Raising Rabbits 101

If chickens aren’t your style, why not try raising rabbits! Here are some great reasons why you could raise rabbits!

The benefits of raising rabbits are varied and have been contributing companionship, food, fur and other products to their American keepers — urban and rural — since about 1900, when they first were imported from Europe. Today, they are raised as pets, for meat, pelts and wool, and for medical research.


Rabbits can make great companions and can help teach kids responsibility. They are also much cleaner than most small animals-and can even be litterbox trained! Popular rabbit breeds for pets include: Belgian Hare, Dutch, Dwarf Hotot, Femlish Giant, Himalayan, Lionhead, Lops, Mini Rex, Mini Satin, Netherand Dwarf and Rex.


If you’re looking for yet another use for rabbits that doesn’t involve harvesting them for meat or pelts, some breeds produce a luxurious wool that can be sheered from their coats, spun and woven into an exotic yarn. Popular wool rabbits include: American Fuzzy Lop, English Angora, French Angora, Giant Angora, Jersey Wooly and Satin Angora.


Backyard rabbitries may provide meat for a family. A rabbit may provide a pound of meat for very little cost. Some popular meat breeds include: American Chinchilla, Beveren, Californian, Florida White, New Zealand, Palomino, Satin and Silver Fox.


If there’s a rabbit around your house (or yard), it will reliably produce about a pound of dry manure a week, or 50 pounds in a year. With minimal effort, the rabbit’s output can be turned into garden “black gold.” George Dickerson, extension horticulture specialist in New Mexico, describes rabbit manure as a “high quality” soil conditioner that is often low in weed seeds because rabbits usually are fed prepared foods. The average nutrient content for dry manure is rated at 2.4 percent nitrogen (N), 1.4 percent phosphorus (P) and 0.6 percent potassium (K). Fresh, it is higher in nitrogen than chicken, cow, horse, pig, sheep or goat manures; dry, it remains higher than cow, horse and goat manures.

Less likely to burn plants than some other manures, rabbit manure is particularly well-suited to plants that require heavy feeding. Davis’ husband, Bill, swears by it for azaleas; others favor it for roses.

Incorporating the manure directly into the soil in the fall or combining it first with other organic materials in a compost pile. A minimum of three weeks of composting is recommended. Spread the composted material on the produce garden or top-dress ornamental plants with fresh manure.

Starting a worm farm under the rabbit cages, using red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) from bait stores may also help with odor control in your rabbitry.


Here are some tips and tricks for raising rabbits!

First things first: Build or buy your hutches before you get rabbits. Almost anything will do for a pen if it has wire floors, 30 inches x 36 inches of floor space for each doe, and a ceiling at least 15 inches high.

A handy feature is a door that’s larger than the opening it covers, mounted on the inside, hinged along the top, and made to swing inward. That way, in the event that you ever forget to latch a cage, the rabbit won’t escape and gleefully nibble your vegetables to nubbins.

Rabbits should have clean, fresh water before them at all times. Avoid contamination with water because it can cause diseases like coccidiosis. The condition is caused by a protozoan and — after producing symptoms of severe diarrhea, listlessness, potbelly, and anemia — often results in death. A good alternative to pans is to install dewdrop waterers in the rabbit’s cage.

Pellets work for rabbit feed however, you can also feed them grains, alfalfa, and hay.



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If you have any questions regarding 4-H Youth Development, please contact:

Stephanie Hintz
4-H Program Assistant

Dunn County UW-Extension
3001 US Hwy 12 E, Room 102
Menomonie WI 54751-3045
Phone: 715-232-1636
Fax: 715-231-6687

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