(c) Gryph- if you repost this article, please post with a link back to my website.
Well there’s the trick question… One buck and two does, if you don’t breed heavily, can produce at least 8 litters a year. If you plan on at least 6 kits per litter (good quality does should kindle and raise more than 6), at 4 litters a year for each doe, you’re looking at 48 rabbits. Do you have a plan for those rabbits? Trust me, there are only so many friends and family members who would like to take a pet off your hands.
If you plan to eat your offspring, 48 rabbits is almost one rabbit a week. One rabbit should feel a family of four for one meal. So if you are going to eat rabbit once a week, two does and one buck should be enough. Based on this information, you can determine how many does you would need to keep in production to provide for your family’s needs. There’s a fantastic meat calculator here that you can use to decide how many does you need to feed your family: http://cetryn.byethost11.com/calc/fryYr.php?i=1
When you are planning breedings be sure to leave some room in your calculations for missed conceptions and kit loss due to weather or poor mothering. If you want to eat more rabbit, then up the number of does. One buck can service many, many does and so odds are that the typical backyard meat breeder will not need a second buck. If you end up keeping offspring from your does to grow out and breed, you can always replace your buck to bring in new blood.
A common mistake is to start with too many rabbits. There’s a running joke among the rabbit community about ‘rabbit math.’ It’s this little theory where you plan to buy a pair or a trio of rabbits and even without breeding them all of a sudden you have six… or ten… or… ahem… maybe even more. When I first bought my farm many years ago I swore I’d never raise rabbits… Then I got a trio of meat mutts… and two days later one of my does who had supposedly never been exposed to a buck had a surprise litter. The rest is history.
Rabbits really are addicting and before you know it your rabbits will have multiplied over night (whether that means you’re breeding or bringing home more rabbits remains to be seen). As you get accustomed to the rabbit hobby, then you can decide to slowly increase the size of your herd. When you’re just starting out and being smart about starting small, then when you make mistakes (because you will sooner or later), it’s on a small scale. Learn the ropes, and then grow your rabbitry.