Welcome to this page, some might say an unusual page amongst a mom blog, with homeschool posts, crafts, and recipes, and whether you clicked here from my blog, or were directed by RabbitColonies.com… welcome, and I hope you enjoy learning more about our rabbit colony!
A Little Backstory
My name is Bettina, not originally from the Midwest, my family and I live there now. I’m a former vegan… and now am someone who has had both pet and meat rabbits. I took our family down the road of being more self sufficient and that is where our meat rabbit journey began. Though I’ve raised both pet rabbits and meat rabbits, I went from knowing virtually nothing about rabbits to writing a book about raising them. When we chose to raise rabbits we went the route of using a rabbit colony, and it became an amazing experience.
I was asked so often about my experiences, that I started to write them down. They became a pamphlet, then a small book, and the hope was always to share practical experience. We struggled in the beginning because so many had huge farms, thousands of dollars invested in their rabbits, or were genuine farmers… it was hard to relate. We found our way and our groove though, and we have enjoyed our rabbit journey!
My book isn’t for everyone, many vegans didn’t like my book early on. They were obviously offended and though I was proud of my journey, many thought I was betraying animals. Others misjudged the intent of the book (helping people know if raising rabbits is the right choice for them to help with self-sufficiency, and if so, how to go from there), but I am proud of this book. It is loaded of full of my experiences and tons of ideas!
Rabbit Colonies are simply rabbits that live together in a colony, this would be instead of raising rabbits individually, in cages. Most rabbit colonies are open, giving at least 10 square feet to each rabbit and allowing them to dig, eat, and live like rabbits would in the wild. Whether you have rabbits already or are considering them, planning a colony can be work, but the rewards are worth it. I think raising rabbits in a colony is an amazing idea. It’s humane and honestly loads of fun. Colonies can range in design and are very different from each other. Check out this rabbit colony gallery for some ideas!
Caring for Rabbits
Rabbits, regardless of breed, are animals that require a lot of care, but a good colony will run smoothly. For those of you that don’t have rabbits and are researching raising rabbits (for pets, show, or meat) knowing which kind of rabbit you want is key. Why you are raising rabbits will help determine the breed.
Proper nutrition, water, grooming, and space are just some of the things to consider, regardless of why you are raising rabbits. We offset a lot of costs by having a garden for our rabbits, which was an amazing feat since I had never gardened before, but we were able to use the garden to feed the rabbits a lot of organic veggies.
Knowing their needs will aid in healthy rabbits and if you are thinking about a colony, meeting needs is very important. Rabbits are fairly self-sufficient themselves, but they do need needs met and looked after.
Beyond general water, food, and so on, is to consider things like warmth for winter, shade for summer, keeping rabbits safe from predators, and keeping them healthy. Much of this will depend on where you decide to raise your rabbits, but colony life can easily be adapted to keep your rabbits safe, while working into your lifestyle.
Caring for Kits
If having kits (babies) is the goal, knowing how to take care of them and what to expect is key. Seeing successful litters is very rewarding and fun for our family, especially for my children. Kits are born with their eyes closed and often you won’t see them nurse, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t. Some mothers are protective, while others are much less so, and sometimes, mothers don’t do a great job raising their kits. This is why meeting a rabbit’s needs is crucial and part of that is choosing nesting boxes.
Many things can be used as a nesting boxes, they can even be made at home, but there are 3 that are used time and time again. Here are some examples of widely used nesting boxes, however, many people that free-range their rabbits often let them nest wherever they like. If you do use a nesting box, again, thinking about warmth is important and so is having nesting materials.
Our Pet Rabbits
Our little pet rabbits Fuzzball and Ruby, sure were something! Allowing them to run the house and learning to litter training them was an amazing experience for my kids! Rabbits can make amazing pets. It’s sad I don’t have better pictures of them… you don’t really think about taking pictures of your rabbits… until it’s too late, but here are a few. Our pet rabbits really got us into the colony idea and I detail a bit more about them in my book.
I do understand having pet rabbits and then meat rabbits… well, it is probably hard to understand… and I get that. There is a fine line with those that eat meat. Usually, those that raise meat animals truly love the animals. Respectable hunters are the ones that tear up or cry when they shoot an animal. Understanding that sacrifice and respecting the animal should be part of the process of being a meat eater, however, most lose that connection, by just running to the store for a pound of hamburger. Raising rabbits put this all into perspective for me.
Having meat rabbits is a big decision and there are many things to consider, even if you are foregoing a rabbit colony. We researched extensively on the topic before purchasing our first meat rabbits and found little for those that wanted to start a colony, as most focused on caged rabbits, which is another reason I eventually put my book together. If you are looking to be more self-sufficient and are unable to have chickens… raising meat rabbits is a great choice.
Raising meat rabbits requires dedication, hard work, but first… preparation. You will need to know how you want to raise your rabbits, what breed is best for you, how many you will need, what you will feed them, how you will keep them warm, cool, and safe, and lastly how you will butcher and store them, and those are just some starting basics. There are many resources out there, not just my book (though I recommend it 🙂 ), but these are some key things to know BEFORE getting started.
Raising rabbits to be self-sufficient leads to being able to butcher your rabbits, and while there are butchers that will do this for you, it takes away from the process, in my opinion. As meat eaters, we should be fully involved with where our meat comes from, how it was raised, what it was fed, and how it was butchered, so being able to butcher your own rabbits is important. I understand that there may be some reasons people wouldn’t be able to do this, arthritis might be one, and there could be other issues of course, but here are some tools for the process.
Many people have different ways to butcher their rabbits, some drown them, others shoot them, and some break their necks. In my opinion, the first 2 are either inhumane or inefficient. We break the neck to butcher our rabbits and in all the rabbits we have processed, we have never had a rabbit show sign of pain or distress, as you will see in other methods, especially drowning. We use a method called the “broomstick method” to butcher rabbits, however, it can be difficult as it needs at least 2 people, one to hold the rabbit and one to hold the broom.
There are tools to help butcher rabbits humanely and I have found 2 companies that make similar tools (though there could be more), they are by the Rabbit Wringer and the Hopper Bopper. I am not affiliated with the owners of either of these products and do not know them, however, the products seem to be the most humane way to butcher a rabbit… and I feel that it is important to share. There are also ways to make your own tool that do the same thing, but sometimes purchasing tools are more efficient than making them yourself.
The broom method, and the products mentioned, quickly break the neck of the rabbit without pain or suffering. Below there is a link to a video of the process. Remember, butchering is part of the process, you will need to know if you can do it and what method is best for you AND the animal.
Follow this link to see the Hopper Bopper in use and the butchering of a rabbit. Know that the video does show a rabbit being butchered… so please be advised.
Raising Rabbits – A Book Full of Experiences and Laughs – Grab Your Copy
Raising rabbits can be a fun experience… but it isn’t always as easy as one would think. My hubby and I put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for our rabbits and rabbit colony… but we found something that really worked and that we felt good about. It took me awhile to get the nerve up to put my information into a book form… but I am so glad I did! I was asked a lot about our rabbits, then people would send others to ask me questions, and after being told several times that I should write a book… I just did!
Raising Rabbits will be a helpful read to anyone looking to be more self-sufficient, to start a rabbit colony, BUT it also offers a lot of information to anyone looking to raise rabbits in general.
If you do go to Amazon and grab my book, or already have, I’d love to hear from you!
You might notice my book is on a second edition. With the events of 2020, I decided to add some thoughts to the introduction and I also changed the subtitle of my book. Originally, my subtitle mentioned me being a “former vegan”. I knew when I gave my book the subtitle of “A Former Vegan’s Guide to Rabbit Husbandry” it might be controversial, however, it wasn’t meant to be offensive. I am proud of my journey, but I changed the subtitle to aid in less attacks and to be less offensive to others.
Thanks for reading and if you have questions… don’t be shy about asking!
BEM + Fam 🙂
5 thoughts on “Raising Rabbits – Our Rabbit Colony”
Great article, raising rabbits can be intense and rewarding at the same time. I have been experimenting with free range rabbits lately and its working out great. They seem so happy out digging and playing. They enjoy fresh greens all day long. It’s extremely enjoyable to watch too. It’s incredible how smart they are and how quickly they adapt to their environment working with other critters to stay safe from predators. Once in a while they will put their nest in the garage and I get to play with the babies which is fun too.
Thanks! Rabbits are great and it sounds like you have a nice environment for them. My kids would agree that the best part of raising rabbits are the little ones, they love to hold the babies!
I just bought a copy of your book, and it led me here. I figured I’d take a second to say you’re book is well written and very informative! I’m also in the Midwest, also homeschooling, also keep a garden, and we’ve decided to start keeping rabbits this spring. So we’re basically twins. I loved the humor in your book and that it’s easy to follow.
Sarah, thank you so much for buying the book and I am so happy you enjoyed it. I tried to make it informative and easy to follow… but enjoyable too! We seem to have a LOT in common and I am sure you will love raising rabbits as much as we have. Your quick message made my day, this book was intended to help others, but it has had some backlash on Amazon from those that don’t like that I was a vegan or that I raise rabbits for meat… so reading your note was simply amazing. 🙂
Honestly I’ve been trying to find a more natural setup, other than cages (it just feels very laboratory to me), and the most humane way to dispatch them. Your book nailed both of those perfectly which gave me a huge comfort and peace to move forward. There is a saying that goes: you can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the whole world, and there will still be someone who says they don’t like peaches. Some people just can’t appreciate self-sufficiency (I still get weird looks when I say I make my own deodorant). So know you *are* making a difference.