Are you interested in learning the many pros and cons of raising rabbits? This post will take a deep dive into all the reasons you should raise rabbits – and a few things to consider as precautions if you’re considering this option.
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.
Pros of raising Rabbits
1. 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 is 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.
They are prolific producers, though. They have a short growth time – in just 12 weeks, you’ll have a lot of fleas, healthy meat to feed yourself and your family (and some to sell, if you choose).
Just three rabbits can produce more than 600 pounds of meat in a year.
In fact, when you compare the amount of input required to raise that kind of meat output, rabbits are better than practically any other type of livestock animal. They definitely beat out cattle, that’s for sure!
If you decide to raise rabbits for meat, you don’t have to have a lot of special butchering equipment either. All you need is g odo knife. There’s no plucker, no cones, nothing like that lying around. You can butcher rabbits with a cut to the jugular, by breaking their necks, or even with a .22.
2. 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.
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.
3. 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 summertime.
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.
Rabbit manure doesn’t necessarily have to be composted, either. It isn’t “hot” like other kinds of manure (such as chicken manure) so you can put it right in the garden.
4. Rabbits Can Be Used as Lawnmowers
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.
5. 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 rabbit’s 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.
If you plan on keeping rabbits as pets, one of the biggest advantages of this is that they are great for teaching responsibility. Your child will have to learn how to handle the animal as well as how to provide it with all the care it needs to stay healthy (and alive).
6. Rabbits Are Quite Docile and Hardy
On the homestead, there are all kinds of animals you can choose to raise, from chickens to llamas, cattle to donkeys, pigs to sheep and everything in between.
Compared to all of these other animals, rabbits are extremely docile. Even when compared with chickens, which are often regarded as some of the timidest farm animals, rabbits win in the docility contest.
Of course, you’ll have to teach your children to be gentle with their rabbits and not to pull their ears or be rough. However, the emotional connection that your child may make with the rabbits cannot be overlooked.
In addition to being docile, rabbits are also quite hardy – another benefit of raising this type of animal.
They can adapt to many different environments, including both indoor and outdoor settings. They are independent and require very little besides a basic level of care. They can handle both warm and cool temperatures with ease- another plus!
While they can handle both hot and cold weather, it is important to note that it’s best for their health to bring them inside when the weather is extreme. If you don’t want to be outside during a heatwave or a blizzard, there’s a good chance that your rabbit doesn’t want to be out there, either.
You don’t necessarily need to bring your rabbit inside your house in these conditions – even a heated garage or an insulated barn will do.
7. There Are All Different Types of Rabbits
There are so many different types of rabbits to choose from! While you’ll find some consistent traits across individual breeds, each individual rabbit also has its own personality and behavioral quirk.
8. Rabbits Are Highly Intelligent – But Quiet
Rabbits are highly intelligent creatures. They can be taught to understand commands, perform tricks – even to use a litter box!
They might not be as highly advanced as creatures like dogs, but they are easy to manage and train. They are also quite quiet. They do have vocalizations, but even these are pretty subdued. They won’t wake you up at 5 am like a rooster!
9. Rabbits Require Minimal Space
Don’t worry if you don’t have a ton of space to raise your animals. Rabbits need very little space to be happy. IN fact, many people raise rabbits indoors in apartment settings!
Although you will want to make sure you give your rabbits plenty of room to run back and forth so they don’t become anxious, they don’t need a large yard or run like other types of farm animals.
Cons of Raising Rabbits
1. Rabbits Can Be Messy and Destructive
Although rabbit poop is probably the least stinky type of poop, they do still poop. The average rabbit leaves anywhere from 300 to 500 pellets behind each day! Rabbit cages can quickly become smelly because the bedding builds up.
You will need to clean the cage or hutch regularly to make sure your home or barn doesn’t become overrun with odors.
Also, know that rabbits love to chew. They’re almost as prolific in their chewing as goats are! They’ll gnaw on just about everything to keep their teeth healthy. If they can get to your furniture, clothing, or other items – rest assured, these items are going to be destroyed.
Therefore, you will want to make sure you provide your rabbits with plenty of wood or metal toys to chew on to prevent them from destroying everything in sight.
2. There is Some Cost Involved in Raising Rabbits
There’s no doubt about it – rabbits can be some of the most profitable animals to raise. However, you aren’t going to be raising them for free. You can buy a rabbit for under $20 but don’t forget that there are other factors to consider here.
You’ll have to buy food, feeders, waterers, a cage, chew toys, and bedding (plus other basic care items). There are vet bills, breeding registrations, and more. Plus, if you’re buying a rabbit with champion bloodlines or for show, you’re going to pay more per rabbit on average, too.
3. Rabbits Need Socialization
Like practically any other type of animal, rabbits need socialization. You can’t keep a single rabbit by itself and expect it to live a happy life. If they aren’t socialized properly, rabbits have a tendency to become aggressive.
In addition to time with other rabbits, you need to give them time to roam. If you want your rabbit to be docile around people – which is likely the case, if you’re raising it as a pet – then you need to interact with it every day, too. Otherwise, it might become aggressive- sometimes, unsocialized rabbits will go so far as to bite and scratch!
When in doubt, always get at least two rabbits (more is better). That way, they will remain happy and be able to build strong social connections with each other.
4. Rabbits Need Predator Protection
As cute and as awesome as rabbits are, the simple fact remains that rabbits are at the very bottom of the food chain. They are the natural prey of animals like coyotes, foxes, cats, dogs, and more. Even aerial predators view rabbits as a tasty snack – think hawks and owls.
Therefore, you will want to consider how you can protect your rabbit from predators (and even your other pets).
Make sure the cage or hutch is secured so that your rabbit is protected. If you have the touch resting on the ground, make sure it is constructed so that wild animals cannot dig up and under the walls to get to your vulnerable rabbits inside.
Also, keep in mind that rabbits are lightning-fast. This is an adaptation that can help them get away from predators – but it can aid them in getting away from you, too. Rabbits are great at finding escape routes, so expect to play a few games of hide-and-seek when you’re raising rabbits.
5. Rabbits Are Injury-Prone
Because rabbits are so lightning-fast, they’re also more likely to hurt themselves. Overgrown teeth are some other common issues – fortunately, these are easy to prevent by providing your rabbit with plenty to chew on.
Upper respiratory illnesses can happen, which lead to sneezing, eye and nose discharge, and redness. Ear mites and abscess are common, too.
You’ll need to groom your rabbit regularly to eliminate hairballs. Also, provide a diet that’s rich in fiber to avoid constipation.
Finally, spay or neuter your bunny if you don’t plan on using it for breeding or for meat. Otherwise, reproductive cancers are quite common, too.
If you decide to raise rabbits, it’s a good idea to have the number of a vet on hand at all times. You never know what kind of medical issue might crop up with your rabbits – having a vet to help is a wise choice.
6. Rabbits Live a Long Time
This is a tidbit of information that might serve either as a pro or con – or sometimes both. The average lifespan of a rabbit is around 10 years. If you’re not planning on butchering your rabbits for meat, that can be great news, since it means you’ll be able to keep your rabbits around for quite some time.
Even if you do decide to raise rabbits for meat, it helps to know that you will be able to keep your breeding stock going for quite some time before you have to replace them with new animals. Some rabbits even live longer than 20 years!
They’re pretty easy to care for, but the reality still remains that if you are raising rabbits, you need to plan for that life expectancy.
They’re not going to outlive you by any means, but you will need to provide them with food, shelter, water, and attention for longer than you might have to care for other types of animals.
Last But Not Least…
Of course, you can’t forget this fact – rabbits are super cute. The personality of a rabbit is much like you would find with just about any baby animal – rabbits have a ton of energy and they’re super adorable and cuddly. From the big tufts of fur to the floppy ears, there’s so much to love about a fluffy rabbit!
I guess technically, that could be viewed as both a pro and a con. If you’re raising rabbits for meat, having super cute and cuddly pets might not be the best thing in the world!
However, if you want rabbits for any other reason, it helps to have a cute face around the house!
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!
Are you thinking about raising rabbits? If so, this list of pros and cons hopefully will help you make an educated decision.
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.
Learn more about Heather and the rest of the writers on this page.