Raising Rabbits for Profit

Raising Rabbits for Profit – A comprehensive guide filled with raising rabbits tips, tricks and advice to help you get started raising rabbits for profit.

Raising Rabbits

Can you make money breeding and selling rabbits?

Perhaps you’ve been keeping rabbits as pets or as a food source and are looking into starting a side business with them.  You’re wondering if you can breed and sell a few rabbits to generate some secondary income.  Does it work?  Can you profit from breeding and selling rabbits?  Is it worth the effort?

The short answer is that, yes, your rabbit raising venture can turn a profit.  However, it takes dedication.  Most people breed rabbits as a hobby, and don’t expect sales to cover anything more than their monthly feed bill.  Here are some tips to help you beat the curve and see a profit.

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For a Complete Guide to Raising Rabbits we recommend that you Grab a Copy of Raising Rabbits 101 written by Aaron Webster:

http://www.premiumrabbits.com/raising-rabbits-101-3rd-edition/

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Important tips for Raising Rabbits for Profit

-Start with the right rabbits.  You won’t be able to sell the offspring of any random buck or doe you find for sale.  Learn what breeds and colors sell best in your market.  Also, do the research to make sure you buy from healthy stock that has a history of producing well.  You can find breeders through online directories at RabbitBreeders.us and TheNatureTrail.com.

-Get the best rabbit equipment.  Don’t pay money for supplies that you don’t need, and don’t miss out on products that could enhance your production.  We’ll talk about the best equipment later in this article.

-Keep careful records.  Know which of your does produce the best offspring.  Analyze your rabbitry records to watch for trends and catch problems before they start.  Keeping records allows you to set goals and learn how to achieve them.

-Get a rabbitry website.  This is crucial.  Facebook is a great marketing tool (and you should definitely have a facebook page for your rabbitry), but it doesn’t rank as well in search results, doesn’t stand out as unique, and doesn’t tell people much about your rabbitry or your professionalism.  Hiring a designer that specializes in websites for rabbit breeders will be the most effective way to get your site in front of buyers.  Even if it costs more at first, the return on investment can be huge.  People who are successful at selling rabbits to pet owners usually sell 80-90% of their animals through the internet.

-Start small.  Many people get into raising rabbits every year…and many people get out quickly.  Don’t invest in too large a business until you have mastered rabbit husbandry.  If you expand slowly and safely, you will be most successful in the long run.

-Research like crazy.  Read as much as you can from people who have been there before you.  Stand on their shoulders.  Read widely from different authors to get different perspectives.  We have a range of books at the Premium Rabbit Supplies store that can get you started right.

-Get a mentor.  Books are great.  Books will prepare you for raising rabbits better than internet surfing will.  But there’s nothing like having a mentor to help you in real time.  Rabbit breeders want to support the industry and are usually happy to help if you have questions.  They can give you real-life answers tailored to your immediate situation.

Do you need a license to raise rabbits for profit?

Rabbits

That is a fantastic question.  If you live in the United States, here’s a quick guide to whether or not you need to be licensed by the USDA to sell rabbits for profit:

-If you are selling live rabbits for meat, you do NOT need a license.  (If you are selling dressed meat, you may need a license, but that’s a separate category.)

-If you are selling rabbits as pets directly to the final owner, so that the final owner will physically see the animals before purchase, you do NOT need a license.

-If you are selling rabbits as pets directly to the final owner, however the owner is making the purchase over the internet or does not actually see the animals face to face before purchase, you may need a license.  The USDA is currently revising their policy on this issue, so watch the ARBA’s legislation page to hear the latest news on this topic.

-If you are selling rabbits to a retailer, such as a pet store or petting zoo, you DO need a license if you sell over $500 worth of animals in a calendar year.

Keep in mind that this was just a quick overview, and not the final authority on whether or not you should get a license to raise rabbits.  Here’s an article that goes into more detail on whether or not rabbit breeders need licensing.  The bottom line is that if you are selling rabbits for meat or fiber, or if you sell to pet owners in-person, you do NOT need a license.  If you sell to a retailer, you probably do.

What equipment do you need to breed and sell rabbits?

First up: the Barn

Before you purchase any rabbit cages, the first thing you should decide is where to keep the cages.  Are you going to house them in your garage?  In a hutch?  In a barn?  If you are going to make a profit selling rabbits, you probably won’t be able to keep them in your house.  Your garage isn’t the best option either.  Garages don’t offer much light or ventilation, and rabbits need both to thrive.  The noise and fumes from your car or workshop can be harmful to rabbits also.

Building your own hutches works fine, but you must be 100% sure they are predator-proof.  Raccoons can open cage doors and kill bunnies from underneath through the wire.  (This author has had both things happen before.)  For this reason, it’s very important to use a cage with a drop tray to protect the underside of the hutch.

The best option for large-scale rabbit keeping is to house your bunnies in a barn or shed that provides light, ventilation, and safety.

A Guide to the Rabbit Cage Catalog

If you download a rabbit equipment catalog, you’ll see that it offers cages of various sizes.  The size you need depends on what breed of rabbits you raise.  Here’s a quick chart to help you pick the right cage size:

Breed Size Single Rabbit Doe w/Litter
Dwarf 18”x 24” 24”x24”
4-8 pounds 24” x 24” 30” x 24”
9-13 pounds 30” x 24” 30” x 30” or 24” x 36”
14 pounds + 24” x 36 or larger 48” x 30”

How many cages will I need?

As you can guess, if you are going to make money selling rabbits you’ll need quite a few cages.  You’ll have three categories of bunnies you need to house: single rabbits (such as your herd bucks and the does you are saving for replacements), does in production, and juniors for grow out (bunnies that have been weaned but not yet sold).  You should keep one or two bucks for every 5-10 does.  A doe can have six litters per year and stay in good shape.  A dwarf breed will average only 2-4 viable kits per litter.  A medium-sized breed will have 5-6, and commercial breeds will have 8-10.  You can use these numbers to calculate how many rabbits you plan to produce and how many cages you will need – but don’t under estimate the number of cages!  Empty holes fill up very, very quickly in a rabbitry.

You can purchase your cages pre-built from a supplier, or build them yourself.  (Check out this article discussing the pros and cons of each.)  If you build your own cages, use quality galvanized 1”x2” mesh wire for the sides and 1”x ½” mesh for the floors.  Chicken wire doesn’t cut it.  Rabbits themselves can get through chicken wire, let alone predators.  To assemble your cages, you’ll probably want to use J-clips or C-rings and the appropriate pliers.  You can save yourself hassle by buying pre-made door latches, springs, and even pre-cut wire floor panels.

By the way, to bring your rabbits home you’ll need carrying cages in addition to their full-time cages.

Other Rabbit Equipment Needs

Rabbits make plenty of waste, and you’ll need a way to get it out to your compost pile.  While some breeders rig up a system of tarps and tubing to remove waste under hanging cages, most use drop trays.  These galvanized trays rest immediately under the cages.  Once a week you can slide them out, dump them into a wheelbarrow, refresh the bedding, and slide them back in.  (Hint: some rabbit cages come with drop trays pre-installed.)

Most medium-to-large scale rabbit breeders use J-feeders to provide their rabbits with pellets, because these feeders only take a few seconds to fill.  For water, you have your choice of bottles or crocks – but if you go with crocks, get the kind the clip on to the cages.  A good choice is the EZ-crock, because rabbits cannot spill it.

The last “must-have” item is a nest box.  All rabbit babies must be born in a nest box, or they will probably scatter and die of exposure.  Use galvanized nest boxes that are durable and easy to clean.  The best kinds have wood floors that you can replace when they wear out.  Replacement floors are so affordable that you can even get a new one for each litter!

There are many other accessories you’ll use if you raise rabbits for long.  You probably don’t need to buy all of these at first, but here’s a quick list of things you should consider keeping on hand:

-Nail trimmers.  Most rabbits need their nails trimmed once a month.

-Bedding.  Keep your rabbitry smelling as sweet as possible with high-quality bedding.

-Styptic Powder.  Great to have on hand to stop bleeding if you trim toenails to close, or need an antiseptic for minor wounds.

-EZ Mats.  If you raise rabbits with sensitive feet, these innovative mats can help protect them while keeping the floors clean.  A very popular product!

-Scale.  If you’re raising meat rabbits, you’ll want one of these to track your rabbits’ weights.

-Hay Racks.  These provide a way to offer your rabbits free-choice hay without it getting dirty on the cage floor.

-Harness.  A harness allows you to exercise your rabbits, play with them outside the cage, and compete in the growing rabbit hopping competitions.

-Toys.  Some bunnies won’t play with toys, but other greatly benefit from having some mental distraction.

-Springs, hooks, latches, and J-clips.  Even the best of cages come apart with wear.  Have the tools on hand to repair them yourself.

Start with the best breeding stock for your market.

Rabbit Breeding Stock

Different bunnies will sell in different markets.  If you’re raising rabbits as meat or meat-breeders, you’ll probably want Californians or New Zealand Whites from a well-known line.  (Champion show lines do not make the best meat breeders.  Find a line developed for meat, not show.)

If you’re raising rabbits to sell as pets, the appearance (size, shape, and color) of your starter stock is super important.  People buy bunnies based on their cute factor, so make sure your breeding pairs are as cute as can be.  People generally prefer spotted or multicolored rabbits to plain ones, so avoid self colors such as black, blue, chocolate, lilac, and tortoise.  (Good colors to raise include Vienna marked, brokens, Dutch, harlequins, and magpies.)  It would also be worthwhile to invest in a rabbit color genetics guide, so you can know what colors your breeding pairs will produce.  Also, 90% of pet buyers prefer small rabbits to large ones, so start with bunnies that weigh four pounds or less.  You don’t have to use purebreds, but if you get purebred rabbits from a respectable breeder, you have a better chance of getting quality stock.

Get the best information before starting to breed.

No matter whether you raise rabbits for profit or pleasure, you’ll need a thorough understanding of rabbit husbandry to succeed.  Some of it you can only learn by experience, but talk to breeders and do as much reading as you can before you jump in. There are a number of excellent books and websites available on how to raise rabbits, so we won’t go into detail here, but just leave you with a few links.

-Rabbit Raising 101.  A complete guide to rabbit breeding and care.  Definitely check this out.

-The Nature Trail.  One of the web’s most complete and respected sources of rabbit information since 2004.

-RabbitBreeders.us A great source for finding rabbits for sale, plus lots of articles

-Additional books at PremiumRabbits.com, including the ARBA Standard of Perfection and a color genetics guide.

Wishing you success with your rabbit-raising venture!

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For a Complete Guide to Raising Rabbits we recommend that you Grab a Copy of Raising Rabbits 101 written by Aaron Webster:

http://www.premiumrabbits.com/raising-rabbits-101-3rd-edition/

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