Rabbit: The New Chicken
Prepare yourself for some harsh news… Rabbit is DELICIOUS! There I said it. I know they are cute and cuddly and oh so soft… but also…. oh so delicious!
We raise rabbits for meat. They are an easy to care for inexpensive meat source that reproduces very quickly. We started out with rabbits somewhat by surprise. You can find that story in my post entitled “A Gift from the Farm.”
On our little farm we have a couple of rules about keeping animals:
They cannot be mean! If they are mean in any way, they are not permitted to stay.
They need to serve a purpose.
Lets focus on that second rule right now. We ended up with rabbits due to feral rabbits in the neighborhood. We caught them to keep them from eating all of our crops that year. They destroyed the spring garden and I was not going to sacrifice the plot of land that I had tilled up and fertilized by choosing a new spot on our 1 acre to plant a garden.
So now we had 6 rabbits. We either needed to get rid of them or make them serve a purpose. At first they were just fun and the kids loved climbing in the cage with them to play, but to us it didn’t make good sense to have the cost of feeding 6 bunnies if we were getting no return from our investment. So we gave the rabbits a purpose. They are breeding stock for a meat source.
Rabbits begin breeding by 6 months, are pregnant for approximately 30 days, and grow to a good butcher weight at around 4 months. Its not a bad turn around time.
We started with our 6 rabbits. We have recently inherited a few more, and currently have 4 breeding does and 2 bucks. With rabbits, unless you are worried about keeping pure bloodlines. it is fine to line breed. We have been breeding the buck from our first litter to his litter mates for a year now with no problems. Some say you will end up with stupid rabbits, but if they are a food source they don’t have too have superb intelligence.
We have two other young does that we are keeping for their beautiful colors because we also sell a few as pets every so often. By selling a rabbit here and there it offsets the cost of their feed and lowers the cost of their meat for us.
So how do you use rabbit meat? I am still very new to rabbit. I had never eaten one until I butchered our extra buck last February. I use it like chicken. So far, the easiest way I have found to cook it is whole, in the crock pot. I put it on low for about 8 hours until the meat begins to fall off the bones and is easy to shred.
Once it has reached the shredding stage, I take it out of the crock pot and just shred the whole thing to use in various recipes that usually call for chicken. This week we had green chili chicken (rabbit) enchiladas and Chicken (rabbit) and dumplings. When its used in recipes like this its very hard to tell the difference between the two meats.
Roasted rabbit is good too. Much like a large tinfoil dinner for the whole family. And I am still finding new ways to use it.
The rabbits now have multiple purposes. They are a source of fun and amusement for my children, a great source of fertilizer since their manure is an excellent source of nitrogen, and lastly a low cost source of meat that can be very prolific and delicious!