WHAT BREED OF RABBIT TO RAISE FOR MEAT?
I get asked this question all the time “What rabbit breed is the best for a self sustaining homestead? Well that depends on what you are looking to do with your rabbits!
This is the first question you need to ask yourself. Do you want really nice pelts but also some good meat, Do want a high production New Zealand White to pump out 6+ litters a year of good healthy meat for your family. Most medium sized rabbits will work! Rex’s have some of the best pelts around! Their awsome fur is in the highest demand of all the other rabbit pelts available, They also have a good body type for meat, they will take a little longer than most “Meat Breeds” to get up to harvest weight. I raise Silver Foxes and their pelts and meat producing ability tops some of the best NZW I have seen. Satins, another meat/pelt breed I raise, I did a post on this breed in the December archives, Check it out for more on this breed (Great dual purpose rabbit for the homestead), The New Zealand White, Californian, American, Chinchillas, Creme/Champagne D Argent’s, and so, so, many more.
So I put together a list and a little background with each breed. If i missed any breeds, sorry. But let me know and I will add them in this post! One of the hardest things about getting started in rabbitry is deciding what breed of rabbits to raise. There are 30+ breeds, so do some research before you choose. Once you know what type you’re interested in, study up on that breed until you can remember all its characteristics.
AMERICAN- Like many American people, the American breed rabbit is a combination of immigrants welded together by blood to become a distinctly different and American creation. At least three different breeds of rabbit were used. The heritage of this rabbit can be noticed just by looking at it! You can see the Flemish, the Vienna, and the Imperial in the mandolin shape of the American rabbit. The American rabbit is a multi-purpose animal developed for meat and fur. They come in two colors of blue and white. This rabbit is on the threatened list and if you want to help a breed get back up in numbers this is one to try!
AMERICAN CHINCHILLA- The American Chinchilla rabbit was developed as a dual purpose rabbit used for meat, and fur. The American Chinchilla is actually listed as critically endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and like most rare breeds the only way to save them is to use them for what their original purpose was! As an efficient rabbit for fur and meat! Its body type has a desirable meat style, with a deep loin and broad shoulders.
AMERICAN SABLE- American Sable rabbits are basically the same rabbit as American Chinchilla rabbits, except for the difference in coloring. The coat of an American Sable is characterized by a rich sepia brown on the ears, face, back, legs, and upper side of their tail. The saddle and underside fur color fades from the sepia brown to a paler shade of brown. Their eyes are brown and show a ruby red glow in reflected light. American Chinchilla are considered a desirable meat, with a deep loin and broad shoulder. Weighting 9-12 lbs. They also enjoyed for their thick, soft fur. It is listed as critically endangered heritage animal.
BLANC D’ HOTOT- is considered a dual purpose breed (pet and meat) weighing 8 -11 lbs
CINNAMONS- Were cross bred into creation by accident. During the Easter season of 1962 2 kids given a young Chinchilla doe. Later they received a New Zealand buck. They crossbred these two for babies that their father, believed should be used for meat but the young children begged their father to keep one of the crossbred bucks as a family pet. The children joined the 4-h group and used their crossbred meat rabbits as their project. They were then given an unwanted Checkered Giant and a crossed Californian doe which they mated with the pet buck and in this litter was a russet shaded rabbit. They again bred the Checkered was mated to the same buck and another rusty colored rabbit appeared so the Cinnamon was born! They are considered a commercial breed.
CALIFORNIAN- This breed is a cross of New Zealand Whites bred to a Chinchilla-colored cross-bred buck. The breeder spent 7 years crossing Himalayans with Standard Chinchillas before achieving this ideal buck. Cals are white with black points..This breed was developed to be a good meat breed with a good blocky meaty body that also has a good quality pelt.
California- are white with black on their ears and nose and have pink (mine are red) eyes. Weighing 8-10 1/2 lbs.
CHAMPAGNE D ARGENT- The Champagne d’Argent is in history clear back to 1631. This is very attractive rabbit, and is the reason why over the ages, the pelt of the rabbit we know today as the Champagne d’Argent commanded huge premiums over the value of a standard rabbit pelt. Great for meat and fur production and a historic breed that needs to get back up in numbers!
CREME D ARGENT- The coloring is a moderately silvered orange. This is a very attractive meat and fur rabbit great dual purpose. Very well liked and used by many homesteaders weighing 8-11 lbs.
FLEMISH GIANT- These monsters can grow big, Some that will sometimes weigh 20+ pounds. They do eat a lot more, and because of their body weight will have bigger bones, and their fryers, at seven to nine weeks, weigh about the same as those of the medium breeds at the same age. These were raised for meat many years ago (They were know to be crossed with a dutch for a great meat rabbit) and will work on the homestead just fine.
FRENCH ANGORA- Makes a good dual purpose rabbit. weighing 7-10 lbs. When looking for French angora’s you want their body to be oval in shape. A good indication for a meat purpose. Plus you get a great fiber that can be spun to make yarn
NEW ZEALAND- Comes in white, black, and red. By crossing these different colors you get can broken or blue variety. These are one of the healthier hearty high production rabbit breeds. New Zealand’s are a breed that can be used for meat, pelts, show, and laboratory uses. Adult New Zealand’s can be more aggressive than other breeds although not all are aggressive. Weighing 9-12 lbs.
PALOMINO- are considered a commercial breed though take a little longer to grow out then others. Weighing 8-11 lbs. Have a good temperament.
REX- are another commercial breed weighing 8-9 lbs. They are raised primarily for their awsome fur and meat is the byproduct.
SABLES- weigh 8-10 lbs and are the Siamese cat of rabbits.
SATINS- are raised primarily for their fur, but do well as a commercial meat breed, weighing 9-10 lbs. I did a post on this breed in the December archives Check it out!
SILVER FOX- Are a great fanciers breed as their numbers are low. However they make an excellent dual purpose animal (meat, fur, pet) weighing 9-12 lbs. They have a great temperament and high dress out percentage.A great homestead rabbit.
I always recommend looking at what breeds are available to you locally. These rabbits will have had generations to grow accustomed to your local environment (These breeds I think are best for your homestead!). When you begin to look for your rabbits most new rabbit breeders start out with two does and one buck, you’ll soon learn that rabbits come in many different breeds, colors and sizes.
Make sure the kind of rabbit you pick will be comfortable in your area’s climate. Texas for instance, might not be a cool place to raise woolly Angora rabbits or heavy fur/meat breeds for example Silver Foxes have a thicker coat and are a black colored rabbit and the heat will get to them, But if you get a Silver Fox that was raised in your local climate you would have a better chance of that rabbit doing good on your homestead. Find out if the breed you like is good for whatever use you’ll want to use it for. Some types of rabbits, like Belgian hares, are suitable only for show. Others, like New Zealand Whites, are excellent for meat or show.
It’s also a good idea to get a breed that’s fairly common in your area, but not one that’s too common. If the kind you’re considering is too popular, you may have a hard time selling the offspring. But if you end up being your region’s sole breeder of some exotic variety, you’ll have trouble getting stud service or buying new stock.
Most meat raisers across the country agree that the mid-sized New Zealand White and California make about the best of all backyard livestock. But, you’ll want to be sure that your new rabbits are all healthy, so examine each rabbit closely before you buy. The inside of the rabbits ears should not have the dry scabs that are caused by ear mites, its hocks and feet should be free of sore spots, its nose shouldn’t be wet, runny, or crusty, and its droppings should be firm and round. If the animal looks fit in these areas, you can be pretty darn sure you’ve found a healthy rabbit.
Many of the individual traits that go into producing plenty of meat for your table are passed on from one generation to the next, so be sure to buy rabbits from a reputable breeder. Only purchase bucks and does with excellent production lines (or kits bred from such parents). You can tell a lot about what sort of offspring your breeding stock will produce by seeing the rabbits parents.
Most of a rabbit’s meat comes from its hind legs, so gently squeeze any buck or doe’s rear thighs to judge how plump and meaty those areas are. Give a feel to the back, between the rabbits pelvis and ribs as well. This loin muscle section should be long, wide, and firm. It’s easy to remove the poor producers, negligent mothers, and uncooperative breeders from your rabbit herd, Simply butcher and eat them my favorite saying is “Save the Best, Eat the Rest”. Unfortunately, even the most productive parents will decline in “breeding ability” after five or six years, so your older animals should also be regularly culled (these larger, older rabbits make great stews)
Hope this post helps you pick your rabbit breed for your homestead project! Any questions or other ideas please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or post in the comment section. Join The Rabbit Revolution- Like Us On Facebook, for daily rabbit information and ideas. To get the latest post as they are posted subscribe to the blog.
Posted on October 21, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged american, angora, breed, californian, heritage, local, meat breed, meat supply, medium, new zealand white, production, raise, Satin, show. Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.
We began raising our American Chinchillas last spring and just love them. We didn’t chose the breed, a local breeder had some and was willing to help us get started, but we couldn’t be happier. We recently bred our first doe (she’s due in about 1 week). Our breeder consistently gets litters of 8+, he butchers them at 12 weeks at which time they dress out about 3 pounds each. If anyone in the Western Washington area is looking to begin breeding, we’d love to help you get started with American Chinchillas.
Love what you guys are doing!!
I could not agree more. I think you hit the nail on the head in the first paragraph. I tell everyone that comes to me asking for help that the most important thing they need to decide is what their goals are. There is so much stuff out there about which breed is better, and how to breed etc. But in my opinion, when it really comes down to it, if you are breeding less than 10 rabbits, which most people are, then most of that stuff does not matter. For the average urban farm, if a rabbit consumes 2oz more feed or takes an extra week to get to fryer weight, it doesn’t really matter. Most people don’t raise rabbits to make money but rather because they enjoy it, they like knowing where their meat comes from, they like to show them, etc. Once you truly work out those goals, then the prospects of what type of rabbit is best for you really opens up.
I agree raising homestead rabbits should not be problematic, relax and enjoy raising your rabbits!
Good roundup. I’d really like to get some Silver Foxes, but can’t find any here in Australia.
My friend is switching his cages from meat rabbits to mini-lops, helping his granddaughter get into breeding them. They’re hoping she can make some good pocket money – a nice mini-lop costs about $110 here!
The good news (for me) is that he’s giving me his remaining breeding stock for free. He wants them to go to someone that will continue the lines, and not just stick them in pet hutches on the lawn and forget about them.
One bit of helpful advice I got was to start out with whatever you can get locally for a good price, and don’t worry about particular breeds. If you find you don’t like raising rabbits you won’t have wasted lots of money. You’ll learn how to feed and manage them without potentially expensive mistakes, and you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for. You may even find that you’re happy with what you’ve got and don’t need to go for a more expensive breed.
I greatly agree with the buy local for your breeders. Here in Florida, you need rabbits that can handle the heat and humidity. I was trying to raise Rex’s but had to switch to New Zealands because the the male Rex’s couldn’t handle the heat, and I only had about a 2 month window for good successful breeding. Though I do miss the soft fur, the higher production (currently have 12 new kits, 7 to be processsed, and a doe ready to pop any day now) of the New Zealands more than compensates for that. My next task is to learn how to tan my own hides for homemade gifts and such (I have a bunch of hides in the freezer right now).
Thanks for all the useful information.
I raised Satins for several years, and they were fantastic meat rabbits. One breed that I disagree with your recommendation for a homestead breed is the Flemish Giant. Quite frankly, although they are great rabbits, they are inefficient as meat producers. The feed ratio and the bone/meat ratio is horrible; one would be better suited for breeds in the ARBA’s Commercial (or even Compact) class.
I’m actually considering raising rabbits again, and would likely go with a pair of NZW or Californian does (or even one of each), plus a Florida White buck.
I am getting 2 rsbbits tomorrow for pets forcmy daughters but when they breed i plan on eating some of them. The guy im getting them from said the name of the rabbits are Calies. Ive never
Heard of this breed. So my question is is Calies a breed of rabbits and can you eat them? Thanks
Sounds like Californians, and they are a meat breed
Grin you left both Giant and Standard Chins out of your list of breeds. Actually for a couple or small family I feel you can hardly go wrong with Dutch for you meat breed. They are ready to slaughter at about the same age as a Pal and actually seemed to give us a higher dress out rate.
I listed the most popular breeds that popped in to my head when writing this post. I knew I would miss some, I do agree with you on Giant and Standard Chins as good meat breeds, in the past I raised American Chins they were a great breed for the homestead! As for the Dutch that is the breed that got me started raising rabbits 30+ years ago! When I was growing up the Dutch was crossed with Flemish for a great meat cross.
It is actually a great and useful piece of
info. I’m satisfied that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.
very helpful piece, and answered a lot of my questions. We raised some rabbits for our own use (meat and pets) a couple of times over the years, and just went with whatever breed was available at the time. Getting ready to start again in our new location, and wondered what would be best for meat and maybe fur in N.E. Missouri.
See what meat breeds are raised in your area, they would have had generations living in your specific climate.
I really enjoyed this piece. I knew that, in general, rabbits didn’t do well in hot weather and that it would cut down on their breeding season, but I hadn’t thought of it as a factor for choosing a particular breed. Are there particular breeds (Florida Whites are the only obvious example I can think of) that are more hardy in southern climates than others?
I have really had my hart set on starting out my rabbitry with American Chinchillas, but perhaps I should reconsider. I live on the coast of Georgia. AmChins are really difficult to find in the Southeast US. I wonder if they might not flourish here? However, I do know someone nearby who raises french angoras and her rabbits seem to thrive (though they have to put frozen water bottles in the cages on a dozen or so of the hottest days of the summer. She hasn’t lost any to heat and they are very hairy.
Any ideas of how I might find AmChins east of the Mississippi?
Thanks again for the article.
I raise Florida Whites in SE Tx because they are a small meat rabbit. I am 58 and short so I wanted a small meat breed. It has worked out good for us. They have 7 to 9 kits per litter. they feed out cheaper using only 1/2 cup of pellets a day. I prefer to feed more greens than pellets so that saves even more on pellets.
Have also raised Florida Whites and had great results, I just prefer larger rabbits.
I don’t see Giant Chinchilla on your list. It’s an excellent breed for meat as it was bred to eat more hay and less pellets. Less cost to grow out. I’m pretty sure it’s the only rabbit that is still judged purely as a meat rabbit. They are currently #5 on the rare list and needs some attention so these great rabbits don’t drift into obscurity.
The Giant Chin is a great rabbit for the homestead.
What ones do you like to use best?
JUST A NOTE, BEVEREN RABBITS ALSO MAKE GOOD MEAT RABBITS. MY 14 YO SON RAISES BLUE-EYED WHITE BEVEREN FOR 4H. THOUGH THEY MAY BE DIFFICULT TO FIND, HERE ARE SOME CONSIDERATIONS:
*WEIGH 9-12 POUNDS
*GOOD MOTHERS, EASY TO FOSTER, BECAUSE WE HANDLE OUR BEVEREN OFTEN, WE ARE ABLE TO HANDLE KITS (WITHOUT INTERFERENCE FROM DOE) FROM DAY ONE.
*ARE A HERITAGE BREED, ON “WATCH” LIST OF LIVESTOCK CONSERVANCY”.
*ARBA RECOGNIZES 3 COLORS-
BLUE, BLACK, AND BLUE-EYED WHITE.
*SEMI-ARCH BODY, MANDOLIN
Why is not good to put two female rabbit in one cage.
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