(c) Gryph- if you repost this article, please post with a link back to my website.
I provide these resources free of charge because I'm passionate about raising rabbits. I think every family should have the opportunity to raise their own healthy, sustainable meat source, and rabbits are one of the easiest critters to raise.
Now, I'm teaching you my ways. My ways... may not be your ways. That's okay. As long as your rabbits are happy, healthy, and stress-free, then your ways are probably just fine. I'm only offering my ways as a base starting point, and to possibly offer you some new ideas. Please don't ever feel as if I am offering the 'only' way to raise rabbits, because nothing could be further from the truth. In addition, some of the information I will offer is about ways I do not use, such as colony raising and tractoring, but I have either studied the method and/or tried it and decided it wasn't the right method for me.
I am not a fan of breeding rabbits just for fun, and this includes breeding for pets without breeding to the standard of perfection at all times (see the page about ARBA for more information on the standard of perfection). There are too many unwanted and unneeded pets in the world to contribute to the problem. If you are breeding terminal culls (meaning you plan to terminate every kit in your litters), then that's a different story. But if you plan to breed just for pets, then I hold you to the highest possible standard. I expect you to make an effort to breed for good health, fantastic temperament, and above all, excellent conformation.
I am a proponent for raising purebred rabbits, at least until you have the experience to pair together rabbits to better the next generation. Even when raising meat rabbits, using purebred stock and breeding purebred litters means pairing two rabbits who are similar enough (assuming you have quality stock) that you'll have a pretty good idea of what you'll end up with. You will have consistent growth rates, feed to meat ratios (how much meat you get from how much feed you fed), and meat to bone ratios (the amount of bone vs the amount of meat on a carcass). If you can't get your hands on purebred stock or prefer not to breed purebreds, then at the very least, please (I absolutely cannot stress this enough) breed two of the same body types together. If you are breeding for meat, use the many commercial body type breeds or the handful of compact body type breeds that make good meat rabbits such as Florida Whites or Dutch. Avoid mixing body types, as you never quite know what you'll end up since you will be unable to predict which body type your kits will take after. For more information about the different breeds, see the Choosing a Breed page.
Be sure that you look into local regulations before getting your rabbitry set up. If you live in an HOA, check to be sure that rabbits are allowed. Because they are often classified as pets, sometimes you can get away with rabbits in areas that you can’t have poultry in. Check your city, county and even your state laws to be sure you know the laws about owning rabbits, selling rabbits, and even processing rabbits. In Washington State, for example, you are permitted to process rabbits for your family, but regulations prohibit selling already processed rabbit meat. Some people get around this by selling the rabbit live and butchering the animal as a free service. Educate yourself before you get started to be sure you know your rights and restrictions.
There are many dangers you should be aware of to protect your rabbits from. The number one attacker of rabbits is dogs, whether your own or a neighbor’s, or even a stray. Only farm working dogs should be trusted near rabbits, and even then they should be supervised until they understand that rabbits are to be protected not attacked. Most dogs- especially dogs with high prey drives- can get excitable when rabbits get scared and jump or run around. It’s part of their nature- predator chasing prey- so it’s important to do whatever you can to prevent that from happening. Make sure your rabbitry is in a secure place where neighbor dogs and strays can’t get to it. If you live in a rural setting, you might have to be careful of coyotes, bears and so on. In either a rural or an urban setting, you may have to deal with raccoons, opossums, and rats who all like to snack on crunchy little kits.
Chickens and rabbits do not do well together unless you keep your chickens’ wings clipped or come up with some way to keep your chickens off your rabbit cages. Chicken poo is NOT good for your rabbits and can make them very sick. Ducks on the other hand (also with wings clipped), especially foraging breeds, seem to do very well with rabbits, cleaning up fallen pellets and keeping the fly population down.
When you first start out, closely supervise your children (and visiting children) in your rabbitry. Rabbits don’t always make very good pets for young children. Children are naturally energetic and loving. Rabbits may be soft and cute but they are timid animals by nature and are easily stressed and frightened by loud noises or sudden movements. Rabbits can’t cry out when distressed and frightened rabbits scratch and tend to lunge out of little hands and arms. Some rabbits do not enjoy being held or cuddled and they may bite or kick to get away. Not only can your child get scratched or bitten, but the rabbit could easily be seriously injured. Many rabbits are dropped accidentally by children, resulting in broken legs and backs. Once kids learn the ropes, however, even young children can easily handle day-to-day chores such as filling feeders or hay racks, easily making raising rabbits a family activity.
What I'm sharing with you on this website has all been written by me, aside from a few exceptions (noted). Most of this material is also taught in my rabbit workshops. Please do not copy and paste this information anywhere without a link back to my website. You may absolutely not profit from this information including charging a fee to use this material to teach a class.
This information has been presented in a sort of logical order, beginning with what you should know prior to buying rabbits and moving through topics such as choosing a breeder, health issues, eating rabbits, showing, and so on. Feel free to skip ahead to topics that interest you, or else read through in order to build a good base to work from. Feel free to use me as a resource. I run several excellent rabbit groups on Facebook including Rabbits for Meat, Pelts and Other Shit (https://www.facebook.com/groups/rabbitsandshit/). Feel free to join us. This group is a safe realm for beginners and newbies, and is a safe place to ask questions.
Some final tips:
Get the best quality breeding stock you can afford from a good experienced breeder and you will avoid lots of failure and money loss.
Don’t be afraid to start over. If you feel like you’ve gone in a direction that isn’t working for you, start fresh and do it right.
You will never have enough cage space so learn how to make cages.
Visit as many rabbitries as you can and ask a lot of questions before you plan your own set up and spend money on it.
Have a good explanation on hand when you are asked whether or not you’re a cutter. You will get scratched.
Accept right now that there will be heartache raising rabbits. You will make mistakes. That doesn’t make you a bad breeder, as long as you learn from them and try to do better next time.
Sometimes kits die and rabbits die even if you do everything right.
Don’t keep any rabbit that does not add to your rabbitry. If a rabbit doesn’t produce in some way, cull it or sell it.
Raising rabbits can be challenging: I won't ever try to say otherwise. But it's also incredibly rewarding on a whole range of levels. I encourage everyone to do some research, then give raising rabbits a try.