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Which breed of rabbit is best for a homesteader?

New Zealand White rabbit When thinking about keeping meat rabbits, one of the first things that came up is which breed should we start with?

I've had New Zealand Whites and that seems to be a popular breed for meat. This rabbit variety is also noted for the pelts since they are pure white. I'm not sure, but I would guess the fur could be dyed, too, which might make them popular with the buyers of pelts.

We're not really going down this path to sell the pelts, but we also see that as a learning opportunity and a potential offset for expenses, or even as a source of profit. We plan to learn about preserving and/or tanning the skins as we go as a side project.

Back to breeds. Another popular breed seems to be Californians. We're not too familiar with these, but are considering crossing a New Zealand buck with some Californian does. We'll see where we end up.

For now, we've started with New Zealand Whites. We currently have two bucks and one doe. Not exactly an ideal male to female ratio, but we will explain in a later post how we ended up in that situation. There's also more to say about other breeds in a later post.


Shannon and Dawn will be sharing their experiences with raising meat rabbits on Tuesday afternoons. Shannon and Dawn homestead on three acres in Louisiana when time off from life and working as a sys admin permits.



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Those are both good breeds, but id consider the "silver fox" and "american chinchilla" both are large bodied with smaller bones and a GREAT dress out (meat to waste ratio) i personally raise silver foxes, did i mention that they also are listed as critical by the ALCA
Comment by C Scott Henningsen C Tue Aug 28 12:36:21 2012
C Scott Henningsen C --- Sounds like you might have some good feed to meat information too. Do you have any data you'd like to share?
Comment by anna Tue Aug 28 14:14:33 2012

This website has a good table comparing the differant breeds which shows many of them having similer adult weights

http://www.rabbitgeek.com/meatpennotes.html

i cant find my orignal referance that had a graph on dress out %, some breeds were bred for fur others meat some simply for size (NZ) there are are many breeds out there imo that can do better on the homestead or small farm then the commercial breeds, but its all a matter of preferance i suppose

Comment by C Scott Henningsen C Tue Aug 28 14:44:04 2012

Shannon, see if you can find a local fur buyer in your area and talk to them. They will buy the pelts, if they buy rabbits, "in the green". A green pelt is simply one that has been peeled off the carcass properly, rolled up, placed in a freezer bag and then frozen.

My understanding is that the clothing market likes the white pelts because they can be died to match the garment. Pelts from a rabbit during the summer are worthless, it's only during the colder part of the year where they are worth messing with selling.

Comment by Heath Tue Aug 28 15:25:58 2012

I bought my first rabbits from a lady who had crossed the Californian, chinchilla, flemish giant and I believe New Zealand. They look like the silver marten breed (so probably that too) and get 12 to 14 lbs each. She bred them for six years until the breed stabilized.

I haven't eaten one yet to know how they clean up. They are really tolerant to heat and winter cold. If crossing breeds, I heard that you always want to breed a smaller buck to a larger doe to avoid complications at birth.

Comment by Dustin Tue Aug 28 20:42:48 2012

C Scott Henningsen C --- Good data about the more heirloom breeds. I guess the New Zealands and Californias are a bit like the Cornish Cross of the rabbit world?

Heath --- Excellent data on selling pelts! I didn't realize you had so much firsthand information about it. Maybe you should be writing a guest post. :-)

Dustin --- Hybrids are often very vigorous. I've noticed our Cuckoo Marans X Black Australorp broilers get big faster than the pure breeds.

Comment by anna Wed Aug 29 09:13:53 2012
I enjoy trapping and putting up fur. Fleshing and stretching a pelt is a lot of work and has a large learning curve. I've never actually sold rabbit pelts but have heard others mention it and halfheartedly paid attention as I never expected to have rabbits again.
Comment by Heath Wed Aug 29 21:56:46 2012
Heath --- I'd be curious to hear more about why you never expect to have rabbits again. Sounds like a tale worth telling....
Comment by anna Thu Aug 30 09:04:21 2012
Oh no, nothing interesting. As a boy my folks had rabbits and it was my responsibility to take care of them. I enjoyed the experience but would never have guessed that I'd grow and have rabbits once again for the purpose of eating them.
Comment by Heath Thu Aug 30 09:15:50 2012

My theory is to take whatever non-dwarf rabbits you can find for sale in your area as your first meat rabbits.

If they've been bred locally for several generations, then they should be suited to your climate and conditions. If you don't have experience, it's quite likely you'll make some mistakes along the learning curve - better to do that with cheap "meat mutts" than more expensive specialty breeds.

Once you've got some experience, you'll have a much better idea of what you want when you select a breed, and you'll know how to judge a healthy rabbit when buying.

Comment by Darren (Green Change) Wed Oct 31 17:48:59 2012
I've been meaning to come back and say we have our rabbits. One buck and three NZ doe and one mixed NZ and Rex doe.
Comment by Heath Wed Oct 31 18:46:42 2012