The prevailing wisdom when starting a rabbit breeding operation for your own meat consumption is to start with a trio of 2 does and 1 buck. Rather, we recommend starting with a quartet of 3 does and 1 buck. Using our own personal experience, plus running the numbers of meat production, let me explain why we say this.
We started with a breeding trio. The rabbits were 8 weeks old and just weaned, and they were great. We fed them, watered them, and watched them grow. We were SO excited to start breeding and getting little rabbit kits, but we to be patient; we had 4 months of waiting since rabbits should be 6 months to breed.
After a couple of months, we realized just how darn easy it is to take care of rabbits! Feeding and watering takes just minutes a day. In fact, it took us longer to walk out to the rabbitry than it did to do the feeding and watering portion. Stopping at one more cage to put a scoop of feed in the feeder each day to effectively get 50% more production from your rabbitry seems like such an obvious choice! The cost of a 4th rabbit, when purchasing them all from our farm is also significantly reduced due to the fact that we offer a 10% discount on rabbits when you buy 4 or more at a time, making the effective cost of that 4th rabbit only $30 (when you are buying all standard black/blue colored rabbits).
The rabbits were so low maintenance, we had the space for more, and we started doing the math on how much meat we’d get from each doe (see below). We also considered how the price/lb would decrease with a third doe because the cost of the buck would be spread across 50% more meat! All of that combined to our decision to get another doe.
As we continued to expand, now we have the largest Silver Fox rabbitry in the area, we believe that for those starting a backyard meat operation, should at a minimum, start with a quartet of 3 does and 1 buck. We have worked hard to have a large genetic pool in our rabbits. This allows us to provide our customers with ideal combinations of breeders to get their desired color combinations while maintaining low inbreeding coefficients.
First, consider how many litters you’ll get from each doe once she’s of breeding age. The gestation period is about 31 days, which we’ll call 4 weeks. We rebreed 5 weeks after kindling. That combines to 9 weeks between breedings. Wtih 52 weeks in a year you get 5.78 litters/year. Let’s just say that’s 5 litters per year because you may take time off in the heat of summer, if the doe needs more down time, etc.
Based on our production in 2016, each litter leads to about 6 weaned kits (live birth litters are larger but you generally lose some kits along the way). So 5 litters with 6 kits is 30 kits/year from each doe.
The recommended time to harvest each kit for meat is when it weighs 5lbs. After this point, the feed to meat ratio increases, and the growth rate decreases, meaning your cost per pound of meat goes up. Dress-out percentage is 50%. So from each rabbit you’ll get a 2.5lb carcass of meat and bone.
2.5lbs per rabbit at 30 rabbit kits is 75lbs of meat per doe per year. Two does would give you 150lbs of meat per year. That’s just under 3lbs per week. If you follow our recommendation of 3 does, then you’ll get 225lbs of meat per year. That’s 4.3lbs of meat per week, or nearly another 8 3oz servings.That has a significantly larger effect on your grocery store bill, don’t you think?
The average American eats about 271lbs of meat per year, and the world average of meat consumption is about 103lbs/person (source). So getting 225lbs of meat from your backyard is a very reasonable amount for a family of two or more to utilize.
One of the great things about rabbits is that you get that meat in small, manageable amounts over the course of the year. It’s not like a cow, where you raise one animal for 18 months and then have hundreds of pounds of meat that you have to fit in the freezer. It’s easy to make homegrown rabbit a big part of your diet because of this.
Rabbit is also a versatile and delicious meat! It can be used in any chicken dish, plus there’s a whole world of delicious rabbit dishes to explore! From basting with oil and spices and baking it whole, to pulled rabbit, to rabbit stew, there’s no end of mouth-watering ways to enjoy rabbit.
I hope this has convinced you that a breeding quartet is the best way to get started with your backyard meat operation. Visit our breeding stock page now to get started!