Raising Rabbits for
Profit - All you need to Know about Feeding, Cages and Care
A New Zealand White Rabbit
Raising rabbits for meat and fur is a
good way to make money but only if you do it on a large scale, and it
should be done as supplementary income only. The initial costs in
setting-up is small, rabbits breed quickly and frequently, they have
large litters and grow to a good marketable size in a very short time.
However, it is a full time job with daily rabbit care and good feeding
Successful Rabbit Raising
means Determining a Market
Like any business, if you are wanting
to make a profit with rabbits you really need to assess the market. Do
your homework first, before making an investment to see if there is a
market and where the market is. Is there a market for rabbit meat,
rabbit fur or both?
Once you have established whether there
is a market or not, find out where you will be able to slaughter the
animals. Some slaughter houses will expect you to transport the live
animals to them. And sometimes you can find a local butcher who will be
able to slaughter and dress the rabbits.
Rabbit Raising and
the right Rabbit Breed
Once you have
established your rabbit market and have found outlets to sell to,
you will need to find the perfect rabbit for your climate. Most rabbits
will tolerate cooler weather, but those who live in a more temperate
area will be able to be bred 4 times a year if you are keeping NZ
Whites. Chinchilla Rex rabbits, kept for fur, usually give birth twice
Although there are more than 60 rabbit breeds and varieties, most of these can be divided into 3 different groups:
1. Small Breeds that weigh little than a 2 pounds fully grown, such as the Polish rabbit.
2. Medium Breeds that have an average adult weight of about 10 pounds. Rabbits in this category are the New Zealand, California and Palomina.
3. Large Breeds that have an average adult weight of 14 pounds.
Good profits really come down to
starting with a good breed.
Good Dual-Purpose Rabbit Breeds
One of the most popular rabbits for raising
rabbits on a commercial scale is the New Zealand white rabbit, which is
not from New Zealand, despite its name, but from America. It has good
white fur and a good percentage of flesh to bone. Therefore the New Zealand White is a
good dual-purpose rabbit. Other good dual-purpose rabbits
and the Californian
Rabbit Breeds for Fur
For those raising
rabbits for their fur
then the Angora Rabbit
and the Rex Rabbits
are breeds that are best
suited for this purpose and fetch good prices, especially the
and other Rex breeds like the Castor
Rex and the White
One thing to remember though is that
where the turn around time for meat rabbits is about 2 months, fur
rabbits are kept for 3-5
months before being slaughtered.
Rabbit Raising and Look
Good Rabbit Breeding Stock
Your New Zealand white rabbit should
have a low set body, deep shoulders, and short neck, legs and ears.
Your rabbits will continue to make
money for you as long as you maintain good breeding stock.
not all your rabbits will be sent to the slaughter house. Your breeders
will soon need replacing and your litters should be examined for
breeding potential. These then should be kept back and used as breeding
stock when you need to replace or increase your stock.
and her Kittens
A good New Zealand white doe can be
bred at the age of 6 months and if conditions are ideal she can be bred
4 times a year. Breeding does are usually kept for 2 years before they
are slaughtered. On average they can give birth to 80 young a year. The
buck may be bred up to 7 times a week effectively. He can be used for
mating at the age of 7 months.
The young are born within 28–31 days
of mating and a normal rabbit
litter is around 6-8 kittens but can range from
two to twelve. The rabbits should be kept until they weigh about 1.8-2
kg each before sent to be butchered. This normally takes
months. However, one should also be aware that by the time the rabbit
is butchered and dressed it will have lost about 33% of its original
weight. The bigger the breed, the more loss there will be, sometimes as
much as 45%. Therefore a 3 kg rabbit before being butchered will weigh
about 2 kg after being butchered.
The other advantage of raising rabbits
is that they can be bred throughout the year bringing a steady income.
A person on their own
with no extra help can easily manage to look
after 500 does. However, most people who raise rabbits for
profit as a
backyard venture operate much smaller farms. However, even working with
100 does will bring in a healthy and steady monthly income.
Just because you are raising rabbits
for profit doesn't mean that don't have to give them the same treatment
you would if it were a pet. In fact, because these animals are the
lynch pin to your profit they should be given extra care and attention.
The most important is of course housing and food.
Rabbit Raising and Housing
Housing will probably be your most expensive outlay. There
is always the possibility of buying second hand cages, or making your
own. There are some rabbit breeders who hang the cages in unused sheds,
and others who place the cages outside, under some old tree. However,
if you are serious about raising rabbits for meat and profit, then you
should think about raising them in a controlled environment, as this
will give you a better feed-to-meat conversion.
need plenty of light and fresh
Their hutches can be simple structures of wood and
wire. One problem with wood however, is that many rabbits who have a
close encounter with wood are susceptible to ear mites.
Rabbits should have a roof that protects them from the sun as a rabbit's
fur should not be exposed to the sun if you are raising rabbits for
fur. Also, there should be a canvas curtain that can be dropped over
the cases to prevent chilling winds and rain from entering. In the hot
summer months a sprinkler system can be placed on the roof to cool the
hutches should be 10 feet square in
space for each rabbit. Individual hutches can be made
following dimensions: 4 ft x 2.5 ft x 2 ft. If you live in area where
you have cold winters then the top, sides and backs should be built of
wooden board to give added protection. If, however, you live in a warm
climate you will need to give your rabbits better circulation and to
take advantage of any breeze.
cages here can be made out of wire
netting on all sides. Using a 1 inch wire netting is sufficient. The
floor of the cages should be 1/2 inch metal hardware cloth that allows
rabbit stability when walking and allows for the droppings and urine to
through to the ground. The smaller diameter holes is also important for
rabbit safety, as bigger holes can result in baby rabbits breaking
their legs if they end up slipping through the bigger gaps in the
a floor like this on the cages allows for the rabbits to be free from
most diseases as they are in clean, sanitary conditions.
made to house your rabbits should be strong enough to protect them
against predators and the elements. This is especially important when a
doe has kittens. Any nervous doe faced with danger may end up standing
all over kittens and killing them.
Raising rabbits has an excellent
by-product for your garden and veggie patch! Rabbit manure is very good
for the compost heap and for growing vegetables and so it is advisable to buy or make
trays and place these directly under the cages. This then makes for
easy cleaning and easy transportation of the manure to the compost heap
when they are full. Cleanliness is vital for good rabbit raising.
When the young rabbits have reached the
age of 8-10 weeks of age they will need to be separated and placed in
individual cages. This is to prevent the rabbits from fighting, as they
will if you don't separate them.
Rabbit Raising and
When raising rabbits your breeding does
should have their own nesting boxes. These rabbit nesting boxes should be 1
1/2 feet long, 1 foot wide and 1 foot high. There should
be a 7 inch
door cut in the box which is cut 5 inches from the bottom. This then
prevents the young rabbits from falling out of the boxes.
You will know when your doe is needing
her nest box when she starts pulling the fur from her dewlap. She will
also take the hay that you are feeding her to create a nest.
When the kittens are born they are
hairless and born with their eyes closed. Fur begins to grow in by day
5 or 6 and after 10 to 12 days their eyes will open. At the age of
three weeks their mother will begin to wean them off milk and they will
then begin to eat hay and pellets.
Rabbit Raising and What
What not to Feed your Rabbits
Rabbits eat a lot of grass and leaves, but any food given to them should never be placed on the bottom of the cages
in case they peed on or pooped on. A manger should be built for each
cage that would allow the food to be kept under sanitary conditions.
you are not able to build managers, then the food should be placed in
bundles and then hung from the sides of the cage, allowing the rabbits
to help themselves when hungry. Any wire or string used to do this
should be short pieces to prevent the rabbits from coming to any harm.
They should be fed twice a day and
greens and water are the basis to your rabbit's diet but if you
introduce anything new to your rabbits do it slowly, as their digestive
systems can become upset.
Not all greens are good for rabbits. Never
feed them lettuce. Lettuce contains lactucarium, which can
rabbit diarrhea so badly that it can become fatal. Other common foods
to avoid include cabbage, parsnips, swedes, potato tops, and tomato
should be given as part of their
diet. It should be well dried and free of mold. Alfalfa,
even peanut hay is acceptable. Oats, wheat, barley and corn can also be
fed to give a more balanced diet, with occasionally small amounts of
sulfur, charcoal and cod liver oil.
Watch rabbits though! They are
very crafty animals and will favor barley and wheat over corn. Rabbits
also like carrots and should be fed the odd one now and again. Finally,
a block of salt should be placed in each hutch so that the rabbit can
nibble on it when needed.
is very important and they should never be without. It must be replaced
daily and using an automatic water container is usually the best option
which can be fixed to the cages.
If your rabbit hutches are kept clean
are fed properly they will suffer from few illnesses, especially when
compared to other livestock. However, there are 2 illnesses that can
occur with raising rabbits and that is the snuffles and coccidiosis
which is a worm infection that chickens also suffer from.
that has either of these 2 diseases should be destroyed immediately and
their hutches thoroughly sanitized and sterilized to prevent the rest
of your rabbits from contamination.
Rabbit Raising and How
Profitable is It?
When you start with rabbits you will soon realize that it doesn't take long to increase your stock.
If you started with just 2 doe and 1 buck you could soon have 50
rabbits or more after the 1st year. If you had 50 - 150 does, this
would definitely mean a steady source of income and would also take up
a substanial amount of time during the day for their care.
People are beginning to see that rabbit meat is good for you. It may be firmer than chicken, but the taste is very similar. Rabbit meat is high in protein and low in fat and calories.
Not only can one use these animals for their meat, but another by-product is their fur. The pelts can be used to make a number of items such as slippers, fur trimmed garments, hats etc.
Rabbit manure is also highly valued,
and can be bagged and sold to gardeners. It is rich in nitrogen and
phosphorus. The beauty of using rabbit manure on plants is that it can
be used straight away without having to worry about whether it will
burn the plants after application.
At one stage, farmers in Europe were getting 2
Euros a kilo for their rabbit meat, which they considered to be a good
price. When you have a dual-purpose rabbit like the New Zealand white
rabbit then the sale of those pelts can range from anywhere from 15-50
cents depending on who your market is. However, the Chinchilla Rex
commands the most money.
Next comes the Castor Rex and then the White Rex.
One has to remember too that when the
kittens are born you will also suffer losses. Many rabbit breeders
expect losses of 25%. Rex animals are more difficult to breed and their
average litter is about 6 kittens. Their conditions are different too.
They have to be kept in separate cages to protect the fur. They are
sent to slaughter in individual boxes and their slaughtering is done
manually and slowly so as not to damage the fur.
In the USA, meat is sold at various
prices, depending on where you live. On average, however, at 2013
prices, rabbit meat can be sold retail for $6 -8 a pound, dressed.
Raising rabbits is a pleasurable
experience. Success to raising rabbits for profit are determined by 3
A good breeding program
However, with all food products there
are rules and regulations that you will need to abide by set by your
local council body. Make sure that you know these before you decide to
go into raising rabbits for meat.
There could also be zoning restrictions
involving keeping rabbits and/or selling rabbit pelts, if you are not
in an agricultural zone for keeping rabbits, or an industrial zone if
you are treating the pelts. Always check.
hope that raising rabbits for you means making a profit in the future!
Part 1 of the series on
raising rabbits looks at equipment
needed for rabbit raising as well as helpful hints in getting
started. This series has been in the works for six months as they have
tried to capture video of kits at various ages and stages of growth.
This new series is about raising rabbits for MEAT, i.e, to
EAT. Be forewarned that we will discuss rabbit raising in that format
and later videos will show some butchering - with a warning before it
actually comes up. So for the PETA crowd, men of the other gender and
the "we won't eat anything with eyes" crowd, you'll probably want to
skip these videos.
Some Homesteading Books for you on Raising Rabbits
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