Did you ever wonder why Elmer Fudd was always chasing after Bugs Bunny with shot gun in hand? Back before we made rabbits pets, they were a popular meat source. If you have ever eaten rabbit, you would know why. Wild rabbits eat a variety of vegetables and herbs. That is what makes them tasty. So in order to bring the wild rabbit closer to home, we chose to raise meat rabbits on our farm.
At first we started with an elevated stand and cage that was made of wood and hardware cloth. We quickly realized that the hardware cloth had to be a certain size to allow the rabbit poo to fall through the bottom. We also learned that the wood would soak up their urine and make the cage almost impossible to keep sanitized. So we started consulting other people, looking for a rabbit setup that would be easier to clean and good for the rabbits. There were several ideas we liked.
Putting them all together, we came up with a system where the rabbits were in wire cages suspended from the ceiling. This allowed us to collect all of their waste and use it as fertilizer. This system worked great, but didn’t really let rabbits be rabbits. Our rabbits were still tasty, but they got stressed out easily and didn’t do well reproducing. So we researched raising rabbits out in the grass (imagine that, rabbits eat grass?). Several questions had to be answered. How do you keep them from digging out, but still give them access to pasture? Can rabbits live on grass alone? How big of area do they need and what kind of a “tractor” do you need to build?
We read all different accounts and decided to try it on a small scale. We took our rabbit cages out of the hutch and placed the cages on the ground. Instantly, the rabbits began to eat the grass. We had a mixture planted for our cows for the fall consisting of clovers and rye. They loved it. So then we looked into making a mobile hutch for them. We decided on a A Frame tractor with a wire floor that allows the grass to come up through the bottom. Our pasture in Elberton has plantain, clover, sorrel, dandelion, several grasses and even the occasional muscadine that falls off our vines. So our rabbits have a buffet of greens each day with a little rabbit food on the side as a supplement. The meat is much tastier than the caged rabbits and they seem to be much happier.