(c) Gryph- if you repost this article, please post with a link back to my website.
Welcome to your new addiction! No, really. A handful of years ago I swore I would never raise rabbits. Nope, no way, raising rabbits was not for me. Now I have anywhere from 40 to 100 rabbits at a time, sometimes more depending on my processing schedule. I’ve had up to 300+ at a time with litters.
There are many reasons for raising rabbits. For example, raising rabbits can be a great way to include animals for home meat production with limited space. I talk more about rabbit meat facts on another page (see the menu). Rabbit manure is a cold compost and doesn’t need to be aged or broken down before you add it to your garden. Rabbits have hides that can be tanned and Angora breeds yield beautiful fiber that can be felted or spun. Some breeds of rabbits also make wonderful pets. Showing rabbits is relatively easy and inexpensive compared to showing other livestock. Raising rabbits can also be a true family project, as they are small and so easy to care for that they can even be maintained by young children.
Rabbits are well suited for both country and suburban areas. Since they are not considered livestock by many governmental agencies, they are allowed where other animals are not. Rabbits make very little noise, making them better for suburbia than goats, chickens, turkeys, geese or ducks. As a matter of fact, as long as odor and flies are managed and the cages or hutches are well hidden by vegetation, it’s possible that neighbors might never even know that there are rabbits in the yard. Does care for their own young, so there’s no hand-raising or special equipment such as incubators or brooders needed. Butchering is fairly simple and straightforward. A skilled person can take a rabbit from the cage to oven or freezer in 15 minutes or less.
Getting started can be intimidating and raising rabbits can be trickier than you might think at first. It’s hard to know where to start, what you need, and what steps to take to get good quality rabbits without getting scammed. In order to be successful raising rabbits you need to have the right stock, the right equipment, the right knowledge, and lots of determination. Don't expect to make a profitable business raising rabbits. Only a small minority of those who raise rabbits are capable of making a living out of it. Instead, consider it an enjoyable hobby that can help pay for itself.
No rabbit breeder should ever start the hobby or business with the idea of getting rich. Profits are really only possible with hard and steady work. That being said, even a backyard meat rabbit breeder can make a little money if you are resourceful and hard-working. Pelts may be sold or saved at slaughter time. If you keep them, you can tan them and either sell them or make them into trinkets, clothing and accessories to be sold. Rabbit manure is excellent and is one of the only manures that doesn’t have to be aged before using it as a fertilizer. Some gardeners will pay for manure. You can recycle your empty feed bags as manure bags. There are several species of worms- especially red wrigglers and earthworms- that thrive in rabbit manure. The worms help also keep flies under control and help keep the manure smell down. You can sell the worms as they reproduce, or even sell starter set-up worm kits.
Especially pretty and well-mannered rabbits can be sold as pets, but be sure that you sell pet rabbits only to responsible individuals. I encourage you to consider only breeding and selling purebreds as pets. I also recommend that even when breeding pets, you work to breed to the SOP for your breed. Be careful selling to pet stores and feed stores. The United States regulates pet store sales with the Animal Welfare Act- if you sell more than $500 worth of animals per year to a pet store or distributor, then you may need to be licensed and follow certain animal care and housing standards. You can read more about the Animal Welfare Act, and specifically how it applies to retail sales, here: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalwelfare/sa_awa/ct_retail_pet_rule
Good quality rabbits can be sold as brood stock, and if you are interested in showing and produce show potential stock, you can sell them as well. I always, always encourage breeders to breed to the standard of their breed. More on breeding and selling kits later.
There is also a market for raw feeders. Dead newborn rabbits, especially those born on the wire, can be frozen and sold to feed snakes, cats, dogs and raptors. Rabbits that must be culled early can be used for raw feeding as well. Unused organs, heads, and so on can also be used by raw feeders. Be sure the rabbits were not sick or treated with chemicals or medicines before selling them for raw feeding.
You can do this. Sometimes it will take determination to continue when you have litters fail or you run into a health problem with your herd. It will take hard work to keep cages clean and your rabbitry organized. But you can do it. Many rabbit breeders feel like giving up in the first year or so, but keep going instead. You learn so much from the experience, even from mistakes.