Confessions of a Former Rabbit Killer
Hi. My name is Lisa and I’m a former rabbit killer. For the record, I never enjoyed killing cute little bunnies, quite the opposite. I did it because I felt I needed to. It has been several years since I last killed rabbits. Why did I kill them? How could I do such a despicable thing? Well, If you must know, I’ll tell you.
Hooked on Rabbits
This story starts in a quiet suburban backyard around 2007. Imagine, if you will, a middle-aged housewife, homeschooling mom, gardener, ‘retired’ landscape designer, and prepper out puttering in the yard. Unbeknownst to the neighbors or local authorities, this mild-mannered gardener was hatching plans to become more self-reliant in this crazy world. That homesteader wannabe was me.
Something Wasn’t Right
I knew that all was not well with our modern world of convenience. The complex system of big agriculture, factory processing, and transportation of food to grocery stores has always been susceptible to disruption. Take away petroleum, shut down the roads, power down the grid and what are you left with? Hungry people. Hungry people tend to riot and steal. I don’t want to see my family go hungry, so I planted larger and larger gardens, preserved the harvest, stocked up on staples, and learned to forage for food.
Wanting to be More Self-Reliant
But I wanted more. I wanted to provide meat for our table. Chickens were not allowed in our subdivision. I thought about keeping a few chickens in our basement, but hubby wasn’t keen on that idea, for some strange reason. So my thoughts turned to rabbits.
Could Rabbits be the Answer?
Rabbits are fairly easy and inexpensive to raise. They are quiet and manageable. You don’t need much equipment to get started and they don’t take up much space. They can also be passed off as pets, if necessary. The meat tastes great and their pelts can be used to make nice fuzzy things like mittens.
I started reading up on raising rabbits for meat. My only experience was keeping rabbits for pets when I was a kid. I admit, rather sheepishly, that I wasn’t supposed to be raising meat rabbits in my suburban back yard. But I figured it was better than smuggling in chickens. So the journey began.
Let’s Find Out!
I obtained a breeding pair of New Zealand Whites from a local rabbitry. They were pretty hefty bunnies and rather wild, but even so, I could handle them easily. Within months I had young rabbits to butcher and breed. The neighbors right around us had no problem with my rabbit project. I’m sure they thought I was nuts, but that wasn’t really anything new.
However, I felt kind of weird about killing and dressing my ‘livestock’ in the back yard. It never really became second nature to me…after all, I had pet rabbits as a kid, and I was sort of breaking some rules. Sort of.
Wait, I Have to Kill The Rabbits?
Before this experience, I had only killed and cleaned fish. Fish – no biggie. Rabbits – ugh. My cousin told me the best way to kill the rabbits was to whack them on the back of the head and then slit their throats while they were unconscious. Once they bled out, I could skin and eviscerate them. I had also read about breaking their necks and I tried this.
Maybe it was because I wasn’t too keen on killing anything, to begin with, or maybe I just didn’t have the brute strength…but after a couple of botched attempts to break a bunny neck, I gave up and went for the less elegant method of bashing them on the back of the head then slitting their throats.
Head bashing never really settled too well with me, and it scared the living daylights out of our cat. I’ll never forget the first time he strolled up during a bunny butcher session. ‘Hey, human, what’s up?” Whap! “Holy COW, what did the rabbit do to deserve that? I am outta here!” and he ran up a tree and sat there watching me with his eyes as wide as saucers. Yeah, like you never kill anything, dude. Let’s go talk to the chipmunks about that.
I managed to process my rabbits and actually got pretty good at it. Our family started to eat a lot of rabbits. I had them in the freezer with more ready to butcher every 2 or 3 months. When you hear that rabbits can provide a lot of meat for a family, it really is true. With one buck and 2 does, you can provide enough meat for an average family to eat really well…as long as you like rabbit meat.
If you are interested in raising rabbits for meat, check out Raising and Breeding Rabbits for Meat.
Moving to a One Acre Homestead!
I was happy to have a source of home-raised meat. Our fruit trees were producing and the garden had taken over most of our yard. But it still wasn’t enough for me. When the bottom fell out of the housing market, we decided to take a chance on selling and moving to a property zoned agricultural so I could raise poultry for meat and eggs too.
It was a scary prospect. We lost money on our house. Our dream property was nowhere to be found…at least not in our price range. But we compromised and found a house with one acre of land, zoned ag, within 20 minutes of hubby’s work. I wanted more land and more barn, but I didn’t want to be house poor. We made the plunge.
Read How to Homestead on 1 Acre or Less and Increase Your Self Reliance!
A Rebellion Against the Rabbit!
The breeding stock moved with us to the new place in 2010. I continued to raise and butcher rabbits for another year or so after the move. What I wasn’t prepared for was a rebellion. The ones I hold dearest, my husband and son, turned against me. They decided they didn’t really want to eat rabbits anymore.
Huh?! I did the work to raise, butcher, and prepare the meat. It wasn’t easy for me to kill the cute little fuzzy bunnies, but I did it. I did it to provide meat for our table. Because I wanted to increase our self-reliance and I don’t like buying meat of questionable quality from the grocery store.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the uneasy feeling that hubby and son had about eating fuzzy bunnies. A declaration was made: We like chicken better! Well, I’m definitely not raising meat rabbits for just me to eat. So I sold my breeding stock and concentrated my efforts on raising more meat chickens, ducks, and turkeys. It’s all good. I admit readily that it is much easier for me to kill poultry than rabbits. I like the meat just as well. And my guys are happy.
Every so often I see articles about raising rabbits for meat. And I get a bee in my bonnet. What if I just kept one breeding pair? I still have a couple of cages and feeders in the barn. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the furs? BBQ rabbit would taste really good right now! And then reality sets in.
I would have a revolt on my hands if I brought home any more rabbits!
Have you ever raised rabbits for meat? Did you butcher them yourself? Was it more difficult to kill a rabbit than a chicken? I’m always interested in hearing about your experience!
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I really liked your blog about butchering rabbits! I’ve eaten rabbit meat before and liked it but I think my family would also rebel. Though, I wouldn’t mind raising them for meat. I wish there was an easier way to kill a rabbit. I thought the part about your cat was really funny! I too have a good hunter cat, her name is Cheetah! She reduced the rodent population very well!
Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed reading this. Yes, I didn’t like killing the rabbits but I did enjoy the meat. My poor little Oscar is no longer with us, but I’ll never forget the look on his face. I’m glad you have a good hunter to keep mice away!
Hi there, I’m in the spot of wannabe homesteader looking towards Ohio from Massachusetts. Question in regards to breeding stock: say you start with a buck and two does, and eventually you need to replace the does but the buck is fine to continue, do you worry about generics being too close? Do you buy a new buck at that point and continue your bred does?
Here is what I remember about the genetics of breeding rabbits…you never want to breed a buck to its daughters, or a doe to her sons, or siblings to each other.
What I would suggest is to start with a buck and does from separate bloodlines. If the buck is no longer doing his job, you can replace him with an unrelated buck and use the original does and the daughters from the original buck. If the does are no longer producing, you could keep either the male or female offspring and purchase unrelated breeding stock of the opposite sex.
I think it is easier and cheaper to buy a new buck and keep the does from your original breeding stock.
I hope this helps!
My daughter and I do the butchering together. Rabbits, chickens, turkeys. My youngest granddaughter (5) has no issues with any of it. She wants to be involved and she knows from the beginning that the animals are food. She wants to be in there to have an anatomy lesson while we are processing. My older granddaughter (12) likes to claim the animals are hers to everyone who will listen. But she doesn’t want to be involved in the processing. She refused to eat any of the rabbit. One day I was making soup from the leftovers and she asked her mom what was cooking, was it rabbit or chicken? Mom told her chicken. She ate 5 bowls of that soup. And again for lunch the next day. Said it was the best chicken noodle soup she had ever tasted! It took several months before mom told her that her favorite chicken noodle soup was bunny noodle soup. She paused for about 15 seconds and then said, ‘It was REALLY good!’. She eats it fine now, but still won’t help process! Oh, well.
Kids are so cute 🙂 Your granddaughters sound like lots of fun! There’s no telling how they will react and I think sometimes they do better if they are introduced to the whole butchering process earlier in life. I know I felt bad about the pigs and steers going to the butcher when I was younger, but got over it pretty quick. And I helped my Dad butcher the chickens…so I think that made it easier for me to get started on my own. So I’m guessing that your older granddaughter will come around someday. 🙂
I bet that was very good soup! Thanks for sharing 🙂
We raised rabbits years ago without much luck. My husband does occasionally rabbit hunt, so we have eaten them. I have one daughter that would like to raise Angoras for the fiber, but not ready to make that leap yet 🙂
We have raised chickens, steers, sheep, and considering pigs for meat.
We usually do not do the butchering. we pay someone to do it. We know how, and could if we needed to. But decided it is easier to let someone else.
I completely understand, Sandra! I’m not entirely sure I want to attempt butchering larger animals…I think I want to, but when I consider all of the work, I’m not so sure!
I’ve never processed rabbit before, but I had a mini rebellion in my home with our chickens. My favorite rooster had kicked one of my twins in the face and drew blood, so he was sent to freezer camp. I had my (at the time) four kids watch, since, in my manly/fatherly mind, they need to learn this stuff. The laughter and light chatting quickly turned to screams of horror and tears. Except for the twin who’d been kicked. They all plucked the rooster, I processed it and fried it up. None of the kids would touch it, except for that younger twin of mine. Her comment as she bit into a drumstick was he was mean, but delicious!
Lol! I hope they weren’t traumatized by that! 😉 You definitely don’t want a mean rooster around kids…so you did the right thing, Herb. I never told my son to watch, but his curiosity won out and he has been involved in butchering day quite often.
It is a great skill for kids to learn, and even though they may have been upset about it at the time, they know where their food comes from. That is important in these modern times when kids are spared any knowledge of how meat gets to the table.
I disagree with this a little bit. Domestic rabbits have been bred to very different temperments, behaviors, and bodies than their wild counterparts. Example? Australia is over run with introduced rabbits, but they are a wild variety from another country. For years before that species became introduced Australians had pet domesticated rabbits and invariably some of them got out. None of them bred to capacity like the wild ones have. So my suspicion is that these are now very different creatures than what we see in the wild. I don’t think these rabbits would really be ‘happy’ in the wild because they would lack a lot of the skills to cope. Meat rabbits probably can only really exist in human care for any length of time. Just my two cents.
Good points. I can understand both opinions. I have to side with you and Rob, in that I really don’t think that domestic rabbits can be turned loose and expected to live a happy life. I do think that they have some more natural behaviors that they should be allowed to express even if you are raising them for meat. I think the colony method of raising them sounds like the way to go for homesteaders. It takes more space and can be more work, but it allows a healthier, happier rabbit. If I could ever convince the guys that raising our own rabbits for meat is better than buying locally raised beef and pork…I would definitely look at figuring out some type of colony pen system.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Ironically, today was processing day on my farm, and I thought of this post often. A friend was here to help process, because she wanted to learn how. When she saw me dispatch the first rabbit, she said “Wow. That happened a lot faster than I thought it would.” The rest of the day went similarly, right up until the last rabbit. He was an older rabbit, and one of my foundation bucks, and I realized quickly just how much I’d come to care for this rabbit in particular. Each rabbit is special to me, but this one a bit more so. When the time came, I cried.
I think this is part of the hobby farm/homestead that people really don’t fully understand. My respect for the life I’m taking is profoundly deeper than anything it was when I was buying meat in a grocery store.
Thank you for sharing this important knowledge, Rob. How wonderful that you had some help from a friend who wants to learn! I can understand how you feel about killing a rabbit you’ve had for some time. It was always more difficult for me to kill a doe compared to one of the youngsters. I still find it much more difficult to kill one of my laying hens than to kill a young rooster or meat bird. And I completely understand what you mean about having respect for the life you are taking. I don’t think anyone, at any point, had respect for the lives of the animals slaughtered for the meat industry…and that is such a shame.
Could you tell us more about the captive-bolt gun? What is it and how does it work?
I’m not sure if Rob will get your message…so I will share a couple of links that might answer your question…
You will need to copy and paste the url into the address field to get to the sites. The first one is a wikipedia page and the second one is a video on youtube of a particular model that is used for stunning cattle. I’m pretty sure that the one Rob uses must be for smaller animals, because I can’t imagine using this thing on a rabbit. But it gives you an idea of how they work. Hope this helps!
The one for cattle is a little horrifying. But it’s the same principle. If you go to “rabbitwringer.com” (could there be a worse name?), you can find the kind that I use. Basically, it’s a steel bolt on a spring that is loaded by pulling back on a heavy rubber band. When it’s triggered, the bolt springs down and instantly kills the rabbit. I find it as humane as possible. I also have used a pellet rifle, which is equally fast, but I find it’s a bit bloodier, though still an instant death. It took a couple practice runs (I fired the bolt gun on a used piece of 2×4 to get the pressure right, since I was sickened at the thought of “practicing” on a live animal.
So, I’ve been through all the different methods mentioned here. I skipped the clubbing part, because if you don’t hit perfectly, you just hurt the rabbit rather than killing it. The broomstick method, or cervical dislocation, works really well, but you have to get it right in a hurry, or the rabbit will pull out and be stressed. What I did notice was that there was a LOT more bruising of the shoulders when the rabbits were dressed after cervical dislocation. Using the pellet rifle or the captive bolt gun is an instant kill, is much harder to mess up, and leaves a cleaner carcass, in my experience. The bolt gun is expensive, so the pellet rifle is the way to go if cost is an issue.
Thank you, Rob! Very good information! If I ever raise rabbits for meat again, I will have to try one of these methods. I keep saying ‘if I ever raise rabbits again’ because it is such a great source of meat with so little feed and space, even if you use the colony method with plenty of room to roam. But gosh, the guys are still not interested!
We’re now just starting up our rabbitry. We have had one litter, from an older first time mom, and she did GREAT!! She did accidentally pull 2 out if the nest and the got cold and died. So we brought them upstairs. Then another wasn’t getting a tummy full, so when I suggested supplementing, the kids were all for it. 2 are fluffy, fed and healthy. We figured out this one must’ve had a broken back…so after a couple days, and obvious mama was feeding him, we just left him in the nest. They are all 3 weeks, he drags himself around, and is almost as fast as the others, but he’s also half their size. We’ve discussed many times what to do about him…and his quality of life…but so far mom is feeding and licking him. DH said leave him be (but wash him) if mom is caring for him. I’m like, “guys, we’re raising meat rabbits here. Not pets. Certainly not a rescue. Who’s got time for this?” The baby still lives.
I’m so for meat rabbits, but doing what’s gotta be done is going to be really hard….tho I think my son’s may be better about it than us girlie girls. Lol
Hi Kymberli…yeah, that’s a tough situation. I’m sorry you lost some of the babies…that’s always hard. I suggest letting the one with problems go until it either dies or is ready to be butchered. I hope she has better luck with the next kindling!
Thanks for sharing your rabbit tales with us!
This is such a great article! I really enjoyed reading it because we’re considering raising meat rabbits as well. I’m not sure I could butcher them myself. I grew up with rabbits and think of them more as pets than meat. Is that something that changes in your brain when you start raising them for meat?
Thanks! It’s so hard to know if you’ll be able to think of them as livestock for meat…that’s going to be different for each person. I saw your cute fuzzy bunny on your blog and I would have trouble eating anything that cute! Honestly, I had pet rabbits as a kid and it was hard for me to butcher them. But I think that when you make a decision to raise an animal for meat, you prepare yourself from the very beginning to keep them as livestock, not pets. Don’t name them, don’t bring them in the house and sit with them in your lap and pet them. Remind yourself continually that they are going on the table and you should be fine. For me, it helps that I grew up on a farm and knew that livestock were for eating from early on.
Best wishes, and let me know how it goes!
That’s such great advice. Our little Dollypop is a pet rabbit, I totally couldn’t eat her, you’re right that she’s just to cute! That totally makes sense to know from the start that your livestock are not pets and don’t treat them as so. I’m going to keep all this in mind when we move out to the country next year and get our real farm started!
Do you have a place in mind, Meredith? or are you starting to look for properties now? I hope you find just what you are looking for! I hope it all goes according to plans 🙂
Thanks for injecting humor into an otherwise unpleasant topic. We’ve raised and butchered poultry and rabbits. I’d rather dress out a rabbit any day. I don’t enjoy killing them but it’s done as humanely as possible. We put the rabbit in a wire cage on the ground with some food & shoot it in the head with a pellet rifle. Very quick.
Our does live loose in a colony arrangement in the barn. The bucks are in cages to control breeding and fighting. I tried putting the bucks in individual stalls, but those guys can climb so it’s cages for them.
My husband thinks that it would be better to kill rabbits the way you describe. Maybe if I ever raise them again (ahem) I’ll try that. We do have a pellet rifle and it made short work of a possum last year. Your set up with the colony sounds like a great idea! Thanks so much for sharing!
I betcha they end up being pets! 😉 I admit that it is not easy to kill a rabbit. If you start naming them, you know you’re in trouble! Let me know what happens!
We have rabbits on the way from a friend who got overwhelmed with too many babies at once. We have talked about this for years and STILL haven’t decided if we have their going to be pets or if we’ll breed them for meat. I guess we’re going to have to figure it out soon!
We just started a small rabbit operation. Our intent is to expand and produce meat for the local market, and also learn how to process the skins into something useful, like mittens. We have meat ready to go if anyone is interested in dressed rabbit, and also I can get starter NZ pairs for homesteaders if they have the bug to produce their own!
Fortunately for me, my husband is an avid hunter and carpenter. I do most of the daily work, and he builds and kills for me. Perfect!
Slow cooked rabbit is great. Add some homemade cream of mushroom soup? Salivating already.
Our girls learned as babies that rabbits, and anything we feed, is either to eat or to serve us in some way. (Rabbits are mousers, dogs are protectors, rabbits and chickens are food. We love them all, but they serve us.) Our newest experience is squirrel. It takes some getting used to, but the meat is actually delicious.
Hi Western Woman,
That’s great! I think we need more people producing healthy, sustainable meat for their customers! Rabbit with cream of mushroom soup sounds very good indeed. 🙂
I think my son was more open to eating rabbit than my husband. He had trouble seeing them while they were alive and then he happened to watch me killing one…I don’t think he liked that at all. I’m sure it looks barbaric.
I had NZs too and they really had a nice amount of meat on their carcass. Thanks for sharing your plans!
What a great article – I was smiling all through it because we’ve obviously walked in the same shoes regarding raising meat rabbits. We bought a trio of New Zealands years ago to raise for meat and breeding stock to sell for just the same reasons you did. However, its soooooo much harder to butcher a soft fuzzy rabbit than it is a flighty squawky chicken that you don’t get attached to. We never treated the rabbits as pets, they were in hanging welded wire cages in our barn, yet it was still very hard to butcher them. My husband had to do the “deed” and he learned to whack them on the head and proceed as you outline. Then I had to disguise the rabbit meat as “chicken” to our two young boys or they would never eat it!!! I actually came up with a Rabbit Scallopine dish that was published in a rural magazine – it was very good but only developed because of my intent to hide the fact it was RABBIT and not chicken to our kids. Finally it just got too emotionally difficult for my husband (i think he was beginning to feel like an unrepentant serial killer headed for death row)!!! We now take our chickens to the Amish for butchering because they do it so quickly and inexpensively, but I could still do it if need to – but rabbits – nah don’t think I could do it anymore either. Thanks for sharing your insight and humor – loved it!
Thanks, Linda! Your Rabbit Scallopine sounds super yummy! Where was it published? I’d like to read that recipe. 🙂
I can understand your hubby’s difficulty in processing the rabbits. You’re right, chickens are so much easier! Other than that part, I really didn’t mind the dressing process.
Thanks so much for sharing!
When I started homesteading, I began with chickens, but have since moved into a full-scale rabbitry. Like you, I wanted to be more in touch with my food sources, and I wanted to be more self-sustaining. What I wasn’t ready for was just how many people would want to include rabbit meat into their diets. So, I’ve had just the opposite experience. Yes, it’s challenging for me to process a rabbit. However, I think it’s something rather profound to have raised a rabbit from birth through death, and to be responsible for the entire cycle. I take a lot of pride in how I process each animal on my homestead, and I’m sure more than one person thinks I’m crazy for how “spiritual” I sometimes get about it.
For me, the rabbitry has become a reliable source of income, and it’s what I’ve become known for on my homestead. This weekend, I had one of my does kindle a litter for me. The same day, I processed her previous litter. I’m good at processing, I’m efficient and humane (I use a captive-bolt gun to kill them instantly), and I treat the animal with dignity through the entire process. But I never feel good on processing day. Truth is, I cry. Sometimes quite a lot.
Later, after having delivered rabbit meat to those who’d ordered with me, I came home to find the runt of the new litter in quite a bit of distress. I spent several hours with it, nursing it along until I felt it would survive the night. And it did. I take just as much pride in preserving life as I do in taking it. And I think this ideal is ultimately one of the things that most separates homesteaders from stereotypical consumers.
Well said, Rob! In our area, the health department forbids us from selling meat processed on our property. So I have never really thought much about selling dressed chickens, rabbits, etc. I think it’s crazy that a slaughterhouse can process thousands of animals in a day, pump disgusting waste water into our rivers, and drag the meat through chill water laced with formaldehyde…but I can’t sell a chicken that was humanely and carefully killed, cleaned, and dressed in 20 minutes with only fresh, clean water touching it. Crazy!
Good for you for providing a humane life and death for your rabbits, and an awesome meal for your customers! Thanks for sharing!
We have two Mini Rexes (obviously not for meat) that live in the backyard and get to dig and do rabbity things (except multiply, apparently they haven’t figured that one out yet). I keep hearing about raising them for meat and keep reading and know that they are one of the best self sufficient meats out there (providing they work better than ours are). My grandfather raised meat rabbits. I am not opposed in any way to anyone raising rabbits for meat.
Just for me…. I think I’d have a super hard time because it’d be too much like eating a cat LOL (and that notion was not helped by my chef son who said it was close to impossible to tell the difference between a skinned rabbit and a cat… and I refused to ask him when he’d seen a skinned cat!)
I’ve heard that about rabbits and cats too…and fortunately I’ve never seen a skinned cat either! I guess rabbits aren’t as friendly and cuddly to me as a cat or dog…so it wasn’t as difficult as thinking about killing a pet. But it definitely is easier to dispatch a chicken!
Well, as the newest addition to our family last week was chewing the wood molding, I might have entertained the idea, but no, this vegetarian owner of a free-ranging house rabbit won’t kill them for meat. Glad that your husband and son piped up.
Well, I could probably be a vegetarian if I lived alone…but my guys are the ones who don’t want to give up meat. But they don’t want to kill it…that seems backwards, doesn’t it?!
I admit that it wasn’t easy to kill rabbits and I commend anyone who chooses to go meat free rather than support the mainstream system of animal farming and slaughter!
I’ve had time to think about poultry and whether or not I’d have the “t – fortitude” to do “the job” (butchering). I can’t imagine an unsuccessful attempt at ending the life of a creature (especially a “bunny”). I would be scarred beyond ever trying it again. Even if I was successful, my kids would never forgive me and my grandchildren….well they’d disown their grandmother for life. Then again….. maybe they’d never mess with grandma!
My husband has a semi-working grain farm. We’re hoping to move as soon as we can get enough of the renovations done to permit a relocation. And like you, Lisa, we want to be as self-sufficient as possible. We have some advantages that you didn’t – hubby grew up farming. He grew up with slaughtering and all the other standard farm-type activities. I’m a small-town girl who has “delusions of grandeur” about becoming a full-fledged farm girl. Sure, we buy our raw-milk weekly. I make butter and only bake our bread (no more store-bought). Got into canning this past year and was tickled to look into my 2 large kitchen cupboards that were almost overflowing with spaghetti sauce and apple products (and a few pickles). The freezer is full of corn, beans, peppers and butternut squash. I can do the fish-gutting as my grandpa raised me with a fishing pole in my hands. But rabbits???? You’ve given me something…. ok– A LOT, to think about. I will concede…. at this point, you’re a better woman than I.
I’ve had a few botched attempts at butchering early on. Not pleasant, but you swing that hatchet a lot faster the second time to end the suffering. I’ve had enough practice now that it doesn’t really happen any more.
I actually grew up on a farm too…I helped my Dad butcher chickens as a kid, but I didn’t do the actual killing until I raised rabbits. I wasn’t sure I could do it…I looked around for someone who would kill the rabbits for a free one. But I had a sick rabbit that had to be put down very quickly and that’s when I first killed an animal. It wasn’t easy and it still isn’t, but I made a commitment and followed through. You would too if you decide to raise animals for meat…if I can do it then you can too! You are already doing an amazing job putting up all that food and making your own bread and butter!
Best wishes with relocating to a homestead! Let me know how that goes!
Thanks for sharing this article. I have been contemplating raising meat rabbits for awhile and even have a hutch I received off freecycle. I was thinking I could also use one of my chicken tractors to allow them to graze during the day(it’s not secure enough for nighttime). My hesitation has been about whether I could butcher them. I have butchered meat chickens but I have heard that butchering a mammal is a whole new level. Also, I have never have rabbit meat and don’t want to get started, only to discover I don’t care for it. I would go ahead and try to catch a wild rabbit but our dog is pretty good at keeping them away.
I’m wondering if you should consider raising rabbit and chickens for meat, if you have the time and inclination. I have read that rabbits really aren’t sufficient as a primary meat source and it’s always good to have multiple meat sources. But perhaps even one breeding pair would produce to much for your rebellious crew, lol?
I’m happy to share 🙂 You might want to look at the store for rabbit so you can try it first before making the plunge and starting your rabbitry. We have them available at a place called Valli produce in Rockford, IL. They have a lot of international foods, including chicken feet and fish heads…It’s such an experience shopping there! The meat is kind of pricey compared to mainstream chicken.
I thought that rabbit tasted kind of like a cross between pork and chicken. My favorite way to cook it was in bbq sauce in my slow cooker. Oh boy, was that good!
Right now we have quite a bit of locally raised, grass fed beef in our freezer, a whole bunch of chickens (go figure), some naturally raised local pork, several ducks, and 1 homegrown turkey. Because we have so much that needs to be used, I’ve decided to put off raising any chickens or ducks for meat until late summer or early fall this year. I know that if I get back into rabbits, I would be the only one who wants to eat them. So I have set that idea on the back burner. Maybe someday I’ll think about it again…but it won’t be any time soon. 🙂
I think the reason that rabbits aren’t suggested as the main source of meat is because they are so lean and don’t provide any fat for the diet. My rabbits must have eaten too much because there was definitely some fat on their carcasses.
Thanks for stopping by and reading!
We had rabbits but we couldn’t kill them and ended up paying the butcher to kill and dress them out. We raised muscovy (don’t think I spelled it right) We killed and butchered them. They tasted great! Even better than the rabbits but nobody liked killing them and so we gave them away. We raised chickens for eggs. We had to battle the racoons for the eggs and chickens but it was much easier to raise the chickens for eggs. My daughter ( she’s an adult and has her own home on the same property)wants us to raise chickens for butchering. I don’t think I can do it.
I’ve been wanting to try Muscovies (you spelled it right!) as I’ve heard the meat is very good. Working on that idea…someday. I find that even though I don’t like to kill animals, I prefer it to buying meat from the grocery store. It helps that I grew up in a family that raised livestock for the table and I helped my Dad dress chickens.
Thanks for sharing!
I can understand your issue with keeping rabbits in small cages, Janet. I didn’t want to keep mine in such small cages either and mainly opted for hutches. Still not great, but I was working with a suburban setting for most of that period. I did set up a pen and allowed them time to graze.
My problems with factory farmed animals are not only the size of the pens/cages (where they often can’t even turn around), but also with the feed, treatment (like they can’t feel pain), and slaughtering process (so inhumane that I just can’t bring myself to buy meat from the grocery store anymore). Plus there’s the contamination of the meat with feces, etc and consequent irradiation and rinsing with formaldehyde. So with all of that added up, there is no doubt in my mind that my rabbits were much better off than any animal raised by mainstream techniques.
Having said all of that…if I ever decided to raise rabbits again, I would probably opt for more of a pen situation where they could have access to pasture. But I doubt that I will ever raise rabbits again.
Oh, I was referring only to the humane issues. Factory farms are much worse in terms of environmental health and human health, but I honestly don’t think rabbits in backyard hutches are much happier. A bit more humane, but absolutely nothing like a normal life for a rabbit. Once you see them foraging in a habitat with a wide variety of natural foods (they don’t just eat grass), a place to construct a decent burrow, places to take dust baths, etc., you begin to see how they want to live, and it isn’t at all how they are forced live in hutches or cages.
I totally get that, Janet.
I think a lot of rabbitry owners feel much the same way. That said, there isn’t a “natural habitat” for a New Zealand White, for instance. It is about as far removed from its wild cottontail relatives as our chickens are from wild fowl. With that said, our rabbits are caged for their own protection (albino animals seldom survive in the wild for a reason!), but they are still let out to forage, run, hop, socialize, and be “bunnies” in every way they are able. They aren’t just kept in a cage and isolated. Our cages are adjoining, so each rabbit always is able to be in touch with three other rabbits at all times when it isn’t out and about.
One interesting result of how I raise my rabbits is that one of my regular buyers is a chef and personal trainer. She said that the difference in my rabbit from factory farmed rabbit was the muscle tone. She said she could tell that the rabbits had been allowed to grow in a more natural state rather than just being little balls of fat.
Just saying that the general impression isn’t always the reality on the farm.
That’s true, Rob…glad to know that your bunnies are so well cared for!
The only time I killed a rabbit was to put it out of its misery after the cat maimed it. I used the head bashing technique. I didn’t like doing it, but the idea of killing cute rabbits is not what upsets me about raising rabbits for food. My issue is that it is very difficult to raise them in conditions that are anything like their natural habitat where they can express natural behaviors and instincts. They really are quite complex, and normally range over acres of land where they are active and curious and eat a varied diet.
Even most homesteaders that I am aware of keep them in relatively small cages, and to me that is not much better than factory farming. We kept 2 rabbits until they died at age 7-8, one just a pet, and the other for fiber, too. We had them in a shed with a large enclosure where they dug a burrow, and also let them free range on nice days with chickens in a 1/3 acre fenced area. They lived well, but they were high maintenance in this system for a variety of reasons.
If I really wanted to eat rabbit, I would hunt wild ones.
I kept a breeding pair of angora rabbits for their fiber, but the doe rejected the first litter and my husband and I decided that maybe breeding rabbits in our small apartment wasn’t the best idea. We sold the buck, two does from the litter, and kept the only surviving buck as a pet. A decision was made to butcher the bad doe. It was very difficult for me, less so for my husband. We tried breaking the neck but that didn’t work at all, so my husband grabbed an ax and that ended things very quickly. We watched a youtube video on how to do the actual butchering and that went very well, much easier than expected. The next year a friend’s chicken was available to us for meat, and killing it was not as hard, but I absolutely hated cleaning it. Something about rabbit seems cleaner, fresher, smells better. However, both made excellent broth.
That had to be difficult, especially since you hadn’t intended to kill the rabbit. Yes…chickens are pretty stinky inside. The inside of a rabbit isn’t quite as bad. I commend you for going through with a difficult process. Thanks for sharing!
Oh, now there’s a brave woman!!! Watching a video on how to do it….. You’ve got a gold star, girl….. Just like the author. I do not possess that level of courage! Yet…..
You’ll surprise yourself someday, Sherry! I bet you have nerves of steel!