Is raising rabbits right for you? This page is a beginner’s intro to rabbits as pets, reasons to keep and raise rabbits, and how to begin to raise rabbits.
Bunny snuggles give joy – just ask any ten-year-old rabbit owner! But as a rule, people of all ages enjoy rabbits, both for their cuteness and for the ease of care.
The coup de grace is the fact that nearly anyone, anywhere, can create space in their life for a rabbit no matter where they live.
There are very strong moral and emotional reasons that appear to drive a lot of the desire to keep at least one pet rabbit:
You can keep your rabbits in your home, in backyard hutches, or in a shed or barn.
Ensure that hutches are placed out of the direct sunlight, and remain attuned to weather patterns since rabbits don't do heat well.
Rabbits do best in all-wire cages. (Does the wire hurt their feet? Click here to find out.) We advocate cages rather than colonies for multiple reasons (see pages 84-86 in Rabbit Raising Problem Solver), but more than a few rabbit owners do their best to make it work.
We can help you with ideas for rabbit housing and directions for building your own do-it-yourself cages and hutches. Find free cage plans and links to our rabbit housing e-books here.
The point may arrive at which you recognize for yourself some very compelling benefits to breeding and raising rabbits. Yes, rabbits are stress relievers, but rabbits also fill physical needs. They supply wool, fur, and meat, all of which can enrich your life, the lives of your pets, and the lives of countless others around the globe.
Here are some of those benefits - do you think any may apply to your own life?
Some individuals are simply captivated with the magic of finding tiny bunnies in the nest box. Watching the little kittens grow is truly magical. Mama does instinctively do what every doe has done for the last forever, and the bunnies grow and grow. Three-week-old bunnies are the cutest bunnies ever! Before too long, the oh-so-cute bunnies become beautiful adult rabbits, able to produce their own offspring a lot sooner than you'd think.
If you're like many others, one litter may not be enough. Many folks have discovered that there are multiple reasons for raising rabbits, reasons that soar way beyond “cuteness.” We've mentioned some of these reasons above, and we'll name a few more below.
But for those of you that simply allow your male and female rabbits to produce an occasional litter, it's all good, especially when you have buyers for the pet rabbits.
And, Raising-Rabbits can help you with that - see our Rabbit Classified Ads page.
Notice: It is illegal to release foreign species into the environment in the USA. Our non-native domestic rabbits qualify as a foreign species in the Americas.
The reasons for the shift from keeping a pet rabbit to raising rabbits for various other purposes are varied. For some people, including myself, a pet rabbit is the gateway to breeding rabbits and raising at least one litter of bunnies. The experience turns out to be extremely pleasant.
Below are other very practical reasons why one might want to raise rabbits on a longer term basis. You may wish to use these products for your needs, or even to create a hobby business on the side.
Raising rabbits for show satisfies several important needs. First, recognizing and breeding toward a standard of perfection for a particular breed strengthens that breed and improves the ability of those rabbits to meet or exceed the qualities for which the breed is known. Coloration improves. Body type improves. Mothering abilities improve. Nearly any characteristic in a rabbit breed can be improved through careful selective breeding.
Second, by showing rabbits, the breeder gains the opinion of a judge who is trained to recognize excellence in each breed. The knowledge you gain from the professional opinion helps the breeder make good choices as to which rabbits to breed and which to remove from the breeding program.
Third, at a rabbit show, rabbits of a same breed, sex and age are compared to each other, turning the event into a competition complete with trophies or ribbons. For most rabbit breeders, rabbit shows are very fun, whether or not the breeder comes home with the coveted Best in Show.
Pictured are two Best of Breed winners in the running for Best in Show. On that day, Aurora Rex Rabbit Ranch's Castor Rex doe (on the left in the photo) won BIS!
You may like to keep a few angora rabbits for their wool. Angora wool is ultra-light, and extremely warm. In fact, spinners typically prefer to mix rabbit angora wool with sheep wool for weight and structure.
Wool production makes for a great cottage industry if spinning and knitting is your passion. Sell the wool raw or spun into yarn. Or, knit your own garments and sell the finished product on Etsy or another ecommerce platform.
Life seems more and more chaotic these days. The more difficult it becomes, the more people look to animals, including rabbits, for survival and self-reliance. This has been true for the last 5,000 years at least, during which time societies relied heavily on farming and homesteading lifestyles.
Rabbits can provide a LOT of meat per female rabbit! One single doe can comfortably produce 40 bunnies per year, translating to 100 pounds of rabbit meat, 40 rabbit livers, and perhaps 9 gallons of rabbit bone broth. If your family will use more than this per year, simply add one or more breeding does to the homestead.
As you calculate the needs of your family, don’t forget the dietary needs of your pet dogs and cats. They love to eat rabbits. Cats are obligate carnivores, and dogs are considered to be mostly (but not entirely) carnivorous. Rabbits are an excellent food source for both species. Even sensitive dogs and cats seem to do well when rabbit is added to their diet.
Meat rabbits can also be raised commercially. Click to learn more about commercial rabbit raising.
Fur is extremely important to people living in very cold climates. There is nothing that keeps people warm like genuine fur. Hats, tuques, mittens, coats, muffs, bed spreads, and blankets are just some ideas for rabbit fur projects. Homemade fur items are in high demand in cold regions, including Alaska.
Rex pelts sell very well in European furrier markets, Rex rabbits are the main breed for fur, though several other breeds are commercially desirable.
In reality, the fur from literally any rabbit breed will be very warm.
Fur rabbits are raised until the fur achieves its first prime at approximately 6-7 months of age. “Prime” means that the hair shafts are fully grown out with no sign of slippage or molt. Butchering is done carefully to ensure a high quality pelt, and the meat carcass becomes a “by-product.” This doesn’t at all mean wastage. A 6-month-old roaster rabbit is larger and of better overall dietary quality for both humans and pets, due to mature age and somewhat more fat content.
To sell fur commercially, you need to collect your nearly identically colored pelts into bundles of at least 40 in order to sell to a commercial furrier. When this cannot be reasonably accomplished, consider making your own products or garments out of fur and marketing them via the internet.
Once you've made your decision to raising rabbits, start small with a trio of rabbits - 1 buck, 2 does. Purchase the best breeding stock you can afford. Expect to pay around $40 - $75 for each rabbit. Some popular breeds such as Netherland Dwarfs, Holland Lops, or Continental and Flemish Giants might set you back $150 or more per animal.
Ensure that what you buy is healthy.
It is not an advantage to get breeding stock that is vaccinated with Bunny Vac.
Here is what else you are likely to need when you start breeding rabbits:
Shelter: Free-standing hutches are likely to be securely roofed, but cages and hutch frames will need a roof of some sort over them. A shed or barn works, or even a carport canopy. Or, you may keep your rabbits in your garage or other structure.
Predator Protection: This is last on the list but it is NOT the least concern. Many are the rabbit owners who lost animals to wild dogs, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, or even cougars. Make your cages with strong wire, and surround your entire rabbitry with livestock panels or other strong fencing. You won't be sorry for these precautions.
Once you start raising rabbits, go slow and get comfortable with successfully taking care of rabbits. Learn what is healthy for the rabbits and what is not. Raise a litter or three successfully. Recognize threats to rabbit health before those threats kill the rabbits. When you're ready, then add more animals to your breeding project.
Additionally, you will grow in wisdom and knowledge if you can attend local rabbit shows. The ARBA website provides the show schedules throughout the USA.
Make friends with fellow rabbit breeders. Rabbit breeders love to talk shop, and they tend to help each other and answer one another's questions. In this way you can overcome various rabbit raising challenges in record time. Your confidence and success will soar.
Rabbits are very easy to raise, but there ARE some considerations you should pay attention to, for example, weather extremes, predators, and parasites, to name a few. Feeding rabbits is important as well. Adding multiple rabbits and/or a breeding program adds extra layers to the learning curve.
The best safeguards for you and your rabbits are education and preparation!
Here are our favorite helpful resources:
There is a wealth of absolutely free information on the Raising-Rabbits website. Take advantage of it! Look through the pages, click into the website's search function to find topics that interest you, and see how others have solved problems similar to yours! If necessary, purchase a resource, whether paperback, kindle, or PDF.
Is raising rabbits right for you? We hope so!