In rabbit farms, quantitative feed restriction in the post-weaning period is widely used with the aim of reducing the impact of digestive diseases, whereas less information is available about feed restriction strategies based on the reduction of access time to feeders in different housing systems. This study compared morbidity, mortality, growth performance, carcass characteristics and meat quality of 368 crossbred rabbits fed ad libitum (L) or subjected to a time-based feed restriction programme (R) and housed from 31 to 73 days of age in cages or pens with different dimensions and group sizes, that is, eight conventional cages (0.33 m2, six rabbits/cage), eight small open-top pens (0.50 m2, eight rabbits/pen), eight medium open-top pens (1.00 m2, 16 rabbits/pen) and four large open-top pens (2.00 m2, 32 rabbits/pen). Feed restriction was attained by progressively reducing the access time to feeders in the 1st week from 14 to 8 h/day, maintaining 8 h in the 2nd week and then by increasing access time by 1 h/day during the 3rd and 4th week up to 24 h/day. In the first 2 weeks, R rabbits showed a lower (P ≤ 0.001) daily weight gain, feed intake and feed conversion as compared with L rabbits. During the 3rd and 4th weeks, R rabbits exhibited a greater daily weight gain and better feed conversion (P ≤ 0.001). In the last 2 weeks of trial, daily weight gain tended (P = 0.06) to be greater in the R than L rabbits. In the whole trial, R rabbits manifested a lower daily weight gain, feed intake and feed conversion, as well as lower final live weight and the carcass dressing percentage at slaughter (0.05 ≤ P ≤ 0.01). During feed restriction, R rabbits did not show digestive problems, which, however, appeared in the following 2 weeks of refeeding. Thus, R rabbits had a higher health risk index in the whole trial as compared with L rabbits (P ≤ 0.05). The housing system did not affect growth performance, characteristics at slaughter, and carcass and meat quality. Mortality tended to increase with group size (P = 0.06). In conclusion, the time-based feed restriction significantly improved feed efficiency of growing rabbits housed collectively but had somewhat negative effects on characteristics at slaughter and on morbidity and mortality rate.