First off let me just tell you how much I enjoy raising rabbits. It is a fun project for not only me but the kids as well!
If your just getting started with homesteading, rabbits can be a great place to start. Rabbits can be raised for many reasons! (But if you have little ones you will probably end up with a pet bunny, no matter how hard you try to fight it!)
Before you start your rabbit adventure, you should think about why your deciding to add rabbits to the homesteading. Is it to use the fiber off of the angora bunnies to make money or homespun yarn? Possibly, raising food for your table or selling the offspring to local buyers? Maybe, you and your children just want to breed and sell the baby bunnies!
There is quite a few breeds of rabbits that can be raised for meat. The most popular would be the New Zealand and the Californian. These rabbits can weigh between 8 to 12 pounds when fully grown. If you have the chance to check out a local livestock auction, these adult bunnies typically bring in anywhere from $10-$20 a piece! Baby bunnies are a different story, they typically bring between $1-$5 a piece. Later on we will go into cost and care of rabbits, but I think it’s very possible to make money off of meat rabbits. The auction can be all over the map with prices. I think the best thing to do with any homesteading adventure, is use all your options! The internet has made it slightly easier to post for sale ads on numerous sites. Check out local papers as well, we have a farming newspaper that I can place two free ads a month since I receive the paper!
So many people never heard of fiber bunnies! Its a huge deal in the yarn industry! Angora fiber is incredibly soft and bring in top dollar for both finished product or freshly harvested off the bunny. The process to harvest the fiber is fairly easy. You can brush the bunnies to harvest some. Also when the fiber is ready you can gently pull on it, this doesn’t harm the bunny at all! Currently, angora fiber can bring in over $100 a pound. On average rabbits produce a quarter of a pound per year. These rabbits are a lot more maintenance then most breeds, they need daily brushing to make sure their fiber doesn’t mat.Also, these bunnies are harder to keep outside as their fiber will mat if they are constantly exposed to the rain. However, they could be kept in the barn or even inside if you wanted! If you have a love of handmade yarn and fibers, and also have some free time for their maintenance this bunnies would be a great addition!
One of the most popular reasons people raise rabbits is for showing and breeding purposes. While this way requires more research, there is still money to made. You want to find out what breeds are popular around your local area, and find a new breed to bring to the table! Folks will pay over $100 for pedigreed breeding stock. Always research any new breeders you find before purchasing, a good breeder should be willing to give you help if you need with care and breeding.
Now if you have never owned a bunny then I am sure your wondering how hard is it to take care of them? Personally raising rabbits has been a very rewarding experience! They are very curious little things and enjoy being snuggled!
Housing: Most likely you have seen a rabbit hutch before! Rabbits need an area to roam and then a box to sleep in or take shelter from the rain. Its very important to check the boxes often, some rabbits use them as their litter boxes. If they aren’t cleaned that can lead to respiratory issues down the road, and who really wants to hold there bunny if they are soaked from a dirty nesting box??
Feed: Some feed stores have rabbit pellets, there are so many different thoughts when it comes to what to feed them. I feed ours a pellet from tractor supply. Also, many people don’t do this but giving your bunnies some hay or alfalfa is great for their digestive tract! Adults and babies both benefit highly from fresh hay! If at no other time, nursing mothers need the extra protein and fiber to take care of the babies! Rabbits also love fresh vegetables, here is a list of some of their favorites: Carrots, Celery, Lettuce, Bok Choy, Clover, Mint, Parsley, Dandelion leaves, Mustard Greens. You can also give rabbits fruit, but I would only do this as a treat. The higher sugar content isn’t good for your bunny! Here is a few kinds of fruit they love: strawberries, raspberries,bananas, pineapple and apples (no seeds).
Water: Rabbits should have access to fresh clean water at all times! There is two ways you can do this, rabbits can drink out of a water bottle or a dish! Dishes do tend to get flipped over, if you do use a dish make sure in the summer months you can refill it more than once a day!
Breeding: Rabbits are a little different than most farm animals. The females are mature enough to breed at 5 to 6 months of age. While they don’t go into a typical heat cycle like other animals, the females will accept the buck at any time of the year. Rabbits cycles are considered an induced ovulation, that can be maintained throughout the year. They will not bleed like other animals do either. Pregnancy lasts 30 days, depending on the breed females will have a litter between 1 and 14 babies. It is very important to let the mother care for her babies with the least amount of disturbance. First time mothers especially need quiet and not to be stressed.
Grooming and Care: No matter what breed of rabbit you choose at some point they will need their nails trimmed! A good habit to start is checking them on a weekly basis. Rabbits nails can actually start to grow back into their feet if they aren’t trimmed regularly! All bunnies would enjoy to be brushed once in awhile, but it is the most important to brush long haired bunnies daily! These bunnies will mat very easily.
This is all the basics you need to know to get started raising rabbits! If you have any questions or more advice for our readers, make sure you comment below or send us an email! We would love to hear from you!!