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.
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.
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.
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: