The declining economy is encouraging some people to raise their own food. Rabbits are the perfect animal to start with and have been raised for generations to put meat on the table when land wasn’t available for larger livestock. There are some tricks to raising meat rabbits that will produce a regular supply of meat all year. You might not have the space to incorporate all of these suggestions, but it might be worth doing what you can if you want to produce all of your own meat.
Wire cages are usually the choice of commercial breeders. They make clean-up easy and they allow you to easily assess the health and living conditions of your rabbits. By using a manure collection system (which can simply be sheets of tin metal under each row of cages) you can have multiple levels of cages stacked up. The cages must be large enough for your rabbits to hop around in with enough room for a nest box. Californians and New Zealands need a nest box that is roughly 12″x24″x12″ with the open side lower so the doe can get in and out easily.
You can build your own cages with wire and supplies bought from places such as Tractor Supply Company. If you do go with wire cages, make sure to put a board or something solid on the floor of the cage for the rabbits to sit on. Sitting on just the wire can cause them to develop sores and just be plain uncomfortable!
Due to their sensitivity to extreme temperatures, it is important to be able to control their environment. Housing your rabbits in a barn or shed is ideal, as you will want to provide plenty of ventilation and lighting, and a way to keep them cool in the summer (fans and windows/doors open). Cages can be attached to the walls, hung from the ceiling or you can build frames to put them on. Just make sure you have easy access to each cage.
A timer is your best bet for your lighting, making it easier for you to not have to remember to turn the lights on and off and a particular time every day. Regular lighting is crucial for the productivity of your rabbits, Does prefer roughly 16 hours of light every day throughout the year. Does aren’t as productive during the winter due to the shorter days, having regular lighting every day will help with this. You can use fluorescent or incandescent lighting, if you can see well enough to work around the rabbits, then it will be enough light for the rabbits.
If you don’t have a separate building to house your rabbits, you can always breed on a smaller scale in your garage, on a back porch or even in a spare room. In that case, it would be cheaper to buy a few cages, rather than to build your own cages. Whatever cage you choose, you want to make sure it is big enough for your rabbit and easy to clean.