Farming rabbits

Production systems

Cage systems

Example of a cage system for rearing farmed rabbits © RSPCA

Farmed rabbits are often housed in buildings containing rows of bare wire cages, which may be arranged in a single row or stacked in two or more tiers. 


Growing rabbits

  • Eight or more growing rabbits are often kept together in a cage of around 0.56 square metres in floor area. Just over an A4-sized area of floor space for each rabbit in the cage. 
     
  • Cages are often only around 45cm in height. 
     
  • The young rabbits (called kits or pups) are weaned at four weeks of age and slaughtered for meat at around 8 to 12 weeks, when they’ve reached around 2 kilogrammes in weight.


Breeding rabbits

  • Breeding does (females) without young and breeding bucks (males) are usually kept on their own in separate cages.
     
  • Each doe will have around five to eight litters of eight to ten young per year. 
     
  • Breeding rabbits are usually kept until around 18 to 36 months of age.


Alternative systems

 

A small number of farms may rear rabbits in improved conditions in open floor pens, and may provide them with hay in addition to their diet of pellets.
 

 

Number of rabbits farmed

Rabbit in a higher welfare system © Shirley Seaman

It is very difficult to get any accurate, up to date figures on the number of rabbits farmed for meat in the UK. We believe that any rabbit farming industry in the UK is fairly small-scale. Greater numbers are reared in other European countries. In 2011, around 326 million rabbits were slaughtered in the EU as a whole¹. 


 
Breeds of farmed rabbit

The breeds of rabbit that are commonly farmed include the New Zealand White, Californian and Carolina.


Further information


¹ FAOSTAT (2013) Production: livestock primary [online]. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Available from: FOASTAT website [Accessed: 08/05/13].