have less space. With multiple animals, they can warm each other up.
In a rabbit hole, things don't work any differently and there is usually less space.
It is important that the animals have exercise at least once a day.
It is essential that the cage is weatherproof. Rabbits should not be exposed to drafts and rain.
Rabbits can also get sick in bad weather and in the worst case even die.
If you set up the stable at a sheltered angle and equip it with a roof, everything should run smoothly. Of course, a heated stable is ideal, but not absolutely necessary.
Ultimately, it depends on your space, circumstances, budget, and needs to determine the size and productivity of the cultivation.
The necessary processing - Breeding rabbits for slaughter
If you breed rabbits for meat supply, you must be aware that the animals don't just pull their fur over their ears.
Of course, the rabbit also has to be slaughtered one day.
This means in plain language that you have to kill the animal beforehand. If you cannot do that yourself and also do not have anyone who can do it for you, you should refrain from breeding rabbits.
Unfortunately, this unpleasant act is necessary.
Rabbits generally have a lifespan of about 10–12 years. Breeding rabbits, especially those that have litters frequently, do not live quite as long.
When are rabbits ready for slaughter?
When slaughtering, remember to take the young animals. Rabbits can be slaughtered from the age of 5 months.
It depends on how heavy the rabbit is now. For giant rabbits, the weight at this age should be around 2 kilograms.
How to expertly euthanize rabbits
When slaughtering, make sure that the area is hygienic and that the animal is stunned beforehand to prevent unnecessary suffering.
One bolt gun and a club are just as important as sharp knives for gutting and skinning. Additionally, you will need access to water, a stable surface, and a hook (or similar).
Ideally, tie the animal's legs together beforehand to prevent it from jumping off the table or scratching.
With the bolt gun, you aim at the center of the rabbit's head. The club is only used as a backup plan if the stunning shot, for whatever reason, misses. In this video, you can see how a bolt gun works on a rabbit.
If the rabbit is now sedated, make a clean incision on the carotid artery and let it bleed out. Keep a close eye on the animal and hold it firmly.
When death has occurred, after a few seconds, you can begin to peel off the fur.
Here is a video showing you how to skin the fur and gut the rabbit:
In addition, I learned a lot from this video. If you have watched both videos, you basically know how to slaughter a rabbit.
Here again for reference, after you have killed the animal:
- Hang the rabbit on a hook for bleeding and gutting.
- Make a cut on the hind legs. This should run between the leg bones and the tendon.
- The fur is pulled off from the hind legs towards the head and should be removed while the animal is still warm. This is much easier than with already cooled animals. If the fur is to be further processed, it needs to be stretched. But more on that in the section about further use.
- With a sharp knife, make an incision on the belly and remove the inedible organs such as the gall bladder, bladder, intestines, stomach, and adrenal glands.
- Organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys can either be left in the animal or removed for separate processing.
- Lastly, the legs and eyes need to be removed. Some people also remove the entire head.
The cleaned rabbit meat is either hung in a germ- and insect-free room for 24 hours or frozen for later processing. In winter, hanging can also be done outdoors.
Added value of rabbits: meat and fur
In addition to the meat, rabbit skins can also be processed very well. If you are considering this, there are a few things you need to consider.
Before stretching the fur, clean it from any possible grease residues. This prevents unwanted decay and the associated smell and infestation of insects.
The fur can be treated and preserved in three different methods.
- Freezing in a sealable plastic bag would be the easiest method.
- Salting to remove moisture is not as simple as it sounds. You need to make sure that the fur on the inside is meticulously rubbed with salt and then completely covered in a suitable container.
- Drying is the best method for me. The fur must be hung in a place with sufficient air circulation. This works great outdoors as well. However, the temperature should not exceed 30 degrees Celsius. Ensure adequate ventilation (fan or wind) and avoid direct sunlight. Then the drying process should be satisfactory.
Once thoroughly dried, you can sell the hides or process them into leather.
Suitable for making fur, gloves or similar, the hides have an additional value besides the meat.
Whatever you want to make of it, remember that fur keeps you warm. For the next winter, you will surely come up with one or two things.
Alternatively, you can also send them to someone who specializes in processing fur. You can surely find the right provider online for that.
Legal Considerations to Keep in Mind
When slaughtering rabbits, there are legal guidelines that you should follow. To slaughter a rabbit for personal use, you don't necessarily need a certificate, but some practice should be present.
Please consult a professional in advance and have them explain the necessary steps to you in detail. After all, nobody wants the animal to be subjected to unnecessary suffering.
In order for the killing to be safe and quick, and for the rabbit not to suffer, every move must be precise.
In the Animal Welfare Act, there is even a specific paragraph that regulates this.
According to § 4 of the Animal Welfare Act, the animal must be stunned before slaughter in such a way that it cannot feel anything from the procedure, ensuring a quick and painless death.
The perception and sensation must be completely switched off. In addition, the anesthesia device must be regularly maintained and checked before each use.
Furthermore, it must be ensured that the animal bleeds out quickly. Each individual cut must be executed correctly.
For more detailed and comprehensive information, please refer to the Animal Welfare Act under § 4.
Conclusion: Meat and Fur for Difficult Times and Crises
With rabbit breeding, even on a small scale, you can provide your family and yourself with good meat throughout the year.
This is especially important if meat becomes pricier in the supermarket, if you want to live more sustainably, or if there is no meat available to buy due to a crisis.
Of course, there is also a lot you should learn beforehand about various methods of preparation.
Hundreds of dishes with rabbit meat, such as soups, stews, roasts, rabbit legs, and even sausages, can be made and cooked from the meat of the animals.
In connection with growing your fruits and vegetables, rabbit breeding is another big step towards independence. Living self-sufficiently is a dream worth pursuing. That's why it's essential to learn everything there is to know about this topic.
Of course, there is much more to it, but when people come together, each bringing a different skill, you can learn from each other and everything becomes easier.
A capable self-sufficient society does not have to fear restrictions or even famines because it will overcome them through its strength.
And now enjoy your rabbit breeding. Are you feeling inspired now?
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