Backyard Meat Production: Rabbits

My Pallet wood hutch frame, breeding set, waterer system, and suspended cages.

Seeing the meat shortages and supply chain issues we had last year (just-in-time delivery), I glanced over my pantry and food storage and realized I had only really accounted for my small family’s needs for about 3 months. And adding more rice and beans just didn’t make sense. I wanted to be resilient against future supply chain interruptions by producing some percentage of my meat needs. I set out looking for the most self-sustaining backyard meat source that could be kept in the suburbs. I have never raised meat animals, but didn’t want to wait until it was actually an emergency to scramble and learn. That’s as optimistic as buying a “survival seed pack” and keeping it in a drawer for a bad day. You’re not going to just throw a handful of those seeds over your shoulder and start eating a week later. Same for the meat thing.

I wanted livestock that had maximum feed conversion (max meat output to a given feed input), took up little room, and wouldn’t raise concern with my neighbors. I live on just under an acre, so a herd of goats or a cow is obviously a no-go. Since I’m sort of an information aggregator, I decided to throw together this 20,000 foot view of raising rabbits for meat, based on all I’ve learned in the last year.

Here’s a crash course. The end of the post will list books and resources if you want to know more. Almost all of what I know is accumulated knowledge from third parties, and my first breeding is scheduled for the end of the month. I’ve only had the breeding pair for 5 months. So, much of this is hypothetical at the time of posting. But I’m confident in the information listed.

Runner Up

When looking at ‘suburban meat farming’, only two livestock kept coming up in my research. Quail and Rabbits. Quail are cool because you can eat their eggs and meat, they are quieter than chickens, they are easy to process, and you can sustain your lines through line breeding. But, they lose VS rabbits when looking at a pure efficiency standpoint (feed conversion, production volume/time), and HOA rules (rabbits are often considered pets, lol). Also, I already have some chickens for the eggs. So I set out to buy my breeding pair (now a set).

My Mature Doe


The most popular meat breed is New Zealand White. An albino rabbit that is used for meat and fur production. Also popular are Californians and Champagne D’argents. You can eat any rabbit, but some have been specifically bred to maximize growth rates, max meat on the loins and legs, delicate bones, and feed conversion. Avoid anything with Giant in the name, they have heavy-ass bones. Buy the best stock you can afford, and ask the important questions of the breeder (link below). The minimum to have a sustainable breeding program is 1 male and 2 females for the backyard breeder.


You can feed rabbits from the garden, but the easiest way to do it is feed a complete pellet feed. So in a medium/long term disaster, you could grow your own forage and feed them weeds and grass. They wouldn’t thrive, but they’d survive. A 50# bag of complete feed is between $13 and $18 and will last 3 rabbits several months. One bag will also be more than enough to feed a doe (female) and her 6-12  kits (babies) up to market weight. You can water them with crocks (they drink more this way but the bowls get dirty ) or tubing nipple waterers (freeze easily but more sanitary). Commercial producers like the nipples in general, it seems.


With two does (females) and a buck (male), you can aggressively breed them every 10 weeks or so, and expect to get a total of 10-24 kits (babies) between the two. Each bunny has a butchered weight of 3.5 lbs if you butcher at 10 weeks/5lbs each. So you’re looking at something like 300+lbs of meat a year from 3 animals. You can select the best looking/growing kits and start a line breeding program to sustain your lines, until forever. They have a 30 day gestation period, and can be weaned at 4-6 weeks and immediately rebred if desired.


Wire cages made of galvanized wire, a 14-16gage 1/2×1” floor mesh allows poo to fall through and keeps diseases down.  Avoid wooden hutches as they soak up urine and the rabbits will eat them over time. You can collect the poo in a pile under the cages, or use a more management intensive method like trays. The advantage of trays is you can stack cages and increase space vertically. Cages are easy to build. If you’re making less than 5, it’s cheaper to buy a cage kit and assemble. I am using 36”x30”x18”tall cages. There’s lower limits on cages and it has to do with rabbit breed size. Save the poop. It’s a cold manure (can be directly added to garden beds with no aging) and your garden will love it.

Rabbit nest box at a farm. Spain, 2013.


They are cold hearty, and heat intolerant. Keep them dry and out of direct wind and you’re good. If it’s super hot, you could consider a more heat tolerant breed (tamuks) or get fans set up and rotate frozen 2liter bottles of water as a cooling pack during the hottest days. Shade as much as possible. Their teeth constantly grow (they are lagomorphs, not rodents), so they need to be able to chew. A chunk of untreated 2×4 makes for a chew toy that keeps them entertained.

They have a few main health problems, the most common of which is coccidiosis, which is a parasite that is contagious within the herd. It can be treated via horse medicine (ivermectin)  in your breeding stock, but you should just cull the grow-outs and eat them if you find it. It will mostly show up in the livers of the grow-outs as white spots. You can eat the meat, but throw away the livers. They also are sensitive to food changes. Introduce new feeds slowly and mixed with what they’re used to. Bloat and intestinal stasis can result. Sometimes they can be saved by giving baby gas drops, but often it’s fatal. There’s other diseases, but these are the ones I see people talk about the most in the fb groups.

Waste Management

Rabbit poo has zero smell. It can be directly applied to the garden as an excellent balanced fertilizer. Their urine, however, is another story. Extreme ammonia smells. The best recipe for managing the volatile smelly stuff is frequent pan cleaning OR sequester it with wood chips. I use pine bedding from the feed store in a layer at the bottom of the large tupperware I use to collect their waste. It acts like a litter, and the high Nitrogen pee starts the composting process with the wood chips. I wouldn’t want too many rabbits inside my house. Plan on keeping them outside.


They breed like rabbits. Take the doe to the buck, as the opposite can result in the doe castrating the buck. Wait for three ‘fall offs’, which is when the buck seizes up and dramatically rolls off the back of the doe. Does are open for business 25 days a month and ovulation is triggered by being in proximity with a buck. So if it doesn’t work the first time, just wait a day.


Very easy. Cervical dislocation (Broomstick method, choke chain method, or hopper popper), or air rifle are both easy and foolproof. Bleed them and clean like any other small game. Keep the ears, lungs, liver, heart and dehydrate them for dog treats. Give the entrails to the chickens to pick at. Drop the carcass into ice for a day or two before freezing or cooking. Yes, they’re cute and fluffy. Yes, I’m anxious about the dispatch day. Yes, I will still deal with it because I know they will have an excellent life right up until the end


Anything that you can make with chicken, you can make with rabbit.


You can sell one or two bunnies from each litter at 8 weeks and pay for the feed cost of raising that whole litter. Some people have luck selling the poo (it’s gold for the garden). You can find raw feeders and supply pet food. But mostly this is about on demand meat production. Meat on the hoof doesn’t spoil, so I started keeping some rabbits.

FB Groups:


Documentaries and Youtube Channels:

Cage and rabbitry supplies

Discipline, Motivation, and Spark

l was thinking about discipline, and how it pertains to my day to day decision making and why I succeed and fail. I decided to try to visualize it and think explore how I leverage discipline to stay on track.Goal: The goal sets the dotted line and dictates the target you are trying to hit. Good goal setting takes practice, as choosing too lofty a goal means even on your most motivated day, you’ll fall short of meeting the needs of your goal. This is failure before you begin.

Spark: The thing that gets you super excited about this goal. Maybe it’s watching an elite athlete perform an amazing feat. Maybe it’s seeing a photo of your fat ass. Maybe it’s seeing someone with something you wish you had. This spark is the impetus to get you started, but is extremely short lived. Usually lasting a few hours at most.

Motivation: Comes into play next. It ebbs and flows over time. Sometimes, the motivation is more than the minimum work required to achieve your goal, at which point the work is enjoyable and effortless. Other times, it dips below that minimum work line, and you fall off the wagon. Depending on how much time you spend below your ‘minimum work’ line, progress could completely stall, or you might even slide backwards. This might mean you have too aggressive a goal, or it might mean you need to lean on…

Discipline: Discipline is the safety net of wavering Motivation. Discipline is the ‘punching the card’ workout when you feel crummy, or the dedicated hour of study time when you’d rather be drinking. It’s the safety net that keeps you from riding the rollercoaster of motivation into the ground. But Discipline is a budget and depletes the more you use it. When you’re on a downswing, you’re burning up your reserves. Lean on Discipline too much and eventually you run out of it and failure results. Discipline replenishes during the upswings in motivation. Sometimes Discipline keeps you above the ‘minimum work’ line, and other times it falls below and only keeps you from derailing yourself. But it’s critical to use it. And just like gaining strength, it builds over time and you get more of it.

Area under the curve: The total work you perform towards your goal is the area under the line defined by the highest value of the three curves at any time (Spark/Motivation/Discipline).This is all purely hypothetical, but it was illustrative to me to visualize these components and will make me think about how I set goals, as well as giving me some feedback about why I seem to be failing or stalling.

2020 Spring/Summer Garden Review

This mega-post will be a 20,000 foot overview of my gardening experiments from this year. I’m writing it as a single post that you can bookmark to remind yourself what you want to try next year (or even this winter). Early in March 2020, when my MMA gym closed, I needed to find something productive to do with my time and energy. I was reasonably sure we’d have supply chain distributions, and have always enjoyed prepping and growing my own food. This was just an excuse to dive into the deep end and see what I could do. As a result, I bought a few chickens, some seeds, and started researching gardening methods that I could try. This post is the culmination of 7 months of learning and note taking. This is only what I’ve tried, and doesn’t touch all available gardening methods.

My History of Gardening: I’m a relatively new gardener. I’ve only tried to grow food for a few seasons in the past and none recently. In fact, I only decided to try again this year when there were supply chain interruptions resulting from Covid.  I had a container garden when I lived in the city that did reasonably well. I live in zone 7b. This year I felt helpless in the world, and so I sought to control what I could physically touch and manipulate, because the rest of the world was obviously outside my control. As was always the case, this year just reminded me. I’ll break it down into sections which will include an explanation of the method,pros and cons of the method, and results. After all that, I’ll post a resources section that will allow you to dig in for yourself and find more details. Here we go!

Methods Attempted and Results

5 gallon, self-watering (bottom watered) containers

I’ve used these 5 gallon bucket self watering planters for about 10 years (off and on as I feel like growing some food). The basic premise is a container with a water reservoir below the growing media, along with an air gap that allows the roots to breathe. There is some sort of ‘wick’ made of either soil or cloth that allows capillary wicking of water up into the soil. You can see that I simply got a food-grade 5 gallon bucket, a 24” segment of PVC, and used milk jugs with holes drilled in it that the PVC rests in as the water/air reservoir.

They usually have a water overflow hole drilled at a level that preserves a given water level and an air gap to make it fool proof. They’re great for small spaces, patios, and for being able to move to find appropriate light conditions or when a frost is coming and they need to be covered or relocated. They can go quite a while without daily watering (up to 2 weeks in my experience) and the process is foolproof. You water into the pipe that passes into the water reservoir, and fill it until water flows from the overfill port.

I had reasonable success with cherry tomatoes, and good success with chili and serrano peppers. I think tomatoes do better with more space for the roots. I will be using this method for herbs and chilis next year, for sure. Soil nutrition is key. I believe the soil I used was lacking adequate nutrition and that held back my production a bit. My chicken composting system will solve that for next year.


  • Ease of use/transport, you can follow the sun if you’re not sure how your light tracks
  • Resilient to negligence


  • Not enough space for a tomato plant to thrive, does best with hot peppers and herbs.
  • Success depends on soil prep and nutrition.

Straw Bale Gardening:

This was a new one for me. It’s also simple. You get a bale of straw, and condition it with high Nitrogen fertilizer to begin the composting process and prepare it for planting. I failed to properly condition my bales, and it slowed down my production. 

In case you don’t know, the basic premise of composting is piling Brown stuff (carbon source) with Green stuff (nitrogen source, usually green colored plant matter/leaves) and it accelerates the rate of the process of aerobic breakdown of the materials.

With straw bale gardening, you’re buying a brick of carbon in the form of straw, and then watering nitrogen into it over a couple weeks, and then once the hot composting slows down, plant into them.

The relative failure of my straw bale gardening can be directly attributed to improper conditioning of the bale. I didn’t have the high nitrogen pelletized fertilizer (urea or similar), and just planted into the bale. This made for a poor outcome in my strawberries and okra, though my watermelons did well. I’ll give this another shot next year, probably with tomatoes and I’ll see how it goes.


  • No permanent structure required.
  • Acts as a raised bed of sorts, keeping management easier.
  • Relatively inexpensive. No beds to build or buckets to buy.
  • At the end of season, you can compost the remaining straw and have rich soil for next season.
  • Builds soil. I planted right on top of my lawn and the soil has been tilled by the worm activity and nutrition has gone into the soil.


  • Improper conditioning leaves the straw devoid of nutrition, thus stunting your plants.

Instant Garden/Lasagna Garden:

This one was a big surprise. This method was second best from a production standpoint, and totally free to set up. The process is as follows. Get some discarded cardboard from behind a grocery store or from FB marketplace from someone trying to get rid of moving boxes. Remove tape and labels and lay it down DIRECTLY on top of your existing lawn. On top of that, pile up whatever organic matter you have available. I used magnolia leaves, mulch, grass clippings, and whatever else I could find. Make it about 4-10” thick all the way down and cover it so you can’t see any cardboard.

The cardboard is a biodegradable weed barrier, and the mulch holds water and keeps the plants watered. This also is inviting for worm activity, which leaves worm castings (poop) that is like super fuel for plants. When you’re ready to plant, scrape a little hole in the mulch, punch through the cardboard, and plant your plant. You can drop some rabbit pellets or compost in the holes to give the plants a little early nutrition.

I’m planning out how I’ll do this next year on a larger scale. I don’t have an HOA, so I may turn my whole front yard into a production. I couldn’t believe how well this did. I was able to grow 5 monster okra plants and several squash varieties. All within a 2’x15’ row.


  • Inexpensive (free)
  • Simple setup. A 20 foot bed took about 30 minutes to lay out, and that’s because I had to rake leaves for some of that time.
  • Builds soil over time. The compost and cardboard breaks down and the worm activity aerates and feeds the soil.
  • Effective. My front yard here in GA is nothing special, and all of the plants I planted did very well. Your mileage will vary, but I’m confident this will beat opening up a bag of potting soil and planting into that.


  • Since it’s on the ground, there’s a lot of pest pressure. I had vine borers kill the squash plants before they were done producing.

Raised Beds:

Raised beds are good for several reasons. They are a clear demarcation for your planting area, allowing easy care and weeding. They are higher so you can service and harvest easily from them. If your soil sucks, you can customize and amend the soil in the raised bed however you want to accommodate what you’re growing. I used garden corner bricks I bought at Lowes. They stack on each other, and allow a piece of rebar to be driven through them to keep them in place. You use untreated 2×6’s cut to desired length to form the beds and then fill with soil. I also encourage you to put cardboard under the bed to discourage weeds. I planted malabar spinach and squash in mine and they have done amazingly well.


  • Depending on chosen material they can be reasonably affordable, but you can spend as much as you like.
  • Easier servicing and maintenance due to height
  • Easier garden demarcation
  • Less ground insect pressure, but bugs will still find it


  • Can be expensive
  • Easier to do on flat property, my backyard has very few flat sections, otherwise this would probably be my primary method.

Felt Bag/Container Garden:

This method is pretty standard. Buy a bucket (or felt bucket) with drainage holes, fill with soil and compost or nutrients, and plant. I’d say this is sort of the gold standard of gardeners in the suburbs. I also used this method for sweet potatoes and potatoes this year. I even grew corn in a felt container. Herbs and peppers also do well. It’s very similar to the bottom watered (self-watering) 5 gallon buckets, they just need more care because they don’t hold as much water. As with all methods, nutrient and soil health is the biggest key.


  • Easy to find buckets and containers
  • No dedicated garden space needed, can be done on a patio or driveway
  • Easy to move or organize


  • There can be drainage problems, depending on how you fill the containers
  • Often containers seem to stunt the growth due to lack of root space
  • They dry out much faster than other methods because they’re exposed to the air on the top and sides

Hydroponics (Kratky Method): 

Hydroponics can be expensive and complicated. This method  is decidedly NOT those things. The method was devised by a professor in Hawaii named Dr. Kraky and is as follows. Use a complete hydroponics nutrient blend and fill up an appropriate sized bucket (between a mason jar for lettuce, or a trash can for tomatoes) with the properly mixed solution. Plop a net pot with a seed or plant so that the nutrient just touches the roots. As the solution is absorbed and evaporates, the root structure will grow and ‘chase’ the solution downward. The air gap provides the oxygen so the plant won’t suffocate. No pumps required. It can be done in batches where no additional solution is needed, OR you can create simple float valves to replenish the solution if it gets too low. I didn’t bother with float valves this year, but I may next year.

You can do this method inside or out. I set up a greens growing station in my basement and can sustainably make more lettuce/chard/spinach than my family can eat. All winter long. I also used a tomato sucker in a 32 gallon trash can and it has done extremely well.. I’d say that the kratky method really excels at leafy greens, though.


  • Only requires a container, nutrient solution, net pot (or similar)
  • Hands off other than monitoring water level. If you size container appropriately, you won’t need to add any water over the grow
  • No pumps or complicated electronics
  • Indoor or outdoor friendly
  • Small space friendly


  • Not sustainable like gardening, because you need nutrient concentrate
  • Not resilient. If the water level goes too low, the plants will die within a couple of hours.
  • Not ideal for fruiting plants without additional components

Check Log Terrace Garden

This is the most recent experiment. Basically, my backyard is very sloped. I wanted to find a way to plant on the hill without renting heavy equipment to build retaining walls, or spending thousands on brick to make terraces. Instead, I drove a series of wooden stakes and rebar every 2-4 feet along the contour line, then rolled a length of 4-6” diameter logs against those stakes. I then backfilled with soil, and then added another stack of logs and backfilled again. Now I have a wooden terrace that I can plant into. I intend to establish perennials like strawberries and biennials like asparagus that will keep the hill from eroding, as well as a rotation of potatoes and garlic over the winter.

So far it is working wonderfully. Once again I am learning the importance of soil nutrition. I filled the beds with the wood chip/chicken poop compost that my chickens have been working all summer. The vigorous growth of the potatoes is showing me how rich that soil is. Thanks chickens!


  • If you live on a wooded lot, you can cut logs and the materials are free. If not, check FB marketplace for people who are offering free logs and limbs , and take what you need.
  • Allows planting on an aggressively sloped yard


  • Eventually the logs will rot and need to be replaced.

That’s the big overview of 2020’s gardening season. I intend to further break down each method in its own post and share the sources I consulted, as well as the equipment I needed for each. I’ll likely start with the Kratky Hydroponics systems, because you could grow greens in a spare room or basement all winter long.

Thanks for reading!

The Efficiency of Inefficiency for Fat Loss

This is something I’ve been thinking about recently as I begin a new phase of my strength and conditioning. Usually, in sport, we abide by the SAID principle when preparing for an event. The Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand principle says that if you want to get better at throwing, you should throw. If you have a power lifting meet, you should be practicing the three lifts. You will specifically adapt to the demands you place on your body. It’s a miracle of evolution and part of why we survive as a species.

This is why when you see a runner run, they look like a gazelle and have perfect control of their breathing and heart rate, but if you put them on a bike, they are uncomfortable and struggling to breath. Runners run, cyclists bike. That all makes sense.

But can it ever be a bad thing? I believe it can. Specifically in the realm of exercise for fat loss and cardiovascular health. If you’ve spent any time in commercial gyms, you have seen it. Think about the chronic cardio folks who endlessly do the elliptical machines and never make progress. They have decided which cardio equipment they prefer, and within about 90 days, their body adapts to the demand, becomes efficient at the motor pattern, and thus requires less metabolic output to maintain a given resistance or speed. This is not preferred for metabolic conditioning.

I notice this when I do a Maffetone LSD (long slow distance) block of training with a heartrate monitor. His protocol is for building a cardio base which will stretch the chambers of the heart and provides more stroke volume per beat of the heart. This will lower your resting heart rate and improve your health. Read more about that here. When doing this kind of training with one kind of cardio, I notice that within a few weeks I have to drastically increase my perceived output to keep my heartrate in the proper zone. This is an observable adaptation. It makes the work less pleasant, more monotonous, and more fatiguing. But there is an easier way!

The answer is inefficiency.

That is, select a novel stimulus every few weeks. Or even several in the same session. By having a long list of options available, you are avoiding adaptation and maintaining novelty. This is inefficient. This is what we want. We want to be the runner who is trying to swim or ride a bike. The person who is interested in general physical preparedness wants to be “bad” at the movement they use for cardio.

So if you feel yourself in a cardio rut, or notice that you aren’t moving towards your goal, might I recommend something you suck at?

Incomplete list of cardio options:

  • Heavy Hands Walks – Using 3-8lb dumbbells in your hands, and some 3-5lb ankle weights and just go for a walk. You might have heard the wisdom that “every pound on your feet is like 5 pounds on your back”. In this case, that’s what we want.
  • Ruck Marching – Put a 10-25lb plate in an old backpack, or get a weight vest and go for a walk.
  • Cycling
  • Walk/Jog/Run
  • Swimming
  • Jump Rope
  • Hitting a heavy bag
  • Kettlebell work/weighted carries
  • Stationary bike
  • Airdyne
  • Stair mill/Stepper
  • Treadmill
  • Elliptical
  • Rower
  • Shadow boxing/grappling
  • Ground work/ crawling
  • ETC.

This post is specifically about cardio, but the same goal of inefficiency can be extended to strength training too. By the end of completing Dan John’s 10,000 kettlebell swing challenge several years ago, completing the 500 daily swings became ‘easy’. SAID at work. I think that having access to many lifting implements, and rotating their use in a timely way (while avoiding chronic program hopping) will lead to better general conditioning over the long term. Coach Dan John agrees. I can’t recommend his work and programs enough for the generalist athlete. In a similar vein, Louis Simmons’ Conjugate/Concurrent method also leans heavily on this concept.

If you are just getting started in cardio or strength training, then everything you do will be inefficient. Enjoy those noob gains. Everything works, until it doesn’t. Understand your plateau is just a result of millions of years of evolution. Then find something efficiently inefficient to do.

If you need me, I’ll be training for The Fall.

Being inefficient with a 65# weight vest.

Yours in Inefficiency,