With few exceptions, rabbit farming on a small scale,
or even not-so-small, is possible no matter where you live.
This page is our rabbit husbandry hub page - links to the nitty gritty of providing the best hands-on care for livestock rabbits, whether a hobby rabbitry, a homestead herd, or a commercial enterprise.
Commercial Rabbit Farming
Many thanks to Carla Carter for the following three guest posts. Carla is the owner of Rabbits4U, a commercial rabbit operation and breeder network that supplies raw frozen rabbits for pet dogs and cats.
Meat Rabbit Breed Choices:
Choose a rabbit breed with rapid weight gains and adaptability to your
climate. Well known for their commercial potential - large litters, excellent mothering, prepotent bucks, kits that reach 5 pounds in 8 weeks - are:
- New Zealand Whites
- Production Whites (commercial crosses containing the blood of the best commercial breeds)
- A combination of these
Some strains of Silver Fox, American rabbits, Satins, and other meat rabbit breeds may also compete well. Learn the strain's performance record before incorporating it into your stock, as the success of a commercial rabbit production
enterprise will depend on getting many fryers to market by 8 weeks of age.
Like cattle ranchers and chicken or egg ranch farmers, the commercial rabbit farmer is in it to put food on the family table. It is possible to make a living, as long as there are enough rabbits in the herd, and the processes are optimized.
- Rapid reproduction is in a rabbit's DNA. They're rabbits - they multiply like rabbits.
- Optimum rabbit welfare is a rabbit farmer's chief focus, because it is good for both the rabbit and the business.
Hobby and Homestead
"It's a herd, not a hoard"
Show rabbits are also classified as livestock. Breeders typically keep enough representatives of their chosen breed in their rabbitry to continue improving on the quality of the animals.
If you're raising meat rabbits in your backyard or country acre for your own use and that of your pets, your rabbit breed choices will expand to fit your preferences and needs. Just know that, while "all rabbits are made of meat," some breeds, even if they're big ones, might not yield as much meat as other breeds.
You will likely need rabbit pedigrees for your show rabbits and meat rabbits.
Starting your Rabbitry or Farm
To start out farming rabbits, in the big city or in the country, your best bet is to start with just a few rabbits at first. This is in order that you can learn the needs of your rabbits and get comfortable with the whole process so that any mistakes don't result in irrecoverable losses.
- Start with a buck and two does.
- The does will each need TWO cages measuring 36 inches by 30 inches. One cage will house the doe, and her litter up until 6 weeks of age. At this point the cage will be getting crowded, and the doe will be glad if you move her to the second cage. The kits will remain in the first cage until market day.
- Butcher when the young rabbits reach 4.5 to 6 pounds. Market day typically falls between 8-12 weeks of age, depending on breed, quality of feed, and specifications of the market.
- Down the road, when it’s time to think about replacing your brood does, you will want a couple more cages. Retain a couple large and healthy young females out of your litters, and grow them to 7-8 months. At this point you can retire the older doe, and put the new doe into service.
- Hopefully you won’t need to replace the buck for several years.
As your confidence and understanding of rabbit husbandry grow, you will be able to make your next choices and decisions from a position of expertise.
Examples of rabbit farms here
Eco-Friendly Rabbit Farming in Ukraine/Hungary
(Very interesting - off-site page opens in new window)
House the Herd
Simple and clean is best for your rabbits and their health.
Set up your barn or rabbitry in such a way that your list of chores will be shorter, not longer.
- Single tiers of cages are always easier, if space allows
- Place worm beds under the cages. This adds the possibility of another income stream to the bottom line.
- Ensure excellent air circulation to minimize respiratory distress or ammonia odor build-up. (Worms and fly predators help to control smells)
Each rabbit will need its own cage.
Consider building your own detachable rabbit cages and rabbit hutch frames. We offer a few free plans, and you can purchase our full collection of enhanced and illustrated plans.
More info at Rabbit Hutch Building Plans and at World of Raising Rabbits
Building your own rabbit cages allows you to increase your
rabbit farming project at your own rate. When you run out of rabbit housing space, you can build
At some point, a growing commercial operation may shell out the big bucks for a commercial-grade cage system, complete with built-in nesting boxes and manure disposal.
Are Cages a Must?
For commercial rabbits: yes. It is the only way to keep the rabbits safe, healthy, and reproducing. Any breakdown in the process results in red ink on the bottom line.
How about colony raising?
There are whole online forums filled with people who colony-raise their rabbits. They love doing it, and it seems wonderful. I guarantee they are not colony-raising on a commercial scale.
Rabbit colonies, unless extreme measures are taken, can result in escapees, disease and parasites, death by fighting, loss of kits for many reasons, and predation of up to 70% of the offspring, possibly.
If you lose 70% of your market animals to the local coyote, raccoon, feral cat, red-tailed hawk, and all their buddies, it'll be YOU going hungry.
Rabbit Herd Health
Keep Your Rabbits Healthy
Understand and manage the most frequently encountered rabbit
diseases, parasites, infections, and non-infectious challenges to rabbit
Rabbit Farming Chores
Rabbits for Show
The same conditioning mix will also improve your pregnant and/or
lactating rabbits' nutritional status.
Keeping rabbits cool in hot climates is essential for the survival of your rabbits.
Rabbits are quiet, timid, and unobtrusive. In other words, rabbit farming is easy on the neighbors, as long as you keep the flies under control.
Keep the droppings raked up and tilled into the garden or moved to a covered compost heap
Set up worm beds under your cages
Keep a few chickens, ducks or both, to snap the flies out of the air and to devour the fly maggots and other insects before their numbers get out of hand. There's a huge benefit to this last suggestion - "free" eggs!
are a fabulous and very effective way to wipe out your fly population. It's safe, non-poisonous, and completely natural. Plus, Fly Predators CAN be used successfully in conjunction with chickens to nearly eradicate flies.
Click on the banner to get started on freedom-from-flies today!
Learn more at our Fly Predators page.
CONTROL AMMONIA LEVELS
Ammonia smell in animal urine can be dangerous to your animals, so eliminating ammonia odors is essential. And all the better if it's easy to do. With Spalding Labs’ Bye Bye Odor, rabbit farming is that much easier - just ‘spritz spritz spritz.’ Voila, odors minimized.
Learn more at Ammonia Levels, or...
Go straight to Spalding Labs and get the straight scoop
Rabbit Manure Collection
Rabbit farming results in lots of manure. Some outdoor
systems allow the rabbit manure to fall to the ground, where it can be shoveled
before the piles grow too large.
But, we wanted to bring your attention to an
ingenious manure collection system that our friend Lisa in Connecticut set up. Maybe something like this
could simplify your life, too?
Protect the Herd from Rabbit Predators
Do not for a minute underestimate the capability, brute strength, and determination of raccoons, coyotes, foxes, weasels, bears, eagles, hawks, mountain lions, snakes, rats, and other predators to rip a flimsy rabbit hutch to pieces and help themselves to the rabbit(s) inside the hutch.
Rabbit Farming Products
Meat, Fur, Wool, and more
Rabbit farming is not a "Get Rich Quick" scheme. But the more products that your rabbit farm can market, the more likely it is that you may eventually make your hobby a profitable one, and then quit your day job.
Note that there may be state and federal regulations that apply to your enterprise. Please be sure to do your due diligence and educate yourself as to these laws and regulations.
You Can Sell...
- Fryer rabbits. Market fryers are sold live by weight to a meat processor
- Meat. Sell whole or cut up, frozen or fresh. Meat can be sold by the unit or by the pound, and prices vary by area.
- Breeding Stock. Other breeders or individuals new to rabbit farming may be looking for high quality pedigreed and healthy rabbits that are excellent representatives of their breed.
- Homemade Pet Food. Cats are considered obligate carnivores with digestive systems that rely solely on raw meat. Dogs are very nearly so. Feed them a species-appropriate diet, and their health improves, sometimes dramatically.
See Raw Rabbit. (Would you be interested in raising meat rabbits for the pet market? Let us know!)
- Rabbit pelts. Rex pelts are in high demand in the USA and in Europe. The big name furriers need "bundles" of at least 40 matching pelts in order to craft their fine garments.
Rex is not the only breed that is sought after. White, black, chinchilla and wild agouti pelts of various breeds are also desirable.
The most valuable pelts are the senior primes, harvested between October and March (in the Northern Hemisphere) when the adult winter coats are fully prime (no sign of molt).
- Sell 'green' (preserved but not tanned) pelts
- Sell your professionally tanned pelts to a furrier
- Tan your own rabbit pelts (or have the professionals do it) and utilize them yourself by making and marketing the garments, mocs, blankets, pet toys (and more)
(fiber). Angora wool can be sheared or plucked every few months. Sell
the loose wool, or spin it and sell the fiber. Or, create your own
angora products such as shawls, sweaters, socks and blankets for sale.
For more info on wooled breeds, see Angora
Rabbits, German Angoras.
- Manure/fertilizer/mulch. There's a plethora of uses for the brown gold
that accumulates (rapidly!) under the rabbit cages. Sell it by the pick-up load -
gardeners LOVE it. Sell it by the used feed bag. Sell it composted or
fresh. Offer a low "U-Shovel" rate to your gardening
- Fresh Vegetables. If you have a vegetable garden on which you've spread copious amounts of rabbit manure, you're likely to reap an abundance of veggies. You can sell your surplus fresh vegetables at the local Farmer's Market or to friends and neighbors.
Several species of worms can inhabit rabbit droppings. Large, well-fed
earthworms and red wrigglers (and whatever other name they go by in your
area) are valuable to fishermen and to others wishing to populate their
own worm bin projects.
- Rabbit Recipes and cook books. Compile your favorites into a cookbook and market it with your other products.
For thousands of years, folks have raised their own meat. It is only in the industrial age that we've forgotten what innards look like.
Maybe it's time that we decentralize our food supply by raising our own meat and tending our own gardens!
Subscribe to Yahoo! MeatRabbits Group
There's nothing like having at your fingertips a group of friends who are all good at rabbit farming, and who have all encountered various problems and solved them.
Take advantage of their expertise! Join the Yahoo! MeatRabbits Group.
Then, when you feel capable, be sure to pay it forward, and help other newbies with their questions.
Harvest The Rabbits
Do you get grossed out at the idea of
killing and butchering rabbits?
Are you of the opinion that butchering rabbits is cruel or
that humans don't need meat? That we're herbivores by nature?
I'm surprised you read this far.
Consider this: There is not a single human on this planet that can digest the complex cellulose in plants. And neither can herbivores.
But true herbivores utilize armies of bacteria and other life forms to do the digesting for them, mechanisms that humans will never be able to employ. We don't have the anatomy or physiology that herbivores have.
Eating only plants eventually exposes humans to insurmountable nutritional shortfalls that can become crippling or fatal.
Humans have been meat-eaters throughout the
entire time frame of recorded human history, and our digestive
system is still a meat-eating one. Humans are healthiest for the long term when we eat at least some part of our diet in (grass-fed) animal protein
and animal-based fats on a regular basis.
It cannot be considered cruel
to butcher and eat meat when consumption of animal protein is a requirement of the human body for
Have we evolved beyond the point where we
need to kill in order to eat, as some believe? "We're intelligent enough to find other
ways to eat that don't involve killing another animal," I've been told.
But, apparently there are no other options...
The fact that dietary vitamin supplements are essential for vegans to remain healthy is stark proof that a vegan diet is inadequate for long-term health.
You can certainly try it for yourself, though...
Certified Holistic Health Counselor Alex Jamieson did...
Ms. Jamieson's conclusion:
"I believe there is a middle way. There is no ONE way that everyone should live or eat. People can still love animals and care about protecting the environment AND honor their own animal bodies and consume the foods that they need."
We're omnivores. There is no shame in accepting the truth.
more about animal rights, animal welfare, and human health here.
Add your Comments or
Share your Experiences!
Your comments or experiences can help others who read them. So, comment away, and if you have pictures, you can post up to four of them. Pictures are always helpful.
(Have questions? Perhaps your question was already asked, and answered, below. If not, Karen has answered hundreds of your questions in her book: Rabbit Raising Problem Solver, covering every aspect of pet rabbit and livestock rabbit care as well as rabbit health and disease. We recommend it!)
Comments from Other Visitors...
Click below to see additional posts that other visitors have made to this page...
Rabbits for Dog Food Not rated yet
I am considering raising rabbits to feed to my dogs as a raw diet. Does anyone have experience with this? Do you dress the rabbits before feeding?
Where to find rabbits for meat production Not rated yet
The only rabbit sources I have found are for show rabbits and seem to be fairly expensive. Where do you suggest we search for rabbits to start our food …
Tanning your own pelts Not rated yet
I was just wondering if you ever tan your own rabbit hides to make things out of. I'm considering doing it just for my little family, thought it was …
Bethany Boyd Not rated yet
Just wanted to post a pic of our newest member of the family, our red NZ, should give us some nice show buns for 4H, (her last litter had a trio that entered …
Suspicious please help! Not rated yet
I was worried about two of my mixed breed rabbits today. As I was trimming their nails I noticed they had snot! And it was stringy, It doesn't appear as …
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