Why You Should Consider Raising Rabbits
You may never have to buy meat or fertilizer ever again.
With grocery prices soaring and experts warning of famine, more people are looking at raising their own food. And Easter is around the corner, so there’s never been a better time to talk about raising rabbits.
We imagine some of you may be angry or disgusted right now. People have a soft spot for cute, cuddly rabbits. We do too! For the sake of the Easter Bunny, we’ll skip the gory details, but give us a chance to explain our thinking about what it means to raise animals for food. We’ll also tell you what makes rabbits great for any property, and — for paid subscribers — we have tips on getting started with your own herd.
Life, Death, and Rebirth
Many people are shocked and horrified at the prospect of eating rabbits. It’s not standard American fare, and let’s be honest: they’re much cuter than chickens or cows. A friend of mine — a tough customer who regularly processes his own meat — told me he wasn’t sure if he could put down a rabbit.
Rabbits have value even if you never eat them. Their manure is a fantastic and plentiful fertilizer. They’re great pets, and you can sell the rabbits you breed for a tidy profit. But once you get the hang of breeding, you may find that you have more rabbits than you know what to do with.
Rabbits are prey animals. Their function in the ecosystem is to be dinner for larger, meaner animals, many of which will end their lives in far crueler, more savage ways than you could imagine. Their only real defense is their ability to breed prolifically. There will always be more rabbits.
The reality is death and tragedy are part and parcel of owning livestock, whether it’s caused by your hand or not. I have yet to slaughter any of my own rabbits (though I’ve helped a friend do it), but I’ve still lost a few:
One mama rabbit gave birth to two kits (baby rabbits) and I bred her again a few weeks later. Unfortunately, she and her unborn kits died during childbirth.
The two kits from the aforementioned mama rabbit stopped growing after being weaned and eventually died.
Another mama rabbit gave birth to a litter of 8 while I was sick. I didn’t put the nesting box in her cage in time and they all died.
I lost another litter of three because the mama didn’t know what to do and she let them die. That is not uncommon.
Animals often die from causes outside your control, and you are going to make mistakes. Death is unfortunately part of the process. It’s fundamentally no different than seed starting, where some plants thrive, others don’t, and we often have to choose what lives and dies. The difference is that we’re now dealing with flesh and blood.
It’s nearly Easter, a time when we celebrate rebirth, and there is no rebirth without death. I have compost piles where once-living organic matter rots into rich humus, which I then move into my garden beds to grow vegetables, which in turn feed my family and animals. Death gives way to new life. That is life, death, and rebirth.
Imagine a world where no one died but everyone could still reproduce. That sounds like heaven at first, but is it? If you think the world is overpopulated now, just imagine how crowded we would be with an endlessly growing population of immortals. No one would ever die, there would just be generation after generation piled on top of each other forever.
I have three children, and as a comedian once noted, they are my replacements. Part of my duty as a parent is to eventually move out of the way so they can take the lead. And eventually, I must die to make way for them and my grandchildren.
Likewise, I currently have 12 baby rabbits in various stages of development, plus 5 adult rabbits for breeding. I can only house and feed so many rabbits, so eventually, I must make room. In the process, I can feed my children and nourish them another day.
Our very existence on this planet creates suffering. Your mother suffered when you were born. If you buy meat at the store, and most of us do, you help contribute to a cruel and inhumane factory farming system. And even if you don’t eat meat, vegetables and other plants die so you can live, not to mention all the worms and other critters that get shredded when the land is tilled. Instead of falling into despair and existentialism in the face of that realization, we should instead give thanks for the sacrifices that grant us our short time on this earth.
Easter is only days away, and whether or not you believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, it points to a fundamental truth: that something must die so that we can live, and that’s a truth that has echoed through the eons. Early spring — when the cold death of winter gives way to the warmth and new life of spring — is the perfect time to celebrate that.
Enough philosophy, let’s talk about rabbits.
Why Rabbits Are Great
There are many reasons why rabbits are a great livestock animal for beginners, tied only with chickens1:
Rabbits don’t take much space. A hutch on the side of a building can house enough rabbits to feed your family. You could even raise them indoors if you had to.
Unlike chickens, rabbits are quiet, so they’re a good stealth animal in places that frown upon self-sufficiency. And rabbits are often legal in places where chickens or goats are not.
Rabbits are extremely efficient and have one of the highest feed conversion ratios of any animal.
Rabbit manure is one of the absolute best organic fertilizers, and rabbits produce a lot of it. Whatever feed that isn’t converted into rabbit meat will be converted to fertilizer.
Rabbits can breed, well, like rabbits. A couple of breeding pairs can produce a lot of food.
Rabbits are very cheap compared to other livestock animals. I’ve paid between $5 and $20 for each of my rabbits. They don’t require much infrastructure. Food is the biggest ongoing expense but you can feed them grass and other forage in the warm months.
They’re fun to have around. Kids love them, and breeding rabbits is hilarious.
Outside of the cuteness factor, they are much easier to process than chickens.
However, there are a lot of ins and outs to raising rabbits. I’ve been at it for nearly a year and I’m just now getting the hang of it.
Can You Starve to Death Eating Rabbit?
Preppers love to talk about “rabbit starvation,” in which people can starve to death eating rabbit. It’s true, and the scientific name is called protein poisoning. However, it’s incredibly rare and tends to happen in survival situations where there isn’t ready access to carbohydrates or fats. Contestants on Alone often lose a lot of weight in the wild for that reason.
This is why I tell you to store coconut oil in your emergency food buckets. A lot of people made fun of me for that, but I recommend it for a very good reason. As long as you’re well stocked with carbs like beans and rice, and you grow things in your gardens like potatoes and sweet potatoes, you shouldn’t have to worry about rabbit starvation.