Are you thinking about moving to a homestead or off-grid lifestyle? If so, you might want to consider keeping rabbits – a popular choice for homesteaders because they are quiet and don’t need a lot of space.
When you’re homesteading, you probably have a few primary goals in mind. You need to be able to grow enough crops and raise enough animals to provide your family with enough food to get you through the year.
However, if you are lucky enough to have a surplus of food, you might be wondering whether you can make some extra cash with your bounty – you may want to make a profit.
So are rabbits actually profitable?
Rabbits grow quickly and give birth to large litters. They can supply multiple income streams. They can be sold as meat, pets, or breeding stock. Their pelts and droppings are also popular products.
The ability to easily raise large numbers of rabbits that can be sold in many different ways makes rabbits one of the most profitable animals to keep.
Yes, rabbits are actually profitable. A single rabbit, when sold for meat, can make a significant gross profit of $30 -$40. Scale the one rabbit to 1000 and an estimated gross profit of $30,000 to $40,000 can be achieved.
Before we all rush out to buy loads of rabbits, it is important to first remember that a profit (from anything) can only be made if the costs involved are tightly controlled, and you get a positive cashflow in the end.
So we need to consider what costs are involved with keeping these animals. When the cost and potential revenue have been proven, it is then possible to calculate how much money can be made.
Although cost and revenue will depend on individual circumstances (it is difficult to give a single cut-and-dry number), we can look at the factors involved in general.
Do You Have to Pay to Be Licensed to Raise Rabbits?
A few rabbits in a hutch in a family garden is fine. However, for those that wish to develop larger commercial operations, things may be different.
Each state will have variousformalities and regulations. Most will require any such operation to be in a suitable location (sometimes an inspected location), and have a license. This is not normally a complex affair, and Are Rabbits Actually Profitable? .
Something else to keep in mind is whether you plan on selling rabbit meat to restaurants, shops, or other customers.
Most states have meat processing regulations in place. Some may allow you to process rabbits on-site without the need for inspection while others might dictate that your rabbit meat be processed in an inspected facility.
Even people who plan on raising rabbits to sell as pets for others aren’t immune from their fair share of regulations and fees. You may have to pay for breeding licenses or other documentation that is simply considered the cost of doing business.
Cost of Housing Rabbits
Rabbits can dig under just about any fence. Because of this, they are normally kept in secure hutches. The cost of adequate housing for rabbits is highest when starting the process. It’s a one-time expense that should require minimal upkeep when done correctly.
Commercial hutches typically cost around $100 – $200. That said, each rabbit requires 6 square feet in an enclosure, and 12 square feet for exercise, so the number of hutches needed will depend on how many rabbits are to be kept.
You do not necessarily need to buy brand-new hutches. You can make your own with plenty of unused pallets and a few spare rolls of wire – and of course, plenty of nails. You can make your own at a fraction of the cost of a commercial hutch.
Cost of Feeding Rabbits
You’re not going to get something for nothing – and raising rabbits is no different! Rabbits need feeding and feeding well if we want to achieve a quality product. The more rabbits, the higher the feed cost (but of course, the higher return on your investment, too).
They are not fussy eaters, however, and can be fed a combination of hay, pellets, and fresh vegetables to provide them with all the nutrients that they need.
Hay will cost between $5 and $6 for a mini-bale, and pellets can cost $15-$20 for a 10-pound bag.
On average a rabbit that weighs (6-10 pounds, 4.54 kgs) will need one-quarter cup of pellets combined with some fresh vegetables every day
That said, you can supplement your rabbits’ diet with things like leafy greens, so they can potentially eat fewer pellets and hay (the store bought items) and more items that you can produce for free or cheap on your homestead yourself.
Slaughtering and Processing Costs
Of course, not everyone will be raising rabbits for meat, however, those that can may be able to buy the necessary equipment for around $200.
Often, you can use equipment that you might already have on hand for processing other types of animals and meat, such as chickens. This might reduce your costs if you already have the gear on hand.
If you don’t, you might be able to score free or gently used equipment at a lower price by checking places like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
There may be a cost associated with packaging depending on how the meat is sold, but this should cost no more than a few cents per animal.
If you can do this all yourself, you’ll save a significant amount of money – however, again, if you need to hire someone to do it (based on licensing and regulation for meat processing where you live), you may need to factor in an additional expense
Although rabbits are not very demanding they will need to be fed, watered, and kept clean.
Whilst it is possible to easily care for a certain number of rabbits once a certain number of animals are involved this work may require extra manpower.
Employing staff can be expensive with a minimum wage of around $15 per hour. This could prove to be expensive, especially when you consider that there may be other expenses related to having employees besides just their wages, such as paying for disability, insurance, and healthcare.
It is important to remember that, as with any business, the IRS will want to know how much profit you are making to ensure that they have their share. An accountant will take this work on board at a cost of around $1,000.
If you’re planning on just raising a few rabbits to sell from your homestead, you probably won’t need to worry about these costs – but if you plan on starting a full-fledged rabbit raising enterprise, it’s something to keep in mind.
Now that we have an idea of the costs involved with raising rabbits, we can now look at what level of income we might be able to expect.
The income is ultimately going to depend on how many rabbits we can produce and sell each year. A single doe will give birth to approximately 12 kits with every litter. A single doe can produce seven or eight litters every year.
We can calculate from these figures that a single doe can produce somewhere in the region of 100 kits in a single year.
The income from these animals will depend on how and where they are sold. For example, you can expect different levels of profit if you are selling live animals versus meat, pelts, or other products.
Selling Rabbits for Meat
When selling rabbits for meat, an animal that will grow to a significant weight is preferable since the income will be based on the weight of the meat. This starts with choosing the right breed.
Some breeds can grow up to 15 to 20 pounds (9.07 kg).
A good estimate would be that one rabbit should produce 80 young in one year. If the young grow to 15 pounds (6.8 kg) and the meat can be sold for $8 per pound this would create an income from one animal of approximately $9,600.
That is an estimate for what can be produced from one female. Two females could produce an income of $19,200.
Another potential income source from rabbits is pelts. These do not need to be thrown away – pelts are used by the craft industry to create fashion items and clothing. You can sell raw pelts, or have them tanned before you sell them.
Pelts will sell for between $2 – $30 depending on the pattern and color of the fur. This is not necessarily a huge income, but the pelts would otherwise be thrown away. Good money for a waste product.
The rabbit’s fur can also be sold. Its soft, luxurious feel makes it popular for certain products within various crafting industries.
Not all rabbit fur will be suitable for selling as fiber – there are specific breeds that are best for those. Not only that, but any rabbits that supply suitable fur will require special attention while they are growing. You’ll need to brush and groom the fur of these animals regularly.
The fur of some specialized breeds can be sold for more than $16 per ounce.
Selling Rabbits as Pets
Another easy way to make money with rabbits is to sell them as live animals for the pet market. This choice avoids any of the costs involved with slaughtering, butchering, and packaging.
Pet stores will often pay in the region of $20 for a rabbit, although this can increase substantially for certain breeds and cute-looking animals. Again, various licensing fees and regulations may still apply.
Breeding Rabbits for Show
Certain breeds are popular in show circles and can sell for more than $300 apiece. More attention and care are needed to supply this market as they will demand that an animal is perfect and completely healthy.
Pinkies Can Also Be Sold
When a rabbit gives birth to a kit that is dead it is called a pinkie. It is an unpleasant fact that not every young animal survives. However, even pinkies can be sold.
Snake owners will buy pinkies as a source of food and will pay in the region of $3 -$5. This isn’t a lot of money by any means – and certainly not something you should aspire to – but may allow you to make a bit of extra money from an otherwise unfortunate occurrence.
When Waste is Not Waste
Rabbits produce large quantities of droppings that require some form of disposal. However, rabbit droppings are rich in valuable nutrients – these make them a product that is in high demand by the gardening community.
It is not unusual to see rabbit droppings for sale at $55 for a 40-pound bag.
Having looked at what costs are involved when breeding rabbits for profit, we can see that after the initial costs, ongoing costs are relatively low.
The highest cost will be any of those related to feed and labor. We can estimate that the cost of raising a rabbit to get to approximately 5 pounds (2.27 kilogram) in weight would cost in the region of $5-$7.
We have seen that rabbits can be sold in many ways.
Depending on the size of the rabbits and how they are butchered and packed the offspring from a single female rabbit could create an income of approximately $9,600 in her lifespan.
- Live Animals. Rabbits can be sold as live animals for the pet market and can achieve a price of $20, depending on factors such as the rabbit’s appearance and the location in which you are trying to sell. They can also be sold to show circles as exhibition animals and can achieve a price of $300 or more.
- Pelts. The pelts, a potential waste product, can be sold to craft industries for between $2 and $30 depending on the color and the pattern of the fur. The fur is also a product that can be sold as fiber to craft and other commercial industries for around $16 per ounce.
- Rabbit Droppings. Rabbit droppings have the perfect ratio of carbon-to-nitrogen (about 25:1) making them a popular organic fertilizer for gardeners to revitalize their land. This superb product can often be found on sale at $55 for a 40-pound bag.
- Pinkies. Even when some of the newborn rabbits do not survive, they can still be sold as pinkies. They are popular among those who keep snakes as a food product. They can often achieve a price of between $3 to $5.
If we look at a single 5 pounds (2.27 kilogram) rabbit costing $7 in total to raise and then being sold as meat for $30 -$40, this is a significant gross profit. With a single female rabbit producing approximately 100 young per year, the gross profit would be $4,000 from the group.
In addition to this, the pelt could be sold, as well as its droppings. This could easily add another $1,000 to the gross figure.
The specific net profit that you can achieve is difficult to quantify as it depends on market factors in different areas in addition to how well costs are controlled. We could, perhaps, suggest that a single female rabbit could produce a net profit in the region of $2,500.
Scale this figure to larger quantities and add the extra income streams, and it is easy to see that, regardless of how you crunch the numbers, rabbits can be quite profitable!