(c) Gryph- if you repost this article, please post with a link back to my website.
With the ongoing situation with Covid-19, I am seeing a sudden surge in people interested in raising rabbits for meat. While I am thrilled to see more breeders popping up, I am also concerned that we are going to end up with an ‘Easter Bunny’ situation when the adrenalin wanes and rabbits will be pawned off or turned loose when they are no longer wanted or needed. I also think that a lot of new breeders are going to get in over their head, and/or get taken advantage of because they are rushing into a purchase rather than doing their research ahead of time.
The most important advice I can give here is, it costs just as much to feed a crappy rabbit as it does to feed one with good conformation. It’s on YOU to do your research so you don’t get screwed. There are going to be plenty of shifty and shady people absolutely taking advantage of this situation right now by pawning off poor quality animals and/or adding a high dollar price on the animals they are selling. Ever heard of supply and demand? Yeah, it applies to rabbits and their equipment (cages, etc) as well.
My second piece of advice is, be prepared to get on waiting lists. Good breeders do not breed to supply people with Apocalypse Bunnies, they breed to better their lines and offer excess stock to help other breeders and sometimes to help offset their own costs. Finding mature stock ready to breed is going to be tough (it was already tough before this situation). Odds are good you are going to have to purchase young rabbits and raise them up to start breeding. But keep in mind, most breeds are mature at six months old and fall is a far better time to breed than in the heat of summer. Contact breeders in your area and ask to be put on their lists, or see what they have available- you might get lucky.
My third piece of advice is, find your resources. My website here is chock full of good information for beginners, so take a little time to peruse it and educate yourself. My Facebook group, Rabbits for Sustenance and Shit, is a great resource for beginners. When things get rough- and they will, it’s the nature of the beast, the Murphy’s Law of Rabbits so to say- you’ll need good, dependable resources to get you through to the other side.
My fourth piece of advice is, be careful about sending deposits online. There are scam artists everywhere, and the rabbit world is no exception. People are posting photos that aren't even their own rabbits for sale just to steal money from unsuspecting buyers. You are far better communicating with an established breeder to prevent yourself having your money disappear. (Thanks Brittany Grim for the tip!)
Finally, if you find that raising rabbits isn’t really for you, then at the very least, they are still edible! Butcher them and eat them, sell them, but please, do not turn them loose- they will not survive in the wild, and with the presence of rabbit hemorrhagic disease running rampant in the US, you could literally be spreading a deadly disease to others rabbit breeding operations in your area. You also might not be able to recoup your costs, so be prepared for that as well (remember what I said about supply and demand- once demand drops, prices will drop as well).
I sincerely hope that you find that raising rabbits is right for you and your family (I would love to see everyone raising rabbits, especially in urban settings), and I hope that you don’t give up when things get tough or when the dust settles from these strange, uncomfortable times. Hang in there! And "bunny on."