City Farming: Breeding Rabbits for Profit
Getting Started Selling Angora Fiber
Many people would like to be backyard farmers. Unfortunately, most city ordinances and even more Homeowner’s Associations frown on livestock kept in the backyard. There are even some that limit the number of household pets a homeowner can keep. A way around this is to raise rabbits.
Most city ordinances consider a rabbit a household pet and not livestock. Plus, many neighborhood covenants will limit the number of dogs and cats you may keep but they don’t make any mention of rabbits.You should always double check your city laws and your covenants to be sure.
Keeping rabbits can be very profitable if you are willing to do the work. One Angora rabbit will produce two pounds of fiber (fur) per year and approximately twenty baby rabbits.Currently, the going rate for angora fiber sold online is about $9.00/oz and meat is selling locally for $2.50/lb. One rabbit can gross you over $500 per year if you take into account the fur from its offspring and the meat.
To get started you need to decide if you are more interested in selling fiber or butchering your rabbits for meat. Angora rabbits are definitely the most profitable if you wish to sell fiber.
Purchasing a doe with pedigree papers will cost you between $50 and $100 and you might have to travel a distance to obtain one. Rabbits cannot be shipped through the mail. This investment will be returned after about three months.
You should purchase at least two does and one buck.This will allow you to breed your rabbits and refine the colors of your fiber. Colored fiber is more valuable than white.
The rabbit’s fur will grow very long and shed about once every three months .If you live in a very cold climate and your rabbits are outdoors, they may not shed during the winter months. When they do start shedding, a dog comb will collect the fur, which easily pulls away from the rabbit. This does not hurt the animal. After it is collected, store it in Gladware tubs so that it does not mat. It is ready to market to weavers and spinners through online sites such as eBay.
Profit from Your Rabbits—Increase Your Bottom Line
Based on several years experience raising Angora rabbits, one French Angora rabbit can gross around $400 a year in fiber sales. This figure is assuming that you have a high-producing rabbit, a unique fiber color, prime-quality plucked fur, and customers. If you remove any of those things from the equation then the final figure will be lower. Animals that are kept well-fed, groomed, and exercised will produce better quality fur.
A breeding doe can produce about 20 healthy kits per year if you do not over-breed. If you bought pedigreed breeding stock, you can expect to receive $65 for a buck and $100 for a doe provided that the animal is a desirable color and either meets show standards or comes from a proven line of fiber producers. You should keep meticulous breeding records if you intend to sell breeding stock.
After examining six years of records, with three breeding does and two breeding bucks, our rabbitry kept an average of sixty fiber-producing rabbits at a time and grossed an average of $500 per rabbit per year. Out of this you will need to take out the cost of feed, equipment, and packing supplies.
Cost of Rabbit Feed
The best way to cut the cost of your operation is to use very little commercial rabbit feed.Our rabbitry constructed a rabbit run that could be moved around the yard and the rabbits were allowed to graze every other day. The size of your yard will determine how many rabbits you can accommodate in this way. Every rabbit was fed a ration of alfalfa hay and leftover garden produce in addition to grazing. Breeding does were given a ration of commercial feed immediately before and after kindling to help them with their milk production.During the winter, all rabbits were given a ration of commercial feed to supplement their ration of hay.All rabbits were also given a mineral block.
You should bag the clippings from your yard as you mow and then feed them to the rabbits.Be careful that there are no pesticides sprayed on the grass or you don’t have any noxious weeds in your yard. Do not save the clippings unless you dry them thoroughly. Mold and rot will set into the damp clippings, making them unfit as feed. If you do not have enough clippings, send your children to the neighbors and have them mow over there.They will make additional money from the mowing jobs.
Our rabbitry allowed for three bales of hay per rabbit per year and six bags of feed.All other food-stuffs were procured from the yard or the garden.Hay bales cost about $4.00/bale from a local farmer and feed was about $10 a bag at the local feed store.Total cost of feed on average per rabbit would run about $72/year.
Cost of Packaging
Every ounce of fiber sold needed to be packaged in a hard plastic tub to prevent matting.The best producers will require about 48 tubs. Wal-Mart sells off-brand disposable plastic containers with lids at 3/$1.00. Each one comfortably holds 1 oz of fiber. At this price, each rabbit will cost you $16.00 in packing materials per year.
Cost of Equipment
Equipment will break and need to be replaced.The most cost effective way to replace cages is to make them (see below) .They will hold up longer and you can make them to fit your size specifications. Our rabbitry allowed for ten new cages a year at a cost of $10.00 per cage. Other equipment, such as water bottles, combs, and other miscellaneous, ran another $100 a year.
Building a Cage for a Breeding Doe
Commercial cages are expensive, they don't have enough room, and they fall apart. For very little money, you can build a durable structure that will keep your rabbits happy and healthy.
A breeding doe requires more room than the average rabbit. The ideal dimensions of her cage should be 4 ft x 2 ft x 2 ft. with a drop down partition that can separate the cage into 2ft x 2ft x 2 ft sections.
Build the sides and back of the cage out of heavy plywood but do not use pressure-treated lumber. Rabbits are gnawers and the chemicals used in that type of wood can make them sick. Instead, paint the wood with a non-toxic paint in order to keep it from decomposing. The front and bottom of the cage should be made from chicken wire. This allows the rabbit to be protected on three sides but receive sunshine through the front and fecal matter to pass through the floor. The cage should be on a stand which raises it at least 2 feet off the ground. A tray or collecting system needs to be attached to the bottom of the cage for waste products, and a heavy detachable wood cover needs to be made for the top.
Raising Rabbits as a Business
If you have top producers and an operation that allows for about 60 rabbits, it is possible to make a profit of about $2400 per year. The amount of work involved is huge, but in our case this project was run by two kids ages ten and fourteen.They learned all aspects of running a business, filled our freezer, and made about $1000 apiece per year.
Raising rabbits is not for the lazy! Every morning and evening, the animals require care. They must be groomed regularly and fed promptly. Record-keeping is essential and requires a lot of time and attention to detail. The rewards come from the character development and business knowledge that running a rabbitry can impart.