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catch wild Rabbits, breed for meat?

 
Julia Weeks-Bentley
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I have Sooooo many around here and just wondered if they could be trapped and used for breeding and meat? Just a thought.
 
Jeff McLeod
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Location: New Hampshire
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Yes - Not sure where you are in the world. We used to eat lots of wild rabbits back in the UK when times were tough. Different taste of course to domesticated meat rabbits. But still good meat.

 
Julia Weeks-Bentley
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I was raised in NH but am living in Indiana... I see so many wild rabbits and have been tempted to catch them and just breed them for meat rabbits LOL
I do have cages after all....figured in captivity it would not taste too gamey.



McLeod Jeff wrote:Yes - Not sure where you are in the world. We used to eat lots of wild rabbits back in the UK when times were tough. Different taste of course to domesticated meat rabbits. But still good meat.

 
Jeff McLeod
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Julia Weeks-Bentley wrote:I was raised in NH but am living in Indiana... I see so many wild rabbits and have been tempted to catch them and just breed them for meat rabbits LOL
I do have cages after all....figured in captivity it would not taste too gamey.


Not sure that I'd be tempted to try and keep em in captivity - but that's just me The only concern that I would have is not knowing what their food source is - whatever they eat ultimately you eat. Rabbits can also carry a fever which can be passed on if you don't handle and cook them correctly.

http://www.idph.state.il.us/public/hb/hbtulare.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tularemia

 
Julia Weeks-Bentley
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Well that is definitely food for thought...I do remember eating wild rabbits when we were growing up.


McLeod Jeff wrote:
Julia Weeks-Bentley wrote:I was raised in NH but am living in Indiana... I see so many wild rabbits and have been tempted to catch them and just breed them for meat rabbits LOL
I do have cages after all....figured in captivity it would not taste too gamey.


Not sure that I'd be tempted to try and keep em in captivity - but that's just me The only concern that I would have is not knowing what their food source is - whatever they eat ultimately you eat. Rabbits can also carry a fever which can be passed on if you don't handle and cook them correctly.

http://www.idph.state.il.us/public/hb/hbtulare.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tularemia

 
Michael Cox
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Why bother with cage rearing them if you have an abundant supply in the wild? I'd just hunt/trap them as needed.


Video of setting up box traps and culling rabbits - quick humane dispatch by cervical dislocation - not for the squeemish


Box trap seem to be the most effective and efficient way of controlling rabbits that are damaging crops, and give good rabbits for the pot.
 
Julia Weeks-Bentley
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Very true. I would just like to be able to harvest in advance for the winter.


Michael Cox wrote:Why bother with cage rearing them if you have an abundant supply in the wild? I'd just hunt/trap them as needed.


Video of setting up box traps and culling rabbits - quick humane dispatch by cervical dislocation - not for the squeemish


Box trap seem to be the most effective and efficient way of controlling rabbits that are damaging crops, and give good rabbits for the pot.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Julia Weeks-Bentley wrote:Very true. I would just like to be able to harvest in advance for the winter.



Set the box or bait trap in the fall when they are grown. Set up to process them and put them to the canner or freezer. If I could get that many at once I would be canning the hind quarters, freezing the fronts, and making a huge batch of bone broth out of the backs.

I completely understand to desire to KNOW you have meat for the table for winter. It definitely gives you a sense of security.
 
Michael Cox
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I wouldn't think keeping wild rabbits in cages would be very fair to them, and you are making a lot of addition work for yourself.

As suggested, simply process the meat immediately for storage.

Rabbit can be very very tough if not cooked properly. Properly in this case means over a low heat for 3+ hours. Any less than that and you may as well be eating rubber. If I were processing a large amount I would probably try boiling a large number in the biggest pan I could find for around 4 hours. Take them out of the water and the meat will simply fall off the bone - the pieces can be easily packed and stored for later use (eg by canning in oil and heating to kill bugs before sealing the jar).

Alternatively you could joint them and try a confit rabbit. Essentially simmer the rabbit in oil or fat on a fairly low heat for 3 or more hours - the meat will then fall off the bone nicely. Pack it for storage into jars still hot and cover it with the oil/fat get the air out. When you want to cook with it take the pieces out and grill or pan fry them. This works particularly well for rabbit as the meat is naturally very lean and can be a bit dry without some additional fat.

I know a chap who is a professional hunter and game chef. He cooks up 50 rabbits or more at once to use in his recipes. Typically he boils large batches and pulls the meat off for later use (pies, stews, adding to cold salads etc...). When he goes out for a night shooting it is not unusual for him to bring home 100+ rabbits. He works on the basis that one large rabbit serves two portions of meat - but that meat doesn't divide nicely off the carcass without cooking and shredding it first (2 hind legs and torso = 3 pieces but the portion size suits two people).
 
Terri Matthews
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During WW2 there was severe meat rationing in the UK.

There was a young farmer who knew where rabbits nested in the hay for the dairy cows, so he used to go out once a week with his gun and shoot a rabbit for his Mother to make soup or stew out of. He said that they were not big meat eaters anyways, and with plenty of eggs and the odd chicken he said it was enough meat for his small family. He did this for the entire war period, and they reproduced enough to replace the rabbits that he took.
 
Michael Cox
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My grandfather used to do much the same - he had an air rifle and sat in the kitchen peering through the open door onto his vegetable garden. He'd often bag a bunny or wood pigeon for the table. This was very shortly after the war when rationing was still in place an they were newly married and broke.

Years later I had some rabbits and was showing a bunch of school kids how to skin and cook them. My grandfather was visiting at the time and took over to 'show us how it was done'. I think it knocked 50 years off him for a bit there.

Back then hunting for for was the norm - these days it is very rare that I teach a kid who has killed/skinned/prepared an animal that hasn't come from a supermarket.

Terri - thanks for reminding me of him. He passed away 4 years ago and, living on the other side of the world form them, I have few enough special memories of time with him. I caught my first fish with him too, off the rock pools. It was only about 4 inches long but we took it home proudly to cook. I was about 6 I think.

Mike
 
Terri Matthews
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They really were the greatest generation.
 
John Polk
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They really were the greatest generation.


It was a generation that grew up in the "Great Depression", and then went on to fight one of the deadliest wars in history.

People learned how to fend for themselves, and fix it when it was broke.
They depended on their families and closest friends. They hadn't yet been trained to be consumers.

Things went downhill pretty quickly as they aged.

 
Alex Hamond
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In my location it would be illegal to capture and keep wildlife for the purpose of breading it for meat rabbits.

Our local wild rabbits are the eastern cottontail and the swamp rabbit. I can take trap, shoot, or hunt them with dogs , but we are supposed to kill them right away. From November 17- February 28 I can legally go out and harvest 12 a day. So if one had enough space to establish some sort of food plot designed for rabbits, provided them with a bunch of brush piles, and basically design place where the rabbits would have plenty to eat, and plenty of places to hide. When season rolls around, harvest the free range meat rabbits by trapping them in rabbit boxes.

I feel that this route is a lot more ethical. They still get to be wild rabbits and if I do my part to establish a place where the rabbits have just about everything they could want, it will naturally populate with them.

I suggest you check your local laws concerning the trapping and keeping of your native wildlife.
 
mick mclaughlin
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Yes, i doubt it is legsl to cage them. While wild, they are fed and housed for free, anyway.

Cotton tails, are hardly ever tough. Not everyone likes them, but not everyone likes chicken. They are still a wild meat, that most enjoy. Jacck's are tough, but i would be suprised if you had jack rabbits.

In my mind, letting them stay wild, and harvesting for your needs, in fall and winter, is the most humane. I see nothing wrong with filling your freezer!
 
Jay Hayes
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When my mom was young they kept rabbits in the barn loft too. They would occasionally trade for a tame rabbit or two or toss up a young wild one they caught. Over the season they would shoot or just knock one in the head from time to time when they were up there tossing out hay. She said the main downsides were the occasional splatted rabbit that fell out of the loft and the summer smell of the nests that had some mortality. They had cats up there too which I assume took care of at least some of the latter issue.

I did some work next to a farm that made its money raising "wild" rabbits for training hunting dogs. They had several large pens (from 1-5 acres) set up with 6-8 foot tall chain link that was buried enough that a critter had to work pretty hard to get under. They mowed the pens in strips where there was 10 feet of brush hogged short grass alternating with 10 feet of uncut grass. Each season they alternated which rows were mowed. I don't recall if they did much supplemental feeding, but they would regularly trap wild rabbits to keep the populations gene pools up, but they didn't have to trap to keep the populations going. There were rabbits all over the damn place, and tons of happy hawks and owls in the woods that didn't take enough to cause a problem. Perhaps something like that could be used as a passive breeding facility while still running inside the laws and having a useful paddock too? From the rabbits I've trapped I would say Eastern Cotton Tails and Swamp Cotton Tails are just as likely to bash their heads in the side of a cage trying to get out as they are to be docile and domesticate. I caught a few in large live traps doing some research in college and they would rub all the hair off their faces trying to dig through the wire. You would likely have to put them in a very small cage (even by rabbit standards) like you when you raise quail...I think it would be kinder just to shoot them.

I have massively increased the rabbit population on my farm by simply letting the woody patches and fence rows hair up. The last folks brush hogged to make it look nice, now it looks a bit shaggy, but there are literally baby rabbits tumbling from clumps of grass when you walk down the road in the spring.

Maybe something in there helps?

J

 
mick mclaughlin
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Good post Jay!

I just know in Kansas it is illegal to keep wild animals in any manner. There are some loop holes, and the best I remember it is harder to keep wild animals that are native, then non-native. I am only inferring knowledge on Kansas, not any other state.

Besides, it just makes more sense to me, in a "permaculture way", to let nature do the work.

 
Tom Connolly
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There is merit to letting nature do the work for raising rabbit. One reason why I have considered raising them myself in the future is that I would prefer to have fresh meat at will rather than a frozen or canned animal. If you raise rabbits yourself, you can control the breeding time so that you can slaughter as many rabbits as you need each month,winter or summer, and eat the meat fresh, without needing to buy a freezer or facilities to can and store, and the meat of domesticated rabbits is more tender (have been told this but I have never eaten wild rabbit. Some breeds of rabbit reach 6 or 7 kg, vs a couple of pounds with a wild one, so you also have a larger piece of meat to work with. Farmed rabbits also produce nice pelts, depending on the breed that you choose,where as,I am told that wild rabbit pelts are often not very useful. The upside of the wild rabbits is that they will be local and are more likely to be disease resistant and tolerant of your climate. If I did raise rabbits and wanted to be dependent on them as a food source, I would most likely separate them into separate hutches so that if one got sick and died, I would not loose all of the animals.I am still not 100% sure what permaculture is, though I like everything I have learned so far...but I am very much into "fresh" and self sustaining and manipulating my environment to make it happen. If resources materialize I would also consider raising fish in the same way, a batch of a dozen or so in a 100 gallon pond, perhaps using aquaculture, and starting a new batch every month, so that I can have a dozen fresh fish (or however many that I need) every month. It is my understanding that chickens can also be raised this way. How much work is it to raise rabbits? I have never raised them for meat so cannot speak from first hand experience. I know of people who do raise them. It seems that if you design their living environment correctly, give them fresh and clean water and food and shelter them properly from the elements, it is a minimal time commitment and requires an investment of $$ and sweat equity. I wonder,though, how much the traps cost that are shown in this video? Probably not cheap,either, plus the time and effort of digging the holes. Getting back to the original thread...sorry if I have hijacked it...if sustainability and convenience were an issue, I wonder if it were possibly to legally raise a couple of wild rabbits and then breed them with a larger, domesticated rabbit? Still, that does not give one the thrill of the hunt.
 
A Philipsen
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Location: OR - Willamette Valley
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I wonder if it were possibly to legally raise a couple of wild rabbits and then breed them with a larger, domesticated rabbit? Still, that does not give one the thrill of the hunt.
Probably not, apparently most strains of wild (American) rabbit are not closely related enough to domestic (developed from European) rabbits to crossbreed. Though don't quote me on that, it's from reading on the 'net, not personal observation. Interestingly, My father insists that the wild buns in our brush are descended from some that a neighbor released that went feral.

How much work is it to raise rabbits? I have never raised them for meat so cannot speak from first hand experience. I know of people who do raise them.
Easy enough. I keep my buns in my garden, makes it easy to give them cuttings and I don't have to haul their poo. A couple does and a buck can produce all a person would care to eat in a year, plus some for the dog. You do have to get outside input for your gene pool now and again, but there are lots of bun raisers out there, it's not so hard to find someone to swap with. If you want to pasture them, there's more work involved in setting up, you either have to invest in a way to keep them in an area or keep them out of your garden (assuming you have one), but then they pretty much feed and raise themselves. Personally I wouldn't bother with wild ones at all unless you're worried about introducing an invasive species. Just get a non-white color and the domestic buns will probably adapt fine to being outside. They haven't completely had survivability bred out of them, but they grow much bigger and faster then the wild buns.
 
cairn paul
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Location: Rural North Devon, UK.
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if you catch wild rabbits and pen them up they will die cos its not natural for them, either kill them and freeze the meat or if your going to breed rabbits you need to buy domesticated rabbits bred specifically for that purpose.
 
Jared Woodcock
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I used to raise domestic rabbits, and beagles for hunting rabbits as a kid. Occasionally I would catch wild rabbits and try to raise them domestically, they never last. Usually they die just as they reach sexual maturity because they freak out. They will go from cuddly pet bunnies to wild freak out machines in about a weak. I still raise rabbits because I sell the meat, but honestly when it comes to feeding my family I much rather go hunting in February and fill my freezer than tend to domestic rabbits year round.
Some of my fondest memories of being a kid are the first sunny days of winter going out on my skis with a gun and a good dog to get some meat. You really don't need the dog either but I like them.

Jared
 
Brennen Dean
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Location: Alaska
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I don't see why you couldn't try it. That way you'd have a breed of rabbit that is better suited to your area and to eating the native plants there. You could even selectively breed them, choosing to continue lines that fatten up faster, or that have better fur, etc. You might be able to breed some of the wild ones with domestic ones to create a good local hybrid.
If nothing else it would be a cool project and it would help other people who are thinking about doing similar projects so they can build off your successes and make sure not to make the same mistakes.

Cheers
 
Jared Woodcock
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Brennen Dean wrote:I don't see why you couldn't try it. That way you'd have a breed of rabbit that is better suited to your area and to eating the native plants there. You could even selectively breed them, choosing to continue lines that fatten up faster, or that have better fur, etc. You might be able to breed some of the wild ones with domestic ones to create a good local hybrid.
If nothing else it would be a cool project and it would help other people who are thinking about doing similar projects so they can build off your successes and make sure not to make the same mistakes.

Cheers


That is basically what I was saying. I had tried this many times with little to no success so learn from my mistakes. Our domestic rabbits are not the same critter as a wild rabbit (in the US) and they cannot breed. As for raising rabbits on local wild forages, Pretty much every domestic rabbit I have had does well on this type of feed, yes you could select for the best but they are all pretty good at it to begin with.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Domesticated rabbits are a very different variety from cottontails. While they might be bred one to the other, the progeny invariably die. They have a different number of chromosomes.


http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers/viewtopic.php?id=3250


Wild rabbits rarely thrive in a cage, and it is generally illegal to even try it.

 
john mcginnis
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Julia Weeks-Bentley wrote:I have Sooooo many around here and just wondered if they could be trapped and used for breeding and meat? Just a thought.


Sure you could. Fact back in the middle ages that is what the landed gentry did. Caught wild rabbits and placed them in warrens so that they would be available when they were needed for the kitchen.

But my guess is that your results would be sub-optimal compared to current breeds of rabbit for the same level of effort. Now if you idea is to hostel the wild rabbits you catch just so they are handy and not do any breeding it might make sense.
 
Ignacio Joannon
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Location: Concón, Valparaiso, Chile
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Hi

Can somebody with more design abilities improve on this model?

Ignacio
 
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