Rabbits are known to be one of the best animals to raise on the homestead.  They can provide a reliable source of meat, produce nutritious manure that your plants will love, and can even keep the grass down.  But how much work does it really take to raise rabbits on the homestead?

Rabbits are not as high maintenance as dogs, but definitely take more care than a cat.  Like any animal, they require daily portions of food and water, regular cleaning of their enclosures, precautionary health measures are needed and protection from predators.  

There are a whole host of factors you should consider before adding rabbits to your homestead.  You may come to realize, that they’re not such a great fit for you after all.  After raising rabbits for a while on my homestead, I decided it wasn’t for me, but who knows, it may fit perfectly in your life.

Related: If you are thinking of keeping just a couple of rabbits, then this is the hutch for you. I really like how the bottom trays pulls out for easy cleaning. Itʻs even nice enough to keep in your home. When my son had a pet rabbit, we had one of these.


Rabbits Are Very Messy

Just because they are cute doesn’t mean they don’t come with drawback. While they are ‘clean’ animals and need a very clean environment, they can make a mess by chewing up anything and everything, or shedding their hair. 

Rabbits Love to Chew

Rabbits love to chew on anything and everything. If you are allowing your rabbits free range in your yard or a pen, make sure you don’t leave boxes or anything with cords lying around. They can (and will!) chew through electrical cords. If you’re keeping them in a pen or a hutch during the day, then you likely won’t face this issue too much.

Rabbits Lose Their Hair…Constantly

Rabbits shed a lot of hair. Approximately every three months they will shed their coat and grow more hair. A mother rabbit loses a significant amount of hair just before giving birth to her babies. This is because newborn rabbits are hairless and need their mother’s fur to keep them warm and cozy. The mother rabbit will make a sort of nest out of her hair and hay for the babies once they arrive.

**Make sure no other rabbits are in the same cage as newborn rabbits and their mother – especially a male rabbit. Male rabbits have been known to intentionally kill newborn rabbits, not protect them.

You’re Not The Only One Who Will Love your Garden

This might seem obvious, but just to cover all bases: rabbits will eat up and dig up your garden. Vegetables, greens, herbs – even flowers! – are not safe from rabbits. Because rabbits are small, most typical garden fences won’t suffice.

Try running a waist-high belt of chicken wire around your garden fence to make sure they can’t sneak in and eat all of your spinach and greens.  

Rabbits Poop…A Lot

Yes, rabbits do produce a lot of excrement throughout the day. However, rabbit droppings are really helpful! Especially for homesteaders, rabbit droppings are perfect for the garden and make excellent fertilizer. This is because a rabbit’s diet is composed of only vegetables, making it very nourishing for your garden soil.

Rabbit urine, as well, is very useful as an all-natural pesticide for plants. It’s so powerful, actually, that you should dilute it with 2 or 3 parts water before spraying it on leaves to dissuade unwanted critters from nibbling your plants.

While rabbit urine doesn’t contain nasty chemicals, it’s always a good idea to wash your homegrown veggies very well before consuming them.

So, instead of moaning about the messy waste rabbits create – try capturing it to use in your garden. A great option is to catch it under their cage or hutch – with a trough for the urine, which will run into a bucket (sort of like eaves on a roof catching rain run-off), and a basin or tub to collect the excrement. I’ve even seen someone plop a wheelbarrow under a rabbit cage to catch the poop and then wheel it easily to the garden when it was full. 

This article is for homesteading purposes. Rabbits kept as pets inside of a home are usually able to be litter-trained, but it requires patience and practice.

It Can Be Hard To Find Rabbit Supplies

If you thought feeding a rabbit meant you could just buy a few extra carrots, you were wrong. Rabbits are herbivores and eat raw vegetables as part of their diet, but they actually consume a great deal of hay and alfalfa. You may need to purchase these dry grasses at an agricultural store, not a pet store.

Many rabbit experts recommend providing an unlimited supply of timothy hay (from timothy grass), no matter if your rabbit is free-range or in a pen.

Now, if you’re raising rabbits for meat, you should also provide protein-based rabbit pellets as part of their regular diet. There are different percentages of protein available in rabbit pellets, and it will depend on your type of rabbit and if you have pregnant or nursing females to determine the amount of protein you should give.

Any other ways rabbits need extra care? Their nails and teeth. Yep, rabbits may require dental work more than any other animals because of the structure and continual growth of their teeth.

And you need rabbit-specific products for most of this care, not a generalized pair of nail trimmers. You should have a professional show you how to trim rabbit nails and what things to look for in terms of dental issues.

Rabbits Are Very Scared…Of You

Rabbits are some of the most nervous and easily stressed creatures in the animal kingdom. And for good reason – they have almost no natural defense mechanisms and rely only on their ability to hop and anticipate danger to survive. Hence, they are nervous animals and scared of pretty much everything, including you, as part of their survival.

Just because you are feeding and caring for them does not mean you will quickly earn a rabbit’s trust. I had a rabbit that I surprised once when it was feeding time and I literally saw it drop dead right in front of me. I since learned to approach them gently, but with warning.

They may remain afraid of you for a long time, especially if you have some environmental factors – like predatory animals nearby, or if you keep them confined mostly to a small cage.

If you do not want to free-range your rabbits (which could be necessary if you have other animals), ensure you provide adequate space for the rabbit to get daily exercise.

Related: Can A Pellet Gun Kill A Rabbit, Squirrel and Other Small Game?

Can Rabbits Free Range?

Yes… sort of. Rabbits are one of the most vulnerable creatures, so it’s a good idea to have a balance here, for their own safety. I recommend allowing some free-range during the day, but keep them in a secure place at night.

If you free range during the day, keep the following in mind:

  • Ensure the rabbits do not have access to your garden or any plants you do not want eaten
  • Don’t let them have access to foods which are toxic to rabbits – such as beans and  several types of flowers like crocus, iris and daffodils. A full list can be found here.
  • Keep them safe from predators – this includes your own dogs and even cats. It’s a good idea to have them inside of some sort of fenced area for their own safety.
  • Provide regular deworming medication, since they will be on the ground, eating wild grasses and may be coming in contact with types of intestinal worms. Be sure the dewormer you choose is suitable for rabbits.
  • Offer water. Rabbits do need water, so have a dish available to them, especially if the weather is warm.

At night:

  • Put the rabbits away in a cage pen or hutch that has offers warmth (like hay, straw or special rabbit bedding)
  • Sawdust is NOT advised for rabbit’s bedding, according to the Rabbit Welfare Association, as it could cause major lung or liver damage
  • Make sure that if the rabbit is in a cage that they are well-protected from animals such as weasels or ferrets. These creatures typically hunt at night and can enter through very small holes. For this reason, some house rabbits in hutches at night, as they provide more protection than cages.
  • Offer water. Rabbits can easily get very cold – even hypothermic – if they get wet. So ensure that the source of water available at night is in such a way they won’t get wet, like if a bowl tips over. Many rabbit owners prefer drippers that attach to the cage or side of a pen to avoid any spills or pools of water that could be dangerous to these furry guys, but rabbits actually prefer to drink from open bowls, so make sure if you provide a bowl it is heavy enough not to get knocked over.

Not Every Veterinarian Can Care For Rabbits

Rabbits have some unique needs from other domesticated animals and are actually listed as an ‘exotic’ animal by most veterinary clinics. While it is easy to find a vet that specializes in dogs or cats, rabbits are a whole different thing.

Likewise, some agricultural specialists may be experts on goats and sheep, but are not able to care for rabbits. Before you start raising rabbits, check around for a clinic that knows how to care for rabbits and is familiar with the special needs of these little guys.

One of the frustrating things about rabbits is that, as prey animals, they naturally hide health issues and don’t reveal discomforts or problems until they are quite advanced. Because of this, you should give special attention to any changes in eating habits or level of activity and do not hesitate to contact a vet. Some gastrointestinal issues, parasitic pneumonia or other health issues can be fatal for rabbits within 48 hours.

If you want to raise rabbits, you should know about Myxomatosis and viral hemorrhagic disease 3(VHD). Contact your local rabbit specialist about the risk of these diseases in your specific location, and consider getting the appropriate vaccines to keep your rabbits safe.


Sometimes referred to as “myxo” is a deadly virus spread by insects to rabbits. Pests such as mites, fleas, mosquitoes or ticks spread the virus to rabbits through bites. The rabbit usually develops a fever and a skin lesion within a few days, and then the eyelids will close.

There is a vaccine available to protect rabbits from this virus, while other precautions include covering rabbit’s housing with netting that will prevent insects such as mosquitoes from reaching the rabbits.

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD)

VHD is a highly contagious disease spread between rabbits, often present in their urine or droppings. Once a rabbit has contracted the virus, its internal organs hemorrhage, and unfortunately, they die.

The virus can live for a long period of time in warm temperatures, but historical outbreaks of this disease have been in Europe. There is a vaccine that affects some strains of this disease, so talk to your vet about the options you have to protect against VHD.

Forget Those Weekend Trips

Rabbits require a lot of care and attention. They cannot fend for themselves, like say, a cat. Sorry, but you cannot just plop extra portions of hay for your rabbit’s dinner today and tomorrow and head away for a few days.

Rabbits need their living area cleaned regularly, they need extra attention to spot health issues, and they need adequate food. Free range rabbits need attention to ensure they are safe and put away at night to secure them from predators.

Rabbits hide health issues until diseases or conditions are advanced, usually making it an emergency when you do run them to a specialized vet.

That being said, if you want to go on vacation, you will need to have someone who can care for your rabbits while you are away.

Related: Best Sheep Breeds For Hawaii and Other Tropical Places

Cats < Rabbits / Rabbits < Dogs

Simply put, cats are easier than rabbits and rabbits are easier than dogs. If you are familiar with either than you’ll have an idea on what to expect when it comes to raising rabbits.

Whether we are discussing indoor pets or animals used for your homestead, cats are probably the lowest maintenance of all. They require very little veterinary care or preventative measures and do well when left alone for a few days with adequate food and water.

While rabbits need special attention, puppies probably require more time. Indoor rabbits can be litter trained, but it takes more effort to house train a dog. Also, dogs can tear up just as much, and more, as a rabbit can. If a rabbit can chew an electrical cord – a dog can likewise chew your leather shoes, and grab a delicious burger off the kitchen table. When thinking of preventative care, dogs need deworming and other vaccines, too.

If you’re really interested in raising rabbits on your homestead, be warned that rabbits can be high-maintenance animals. I personally like to have a bit of freedom to camp and go on trips, so rabbits were too much for me, but maybe that’s not the case for you.

If you have raised a dog, love sticking around the homestead and feel confident in your ability to care for this other high-need animal, you are probably well-equipped to take on the task of raising rabbits. They’re a great animal to have.

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