Is Raising Your Own Meat Rabbits Worth It?

Californian rabbit at a local auction

Thinking of getting into raising your own meat rabbits? Home raised meat is wonderful and rabbits fit well into yards that would be too small or too close to neighbors for other meat animals.

What do you need to consider before getting started with meat rabbits? Will raising meat rabbits be worth it to you or should you just buy fryers from someone else?

Rabbits raised for meat cost $11-11.60 each (feed and processing costs only). You will need to spend $355.75 for the cages and equipment and purchase an adult breeding trio (one buck, two does) that will cost between $100-150, which takes the total start up costs to $455.75-505.75, depending upon the cost of the breeding trio.

Purchased itemCost
Trio of adult breeding stock rabbits (one buck and two does)$100-150
Cages and equipment for trio and fryers$355.75
Feed per fryer (to live weight of 5 pounds)$6-6.60
Whole rabbitry feed per fryer (includes feed for adult rabbits)$8-8.80
Cost to purchase dressed fryer from a farm$30-40
Cost per fryer for processing and packaging$5+
Cash cost for feed and professional processing per fryer$11-11.60

To get going with rabbits, the first thing you’ll need to do is research! Yes, do a little reading up on breeds before you buy. Then get a high quality trio (one buck, two does) to start with.

Amount Of Meat From A Pair Of Rabbits shows you how to figure up the production of your rabbits based on the meat you hope to get from the pair.

How To Get Started Raising Rabbits For Meat walks you through choosing the breed that will work for you and picking your breeding stock.

I would start with adults, but buying junior rabbits (rabbits under 6 months old) is an option.

Rabbits, Blue New Zealand fryers at the fair
These are some blue New Zealand fryers at our local fair. I love the color!

Cost to buy a junior rabbit is $10-25

The lower cost way to get into raising rabbits is to purchase a junior rabbit. This rabbit will be around 8 weeks old and should have reached the ideal weight for fryers (young meat rabbits) of that breed.

The reason you want your rabbit to have reached ideal fryer weight is that shows this rabbit has the ability to grow well for the breed. Of course, you’ll want a nice meaty build, as well, but weight is an easy place to start.

How Many Meat Rabbits Do You Need For A Family? goes over the math of raising rabbits for meat.

Expect to pay from $10-25 for this rabbit, since it is young. Older rabbits will cost more since more work has gone into them and they are closer to breeding age.

I do have to mention, you can get rabbits for significantly less money at an auction, if you have one in your area. Auction prices are more like $5-10 each for really nice looking fryers and probably $20-30 for adults.

The catch here is that you never know what you are getting. If you want high quality breeding stock, go to a breeder for your starter trio and get adult rabbits that are ready to go.

Cost to buy a breeding rabbit is $25-80

To get going with rabbits more quickly, purchase an adult breeding trio. The selection of breeding stock quality rabbits will have been done for you by the breeder and you’ll be able to jump right into production of fryers.

Buy a trio, one buck and two does

I would expect to pay an above average price for your breeding pair or trio of rabbits. If just an everyday rabbit of your chosen breed costs you $50, then you should expect to pay more than that for a rabbit of breeding stock quality.

I would expect your trio of rabbits to cost $150 for a ready to breed, structurally correct starter herd. Of course, this cost will vary with area, breed and time of year, but plan to pay a bit more than average rabbit cost per breeder.

Does breed choice matter?

Breed choice will matter to your results. First off, you will get meat rabbits that look like their parents, no shocker there! What is surprising is how many folks fail to take this into consideration when picking out rabbits for breeding stock.

If you want 4.5-5 pound fryers at 8 weeks, you’ll need to get parent stock that are capable of making that level of growth happen, most likely be from the normal commercial meat rabbit breeds like Californian and New Zealand.

If, on the other hand, you prefer a smaller breed of rabbit or a rabbit that tends to grow more slowly, that’s fine, just know that the small breed or the slow growing breed will take longer, if ever, to reach the size you want.

So, that’s the growth or performance side of breed choice, but there’s also the price side. Where I’m going here is that special breeds will cost you more, just because they are special.

For instance, if in your area a nice Californian trio will cost you $100-150, it is very likely that a rare breed trio will cost you double that price. Why? Simply because they are rare. If that extra cost is worth it to you, go for it.

If you just want rabbits for meat, stick with a more common breed if only for the sake of performance.

Cost to feed rabbits to processing size is $6-6.60

Rabbits gain 1 pound for every 3 pounds of feed, this is a 3:1 feed to gain ratio. Since most fryers are processed at 5 pounds live weight, 3 pounds of feed per pound of gain x 5 pounds of gain is 15 pounds of feed per fryer.

The cost to feed your rabbits to processing size is $6-6.60, which is 15 pounds of rabbit feed at TSC priced at 40-44 cents per pound.

Of course, you can feed your rabbits different feed or add hay or grass to their diet, as well. This will lower the feed costs per day but increase the time it takes to finish (grow out) your rabbits.

You’ll also notice there is no labor cost figured in here, it’s just feed. I am putting your labor in as free. If you want to factor in your time, go for it. I tend to leave it out when figuring up initial budgets.

It is also important to know that you could easily add another pound of feed per pound of gain to the fryers to account for the feed going into the adults. So instead of figuring 3:1 gains, figure 4:1 gains to account for the adult’s feed, too.

If you are putting in the adult rabbit’s feed, as well, you are now looking at each fryer costing you between $8-8.80. Of course, the fryers did not eat all of that feed, but someone did and you pay for all of the feed no matter who ate it!

Value of custom raising your rabbits

The value of custom raised rabbits will depend upon how easily you can purchase rabbits raised the way you want them to be raised when you want to buy them.

Look at the sources of rabbit meat available to you now, which could be a local rabbit raiser or an online rabbit meat source and consider these points:

  • Is the rabbit you are able to buy raised in a way that you are happy with?
  • Is the supply available when you want to order rabbit, or are you iffy on getting your order filled?
  • What about the cost of the meat? Is the price per pound (and shipping) a cost you are comfortable paying?

If you do not like the meat you can get currently, or you can’t get any, now raising your own rabbits for meat starts to possibly make sense. Now, we need to dig deeper.

So far, just getting started with rabbits will be somewhat costly, you have the rabbits themselves for $100-150 and the equipment, listed below, for $355.75. That’s a total cash expenditure of $455.75-505.75 plus feed costs.

If you are planning on just eating rabbit a few times a year, you may just be better off paying for someone else to do the work. To be blunt, you can buy a lot of rabbit meat for $455.75.

For example: in my area there is a weekly auction that sells poultry and rabbits and I can buy fryers from $2-8 each. If prices go high, more like $10 each.

If I’m okay with these rabbits and willing to go to the auction then butcher the rabbits when I get home, why would I raise my own? The money does not make sense, since it would cost me $6 to raise each one!

On the other hand, if I want to raise my own rabbits so I know exactly what they ate and how they were treated, the prices at auction or online ads are irrelevant. It’s not the same rabbit as I would raise, myself.

If you are planning on eating a lot of rabbit, or you already do and spending this much on rabbit meat is normal for you, then raising your own is looking good. After all, you only need to buy the trio and equipment once!

I’m not trying to talk you out of raising rabbits here! I’m trying to get you thinking about all of your options so you can decide which one is best for you.

Rabbit feeding alternatives

Rabbits can eat a number of other foods, in addition to their normal pelleted ration.

But should they? The catch here is that rabbits have a sensitive digestive system so feeding a variety of other foods can cause serious upsets to your rabbit’s health.

You’ll have to work slowly towards transitioning your rabbits to a new forage and see how it goes. Look around on YouTube for rabbitries, especially outside of the U.S. that are mostly forage based and see what they are feeding.

If you are wanting to get the best growth of your rabbits for your time, stick to a pelleted ration. If you need to minimize pellet use to reduce feed costs, know that any other feeds will make the rabbit grow more slowly.

brown and white rabbit resting in cage
This rabbit is relaxing at the fair. Notice the black mat, this is the resting board that gives the rabbit a place to hang out that is off of the wire.

Cost of facilities for rabbits

The cost of the facilities for rabbits is a huge variable, one that will greatly depend upon what buildings you already have in place.

Most folks would be thinking of putting a few rabbit cages in an existing shed or garage or under the shady area created by the overhang of a roof. This is one of the beauties of rabbits, they can comfortably fit a lot of places!

What You Need To Raise Rabbits goes over your equipment needs to get your rabbit operation up and running.

We’ll go with the idea that you have a shed or overhang and you just need the actual wire cages that you’ll set on a raised support or hang. This could be sawhorses, cement blocks with boards or you can hang the cages.

Rabbit equipment costs Price (per cage)Total cost
36x30x18 wire cage$45$225 (5 cages)
Resting board$3.95$19.75
Nest boxes$28$56 (2 nest boxes)
All equipment$59.95 each for buck or fryer cages
$87.95 each for doe cages

In this case, your cost per rabbit cage will be $45, which would buy a 36x30x18 cage at Bass Equipment.

Since you are breeding these rabbits, you’ll want to have a cage for each adult plus a cage per litter. You have 3 adults and potential of 2 litters per breeding, so you’ll need 5 full size cages.

Each cage will need a feeder, waterer and bedding, plus nest boxes for the does. You may also want to have a resting board to make a nice spot for the rabbits to get off of the wire floor.

Feeders are $5.55 each, waterers are $5 (depending upon what you get), resting boards are $3.95 each and nesting boxes are $28 at KWCages, another great rabbit supply business.

Of course, you can also raise rabbits in more of a hutch, prices of which will vary depending upon if you buy new or not. Keep an eye out for online ads, I often see hutches selling for very reasonable prices, compared to buying new.

Californian fryers
Here are some great looking fryers!

Ease of raising rabbits at home

If anything recommends rabbits as a good meat animal it’s this, they can be raised by nearly anyone. All you need is a small area of space and you have a great place to raise high quality meat for your family.

Rabbits are also pretty family friendly. I have to admit to having some scars from rabbit scratches I got when I was younger, but overall, rabbits are easy keepers and work for most any area.

Rabbits are easily butchered at home

One of the beauties of rabbit is that you can butcher them yourself, very easily with simple equipment that would be available in any household.

You just need a knife and a way to hang the rabbit, which could be a porch railing or a tree branch, and pan to put the carcass in. Once you wash it up a bit, you just stick the fryer in the fridge overnight and it’s ready to cook the next day.

The other advantage to home butchering is that you get to pace your meat production and the flow into your freezer.

You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever tried to fit 25 meat chickens or a half beef into your freezer at once! With rabbits, you can space out the processing or do the entire litter, it’s your choice.

Cost to buy rabbit meat from a local farm or online source

Look around and see what sources of rabbits or rabbit meat are available in your area.

If you are willing to butcher the rabbits, you can often find a source of reasonably priced fryers and butcher them yourself. The catch here is you do not control availability or how the rabbits were raised.

You can also find a source of fryers and pay for them to be butchered. This is tough to find, but doable. In our area, rabbits cost $5 each for processing, if they have space in the schedule since their main business is poultry.

There is an obvious exception here: when you are raising rabbits on a specific diet. Now you are getting into some wiggle room with your rabbit raising budget.

For instance Polyface Farms sells forage raised rabbit fryers for about $10/pound of meat. A 3.1-3.4 pound dressed fryer is $33.32 to be specific.

So, if you were to raise rabbits like Polyface, a litter of 8 would be worth $266.56. That will add up quickly and pay for your investment in breeding stock and cages very quickly!

angora rabbit with litter
Here’s an Angora rabbit with her litter, an excellent example of rabbits to sell, not the best choice for production!

Additional income opportunities with rabbits

Of course, there are additional income opportunities with rabbits. Especially if you are on point with your management and end up raising 8 or so fryers per litter for most of the year. With two does that will be around 80 fryers per year.

Unless you cook at home the majority of the week, that’s a lot of fryers to eat!

Selling extra rabbits

One of the easy ways to profit from your rabbits is to sell extra live rabbits. These could be the occasional pet or production rabbits.

Some folks plan to sell tons of rabbits as pets, before you do, make sure there is a demand. The popularity of rabbits as a pet and the specific breed of rabbit people want seems to change frequently.

Selling meat

You can sell processed rabbits to all of the folks just like you who are wanting a great, local source of rabbit meat, but haven’t found it yet.

Selling manure/urine

While selling manure and or urine from the rabbitry is not a popular idea here, at least not in my experience, this is a money maker for some folks in areas where high quality, natural garden fertilizer is pricey.

Natural fertilizers are catching on as people realize the incomplete nutrient profile that chemical fertilizers are providing for the plants and ultimately the eater of the plants, (you!) and want to increase the nutrients in their food.

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