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MAKING MONEY WITH RABBITS

Money RabbitA backyard meat rabbit breeder can make a little money if he or she is resourceful and hard-working.

You will not be able to quit your day job. But to supplement your income? Absolutely. There is a saying, “There is money in rabbits it’s just getting it out of them that’s hard”! It depends on how you define “profit.” If you are looking for profit with a cash value, you aren’t necessarily going to get ahead with rabbits, unless you find a niche and then spend a lot of time cultivating your herd to fit that niche. However, if you think of profit like being able to eat healthier meat, that costs less cash than it would if you bought comparable meat at the grocery store, then I think you’d profit in that way.

By raising your own meat rabbits, butchering and processing them yourself for your own consumption it is totally worth it! This has benefits in that you know the history of the meat, how the animal was treated, whether drugs were used, and how it was slaughtered, handled, and stored. That is money saved! A rabbits value is worth more this way than it could be if converted in to cash, because the value of money is changing, but we, and other people, are always going to need food to eat. This is just how I look at it. Rabbits are like money in the bank. Money can be made! But a profit is hard to come by with rabbits but it can be done.

Like starting any small business you won’t be an overnight success. You have to market, plan and budget to get money out of rabbits. So, there is money in rabbits but just like anything else, it takes work.

Remember that it cost more to raise junk rabbits than it does to raise good ones. Part of trying to make a profit with rabbits is how much you can save! Learning to keep rabbits healthy and clean is important.

If a doe doesn’t raise her babies consistently, cull her. The longer you hold a rabbit that cannibalizes her offspring, refuses to use a nest box or scatters them on the wire the more feed you have into her and the more you will lose on those offspring if you ever get any. The three strike rule applies to breeding does! Remember if you’re looking at making money you have to look at the little things and the big things. A quarter’s worth of food isn’t a big thing, but a quarter’s worth of food multiplied by 100 rabbits adds up a great deal on a daily and monthly basis! Manage for efficiency.

One group of breeders ran the numbers and in order to make a full time living off of rabbits required an efficient set up of at least 200 working does. Those 8 ounces of pellets that isn’t very much takes on new meaning when you start going through over 100 pounds per day! You notice the spilled feed because that’s wasted money. Keep records up to date and tattoo every rabbit you plan on keeping. Keep weights on the parents, the offspring and how many in each litter. It’s a lot of labor but record keeping will save you money. I go through the rabbitry every quarter and review the does production records and know who to cull and who to keep.

Those just starting out with rabbits need to examine their reasons for getting into breeding rabbits and what their goals are. A common mistake is to start with too many rabbits. A reasonable starting point might be one buck and three does. I recommend that these rabbits be purchased while they are still young. This way they will have a chance to become acclimated to their new surroundings prior to breeding. As the new breeder gets accustomed to the rabbit hobby, then, and only then, should he or she decide to increase the size of the herd, and then slowly. Start slowly!

Learn the basics and learn to do things the right way with a couple dozen does. If you’ve chosen a handful of GOOD rabbits to start with you can easily build a herd by keeping back the best does and only the very top bucks, marketing the rest as meat or feeders. I always say keep the best eat the rest. This way you grow into it and see the amount of work needed. Perhaps when you hit 30 does that might change your mind or perhaps you will find that covering your feed costs is just not worth it! Only add cages as you sell rabbits. MAKE them pay for themselves!

The first step in making money with rabbits is adjusting the attitude to not expect to make money with rabbits. It can be done, but not as often nor as much money as many believe. Start with good solid equipment. Cages, with feeders that allow enough feed to be fed at a time without wasting from digging it out or dumping bowls over, are important. Don’t keep diggers around. Those rabbits that dig the feeders and waste food are another money pit to eliminate.

No backyard meat rabbit breeder should start the hobby/business with the idea of getting rich quickly. There are many scams such as offers to buy back fryers from stock purchased from the swindler and there are lots of them! Sometimes he refuses to buy the fryers. Even if he does pay for the rabbits, the grower is responsible for shipping costs, which can exceed the amount received for the animals. Though rabbits can be prolific, kit mortality can easily be 25% or more when you get into high production. Profits are really only possible with hard and steady work. Secondly you must learn proper management. Rabbits must have proper nutrition or they cannot breed efficiently! A natural diet will not work for this type of production they need high quality pellets to boost production.

Make sure to have a market! If you’re raising smaller breeds this might be pre-killing for snake food or pet food. Larger breeds might be the same or for filling a freezer and selling tanned furs. Compost the manure sift it and bag it up to sell to gardeners. Raise worms in the manure and sell fishing worms or sell the red worms for vermicomposting. By using all the sources of products a rabbit produces will help you make your first dollar!

RABBIT MEAT-
The most important reason for raising rabbits of course is for meat, you can butcher them to lower your food bill. Does it make you money, NO but saves it from your grocery bill. In order for the cost of the meat produced by a backyard operation to be equal to or possibly better than what would be spent at the supermarket, each doe should successfully raise 36 fryers per year (six litters of six fryers each). Any doe that does not perform properly should be culled. Ideally fryers should reach “market weight” of 4.5 to 5 lbs. by eight weeks of age, and most certainly by 11 weeks.

If the fryers will be sold to a meat processor it should be noted that some facilities will not accept fryers over 11 weeks old. Meat processors also generally prefer white over colored rabbits. For this purpose the Californian, though having dark brown “points”, is considered white. You can sell fryers at “live Weight” or sell the meat after you have processed it depending on your local laws. To locate a meat processing plant, the best thing to do is go to different grocery stores and ask where they are buying their meat from. Explain that you are thinking of raising rabbits and are researching the market possibilities. Many of them will be happy to help you. When you have located several (Make sure to have more than one buyer!) markets who might buy your product, contact them and see if they would be willing to purchase live animals from you.

If possible, set up a contract with them to produce whatever you feel you are able to do. But do not sign anything. Remember they are making more money than you and their profit is higher they have no rabbits to feed, they buy them as cheap as possible and sell them as high as they can. There are lots of swindlers in the meat market. They will wait and offer you less if they know you are sitting on rabbits. Of course a big part of having rabbits is enjoying them.

If you have 40-50 working does depending on breed you might have 100-250 bunnies in boxes and growing at all times. You must have a plan for marketing either commercially for meat if you’re near a buyer or making your own market. Remember if you’re selling commercially they can dictate the breed so sometimes Rex, Satins or colored furs are penalized. If you’re using it yourself this isn’t a factor. Make sure to have more than one buyer. Many a rabbit breeder has been stuck when a buyers does not need the 50 fryers you have ready for him.

Another meat market would be pet owners that feed their animals the BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet. BARFers, as they are called, aim to provide their cats and dogs a more natural diet than kibbles. A newer, and more inclusive, term for BARF is “raw feeding.” Sometimes a variety of meat sources for this diet are scarce, so these pet owners are more than happy to discover a meat rabbit breeder near them. Selling to the dog food market can be profitable at $4/lb. There is one rabbitry that I know of that did this and just about put themselves out of business because they couldn’t keep up with demand. I also raise my rabbits for dog food. This is a good market you can butcher and sell rabbits as pet food with no USDA restrictions. Also snake and reptile owners need to feed their animals. You can sell rabbits at every age and size for this market.

RABBIT PELTS-
If you’re using rabbits for meat what will you do with the furs? Throwing them away is not making maximum use and can be wasted money thrown away. Pelts should be saved at slaughter time (If not using right away freeze them to sell or tan when you have more to make it worthwhile. Rabbit pelts can also be sold for a small profit or used to make clothes, toys and other trinkets to be sold as a finished product or just selling the tanned hide (see our post TANNING RABBIT PELTS for more information).

I have sold frozen pelts to people who want to learn to tan and do not even raise rabbits. Remember that fryer pelts are best suited for craft-type projects, while stewer pelts are better suited for use in hats, coats, etc. It is recommended that if you are planning on selling the pelts to a commercial tannery that you raise white rabbits because the white pelts can be dyed to any color desired. I prefer natural colors and have found that local homesteaders would rather have natural colors than dyed pelts.

Tanning them is not always an easy process but not hard to do, but an exchange may be made with a local tanner in which they get to keep a percentage of the tanned hides for them in exchange for tanning a percentage for you.

Also you can raise angoras. You can sell the fiber or products made for the fiber, I find this to be a good bartering item, if you happen to spin, angora blend yarns can sell for a premium If you have an eye towards that expensive angora wool. Remember the amount of time grooming that is needed on top of the feed, special cages, handling to keep the wool clean and other factors needed to keep top quality rabbits. You can make money with angora fiber. I have a few angoras but we use all the fiber we produce. Someday I will get into the angoras more (aha thinking of retirement!)

RABBIT MANURE-
Rabbit manure is considered one of the best available. The manure is excellent and is the only manure that does not need to be aged before using as fertilizer. It contains more nitrogen and phosphorus than many other manures and more potash than most. Even when applied fresh, it will not burn plants. Gardens with rabbit fertilizer consistently applied most often yield much better results! I screen it, bag it up in feed bags, and sell it with a information sheet in early spring. It all sells out and I have a waiting list for more. (for more poop information check out our post THE BENIFITS AND USES OF RABBIT MANURE) Gardeners may be willing to pay for manure or composed manure for a higher cost. Because of the complimentary nature, many rabbit raisers also raise earthworms (or Red Wigglers). The worms will break down and clean the bed just under the rabbit cages, turning the manure into black potting soil. Several species of worms, most notably night crawlers and red worms, can be grown in the manure. The worms help keep the manure from smelling bad and could be sold to gardeners for vermicomposting or fishermen for bait.

BREEDING STOCK- For Show Or Meat Stock
In order to get top dollar for your stock you have to make a name for yourself. (or should I say your rabbits) Only sell your best for breeders. Do not sell anyone the runts, slow growers,rabbits in bad condition, or ever from a bad bloodline. This is how you get a good name. Sell one junk rabbit and they tell everyone! Sell one good rabbit a they keep the secret to themselves. (But they always come back when they want more rabbits) I have sold many a rabbit that I wish I had kept! There are many misconceptions about showing and breeding rabbits just like every other animal. People see a $75 show animal and think wow $75 if I sold 6 per litter that’s $450 and six litters per year is…wow that’s a lot! They run to the local sale barn and buy old cages and cull rabbits that are “just as good as those at the show.” Remember earlier I said junk cost more to raise! Buy the best rabbits you can find! What they are often buying are breeding problems, attitude problems, health problems and most of the time as far from a show rabbit as you can get.

They don’t do the research so they lose the first two litters and they give everything away swearing rabbits are just a money pit. The big thing to realize is that $75 show animals have hundreds of dollars in breeding behind them and often many years of selective breeding. For every show rabbit there are several that end up in the freezer. It is possible to make a little money if you do things the right way. You must make a concerted effort to market, and market everything! This means from the wasted feed to the poop to the meat to the offspring to the furs. Find a market. If you’re also raising show rabbits pick out those prospects and get them on a show feed. Keep records up to date and tattoo every rabbit you plan on keeping. Keeping weights on the parents, the offspring and how many in each litter is a lot of labor.

PET RABBITS-
I will not really be going to go into this subject because I think it is not worth the money to sell rabbits as pets. It never seems to work out. They feed the wrong food, use the wrong housing, the kid lose interest and the rabbits starve, never have fresh water. My meat fryers have lived a better life than some of the pet rabbits I have sold. There is good money in Easter bunnies and it could be a good market for some, just not for me. I wish the parents would stay more involved!

RABBIT SUPPLIES-
Always have extra cages, feeders, waterers, bags of feed, bales of hay and shavings on hand so when someone buys rabbits you can offer them more. With shipping costs skyrocketing they are better off paying a few dollars more to you than getting those cages online.

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