When you hear the word livestock, what’s the first kind of animal that springs to mind? Most folks would probably answer cows, or perhaps pigs or chickens.
Another moment of thought will remind us of goats, llamas, horses and other animals.
Whatever the species, each kind of livestock has its own pros and cons to make it suitable for different kinds of farming operations, locations, and more.
Rabbits are regularly talked about as the ideal type of livestock for very small-scale, space-limited or even backyard operations
They are certainly easy to handle, and inexpensive to buy, but are rabbits profitable to raise?
Yes, rabbits can be profitable but returns on investment are typically quite low. Markets for rabbit products are very small in the United States compared to other animals, and the yield of meat and other products is likewise small.
Rabbits tend to be appealing to a certain kind of homesteader: usually people who have very little space, very little money to begin with or those who are just worried about interacting with larger and more dangerous animals.
Rabbits can handily cover all of those limitations, but if you aren’t doing it strictly as a hobby, the money is probably not going to be there. I’ll tell you everything you need to know down below…
Rabbits Do Have Perks Compared to Other Animals
Before we go too much further, it’s important to acknowledge that rabbits do have some genuine advantages compared to other species of livestock, and for some of us these advantages might be reason enough to invest in a rabbit operation.
For starters, rabbits multiply very, very quickly and it is very easy to get them to breed! Yes, it’s a stereotype for a good reason.
A breeding pair of rabbits in good health can crank out several dozen bunnies every single year, and after that, assuming you want to, the growth of your herd can be exponential.
Rabbits also grow and mature quickly, and if you’re raising them for meat or fur where it is legal, they’ll be ready for slaughter in just a few months, far faster than most other species.
Lastly, the logistics of keeping and caring for rabbits is quite simple compared to any other common species of livestock.
Rabbits don’t need very much room at all, are pretty easy to handle and accidents and injuries associated with them when they do go out of control tend to be minor.
Rabbits also don’t require much food, meaning you are going to be spending a fortune on keeping them fed and growing.
All good things, but not all there is to know if you want to raise rabbits for a profit.
Rabbits Must Be Sold in Bulk to Be Consistently Profitable
The major problem with selling rabbits as a source of income is that the margins, the return on your money, is very, very small per rabbit in all but the rarest and most competitive of markets and circumstances.
There are many who assert that rabbits are a great source of money because they show off the greatest possible margins as “the usual,” when those margins typically only occur rarely. Such windfall returns are not the norm.
Chances are your returns on a given rabbit will be measured in a few dollars at most, and that means you’re going to have to sell lots and lots and lots of rabbits to make the investment of your time worthwhile.
More on that in a bit, but first we need to know what rabbits are sold for before we can sharpen our pencils and figure out whether this whole endeavor is worth it.
What are Rabbits Sold For?
Rabbits, like most species of livestock, can be kept, raised and sold for a variety of purposes, and those purposes aren’t necessarily related to the products that can be harvested from their carcasses.
For many, the most obvious and most appealing use for rabbits is as pets.
This is a reliable plan around Easter, where ignorant parents will set out to get a rabbit for overexcited and eager children, only for that animal to turn into a burden and be either released into the wild, euthanized or otherwise mistreated because of it.
Raising a batch of bunnies to be sold as adorable, living trinkets is a great way to make money off of people who have more money than sense, but the ethics of doing so are very dodgy even though the returns can be lucrative.
In all cases, rabbits are rarely chosen as pets outside of Easter season, and for that reason alone this source of income is extremely time sensitive and very temperamental.
Believe it or not, rabbit meat is reasonably popular in some places around North America, but it is nowhere near close to the popularity of beef, pork or chicken.
Rabbits have a decent conversion ratio that is typically about 3 to 1, and the cost of their feed is not extravagant assuming you aren’t buying commercially prepared pet rabbit food.
However, rabbit meat rarely sells for more than $3 a pound live, or $8 a pound processed at wholesale.
A mature rabbit will usually yield about three to three and a half pounds of meat and will reach maturity in about 2 months or perhaps a little longer.
You can do the math based on feed costs alone absent any other expenses and see that you are making literally pennies per hour for your time. Not great, unless you are selling tons and tons of rabbits.
Rabbits were once extremely popular livestock sold for their fur, but with the increasingly strict regulation and stigma associated with animal fur, for some reason, this is one sector for revenue that is probably not going to be worth your time if you want to raise rabbits.
Rabbits produce one valuable resource even while they are alive. Rabbit droppings can be an important part of compost and other fertilizers, and rabbits produce a lot of the stuff.
However, the market for manure as a component of compost or fertilizer is competitive with similarly small margins.
I know it’s possible to further capitalize on your rabbits by selling the droppings keeping rabbits with the express purpose of selling the droppings alone is probably going to be a net loss once you factor in all other costs, including food, medical care, and so forth.
You Must Understand Your Market!
Just like any other business endeavor, it is imperative that you research and understand your market and your target customers before you embark!
Failing to do so is just going to lead to financial loss and you having a whole bunch of rabbits on hand that you can’t do a thing with except take care of them.
The fact of the matter is that most people don’t want rabbits as a pet, and even when they’re at their most popular around Easter competition is likely to be fierce.
The market for rabbit meat, too, is very small and even that is highly contentious.
You won’t be able to sell rabbit meat to most of your friends, family and neighbors for the simple fact that rabbits are considered strictly verboten by most people.
Think about it: they are cute, fluffy, cuddly and generally beloved by most animal lovers. It might not be as hard to sell their meat as it would from a dog or cat, but it’s not far behind in the eyes of most folks.
All in all, the market for rabbits in North America is very small.
Costs are More than Just Feed if You Want to Do it Right
It’s easy to get taken by the fuzzy “rabbit math” that is sometimes peddled when people are touting the supposed fortunes that they, and you, can supposedly make when raising and selling rabbits.
It usually looks something like this: cost of the rabbit- free; cost of food- $0.32 a pound; sale price of rabbit carcass- $40 to $50. How could you go wrong?
This is a classic blunder in accounting, or else deliberate obfuscation.
When you take the lowest possible price of feed and extrapolate it against the retail sale of a whole rabbit carcass at a specialty butcher shop, it’s easy to start seeing dollar signs dancing in front of your eyes.
That won’t be the reality for your operation as we discussed above.
You’ll also have to factor in medicine and medical care, bedding and all sorts of other factors that will eat into your profit, and then of course there is your precious time.
Chances are Raising Rabbits is Not a Great Investment of Your Time
The bottom line is this: for an average operation that is raising around 80 rabbits, pays attention to the bottom line on food and medicine costs, and has a reliable, if not spectacular, buyer you can expect to make anywhere from $300 to $450 at the end of 2 months or a little longer when your rabbits are ready for slaughter. That’s it.
That same 80 rabbits, if you had a truly exceptional wholesale buyer and watched every nickel you might make about $2,000.
If we unpack that for a year’s worth of labor raising and selling rabbits for slaughter, you’re going to pocket about $12,000 at the top end, and that’s before taxes.
That figure can be scaled up of course, and theoretically scaled up as far and as long as you have buyers.
But ask yourself if this is really the best use of your time considering how precious little money there is to be made on rabbits?
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.
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