I had not had much exposure to rabbits aside from the occasional pet throughout childhood. As a farmer and a mother I was drawn to them as a great family project for the homestead. They are a smaller, gentler and safer option for the youngest family members to help with. As an Animal Science nerd I found them quite interesting in terms of breeding and management. They are the ultimate “instant gratification” project for anyone keen to learn more about breeding and genetics. I think it is an excellent way for new producers to get their “feet wet” learning to care for a herd, perfect their management, fine tune their record keeping and experience the joys of breeding decision making.
Not many backyard livestock can boast the same resume as a rabbit: easy to manage, prolific, healthy protein producers, come in a wide variety of varieties to suit any fancy, able to be trained, shown, snuggled or harvested, they produce cool manure that can go straight onto the garden or luxurious pelts. Rabbits do it all!
Why Standard Rex?
I believe that when choosing YOUR breed of any type of livestock for the homestead there are two components to your decision making. The first comes from researching breeds and determining which best suits your needs. The second is listening to your gut and choosing the breed that appeals to you. There is no sense in raising a breed that you don’t thoroughly enjoy. When I first ventured into rabbit keeping I went with the logical choice for meat production – NZ x Californian cross. The problem was that I wasn’t drawn to them and I didn’t enjoy it much. I eventually replaced those with pedigreed Standard Rex and never looked back. I loved the variety of coat colours, how each litter was like a box of Smarties. I loved the luxurious plushness of their coats, their inquisitive natures and their easy-to-manage temperaments. Some will argue that Rex aren’t a suitable choice for a dual purpose homestead rabbit but we have never found that to be the case. We were always sold out of rabbit when we operated our butcher shop. Its also encouraging to find research out there that indicates that Rex carcass qualities are on par with breeds traditionally seen as meat producers with excellent meat:bone ratio. In fact, their carcass quality was found to be the most tender in this study. Effect of Breed and Sex on Rabbit Carcass and Yield and Meat Quality.
As a homestead rabbit raiser you will want to consider all of the potential marketing opportunities for your product. The Rex offers potential sales of breeding stock, meat, pelts, manure as well as sales as companion animals. Raising pedigreed stock, showing, training, involvement in rabbit clubs or 4-H, offering agri-tourism or school visits are all additional ways to add value to your rabbit breeding program.