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Comparing Chickens vs Rabbits

It starts with a garden and maybe some egg-laying hens. But when you are pursuing food security, chickens and rabbits for meat are a natural “next step”. The reason for this is that these two smaller animals can be raised with very little space and minimal effort.

Trying to Decide – Chickens vs Rabbits

Over the last five years, we have raised both rabbit and chicken to fill our freezer multiple times. We’d like to share with you the pros and cons of raising each that we have experienced.

Raising Chickens for Meat

We have primarily raised cornish cross broilers for our meat birds. They were raised both in a tractor and also free ranged with housing. We have raised them with unlimited feeding and with portion control. Here are the pros:

Pros of Broilers (Meat Chickens)

  • Raising broilers in a tractor works well in that the birds can eat grass and bugs.
  • Free-ranging broilers allow them to eat MORE grass and bugs.
  • You can keep them in a confined area and move them around, controlling the mess they leave.
  • With limited mobility, they don’t work off the extra calories, so they get pretty big pretty quickly.
  • Chicken is a common staple in many households, therefore, you can feed it to pretty much any house guest and/or family member.
  • They are easy to process and easily broken down into parts for freezing.
  • Their feathers are patchy, making cleaning them easier.
  • They taste better than store-bought chicken.
  • You can feed scraps to them as you would laying hens.
  • Easy to obtain from local box stores or hatcheries.
  • You can compost their manure.
  • Price per chick is approximately $3 – $4
  • It takes approximately 11 or 12 lbs of feed per chicken to raise to processing weight.

Cons of Raising Broilers

  • Cornish cross broilers are lazy birds that will lay in their poop.
  • If they are in a tractor, after the fourth or fifth week, they need to be moved at least twice a day because they make such a mess.
  • Manure composting takes time to break down because it is “hot” manure and can burn plants if not properly decomposed.
  • You cannot hatch out your own cornish cross because they can never reach maturity.
  • You need killing cones to process.
  • Cannot raise over the colder months.

Raising Rabbits for Meat

People do raise them in colonies on the ground. We really liked this idea, except what persuaded us away from that was the hemorraghic fever that is around with wild rabbits (which we do have wild rabbits on our property). This coupled with having to chase them to process and keeping track of rabbits ages, we decided to go with cages.

Pros of Raising Rabbits

  • Rabbits are cute.
  • Hides can be saved to tan and process out.
  • You can supplemental feed with forage and other vegetation.
  • The price for a breeding pair (at the time of writing) can run between $50 and $60.
  • Once you have a breeding pair, you can keep your offspring to replace the parents.
  • Rabbits are cleaner and quieter than chickens.
  • Rabbits can be kept in hutches and manure collected.
  • Manure can go directly into the garden as a cold manure.
  • If kept whole, it curls up nicely and fits better in the freezer.
  • You don’t need special equipment so set up and clean up is easy.
  • Can breed and raise in colder months.
  • Only need enough space for hutches to raise.
  • It takes approximately 15 lbs of feed to raise a rabbit to processing weight.

Cons of Raising Rabbits

  • Less meat per carcass than a meat bird.
  • Not a commonly eaten food and therefore those who didn’t grow up eating it may not appreciate it.
  • Meat isn’t as hearty as chicken meat since it’s stretched out over a longer carcass.
  • They are cute and therefore can be difficult to dispatch.
  • Even though you can raise up your own breeders, occasionally you need to bring new bloodlines into the stock.
  • Males go sterile in temps over 85 degrees.

Nutritional Differences

Part of food security is raising nutrient dense food. So, something else you may want to consider are the nutritional differences. There is a very detailed article I found that breaks it down nicely if this is what you are interested in. See which of these animals better align with what you are looking to add

/https://foodstruct.com/compare/rabbit-meat-vs-chicken-meat

A Word About “Protein Poisoning”

I have encountered many people who are worried that if they eat rabbit, they will get “protein poisoning”. While protein poisoning is a real thing, you won’t get it from adding rabbit to your diet. Protein poisoning only occurs if you are eating nothing but lean meat. Since we usually only include meat as a part of what we eat, you do not need to fear eating rabbit any more than you need to fear eating chicken breast (also a lean meat). Meat with added fat is a healthy part of a diet.

As a matter of fact, the Artic explorer  Vilhjalmur Stefansson was known to have existed for years on blubber and meat with the Inuits. If you want to read more, check out a summary of his story.

Conclusion

You can see, there are many pros and cons to raising each for food for your family. Some of these may be more important to you than others. This list should help you think it through along with some of the other aspects like set-up costs to decide which you want to raise.

Maybe you’ll be like us and raise both and come up with your own list. For us, spring is a time to look at what we have grown previously and what we want to raise this year. It should be common practice to evaluate every year what works and what doesn’t work. You can do both and decide for yourself!

If you’d like to get a copy of our e-book on how to process your own chickens, contact us here and we’ll email one to you! https://maplewoodhomestead.com/contact/

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