Welcome to Farm-Store.org! Today we are going to talk about the economics of raising meat rabbits on a small scale. Meat rabbit breeding is an efficient and rewarding way to produce healthy, delicious meat for consumption. Even in a small back yard or corner of your garage, anyone can produce enough rabbits to both feed their own family, provide starting breeding stock for others, and generate enough income to cover all your feed costs.
Plan to build or buy two large cages for each doe, and one smaller holding cage for each buck. Each doe will need a cage for her and her younger litters, and another cage for her older litter from weaning at 7 weeks to processing at 8 to 12 weeks. Having this extra cage also allows you to hold on to the best of each litter to evaluate for breeding stock or sale. Ideally, bunnies are weaned by removing the mother and leaving them in the same cage, this is not at all stressful and they will continue to eat, gain, and grow the best in their birth cage with their siblings. Removing bunnies at a tender age to an unfamiliar place often results in losses, as stress causes some of the bunnies to stop eating or drinking, become sick, and often die. If you want to try to move them, or try a rabbit tractor or other type of housing, wait until the bunnies are 8 weeks or older.
Identify a source of feed for your rabbits as soon as possible. You need to find a local farmer who will sell you small numbers of small square bales of hay, and hopefully offers delivery if you don’t have your own pickup truck. Your also going to be looking for a feed store, not a department or pet store. Look for a co-op if at all possible, and ask them if they carry rabbit feed, oats, and black oil sunflower seeds. When you visit, ask for a feed tag and compare the price, ingredients, and quality of the feeds offered locally. When you find a feed you like, sign up for a membership, and let them know that you will be using this to feed your MEAT rabbits, then they will not charge you sales tax. Also, with an account, you can call ahead if you can’t make it to the location before they close, they can leave your feed out on the loading dock for you to pick it up, this will make your life a lot easier. You will also need hay, any type of clean fresh hay suitable for horses or dairy cattle will work, and get small square bales weighing 40-60 pounds. Often you can keep a few bales on a pallet covered with a tarp and have it delivered, or haul individual bales in the trunk of your car.
The ideal start is to begin with 4 large cages for your females with litters, two smaller cages with a solid divider between them for your males, and “J” feeders with a screen bottom. You will need two solid wooden nest boxes that will fit into your bigger cages. Water can be provided with crocks, bottles, or ideally with an automatic watering system. Your rabbits should be minimally related or unrelated stock, pure bred, pedigreed, and preferably two males and two females. Purchase young healthy rabbits, or if possible two bucks and a doe that are young and a proven doe which is around 1 year of age and is bred but not due for a couple weeks. If you are completely new to rabbits, I recommend a experienced bred doe because she will most likely do a perfect job raising her litter, sparing you the heartache which can oftentimes occur with a doe’s failed attempt at raising her first litter. Also, this means you will be seeing output fairly soon after your start, and are less likely to lose interest in breeding and raising rabbits.
The breeding process begins with selecting a buck and doe for breeding. The buck should be healthy and of good size, with a solid frame and thick coat. The doe should be of similar size and build to the buck, with a good temperament. These two rabbits should be introduced to each other through placing the doe in the buck’s cage. If they mate successfully, the buck will mount the doe, who will lift her hind end, and the buck will fall off to one side and often even squeal. Allow two or three mating’s and then the doe should be returned to her own cage. After a few hours, return her briefly for another breeding or two, then put her back into her cage again.
After 28 days, the doe is ready to begin building her nest. Give her a wooden nesting box stuffed with straw, hay, or wood shavings. Any dry fluffy bedding will work, as she will make her nesting cavity and line it with fur from her belly. You will probably not notice her delivering her litter, you will hopefully just see a pile of fur one day 30 to 32 days after the breeding date. Once the doe has given birth, the kits should be left with their mother for seven weeks. During this time, the mother will provide them with the nutrition they need to grow. After five weeks, the doe will begin to wean the kits, so the doe can be rebred at 5 weeks, and removed to a new cage seven weeks after delivering the first litter to begin preparing for her next litter.
Rabbit raising can be a profitable enterprise, but it requires a thorough understanding of the market, proper management, and a solid business plan to ensure success. Ninety percent of your expenses will be feed, so finding an inexpensive, quality feed for your rabbits should be your top priority. Research indicates that rabbits require 4.4 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of live rabbit. Most producers feed a blend that is 75% pellets, 20% oats, and 5% black oil sunflower seeds. It is important to feed a good quality hay, generally a 75% grass and 25% alfalfa or clover hay works the best. Feed alternating days, feeding hay every day and pellet blend only every other day. Feeding a small amount of treats, including garden produce, bananas, carrots, turnips, and grass clippings from the yard is a great way to reduce feed costs and the rabbits enjoy them. Another important treat is any leafy twigs and tree trimmings from any type of tree, except black walnut.
Here are some key economic considerations for a rabbit raising business:
Costs: The cost of feed, housing, and equipment is a significant expense for starting up a rabbit raising business. Feed accounts for the largest portion of the costs and prices can fluctuate depending on the location. Veterinary care is not generally a large consideration for meat rabbits, and there are no vaccinations required. Health-related expenses should generally only be taken into account for pet rabbits. The cost of land, building, and equipment to house the rabbits should also be considered, but in the beginning please don’t spend too much money until a year or two in and your positive you are going to want to continue on with rabbit raising.
Generally, used cages can be picked up very reasonably compared to new equipment, consult Craig’s list and Facebook marketplace to find used cages, or even post your own ad for cages wanted. Cages will be fine as long as they are not rusted out and have smooth wire floors. Cages can be suspended by old pallets and covered with tarps initially, until you decide how you want to set your rabbitry up. Manure removal is the main consideration as rabbits produce an incredible amount of droppings. Airflow is also much more important than keeping the rabbits warm. Rabbits do fine in a wide variety of temperatures, and as long as they are kept dry they will thrive outdoors, even in winter.
The revenue generated by a rabbit raising business comes primarily from the sale of live rabbits, rabbit meat, and rabbit droppings. In order to generate a profit, the revenue generated by these sales must be greater than the costs of the business. The price of live rabbits, rabbit meat, and rabbit fur can fluctuate depending on the location and the demand. If your raising your own meat supply, the value of your rabbits can be priceless if there is no meat available in the stores. Looking for markets for secondary products can be extremely profitable and monetize what would otherwise be a complete loss. Many people sell young bunnies lost to exposure for snake food, ears and tails can be dried for pet treats, feet can make keychains, and skins and hides have many uses.
The market for rabbit meat and fur is growing, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 3.5% from 2020 to 2027. The demand for rabbit meat is increasing as more people seek out alternative protein sources, while the use of rabbit fur in clothing and accessories is also on the rise. It’s important to conduct a market analysis to understand the demand for rabbit products in your area and to set prices accordingly. The manure from rabbits is the absolute best fertilizer in the world. it can be used directly without composting, and you cant use too much, any amount is fine directly onto any garden plants or trees. It has very low odor if kept dry, and the small hard round pellets are very easy to handle and spread. The urine is also a eco-friendly insecticide and fertilizer, with high levels of crystalized calcium that directly kills many insect and nematode garden pests, and repels slugs and snails. Earthworms thrive in rabbit manure and can be effectively fattened for sale as fish worms. Maggots can be raised and fattened effectively in moist rabbit manure either in separate beds or directly under the cages. If you have a few chickens, they can be fed directly from foraging under the rabbit cages.
The profitability of a rabbit raising business depends on several factors, including the cost of feed, housing, and equipment, the demand for rabbit meat and fur, and the number of rabbits that can be raised per square foot. Additionally, the prices at which the products are sold will also affect the profitability of the business. It’s essential to conduct a feasibility study to evaluate the demand, competition, and costs in the area you plan to operate. Starting with purebred, pedigree stock expands your marketing options greatly. Crossbred rabbits generally cannot even be given away while pedigreed rabbits are generally in the $30 to $50 range. Even though you can’t eat a pedigree, it does provide a lot of information on the color and size of the bloodlines you are working with, and provides guidance for your breeding program so you can avoid accidently inbreeding your rabbits.
With five litters per year and using two cages per doe, meat rabbit breeders can produce a significant number of rabbits for butchering. Select your starting stock from rabbits with tested and proven production lines, not top show animals, and not with crossbreds obtained from just anywhere. A productive rabbit from a proven bloodline should produce 5 litters of 7 to 9, so a total of 40 bunnies per year. Any doe who does a good job with two or three litters can be considered for saving breeding replacements. When a doe has raised three good litters of 8 to 12 young, makes a good nest, produces lots of milk and is a good mother, it will be advisable to save 2 exceptional males and 5 exceptional females for keeping as replacements or selling as breeding stock. These 7 breeding quality rabbits, with pedigrees, as well as the expected 33 meat rabbits will be worth a total of $530 at todays prices. However, at todays prices again, to produce these rabbits the doe and bunnies will eat $150 of hay, $200 of pellets, $40 of oats, and $30 of black oil sunflower seeds for a total feed cost of $420. Also, the cost of equipment and supplies must be amortized, not leaving anything for the producers time in the care and feeding over the course of the year. Rabbits clearly can NOT be considered a get rich quick endeavor.
In conclusion, rabbit raising can be a profitable enterprise, but it requires a thorough understanding of the market, proper management, and a solid business plan to ensure success. It’s essential to conduct a feasibility study and to have a good understanding of the costs and the revenue in order to set prices and make a profit. Additionally, keeping the rabbits healthy, clean and well-fed, and adhering to regulations and best practices are important factors for the success of the business. For example, keeping track of your expenses carefully, and comparing several different feed sources and systems can help you find the best system for you. Feeding one group of growing rabbits a straight rabbit pellet feed and feeding another group only hay and grain, you can track weight gain and growth rate against your expenses. The difference in this data can make the difference between success and failure raising meat rabbits.