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The Easiest, Cheapest (And Tastiest) Animal You Can Raise For Food Is …

The Easiest, Cheapest (And Tastiest) Animal You Can Raise For Food Is ...

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Man, do I love chickens and fresh eggs in the morning. I also love hogs, and the pork that I can turn into Virginia hams and back bacon. Goats and cows provide milk and delicious red meat. But with the exception of the chicken, none are as easy to raise for food as the good old “rascally rabbit.”

In fact, I have come to learn that the rabbit is just about the easiest animals one can raise for food, and certainly one of most delicious. If you have never had rabbit on your dinner table, you are missing out. It is lean (only about 10 percent fat) and flavorful.  Hasenpfeffer, Spanish rice and rabbit, or roast rabbit on a spit. I am getting hungry just talking about such table fare.

I grew up fishing and hunting. We hunted squirrel and rabbit as kids and teenagers, and to this day I still consider rabbit one of my favorite game animals.

When I turned 14, I had an interest that lasted for several years to start raising rabbits to sell them, but that never materialized. It was not until I started working for a farmer after high school that I came in contact with meat rabbits.

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We had a couple dozen at a time on the farm, and along with my other duties, I cleaned their hutches and fed them vegetables and straw. Over time, I really came to appreciate how easy a rabbit is to care for as opposed to goats, and cattle or even chickens.

The Humble Hare

Rabbits are not picky eaters. I have fed them hay and straw, and even grass clippings from the yard and weed clippings from a garden. You can feed them rabbit pellets or cattle feed. They will eat almost any organic material — provided they like it. Not every rabbit is going to like all food items, but that is normal. You can try feeding the rabbits different things as you go, and soon enough you will find what they like.

The Easiest, Cheapest (And Tastiest) Animal You Can Raise For Food Is ...

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These critters are not too picky about shelter, either, although you don’t want to leave them outside in the bitter cold. In temperate climates you can raise them both indoors and outdoors. Outdoor hutches are the most common, with wood floors and a waterproof roof, and mesh on at least one or two sides. Cleaning the hutches every couple of days is paramount to prevent disease and mold build-up. Remove any food they have not partaken of after 24-48 hours, and keep the rabbits well-stocked with fresh forage and water.

You also can build indoor hutches (in your home) for rabbits. Of course, being indoors you will need to pay close attention to keeping these indoor hutches clean, as there is the absence of fresh air that you get with an outdoor hutch. Cleaning these living quarters will also keep the smell down, as indoor rabbits can stink a wee bit.

Table Fare

When it comes to killing and butchering, rabbits are much simpler than the chicken. My preferred method of dispatching a meat rabbit is using a wood club to strike firmly on the base of the skull. I then field dress the rabbit as I would any small game animal I harvested afield. After the rabbit is field dressed, I wet the fur to prevent hairs from getting in the meat. Skin them as you would any small game animal, with cuts around the hocks, legs and tail and a pulling motion which removes the creatures hide quickly and efficiently.

The rabbit can be quartered, de-boned or used whole. It can be stewed, grilled, broiled, fried and roasted. How does it taste? Like chicken, of course! OK, not really, but it tastes like rabbit and it is delicious!

If you are looking for an easy-to-raise animal for additional meat for your family or farm, take a glance at the rabbit. Getting started is cheap, and if you can get past the “cute and cuddly” aspect of the critter, you can enjoy some excellent meat!

What advice would you add on raising rabbits? Share your tips in the section below:

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  1. Timely article for me. I just traded a piglet for a breeding pair of American Chinchilla rabbits. I’m waiting for my first litter! I agree that they are a very easy animal to care for. In addition, the manure is really great fertilizer that can be used right away, unlike chicken, cow, horse, (etc) manure which must be composted first.

    • but what about animal welfare? if you twist the poor creature’s head around, or bang its head off a wall, would that n ot be cruel?
      i think there are animal welfare charities out there (on the web) who can sell you a humane killing machine.
      please keep this in mind.
      LOVE, DES.

      • I’ve killed hundreds of rabbits. The way described here is by far the most humane I’ve tried. One firm strike (two to be certain) and the rabbit feels no pain at all. I’ve never heard a “rabbit in distress cry when done properly.

        I use a 10″ ¾” pipe nipple with a couple for more mass. It fits in my back pocket, ready for use when I need to strike, and is not in the way while I’m dressing the carcass.

        • I grew up with raising rabbits for meat. My father and i converted an old chicken barn into a rabbitry . We had 8 breeding does and 2 breeding bucks. My father felt a cross between a Californian (white with black nose ,ears and tail) crossed with a New Zealand White was the best for meat production. We had 4 of each breed in does and the two different breeds in bucks.
          We found for pens , it was best when made of wire. with small mesh floors and larger mesh walls and tops. We could suspend them with back against the wall , resting on a cleat and wire to hang front from ceiling. When fur, etc clings to the floor wire. , we locked the does in their nest boxes(between the cages) and burned off any debris with a torch. This sterilized the pens from disease! Underneath we used roll roofing to create a “gutter” for the urine and droppings. Washing it out with a hose! Young once weaned were transferred to a fattening pen, where they were fed pellets, water and sapling cuttings to control their teeth which grow constantly and require wearing off.
          My dad used a twin noose system to hang a rabbit after striking it with a pipe. With a spreader board between the hind leg strings, he could kill, skin, eviscerate and lay the cleaned carcass in the pan in 90 seconds flat ! Took me longer to bury the viscera,hide etc. Love rabbit best fried!

      • Des: Why would you need an animal charity to sell you a “humane killing machine” assuming that there was such a thing? Rescue/charity groups are never going to encourage you to kill an animal for any purpose. Humane kills are not complicated and do not require “machines”.

        • Actually, there is a device that you can purchase that will make cervical dislocation very quick, eliminating the need to actually “hit” the rabbit. It is called the “rabbit wringer”. You should be able to find it on the internet. Cervical Dislocation is the quickest and most humane method I’ve seen. Worth a try for others to take a look at it. By the way, no “animal charity” is going to suggest a means for you to kill a rabbit… more than likely law enforcement will show up at your house by a mere inquiry!

      • I stick by what I wrote. Seriously, are you animal welfare people for real?

  2. Just a word of caution in case of a prolonged grid-down situation. If you depend on rabbits as your sole or nearly sole source of food, you will quickly develop multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The reason for this is due to the very short intestine of rabbits which prevents them from efficiently absorbing ingested minerals (in their food) on the first pass. Rabbits, like some other small animals, consume their fecal pellets mainly while they are asleep. This is called coprophagy with the result that consumed food is, in effect, consumed multiple times which allows for a more complete absorption of the minerals. Consuming just rabbit meat has led to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. But, if that is all you have to eat, then a guy’s gotta do what they gotta do. But do try to vary your diet, as supplies permit.

    • A rabbit is so low in fat that you will also need to increase your fat intake from other sources. You can have severe problems with too little fat in your diet, even if you’re over weight.

    • I have to correct some information posted by BobR. As a rabbit breeder for 30 + years, I have to say that the rabbit does not ingest “fecal pellets” while sleeping. The fecal matter he speaks of are called “night feces” but they do not pass at night. It is a soft feces (looks like a cluster of grapes) that contains B Vitamins produced by beneficial bacteria in the Cecum that is re-ingested. Rabbits, however, are perfectly capable of absorbing ALL vitamins and minerals they ingest the first time, including B vitamins from supplementation or otherwise in their natural food. Humans will not develop vitamin or mineral deficiencies from eating rabbit, because frankly, most “vitamins” are contained in plant material, not meat products. Rabbits are extremely lean meat and you will need to get more fat from other sources however. That is the primary concern if rabbit were to be the sole source of protein.

  3. I have rabbits and chickens, and for a 65 year old farmer they are perfect. Their manure is ideal for the garden. It doesn’t need to be composted and can be gathered directly from beneath their cage and added to the garden. It isn’t digested as thoroughly as most manure (mentioned above with the short intestinal tract), and therefor isn’t a “hot” manure. So it can go directly into the garden. Rabbits will reproduce so quickly that your challenge will be keeping the buck away from the doe to space them out so you can fatten them and not end up with too many at once.
    One of the best things about both chickens and rabbits is that you can have a meal without having a huge amount of meat left to smoke or can, unlike a calf or a hog. And they reach butcher weight very quickly.
    Also unlike the larger farm animals, they can’t kill you. A cow with a calf by her side or a sow with piglets is very protective. Normally docile animals can actually injure or kill a farmer, a real issue for those of us who are older and not as agile. Not a problem with rabbits or chickens. Rabbits are under utilized by most small farmers. You will still need additional fat, but that will be a real issue in any SHTF situation. Great article!

  4. An important note: Although wild rabbits and domesticated rabbits can cross, their offspring will be sterile, like mules. Wild rabbits developed in North America and the domesticated ones are from Europe. So, don’t think you can raise them with the addition of some wild genes. It doesn’t work, also the wild ones will never be as docile and sweet as the domesticated ones. Every year my grandchildren catch a tiny wild cottontail and want to raise it. We have done so, but they never tame down and can’t be used for breeding, so it doesn’t work well.

  5. I raised meat rabbits for years. I got really good at dressing a rabbit. I could take a live rabbit and have it ready for the pot in 8 minutes. They are by far the easiest of all farm animals to butcher, except for the cute and fuzzy factor, which I never really got over. I dispatched my rabbits with a high power pellet pistol. And different from this article, skin before dressing!!! I will also add to this article. Rabbits are delicate. A LOT can go wrong when raising rabbits. I once lost a third of my rabbits when the feed dealer I was buying from added corn to the mix. Corn will kill a rabbit. It causes an over growth of bad bacteria in their gut. There is a sound you will come to dread. It is the sound of a rabbit grinding it’s teeth. They do this when their belly hurts. Sick rabbits die. They have no incentive to recover because they are designed to live, reproduce and die. Also, never even think of raising rabbits on the ground in pens outside. There is a fly that will attack them; the warble fly. They lay eggs that hatch and burrow into the rabbit developing into a huge larvae that will eat the rabbit alive. There is a very large amount of information you need to study BEFORE you buy your first rabbits: things like breeding, weaning, and general care. Study first, and best, talk to a breeder!

  6. Rabbit & other such animals that do not split the hoof and chew the cud are unclean to eat. #GodsLaw

    • That is Old Testament. In the New Testament, Paul said the old dietary laws were outdated. Even Jesus might have said that it was OK to eat “unclean” animals in a life and death situation — which is what we are talking about. After all, he said it was OK to feed your animals on the Sabbath — in opposition to the current laws.

    • I don’t believe in God so I will eat all the rabbits I can.

    • Swine are also on the unclean list, but most people eat pork. Yumm.

  7. Since Pat has no use for God perhaps when we are hungry God will have use for Pat and feed his people. 😉

  8. I have to disagree with the advice to feed straw or cattle feed. Straw has NO food value, it’s only good for bedding. They won’t even eat more than a nibble or so unless they are VERY hungry. Cattle feed can be too high in calcium and much too low in fiber for a rabbit’s digestion. There are certainly lots of ways to feed rabbits on the cheap, but keep the nutrition they need. Foraging weeds and grasses (more weeds than grass) out of your yard is one way. Sprouting seeds for fodder is another. I feed mine a mix of whole grains and lots of grass/clover mix hay. Add to that a mineral wheel or horse block, and they are good.

    • Many years ago, before the advent of rabbit pellets, breeders fed their rabbits Alfalfa hay and mixed grain (oats/wheat) as the primary diet, with added green forage (grass, weeds, FRESH table trimmings, and miscellaneous fruits/vegetables). You have to be careful about what you feed, as some items can have way too much starch or carbohydrates and result in diarrhea. I tell most people, feed your rabbits what you would feed a horse… their diets are pretty much the same and their digestive system will react similarly to the same items. Today, we can buy rabbit pellets which are formulated to be complete. All that is needed is grass hay to keep the digestive system moving (to remove ingested fur from self grooming primarily and to prevent gastric stasis.). In a crisis or survival situation, rabbits can be placed in a “rabbit tractor” to forage for themselves, moving the enclosure frequently so long as they have a shelter to go to from the weather and predators.

  9. This article surprised me, because my answer was “chicken!”. For those who are raising rabbits, is there any particular breed I should consider. When we lived in Oklahoma and NJ, the bigger rabbits (wild) I called ‘jack rabbits’ had more meat and were easier to dress. Now that I’m in the PNW, it seems people here eat scrawny “bunny” rabbits they get for Easter from the pet stores. Are any of you selling breeding pairs or know of a website/store/breeder where I can order a pair of wild rabbits?

    • We raised rabbits for 18 years for food, 4H projects for our 4 boys, and spring sales for pets and projects. We raised only French Lop, a giant breed. Not as fast growing as some, but very desired for pets and projects. Our motto was : “Sell the best and eat the rest”! I butchered at 8 weeks and would have a 5# carcass. We even made rabbit burger and sausage with the older, post breeders. Outdoor hutches, with nest boxes inside the chicken coop. The hutches were in our chicken run, nothing was wasted as the hens sifted through all the litter that fell through. The manure fertilized a huge garden, where all non eaten plant material was cycled through the rabbits. We never had a death from disease. PS; My husband and I are both educated (DDS and BS) city folk; we learned as we grew.

  10. They love Dandelion leaves most. Rabbits must have shade. Learned the hard way. I miss you, Detour. #BunnyHeaven

  11. Some of these comments are pretty ummm, interesting? Any animal that can turn grass into food for humans is good. Of course they aren’t to be the sole source of nutrition, but they are a good one.

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