How Much Does It Cost To Raise Rabbits For Meat?


pen of market rabbits at the 2019 Richland County Fair, in Mansfield, OH

Raising rabbits for meat is becoming more and more popular. Anyone with even a small yard can raise a few rabbits!

Now to the big question: how much will it cost to raise those rabbits to butchering weight?

The cost to raise a fryer (young meat rabbit) up to 5 pounds is $4.65-6.30 each, depending upon your cost of feed.

It’s a confusing world out there when you are looking for information about raising your own rabbits!

It’s easy to find people showing you how they raise their rabbits, but tough to get the numbers, especially feed costs!

We’re going to go through the costs to raise fryers to market weight (5 pounds) and show you how to calculate the prices to raise rabbits with your locally available feeds.

Considering raising meat rabbits but wondering what you are getting into? Check out my article Raising Rabbits: How Hard Is It? for details.

Rabbit feed
(cost per 50# bag)
Feed cost
(per pound)
Cost to raise fryer
(to 5 pounds
with 3:1 feed ratio)
$15.49$0.31$4.65
$16.99$0.34$5.10
$18.99$0.38$5.70
$20.99$0.42$6.30
These are examples of feeds available in my area at a local farm store. Look around for your area’s prices. Be sure to compare the same quality of feeds with the same protein percent.

Costs only apply to meat type rabbits on pellets

If you are interested in raising rabbits that are not standard meat rabbit breeds, your costs and time to market weight will vary substantially from the numbers you see here.

These numbers apply best to rabbits like Californians (pictured above) and New Zealand Whites (pictured below) the common meat breeds.

New Zealand White doe in her cage at the fair
A beautiful New Zealand White doe.

If you want to raise your rabbits on feeds other than pellets or using pellets as only a part of the ration, you’ll get some ideas but will not get any exact costs.

Why? Your costs and time to market will vary wildly once you move off of pellets only or meat rabbit genetics.

Can you do it? Sure. How will it work out? Not sure.

It depends upon what exactly you choose to do and how your well your rabbits perform on that ration.

chart showing the feed to gain ratios in growing meat rabbits (fryers)
Chart showing the the feed to gain ratios in fryers. These numbers should highlight the importance of good genetics and good feed. The longer it takes for a rabbit to reach 5 pounds, the more it will cost you per fryer!

How to figure the total cost per fryer

If you are raising a meat type rabbit and are feeding only pellets, the cost to raise a fryer up to 5 pounds will be 15 times your cost per pound of feed.

How did I come up with 15? Rabbits gain at a 3:1 ratio, which means for every 3 pounds of feed (pellets) they are given they gain 1 pound of body weight.

Commercial meat-type weanling rabbits that eat a good balanced ration should achieve a feed conversion ratio of about 3:1 (3 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of weight gain). 

https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/rabbit_tracks_feeds_and_feeding

Since you want the rabbits to be 5 pounds: 5 pound rabbit x 3 pounds of feed per pound of gain = 15 pounds of feed needed per fryer.

Find your local prices on rabbit feed

Rabbit feed around here is currently $15.49 per bag for a basic feed and up to $20.99 per bag, depending upon what company and formulation you choose.

I’m not including the small 5-10 pound bag sizes, they are very high priced per pound. These pet size bags are around $1.00 per pound.

That would make the 50 pound bag cost $50.00! Yikes! Get the bigger bag to get the best priced feed.

With those two prices as our price range it will cost you between $4.65-6.30 per fryer. Shop around, you could easily find better prices than these!

How to get the price on your feed? It’s easy: take the price of the bag divided by the pounds in the bag, this gives you price per pound of the feed.

Now take that price per pound and multiply by 15 to get the cost to get your fryer up to 5 pounds.

How to figure the cost per fryer (the math)

Here’s the math:

Feed cost using $15.49 per 50 pound bag of rabbit feed

$15.49 divided by 50=$0.3098 (We’ll use $0.31 per pound)

$0.31 x 15=$4.65 $4.65 to get a fryer to 5 pounds using $15.49 per bag feed

Feed cost using $20.99 per 50 pound bag of rabbit feed

$20.99 divided by 50=$0.4198 (We’ll use $0.42 per pound)

$0.42 x 15= $6.30 $6.30 to get a fryer to 5 pounds using $20.99 per bag feed

The table at the beginning of the article shows the cost per bag, per pound and total cost of raising a fryer to the 5 pound market weight.

When shopping around for your feed, be sure to compare the same ingredients (corn added, hay only, etc) and the same protein percentages.

Raising your rabbits on a lower quality feed or a lower protein percentage feed may seem like a way to save money, it isn’t!

Poor quality feeds produce poor quality results. Check those labels to be sure you are getting a great feed for your money!

Reasons you may not see these results

Genetics: If you do not have good meat rabbit genetics, you won’t get these numbers. Your rabbits will take longer to feed and cost you more than the totals given.

Choosing to raise a non meat type rabbit, or a meat type rabbit from a poorly selected breeder with a low performance rabbitry, will not give you the growth rate you need.

Dutch rabbit with frozen water bottle and stuffed toy
This is a Dutch rabbit. Cute, for sure, but generally not used as a meat rabbit due to small size.

Feeding other feeds: Adding feeds other than pellets to your rabbit’s feed ration will make them gain slower and cost you more money to feed them up to the 5 pound mark.

There’s nothing wrong with giving your rabbits greens to snack on or having hay always available in their pen.

If that is how you want to raise your rabbits, go for it. Please realize you are also choosing slower growth rates when you give the fryers anything other than pellets.

Using low quality feed: Using cheap feed is actually a costly choice. You will have to feed more of it to get the same results in growth.

That is wasting your money and your time. Get a good feed to start with!

Grazing your fryers: Even having your rabbits on grass in “tractors” will make them gain more slowly.

Here you may some money on pellets, since they have other things to eat, but you will add a ton of time to the grow out period.

Colony raising rabbits: Having your rabbits in a colony type system will have them growing more slowly and cost you more money in pellets than if they are in cages.

Why?

  • Since all age groups are together in a colony system, the group that needs the most feed, the fryers, will have to compete with all of the other rabbits for feed.
  • All rabbits can eat as much as they want, this is costly and will result in fat and unproductive adults

If you want to raise your rabbits in a colony, check into the management and ask around for feed cost estimates.

This is another one of those “yes, you can do it, but it’s not economical” choices.

Options to lower rabbit feed costs

You can feed rabbits feeds other than the rabbit pellets.

Any time you move your rabbits off of the pellets only ration you will make them grow more slowly.

This is not a problem, just something for you to be aware of.

Lower rabbit feed costs by adjusting the ration

Here are some option to give your rabbits that will be less expensive than pellets only feeding:

  • Feed nice, high quality hay
  • Feed hay only pellets (sold for horses) if you can’t get hay
  • Have your rabbits, especially the fryers, eating grass
  • Take greens to your rabbits
  • Use a lower cost, locally available grain to replace part of the pellets in the ration (oats, for example)

Best breeds of rabbits for meat

So far you have read that you need a “meat type” rabbit to get the good growth and results you want with your fryers. What breeds am I referring to?

  • New Zealand
  • Californian
  • Florida White (smaller mature weight)

I know that is a short list, but it’s short for a reason! These are the breeds that are bred and selected over decades for meat production ability.

This means fast growth, blocky build, efficient use of feed, large litter sizes and adaptability to many environments.

Any breed other than New Zealand or Californian (or Florida White, if you want a smaller rabbit) will take longer to grow to size and will be much less efficient in that growth. Less efficient growth is costly!

I mention this because it is a struggle for me, has been for years. I love the variety available in rabbits.

I really enjoy looking around online to see what breeds are available and all of the choices that a rabbit raiser has in breeding stock. It’s great!

However, this article is about economically raising rabbits!

Cool and neat breeds or traits are a distant second to money makers (or money savers, depending upon how you look at it) that will economically produce for you and your family.

If you want efficient growth and great meat genetics, the New Zealand and Californian rabbits are the economical choice.

If you want a bit of variety or something “cool” you’ll need to also accept slower growth rates and less efficient (read: more costly) rabbit production.

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