We love our rabbits, all 11 of them. We have them for a variety of reasons and I am going to share with you the pros and cons of keeping rabbits on a small homestead.
Rabbits can be used for Meat
Rabbits can be used as a source of protein. Anyone, no matter where they live, can raise a breeding pair of rabbits for this reason. Of course, in a small apartment, you have to get a bit more creative with space, but it can be done. A good breeding pair of rabbits can easily keep a family with a source of protein.
The downside to this that they can eat a LOT of food themselves to get to butcher weight, and in an apartment situation, that can get expensive. Also, you will need to make sure to get lots of other fats in your diet if rabbit is your only source of protein, as they have virtually no fat in their meat. If you are wanting to raise rabbits for meat, consider the breeds Californians, New Zealander, or Flemish Giants.
Rabbits can be used for Fiber
With the French Angoras we raise, we easily get a pound of fiber from each rabbit 2-3 times a year. That translates into a new hat and mittens for each family member (5) a year, or 5 new pairs of wool socks a year. It’s not hard to shear the rabbits, and spinning the fiber into yarn is a very relaxing project, once you get the hang of it.
The downside to raising rabbits for fiber is that their hair gets very long and can make a mess in the cage, especially in the wintertime. It can get matted down with poop and be useless to you. They require a bit more work daily, as they need to be brushed to keep the mats down. If you are wanting to raise rabbits for fiber, consider Angoras; French, German or English. A good breeding pair can be expensive at the start, but you can easily make that back with the first set of kits you sell.
Rabbits can be used for Composting
Rabbits produce a lot of manure. The round little pellets they drop are easily compostable, and we just add them directly to the garden beds each Spring and Fall. They simply fall apart in the beds, and no fuss, no muss! The manure also makes a great tea for additional fertilizing in the Summer time.
Of course, since they produce a lot of manure, if you live in a small space, you may not be able to keep up with it all. Having a compost pile or 55 gallon bucket outside to place the manure in helps if you can. All rabbits can be used for this purpose, whether a “working” animal or just a pet.
Rabbits can be used as lawn mowers
You can put a couple of stakes into the ground quickly, add some chicken wire and create an area for your rabbit to “graze” in the yard. They can easily eat down weeds and tall grasses. Of course if you aren’t careful, they can also dig holes deeper than a well, and can easily escape any fence you create.
If you want your rabbits to free range on the grass in your yard, you will want to either be with them at all times, or build a pen with wire on the bottom so they can get at the grass, but not escape. All rabbits fit into this category.
Rabbits can be good pets
I wouldn’t recommend a rabbit for a child younger than 7-8 years of age, but once they can clean out a cage (with help) and understand a rabbits need for fresh water and food, a rabbit can easily make a great pet. My kids have raised rabbits since they were 4 and younger, and we had to teach them how to handle the rabbits, care for them, and train the rabbit to trust you. This can take time and patience.
If you are just starting out with rabbits for pets for a child, I recommend that you look into breeds like Netherland Dwarfs, Mini Holland Lops or Mini Rex. They are small and more calm breeds that a child can easily learn to handle.
In short, rabbits can be very useful on the homestead. They require very little on a daily basis, make virtually no noise, and they have fun personalities!