Rabbits are a popular pet and are increasingly popular livestock in some parts of the country. Compared to anything else you might raise rabbits take far less room and usually require far less in the way of resources like food, bedding, and more.
Considering that rabbits can be raised for various purposes like any other animal, or just kept as pets, it is worth knowing what an ideal starting colony looks like. So, how many rabbits do you need to get started?
You need 3 rabbits to get started if raising a colony from scratch. You should get one male, and at least two females.
This will allow you to breed the rabbits and produce offspring, which is key to expanding your numbers over time. Keep in mind that rabbits can multiply extremely quickly!
There is a lot more to consider if you are going to take the plunge as a legitimate rabbit farmer. You’ll need to know about space issues, reproductive speeds, and more. Keep reading to learn everything you ever wanted to know on the subject.
Rabbits Can Be a Valuable “Crop” or a Hedge Against Shortage
Perhaps one of the most popular reasons for raising rabbits among homesteaders lately is as “meat on the hoof” or rather on the foot.
Among animals usually eaten for meat, rabbits are among the easiest to raise that require the least space.
They grow and reproduce quickly, and are easy to keep alive even in cramped confined, or limited spaces compared to chickens, pigs, and other critters.
This makes rabbits an ideal “crop” for those interested in having a sustainable food source or for those that want to be prepared in the event of a long-term societal collapse where fresh meat might be hard to come by.
Rabbits raised for this purpose could be sold live or upon slaughter as a valuable commodity in a barter-based economy, or simply kept and eaten by you and yours. When it comes to multiplying your investment, nothing is as easy or reliable as rabbits!
How Quickly Do Rabbits Reproduce?
Very quickly. Very, very quickly. It is a stereotype for a reason.
A healthy doe can produce between 4 and 12 offspring per litter, and can have several litters per year. That means that in just one year’s time, a single female rabbit could conceivably produce over 100 offspring if everything goes according to plan!
Or rather, against plan depending on your purposes. This immense reproductive rate seems hard to believe, but it is true.
Of course, not all of those will survive to adulthood in the wild since predation, illness, and more can take their toll.
But in captivity, with care and support, most will survive and even a fraction of that number would be enough to provide an ongoing food source for a family almost indefinitely with relatively little input.
On the other hand, if you want just a few rabbits to call your own or want a small colony and no more, you must have a plan for dealing with all the new additions, and take pains to keep your males and females separated at all times unless you deliberately want them to breed.
Otherwise, you will have bunnies stacked up to the rafters.
Do You Need to Worry About Inbreeding?
If you have a small colony of rabbits that you are not planning on expanding, then eventually you will need to worry about inbreeding. This is when two closely related animals breed and produce offspring.
While it is possible to do this without any problems for several generations, eventually the lack of genetic diversity will result in health problems and weakened offspring. This is known as “inbreeding depression” and it is something to be avoided if possible.
The best way to avoid inbreeding depression is to occasionally introduce new blood into your breeding stock.
This can be done by buying or trading for rabbits from another breeder, or even catching wild rabbits, although these might not be as healthy and can cause other problems.
Another way to avoid inbreeding depression is to keep your rabbits in separate cages and only breed the does when they come into season.
This way, you can control which bucks are bred to which does, and avoid any close relatives breeding with each other.
How Much Space Do Rabbits Need?
This is a difficult question to answer since it depends on the type of rabbits you are raising, how many you have, and what your purposes are.
If you are raising rabbits for meat that will be harvested as soon as they reach the right age or size, then you will need less space than if you are raising them for show, breeding, meat on the hoof, or as pets.
For meat production, the rabbits can be kept in cages that are stacked on top of each other to save space. They can also be kept in hutches that are close together.
For show or pet purposes, or for longer-term care, the rabbits will need more room to exercise and play. They will also need larger cages so they can stretch out and move around.
If you are keeping several rabbits together, then they will need even more space so they can avoid fighting and establish their own territory.
As a general rule of thumb, each rabbit should have at least 4 square feet of space to itself.
If you are keeping them in hutches, then the hutch should be at least 2 feet wide and 3-4 feet long. If you are keeping them in cages, then the cage should be at least 3 feet wide and 4 feet long.
If you are keeping more than one rabbit together, then they will need even more space. Also, add an extra square foot of space for each additional rabbit.
So if you are keeping two rabbits together, they will need 8 square feet of space. Three rabbits would need 12 square feet, etc.
How Valuable are Live Rabbits and Bunnies?
The value of live rabbits and bunnies varies depending on the purpose for which they are being raised. For meat production, the rabbits are typically worth $1-2 per pound to a processor.
For fur production, the rabbits can be worth $20 or more each. For show or pet purposes, the rabbits can be worth $50 and up if they have excellent genetics and sires.
How Much Meat Can You Get from an Adult Rabbit?
An adult rabbit can yield anywhere from 2 to 6 pounds of meat, depending on the breed and how it is harvested.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.