Rabbits are definitely one of the more under-appreciated homestead animals out there. Even with the items on this list in mind, I would still recommend giving them a go to most homesteaders. Here at Growing Wild Roots, raising meat rabbits is one of our primary sources of meat. We also get a lot of joy out of keeping these animals.
If you’d like to read more about the positives, see 10 Reasons to Keep Rabbits on the Homestead.
However, before jumping in you should have an idea of some of the unique challenges of any livestock. If any of these 10 reasons is a deal breaker for you, then raising meat rabbits may not be for you.
You can also see our posts on 10 Reasons to keep ducks on the homestead, Reasons to choose muscovy ducks, and the reasons muscovies may not be right for you. Products that are linked in this post may be affiliates. A purchase through an affiliate link pays a small commission at no extra cost to you.
10 Reasons Keeping Rabbits May Not be Right for You
1. Dispatching cute animals is hard
It’s true. Bunnies are cute animals—and there are cultural norms that these animals are treated as pets. Many people can’t fathom harming anything as cute as a rabbit.
Slaughtering animals is not the fun part about raising your own meat. However, it is the reality if you want to raise your own ethical meat. If this is out of your wheel house I don’t recommend raising meat rabbits or you may be overrun by cute bunnies before too long.
Once you get into rabbits, you will realize the risk that you will get a number cuts and minor lacerations on your hands and forearms.
Most rabbit people wear their battle scars with pride and can recognize other rabbit breeders by their stripes.
When breeding rabbits you need to be moving the larger breeding stock to and fro, and rabbits can be expected to kick during this process. Some people use kevlar arm guards to help reduce scratches.
Keeping accurate records of what is happening with your rabbits is extremely important for staying on top of breeding schedules, weaning kits, and processing dates.
We use spreadsheets. However, if you prefer something more tangible there are actual rabbit-keeping logbooks, such as The Rabbit Breeding Journal, that offer everything you need in one book.
Good record keeping also provides very important insights into your rabbits that you might not see otherwise. For instance, I know one of my does has a 32-day gestation period while another one has a gestation period of 31 days. Knowing this, I can breed them both on different days and have them kit out on the same day.
If you are not interested or organized at keeping track, rabbits might not be the animal for you.
4. Localized diseases
Rabbits are, in fact, rodents and are susceptible to many diseases other mammals are not. Ensuring you maintain your rabbits for optimal health will help with most common illnesses, but will not be able to stave off an outbreak of some of the more lethal diseases that could be frequent in an area.
If you’re considering getting rabbits, the main disease I would do a quick search for is called Rabbit hemorrhagic disease, which can be spread through mosquitoes. Once infected, a rabbit will likely die within 72hrs. This disease also has a 70-100% mortality rate—not fun. Do your homework on your area if you are going to get some meat buns.
5. Yuck factor
Do you have a belief that rabbit meat can’t taste good, or is the thought of it just plain gross? Or maybe you think they are all going to be tough and stringy?
We are taught or learn all sorts of social norms without putting much intentionality to choosing them. Regardless of whether it’s logical or not, mindsets are one of the hardest things to overcome. If you feel that “YUCK” factor you may not be able to stomach eating rabbit.
6. Not enough space
Rabbits may be incredibly space efficient when it comes to meat production. However, they do take some space. If you don’t have at least a small backyard or a shed you can play with this will be a difficult obstacle to overcome.
7. You’re not prepared to deal with predators
Predators can cause all sorts of issues for rabbits if the proper precautions are not taken. It feels like every wild animal likes to eat rabbits, especially if there a bunch of young bunnies all cuddled together.
Bears, foxes, cougars, bobcats, racoons, snakes, rats, skunks, coyotes, hawks, owls, the neighbor’s dogs—and other predators you might not even think of—will all attempt to eat rabbits if they’re easy to get at.
Even if a predator doesn’t manage to get into the cages, they can cause a fright so bad in rabbits that it sends them into shock.
Once a rabbit is in the shock state it may take up to 24 hours before it’s heart gives out, which can make for a pretty tough day. (Trust me. We know this from experience.)
Knowing what predators are in your area, and how to protect your buns, will save you heartache in the future. Things to consider when predator-proofing your enclosures are cage design, cage location, barriers between wildlife and the rabbits, and time of year. Predators often move in seasons and it helps to know their patterns to be extra vigilant.
8. Devastating events
Even with the best set-up and all the precautions imaginable, there is always a chance to be hit hard and lose most or all of your stock from something that sneaks in.
The neighborhood dog getting in, killing every rabbit, and destroying the cages is one of the most common devastating events I hear about online. However, you could be surprised by diseases, a bad food mix, a weather event, a wild predator, or anything that scares the bajeebees out of your rabbits.
Things happen, life is unpredictable, mistakes are made, some things are unavoidable—but will you keep going when one of these happens?
9. Start-up cost
The cost to get started with any livestock can be a barrier. Regarding rabbits, cages are the most important condition in building a successful warren. I built all my cages from welded wire and put just the basics in accessories to have it functional.
Each solo hutch cost around 100 bucks, at the time of writing, in materials and fixings. A minimal set up of 2 does, a buck, and 2 grow-out cages easily amounts $500. If you build a rack for them, such as we have for our set-up, add another $200-400. Any added fencing or extra set-up will also increase the start-up cost. This may be unreasonable or out of reach for some readers.
10. Food availability/cost.
Rabbits raised for meat will primarily eat 2 food sources. Grass/hay and pellets. If either of these products are not available at a reasonable price, raising meat rabbits will get very expensive.
Pellets are the more expensive part of a domestic rabbit’s diet as the cost can range from supplier to supplier. A typical bag at time of writing is 50 lbs and costs 22 dollars—about 44 cents/lb (Prices taken from Tractor Supply)
The amount of pellets your rabbits will consume depends on size, breed, and each rabbit’s individual preference. I have had a buck that will eat pellets far faster than his hay and a doe that would plow through almost all hay I gave her.
You may want to keep your stock on a strict diet and control portions or just free feed. Hay is far cheaper than pellets and will make raising rabbits much more economical.
The cheapest way to get hay is by the bale. I use the 50-60 lb bales because they are small enough to be able to move without equipment. These cost 0.15 to 0.20 per pound of feed. Do not expect to raise meat rabbits economically by paying pet store prices for hay.
You can swap out all hay for fresh grazing as available to save even more money.
Feed will probably be your largest cost for raising meat rabbits, so it pays to crunch the numbers as you go and shop around for good deals.
Still interested in keeping meat rabbits?
Meat rabbits have huge potential in producing high-quality, plentiful meat. We love keeping them! However, the items on this list are some of the factors to consider that might rule raising meat rabbits out for you.
Still considering rabbits? See 10 Reasons to Keep Rabbits on the Homestead for some of the wonderful benefits of keeping rabbits.