Rabbits are becoming more popular with people wanting to be more self sufficient or anyone who wants some home raised, great tasting meat!
Now that you are thinking about raising some of your own meat rabbits, you’ll need to know how long it will take to go from birth to processing.
Meat rabbits are raised to 10 weeks of age and five pounds of weight before processing. Smaller breeds, non meat type genetics and alternatively feed rabbits will take longer.
First off let me be clear, to get the fast growth required of fryers (young meat rabbits) you will need meat rabbit genetics.
None of the pet type breeds will grow fast enough to reach market size as quickly or as efficiently as meat rabbits.
Is Raising Rabbits For Meat Worth It? helps you figure out your budget for raising your own fryers.
Of course, you can raise whichever breed or mix of breeds you like! If what you are looking for is economical gains (more rabbit growth for your money and time), use meat rabbits.
Secondly, larger litter sizes will take longer to hit the 5 pound mark and small litters will get to 5 pounds more quickly. 10 weeks is a good middle ground number.
For example: if the litter has 12 kits, they will take 11 weeks but if the litter has 3 kits, they will get to 5 pounds 8-9 weeks.
Looking to have your rabbits grow at their best? Check out my article 5 Ways To Help Your Rabbits Grow Faster.
Raising rabbits in 10 weeks
… commercial grower schedule of 5 pound in 10 weeks, 5.5 pound in 11 weeks and 6 pounds in 12 weeks.
Yes, there are bloodlines within the Californian and New Zealand bred that are more aggressive faster growers which can greatly exceed expectations in cooler growing conditions with 5 pound fryers achieved in 8-9 weeks.http://sliverpond.com/Rabbit_Growth.html
Meat rabbits will need 10 weeks to go from birth to processing.
If you are counting the gestation period of the doe then you need to add 30 days to the total. This will take the total from breeding to butchering time to 14 weeks.
If you want your rabbits to be ready for processing in 10 weeks you have to keep them growing at their best.
The most efficient way to raise rabbits for meat is to keep them on a 18% pelleted feed, in a wire bottomed cage.
Fast growth requires 18% pellets
Feeding free choice 18% pelleted feed is the fastest way to get your rabbits up to processing weight.
When you are shopping around for your rabbit feed, be sure to read the bag! Not all of the feed at the store will be 18%! More commonly you will be able to get 16% or even 14%.
I know the 18% is going to cost a bit more per bag than the feed mixes with a lower protein percentage. Buy the 18% anyway, it’s worth the extra! Get great feed to grow great rabbits!
What Do You Need To Raise Rabbits? goes over the list of supplies, including feed, that you’ll need to get started.
Hopefully, you will be able to find a supplier with the higher quality rabbit feed your fryers require.
If not, pick the highest percentage feed you can get and expect to feed them for longer than the 10 weeks.
Supplementing the rabbit with other feeds
Other feeds are available, like hay or vegetables, but they will lower the energy of the total ration and result in the rabbits gaining less weight per day.
If you want to occasionally throw in a special treat for your rabbits, okay.
If it is commonplace, you are going to need to feed those fryers for more than 10 weeks because of all the snacks slowing the rate of gain.
Slower gains are not a problem, if you are happy, it’s just something to be aware of.
Any variation in feed or raising system will make the rabbits grow more slowly.
This includes pasture raising, feeding a lower quality pelleted feed, feeding other grains and feeding lots of hay or other forages.
How Many Meat Rabbits? is an article I wrote to walk you through how to figure up the number of rabbits you need to raise to keep your family well supplied with fryers.
What about feeding some hay?
The occasionally handful of hay can be thrown in to give them more roughage to digest, but a large portion of hay should be avoided since it lowers the growth rate of your rabbits.
Grass based rabbits and rate of gain
I’m sure you have looked around and found people raising rabbits on forage based diets, maybe even all forage. This is doable, for sure. What it is not, however, is fast.
Since the rabbits are out in the pen zooming around they will take more feed and more time to get to the 5 pound butchering weight.
If you want grass fed rabbits, go for it! If you want the fastest gaining rabbits, they need to stay in a cage or pen on 18% pellets.
Some rabbits will take longer than 8 weeks
5 pound fryers at 10 weeks requires high quality breeding stock
The biggest reason your rabbits may take longer than 10 weeks to raise is genetics. Buy high quality breeding stock to start!
Great genetics will pay for themselves by stamping fast and economical gains into all of the rabbits born in your rabbitry.
Please note the “high quality” part. Even if you get one of the common meat rabbit breeds, you still need great individuals to get great results.
All breeds have high performing individuals and low performing or inefficient animals. Start with good ones, you’ll be glad you did.
The rabbits need more water!
The second reason your rabbits will not be making the gains you were expecting will be lack of water.
Now, you are saying to yourself, “What is she talking about, they have a water bottle!” Actually, that water bottle is exactly what I am talking about!
A water bottle will not provide enough easy to drink water for fast growing fryers.
Sprague River Homestead, who raise and shows rabbits and have great videos, cite 2-3 times as much water being consumed by rabbits that have an open crock to drink out of rather than a water bottle.
More water is needed by fast growing animals in order to process all of their food. Restrict the water and you are restricting the growth.
Keep the rabbits comfortable for best growth
Your rabbits need to be comfortable to grow to their potential.
Great genetics only determine what is possible not what you actually get! It is your job to make the most of your rabbits!
- Keep them comfortable (rabbits like 65 degrees) using shade and fans
- Make sure the litter has plenty of room
- Refresh the water in the crocks a few times per day
- Keep the cage clean
I know that the weather can be challenging, especially in the summer! Do what you can to keep your rabbits as cool as possible.
Comfortable rabbits are happy, grow well and stay healthy.
Can I grow the rabbits bigger?
Sure, they are your rabbits! If you want to raise them to mature size (10 pounds for mature meat rabbits), you can.
The reason for the fryers having a 5 pound target body weight is that 5 pounds is the point of most economical growth and tenderness of the meat.
The best experience for the rabbit raiser (you) and the rabbit eater (you, again) is at 5 pounds.
For a quick growing meat rabbit fryer, 5 pounds will be at 10 weeks. Keeping them longer costs you more money.
The next 5 pounds or so, it depends upon the breed, will take 4 months. That’s twice as long for the same amount of gain!
Raising a rabbit to mature size before butchering is going to be costly. Once again, this is your choice.
If you want the most economical gains, raise the fryers to 5 pounds in 10 weeks then butcher.
Why raise the fryers to 10 weeks?
Part of the reason for the fryers (young meat rabbits) needing to be 10 weeks old is the butchering size/weight that you are looking for in order to get flavorful and tender meat.
At the 10 week mark, your rabbit should weigh between 5-5.5 pounds. This is the most common size of rabbit for processing.
If you want a bigger rabbit, more along the lines of 7-8 pounds, it will take longer.