When done correctly, raising rabbits can be a profitable enterprise. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme, for sure. It takes forethought, investment, and dedication to be successful. But then, doesn’t any business venture?
Raising Rabbits: Know your Market
If you want to raise rabbits for profit, you should have a plan for how you are going to market them. You can be successful in selling rabbits for pets or for meat, but you will do best to pick one or the other. The meat and the pet markets are entirely different, and the same type of bunnies that work best as pets do not work well as meat animals. If you are planning to raise commercial stock, get in touch with a processor in your area and find out what kind of rabbits they want. Most buyers will only take fryers of a certain age, weight, and color, or will pay less for animals that don’t meet their preferred criteria. You can find a list of processors on the ARBA website: arba.net/processors.htm In most areas, there is a good demand for rabbit meat, but you need to do the research to make sure you can provide what the market wants.
If you plan to raise rabbits as pets, it’s a matter of scale and of contacts. Are you planning to sell rabbits to individual buyers or to a dealer such as a pet store chain? If you sell direct to the final owner, you can charge much more for each rabbit (around $50 instead of $5-10 each that the pet store will pay), but you need to invest in marketing to attract buyers, then deal with each one personally. If you’re looking for just a part-time income, selling pets to local customers is the best way to go. You will not need to be USDA licensed, you can personally make sure the rabbits are going to good homes, and there’s actually a good market for pets nearly anywhere in the United States. If you can get your rabbitry name out there with a quality website, you’ll probably find that bunnies sell quickly. (Check out rabbitwebsitedesigns.com) But if you are hoping to sell pets as a full-time income, you’ll need a much a larger operation, a USDA license, and a contract with a major retailer to be successful.
There are other reasons people raise rabbits of course, such as for show or fiber. However, there’s very little money, if any, to be made in those niches. The cost of building a recognized line of show rabbits is so great that it offsets the higher price tag on show stock. There was once a thriving rabbit wool market in the United States, but the bottom fell on it long ago.
One other option to make money from the industry is to sell equipment instead of animals. Many states do not have a local rabbit supply dealer. Building quality cages and retailing equipment such as feed, books, dishes, and grooming supplies can be a great option, with much less risk of something going wrong than raising live rabbits for profit.
The Rabbit Supplies for Success
Once you have a business plan in place, you can start gathering the stock and equipment you need. Always start small (and hang on to your day job!) until you have established yourself in the market and learned proper rabbitry management. No matter what your purpose in raising them, rabbits do best in a quiet, well-ventilated, predator-proof environment such as a pole barn. You must have enough cages for each breeding animal to have its own, plus plenty of space for growing babies until they are the right age to sell. You may find that investing in self-feeders and an automatic watering system is worth the time it will save you over cleaning and refilling dishes. Likewise, if you can get an automatic waste disposal system, such as the “Flush-Kleen” trays made by Bass Equipment, this will not only save you time, but also make for better air quality and healthier bunnies. You will need nest boxes, a scale, a record-keeping system, and various other supplies to be successful. Your initial breeding stock should be as healthy as possible. Ideally, you should buy rabbits from the same breeder and bloodline, but that are not too closely related, then maintain a reasonable level of line breeding. This will give you much more consistent results than random outcrossing, and can help you increase your production more quickly.
Of course, if you are going to successfully raise rabbits for profit, it’s essential to keep good rabbit records. Track reproduction data so you can select for your most productive animals. Record how much feed you use, and any health issues that occur. Keep track of your income and expenses. Raising rabbits can certainly become a profitable side business if you prepare correctly and are willing to work hard to make it happen.?