“Rabbit math is the fastest math you’ll ever know!” The old man proclaimed as I looked at his clean, home-made 24 doe cage system. His rabbits weren’t pure New Zealand rabbits, but they were clean, healthy and the right shape. He had a system, a process of producing food, RIGHT out of the shed in his backyard. He was selling his surplus, bringing in “$2k- $2500 a month, easy” he said… Something clicked. My entrepreneurial spirit brightened and my farming genetics awoke. I was ready to give the Bunny Business a shot and start making some Rabbit Revenue!
Rookie Mistakes in the Bunny Business
I know it’s hard to believe, but, I’m not perfect… Once you’ve recovered from that shock, give Pitfalls a read. I cover used cages, cage building and bunny buying in the pitfalls article. This was written from my own experiences. There are obviously more than three mistakes you can make when getting into the bunny business.
It takes some start-up money to get going, you will need a structure big enough for your rabbitry, you’ll need solid, reliable cages, and you will need rabbits. Your start-up rabbits don’t necessarily need to be $200 dollar, pedigreed, show rabbits. You can work into that. While your revenue stream is more of a drip and a trickle, I’d stick with a solid meat breed bunny. I have a guide to bunny buying here.
Structure/ Bunny Barn
Your rabbitry structure should shed water, provide an area where different forms of climate control can be used, like misters and fans, evaporative coolers and possibly an AC. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to keep the wind and rain off your bunnies. My start-up building was a three-walled shed that eventually held 24 breeding female rabbits and 6 males. In Arizona Meat Rabbits, I talk about desert farming and some of the methods to keep bunnies cool.
Once you have your building, you need to look at housing. If you have concrete floors, cage systems on rollers are REALLY nice. Stackable cage systems will
The largest, continuous expense in rabbit husbandry is feed. Good feed is important, but you can overdo it. You want to feed a quality pellet, but not one that has more nutrients than the rabbit can absorb. I cover more on the subject in Feed Considerations. What I don’t cover in “Feed Considerations” is how much to feed… This is where my methods and those of other rabbit raisers may vary. I do NOT recommend “free-feeding” breeders.
Bucks and does that are 6 months or older should have their feed rationed. You don’t want fat breeders. Rabbits hold their fat in their abdominal cavity. Even before the rabbit shows signs of obesity, the fat increase will put pressure on the internal organs, specifically the reproductive organs. That fat pressure causes the rabbits to become lethargic, drop fewer eggs during ovulation and deliver less sperm when mating. You want your bunnies to be lean, mean, breeding machines!
Now, this doesn’t apply to breeding females. If your doe is breed or nursing, nursing especially, pour the feed to her. She is eating for 8-12 little parasites and will need to replenish her nutrients at a faster rate. You should also allow free feeding for freshly weaned bunnies and any rabbits under adult size. Once they hit adult size, start rationing their feed. I recommend 6 ounces by volume per day depending on feed quality and environment. Cold weather requires more feed.
Identifying Nutrition Issues
Stroke the back of your rabbits, if you can feel the top ridge of their spine they’re about right. If you can feel the side ridges of the rabbits’ spine they are too skinny and need more feed access. If you can’t feel the top ridge, they are overweight and may not be able to breed properly.
Let’s run the feed numbers. Six ounces by volume is about a 1/4 of a pound by weight. That means there are 200 servings in a 50-pound bag of pellets. If your bag of pellets is $20 after tax, that makes each serving 10 cents. That would put the cost to keep a standard meat breed buck at $36.50 per year. That would be the same for a
Various Rabbit Markets and Revenue Sources
As you scale your rabbit raising operation, you will need to enter different markets with varying prices and volume needs. Starting out, you will have low volume and thus need to focus on local, high price markets. As you increase production, you can branch out into larger volume markets. Below are some examples of rabbit markets and a brief description of them
Retail Pet Rabbit Market
The highest grossing per unit market for rabbits is selling directly to the final owner as a pet. Your market is not large, and the time spent with each customer varies and can be quite substantial. Specialty rabbits such as Giants, lion heads, and lops are higher earners in this category. The 4h crowd and FFA members are potential customers in this market.
Retail Breeder Rabbit Stock
The next market with similar pros and cons to the retail pet market is the sale of rabbits for breeding stock. Generally, there are more rabbits sold to a customer wanting to breed rabbits, but these customers are less abundant than potential pet wanting customers. Keep in mind these may end up as competition, but don’t let that stop you. I’ve met a lot of good folks that sell rabbits even to the same target markets in my area as I do, and we help each other out. The more people talking about rabbits, the more potential customers will form.
Wholesale Pet Rabbit
In this market, you sell your rabbits in bulk to a retail shop. Whether it’s a pet store, feed barn, or other venue, rabbits raised and sold wholesale need to be inspected under the USDA’s “fair animal act.” In short, you need to raise the rabbits in accordance with the standards set forth in the act such as breeding cycles, housing size and conditions, weaning ages, and paid inspection. There was a family fined 90k for not adhering to these laws.
Retail Pet Food
There are many people raw feeding rabbit meat to their dogs, cats, monitor lizards and of course, snakes. Depending on your location and population density, there may be a healthy market for pet food in your area. Check social media groups based on your community, feel out the market, see if there is a demand for fresh meat for animals. Obviously now we’re not selling a live animal and some processing is involved.
If it’s just snake owners you’re looking to sell to, simply killing and freezing the rabbits will be sufficient. If you do want to sell for raw feeders, you’ll need to skin and gut the rabbits. This takes time, tools and freezer space. I am starting down the path of raw feeding my dogs, my startup article is The Carnivore on the Couch if you’re interested.
Wholesale Pet Food
Similar to retail pet food, you’re going to need tools, time and freezers… just on a MUCH larger scale. The price per pound for rabbit meat in this market is pretty much the lowest economically feasible market. The ONLY way this one works is by producing copious amounts of bunnies. The upside is there are very few inspection requirements and a whole lot of market. Pet food is a 30 billion dollar industry… by all means, go nibble off a chunk of it for yourself.
Rabbit Meat for Human Consumption
The rules regulating rabbit slaughter for human consumption have been strict for many years. Over the past 4 decades, the only rabbit available has been from USDA inspected slaughter facilities. Rabbit is a voluntary inspection, meaning the facility pays for the inspection, the wage of the inspector, and all expenses incurred by the inspection process. In 2013 we estimated full-time inspection costing between 90k and 110k for a USDA inspector’s services.
As an individual, butchering a rabbit and selling it is illegal unless the end consumer is present and participating. That being said, some states have started to allow rabbit butcher on the state level now, but sales are limited to that state and require state inspection. Even though I have listed this market last, it is not the least paid per rabbit. Some rabbit meat is being sold for $25 per pound. If you DO want to go for the full USDA inspected rabbit slaughter facility, you have a worldwide market. Europe LOVES their rabbit dishes and rabbit meat is growing in popularity here in the USA.
My Bunny Business and Rabbit Revenue
Rabbits have been good to me, even though this wasn’t a life time dream or anything. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “hey, I wanna be a rabbit farmer!” I just picked it up, formed a plan, and executed it… Well, to be honest, I planned lightly and failed miserably multiple times before finally honing the edges of Hostile Hare and turning it into the company that it is today. I will continue to learn from my own mistakes… I’m convinced that there are 3 types of people in this world; the fool who never learns, the smart that learn from their own mistakes, and the wise that learn from the mistakes of others… May you be wise and learn from my mistakes… and succsesses!