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close this book Homemaking handbook for village workers in many countries
source ref: r0039e.htm
close this folder Section II - What you will teach
close this folder Growing food at home
close this folder Rabbits
View the document Feeds and feeding
View the document Management and equipment
View the document Rabbit meat and its use


Rabbit meat is popular in many areas. It is very white and fine grained and has a mild flavor. It is nutritious and tastes good. Since rabbits are small, when they are butchered there is not more fresh meat than the family can easily care for at one time. In warm climates, this is especially important because of the difficulty of preserving meat. Rabbits do not take as much feed as larger animals. They breed and grow quickly and can fill a great need for meat, particularly in areas where there is a shortage of protein.

Rabbits will eat many kinds of greens including vegetable trimmings, carrot tops, and weeds you pull from the garden. TAIWAN


Rabbit manure is good for the garden and should be collected to use as fertilizer. It is easy to work it into the soil. There will be less loss of fertilizing elements if the manure is used in a compost pile.

A family can quickly learn how to grow rabbits. Usually it is best to begin on a small scale with one already-bred female rabbit, called a doe, or a pair, a female and a male. Boys and girls in club work have found rabbit projects a fine way to make money or furnish meat for the family.

Good meat rabbits are generally medium in size, rather short, compact, medium to fine-boned, broad and well covered with flesh. Wide heads and short necks go with good meat types. The does should be selected if possible from large litters because the tendency to produce large litters is inherited. Rabbit skins, if properly cared for, have some market value. The wool from Angora rabbits can usually be sold.

Feeds and feeding

Rabbits require mostly plant foods. Fresh grass, good-tasting weeds, vegetables, and root crops make good feed. Do not feed rabbits cabbage, kale, or any strong-flavored plants. These greatly affect the flavor of rabbit meat. Such root crops as carrots, potatoes, turnips, and beets are especially valuable foods during the months when there is little green feed. At all times rabbits need some legume hay, such as alfalfa, soybean, clover, peanut, and kudzu. The hay should be green, leafy, and fine-stemmed. It should also be free from mildew or mold.

Also important are grains like oats, barley, rye, and the grain sorghums. These may be fed whole or milled. Soybean, peanut, or linseed meal also should be added to the diets to make sure rabbits get enough protein foods. This is especially important for mother rabbits nursing their young. Regularity in feeding is more important than the number of feedings. Rabbits eat more at night than during the day, especially in warm weather.

Fresh clean water is of the utmost importance, particularly during . the hot summer months. An average doe and her litter will consume at least a gallon of water every day. Rabbits also need salt. Put small amounts of salt in the feed or where the animals can nibble on it at will.

Management and equipment

Rabbits are extremely sensitive to unclean surroundings. Therefore, strict sanitation practices must be followed if rabbits are to grow well and be healthy and strong. Remove manure, soiled bedding, and spoiled food daily. Wash water crocks and feed troughs often in hot, soapy water. Rinse them in clean water and dry them in the sun.

Rabbits are easily frightened and should be handled with care and gentleness. Rabbit shelters or pens should be enclosed so dogs and other animals cannot get to them. Keep cats and dogs away from rabbit food and bedding. Otherwise the rabbits may get tapeworms.

Rabbits should never be lifted by the ears or legs. This may injure them. To lift and carry a rabbit, grasp the skin over the shoulders with one hand. Place the other hand under the animal's rump to support its weight. If the rabbit struggles and scratches, hold it snugly under one arm.

A rabbit hutch or shelter can be made of wood, bamboo, or other available material. Provide individual hutches for grown rabbits. A hutch 2 feet high, 2-1/2 feet wide, and 4 to 5 feet long is desirable so that a doe and her litter may have about 10 square feet of floor space. A wire floor through which the droppings may fall is best because it can easily be kept clean.

Construction details for a nail-keg nest box.

Construction details for a wooden nest box.

Grown rabbits will fight if they are kept in the same hutch. The litter can be kept with the doe until they are half grown. These hutches in Haiti provide the space needed.

It is important to have a nest for the mother rabbit. This can be a basket or box kept in the hutch. Nest boxes should be large enough to prevent crowding and small enough to keep the young together. Clean and disinfect nest boxes before using them again. Ask your agriculturist for more information on breeding rabbits and raising the young.

Gnawing wood is natural for rabbits. Protect wooden parts of the hutch by placing wire mesh on the inside of the frame when you build it. Use strips of tin to protect exposed wooden edges. Treating the wood with creosote protects it as long as the scent and taste last. Placing twigs or pieces of soft wood in the hutch protects it to some extent. Rabbits may chew these instead of the hutch. Rabbits that have access to good-quality hay and are being fed some fresh green feed or root crops are less likely to gnaw on their hutches.

Rabbits are very sensitive to hot weather. Rabbit hutches should be placed where there is shade during the hot Dart of the day, but where they will get some sunlight during the cooler hours. Good air circulation is necessary, but rabbits should not be kept in strong drafts.

Move rabbits that seem to be suffering from the heat to a quiet well-ventilated place. Give them a damp sack to lie on. Wetting the tops of the hutches and the floors of the houses on a hot day will lower the temperature. Do not wet the rabbits themselves.

If grown rabbits are kept out of drafts, cold weather will not bother them much. Young litters need nest boxes and enough bedding to keep them warm.

Rabbit meat and its use

1. To kill a rabbit, hit it on the head to knock it unconscious. Then stick its throat with a sharp pointed instrument so it bleeds well.

2. Then skin it. Be very careful not to let the hairs of the skin touch the meat. Any objectionable odor associated with rabbits comes from the hair.

3. Wash all the blood off the carcass with clean water. Then remove the "insides" by splitting the animal down the front. Wash and clean the inside thoroughly. Some people like to rub the carcass all over with a cut piece of lime or lemon to help remove any wild flavor the meat may have.

4. Cut the meat into serving pieces. There are many ways of cooking and serving rabbit meat. Here are two ways:

Roll the pieces of meat in flour with salt and pepper. Fry them slowly in fat until they are tender.

Brown pieces in fat, then add water and vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, onions, and potatoes with salt, pepper, and any other desired seasoning.

These are easy-to-build hutches and nest boxes. Nest boxes can also be made out of clay or pottery