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Rabbit Care Guide: 10 Tips to Care for Your Backyard Meat Rabbits

10 Tips to Care for Backyard Meat Rabbits

It was a cold fall evening, and I saw his headlights cut up the driveway through the dark night. I found my heart beating quite rapidly because I was unsure of what to expect. Then he stepped out of the car and popped the back hatch. I saw their red little eyes glare through the dark night.

Finally, someone put a flash light on them, and that is when I saw it. They were the cutest little meat source I had ever laid eyes upon.

So maybe you guessed it. I’m talking about rabbits.

We love them dearly, but we do raise them for meat. They give a ton of meat to our family, but don’t require a lot of space.

However, if you are going to raise rabbits for meat it is important to understand how to care for them. With that being said, here are my tips on providing great care to your meat buns:

1. Clean Their Homes

You already know that your meat rabbits will need a home. You can choose to do the colony set-up. We actually tried that for a while but found it was too hard to control (and keep up with) the breeding.

Plus, we also heard that it was easier for your meat rabbits to come in contact with cocci in this set-up. That is not something I wanted any part of so we decided to place them in their own hutches.

Now, if you need ideas on how to build your own hutch, we have lots of great ideas for you here.

However, there is a level of care that needs to happen when you place a rabbit in a hutch. The cleanliness of the hutch is obviously a huge factor.

So understand up front that if your hutch is built correctly then the rabbit’s waste should fall right through the hutch.

But from time to time they’ll be some excess hay that will cause blockages for the wire. This is why you’ll need to use your trusty garden hoe to remove any old hay or anything else that is in the bottom of the hutch.

Then be sure to wipe down their feeders with soap and water. Do the same thing with the rabbit waterer.

Finally, you can wipe down the hutch and feeding utensils with white vinegar. This helps sanitize naturally and deters pests.

2. Protect Those Ears

Photo by 104 Homestead

Photo by 104 Homestead

Rabbits have really sensitive ears. I didn’t realize this until I began raising them. In our set-up, our rabbits have little hay feeders attached to the side of their hutch.

However, even when controlling how much hay is spread around the hutch they still contact ear mites from time to time.

Finally, I got tired of battling them so I decided to do some preventative maintenance.

Well, first things first. If your rabbits get ear mites it isn’t the end of the world. You’ll know it because it looks like their ear is completely scabbed over.

However, refrain from picking the scabs or anything like that. It happened because there is a tiny bug that often lives in hay that moved into their ear canal. It causes a ton of wax and scabs.

Though it looks painful, usually it just itches really badly. That is miserable enough though, right?

So you’ll need to get a dropper of some sort and put some oil inside of it. Place a few drops of oil in the rabbit’s ear twice a day for 10 days. The oil smothers the ear mites, and your bunny’s ear should clear up.

However, now I do preventative maintenance in order to not have to do this ritual for 10 days and to save my rabbits some misery (if I can help it.) I accomplish this, by putting a couple of drops of oil in their ears once a week.

So far it has worked wonderfully and my rabbits’ ears are healthy.

3. Give Your Rabbits a Mani/Pedi

Whether you have to do this or not will honestly depend upon your rabbits. Truthfully, we have had very few rabbits that their nails need trimming.

However, I see on social media all of the time how others have certain rabbits that they do have to trim them. Our rabbits have a piece of wood in their hutch (which I’ll explain later), and I think that helps them grind their nails down some.

So just pay attention to their toe nails. If they are getting long it is important to trim them. Not only for your safety (because I’m sure they would hurt) but also for their health.

Here is how you can properly trim your rabbit’s nails.

4. Give Them Space to Rest Their Feet

It is important that your rabbits have a place to rest their feet. Imagine if you were standing on wire all of the time.

Eventually, your feet would hurt really badly.

Well, rabbits are the same way. They get actual sores on their feet from standing on wire for too long. You don’t want this. Not only is uncomfortable for them, but it is also cruel.

Remember, animals being raised for meat need and deserve a healthy life. Not only does it provide better nutrition for your family but it also the right thing to do.

So keep that in mind before raising any animal for meat. In order to prevent a rabbit from getting sores on its feet, you need to place a piece of wood for them to rest their paws on.

This is also a good thing for them to chew on as well because a rabbit’s teeth can literally grow so long that they’ll grow through its head. Crazy, right?

So keep these things in mind when considering the care of your meat rabbits.

5. Give Them a Space to Nest

I don’t leave nesting boxes in our hutches all of the time. It takes up a lot of space that I feel like they’d rather have to move around.

So unless I know that they are getting ready to give birth, I usually leave it out.

But when they do have a nesting box inside their hutch it is important to make sure that it has fresh hay and any soiled hay is quickly removed.

Think about it like a baby with a soiled diaper. You don’t want them sitting in their own waste. Well, you don’t want it for a rabbit either.

So if you see soiled hay before your normal change out day, then go ahead and get it out of there.

6. Protect Your Bunnies

Rabbits are highly preyed upon by other animals. You must consider everything from birds of prey to dogs.

So even though they are in hutches, you need to be sure they are safe. Be certain that their hutches are in a safe location. Placing them inside an out building or even inside a fenced area is a great way to offer them a lot of protection.

You’ll also want to make sure that your hutches are lifted a decent ways above the ground so they aren’t easily accessible for creatures that would like to harm them.

Beyond needing to protect these creatures from other animals, you’ll also need to protect them from the elements. Make sure their hutch stays dry and during the winter, be sure they have a wind break.

Also, make sure they are in the shade during the summer. Rabbit struggle worse with heat than they do cold. So keep that in mind.

7. Brush Them (If Needed)

I don’t treat my rabbits like pets. Instead, they are well cared for livestock. For me, there has to be that level of separation because I do provide my family’s needs with them.

However, if you have rabbits that have longer hair for meat then it is important that they be brushed and maintained. This is important for their care.

Now, I don’t have long haired rabbits so I don’t have to do this step. But I am throwing it out there in case you do. Please be sure to take care of them and whatever needs they might have.

8. Consider Their Nutrition

I feed my rabbits a well rounded diet. They do get pellets for protein. I tried to skip this and my grow outs took a ton longer.

So I did break down and go back to feeding them pellets. But I also feed them a healthy serving of hay every day. Mine actually have hay feeders so we just refill them as needed.

However, most recommend giving your rabbit a ball of hay the size of their head.

Plus, I also feed my rabbits fodder. They love the fresh green every day and it also gives them a lot of water as well which leads me to my next tip.

9. Ample of Water

Water is a huge priority when keeping rabbits. You need to make sure that they have plenty of it. They drink lots of water when they are pregnant and nursing.

Plus, they drink a lot during the summer because of heat. So be sure that they have proper watering utensils.

Also, make sure that their waterers stay clean and function. I check my rabbits’ waterers daily to make sure that they aren’t clogged in any way.

And be sure that your waterers are suitable for your rabbits. I mention this because I’ve kept rabbits for years.

However, recently, we got a few new does from a different blood line to mix things up a little bit.

Well, I had never seen a rabbit that couldn’t drink from a rabbit nozzle, but I have one now that flat out cannot. She has to drink from a bowl. It was a good thing I kept such a close eye on their waterers, or I might not have noticed this issue until it really started impacting her.

So it was an easy enough fix. We took her water bottle down and now she has a water bowl. She is happy and healthy, and I don’t have to worry that she isn’t getting enough water.

10. Exercise

Photo by 247data.biz

Photo by 247data.biz

You don’t want fat rabbits. You may think you do for meat, but you really don’t. So it is important for them to get exercise.

Now, this can be accomplished in a couple of ways. You can set up a puppy play pen where they would be completely safe from predators and let them have some play time. Or you could put them in a rabbit tractor and let them hop while they eat on warmer days.

However, I must caution you to keep predators in mind when releasing them in a rabbit tractor. Dogs can easily knock one over and then you’ll lose your rabbits.

But giving them time outside of the hutch is important for their overall health. I use to hate the idea of keeping my rabbits in hutches. That is why we did the colony set-up.

But I soon learned my rabbits preferred hutches because it gave them a sense of security. So try to keep their security in mind. You don’t want to traumatize them by giving them time to stretch their legs.

Well, there are my 10 tips to taking great care of your meat rabbits. I hope you found them helpful and that they will be easy for you to do on a regular basis.

Now I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you do anything different when caring for your rabbits? Is there anything new rabbit keepers should consider about caring for their rabbits?

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