12 Keys to a Successful Rabbitry

I am often asked how I run a successful Rabbitry. First of all, I have a grand total of eight cages folks. My Rabbitry is really nothing special. Is it successful? Umm… sure. Is it profitable? Umm… probably not. So gauging my success with rabbits is really a matter of defining your idea of “successful”. I will tell you something though, I feel that I run a successful Rabbitry because of how happy my customers are with my rabbits and how beneficial my rabbits have been to my own goals.

I do have a few words of wisdom to those of you thinking if starting your own Rabbitry. Whether that Rabbitry is focused on wool breeds, meat breeds, or pet breeds, hopefully these tips will help you in making that big decision and to move forward.

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1. Don’t breed rabbits to sell rabbits.

This may confuse you right off the bat. Don’t I need to breed my rabbits in order to make more rabbits to sell? Well, yes. But the bigger question should be why? Why do you want to sell rabbits so badly? Are you trying to improve the breed for show? Are you breeding for meat? Question your own motives first before breeding. Please do not breed your rabbits just so your children (or yourself) can “experience the cycle of life”. I can guarantee that you will never sell every last rabbit, which brings me to my next point…

2. Have a plan for rabbits that don’t sell.

If you have a rabbit, or two, or twenty, that you are not able to sell, what will you do with them all? The largest and most important aspect of running a Rabbitry –or choosing to breed any animal for that matter– is to take responsibility for your actions. Be prepared to butcher extras to keep your numbers down if need be. Don’t plan to give away your problems on Craigslist or FreeCycle.

3. Don’t go over your maximum occupancy.

This one kind of resonates with the first two keys. Don’t breed for four litters when you really only have resources to support two. Additionally, don’t buy or bring home three rabbits when you only had room for two. This should be common sense, but it is hard to be rational when you are faced with fuzzy cuteness.

4. Don’t expect to turn a profit.

Honestly, just don’t. It doesn’t matter how you work the numbers, it just isn’t very likely that you are going to make any sort of profit that is worth bragging about. If you become a millionaire from raising rabbits, please let me in on your secret… you must be a god or an alien or something.

5. Think feed!

Do a little research on what is available in your area. Pellets are easy, sure, but they are not always the best choice. Quite a few “big brands” of feed have been known to be the cause of wiping out an entire Rabbitry because of poor quality or mold in the feed. Be careful, look for quality, and go for fewer ingredients. Rabbits are herbivores, not vegetarians. They eat seeds, leafy greens, grasses, etc. Fruits and veggies are treats.

6. Have extra supplies on hand.

This is fairly self explanatory. I can’t think of a time when extra supplies weren’t handy. It’s just a good idea for when something breaks to have an extra.

7. Check local laws.

This is a weird and overlooked point. First of all, does your city or homeowners association have rules on a maximum number of pets? Are rabbits considered “pets” or “livestock” in your area? Also look up the youngest age you are legally allowed to sell rabbits in your state. For most states it is eight-weeks old, but look into it for your own peace of mind.

8. Know your breed!

First find the breed you would like to focus on. Don’t choose more than two breeds to start. Do all the research you can before buying that first rabbit! The American Rabbit Breeders Association, ARBA, has a fantastic book on the accepted standards for each breed. The “Standards of Perfection” book costs about $15 on their website, but you will not find the information anywhere else. Not even on the Internet. The SOP lists each breed’s details such as standard weight, accepted show colors, disqualifications, and more. This is particularly handy when you are running a Rabbitry and/or breeding animals. You don’t have to “show” rabbits to make it worth your while to learn these things. Become an expert in your breed!

9. If you can’t clean it, you can’t own it.

This is a really great family rule that applies to animals as well. I don’t care if you find someone to help with cleaning cages and equipment. I don’t care if you pay someone to do it for you. But if it isn’t cleaned at least once a week, it isn’t going to live here.

10. Prepare for the worst.

Things die, plain and simple. It is a sad truth. Have a health plan (do you go to the vet?) and set a price limit for each rabbit. If you choose to go to the vet (make sure your vet is knowledgeable in rabbits specifically), set a price limit for what you are willing to spend. Very few, if any, rabbit ailments are curable, so spending $500 to prolong a painful life is no way to treat your animals and no way to spend your money. Be prepared, study illnesses, know basic kit care and milestones, and remember that not every rabbit kit will live.

11. Cull hard.

Go ahead and visit the “Contact Us” page to send your hate mail, because I know I’m going to get reamed for this one. Cull hard! If it is weak, sick, or aggressive, it has no place in your Rabbitry and CERTAINLY no place in your breeding program. Period. Weak kits won’t live, sick animals will infect everyone else, and aggressive animals will only cause you heartache and pass on bad traits. Why would you want to deal with all that? In my Rabbitry, weakness leads to a ceremonial firing squad, new animals are ALWAYS quarantined to prevent the spread of sickness and a longer health assessment period, and aggression calls for a first-class ticket to freezer camp. No one likes to talk about it, but cull hard and without exception.

12. Stand behind your sales!

First, be honest. Ripped ear? List the rabbit as so and be sure the buyer understands that the rabbit will not be “showable”. Heck, give them a discount! Be a decent and reputable Rabbitry. What makes it easier for everyone is to have a clear and fair sales policy that protects you and your Rabbitry. I personally do not offer a health guarantee because I do not know first-hand how the rabbit is fed, treated, or what other animals it is exposed to after leaving my Rabbitry. I am always happy to explain this to people, and you know what? No one is ever upset by it once they hear my reasoning. More importantly though, provide support to your customers. Give them someone to talk to about any joys, issues, or questions they may have. Then, make sure they have your contact information even if it changes. Don’t be that breeder that disappears off the face of the earth once you get paid. Be punctual, helpful, and supportive. You will always be the breeder of that rabbit and forever responsible for it.

16 thoughts on “12 Keys to a Successful Rabbitry

  1. Sarah,
    So true. Many people get into something half-cocked and full of ideals. As with anything it takes a lot of hard work, decisions, and keeping your eye on the bottom line. For me, I’m starting small. Breeding trio for me. I love to spins and knit. It takes a lot of pulled hair to make enough yarn for a sweater. I know you know what I’m talking about. The meat option is also for my families personal gain. That’s what micro-homesteading is all about. Whether it is vegetables, wool, rabbits or chickens…look to satisfying your own needs first and everything else is gravy.

    I won’t breed to sell as much as breed to eat or wear. In my family we have 2 mouths to feed, but add children, their spouses, and grandchildren that number jumps to 20 mouths. Chickens, rabbits, eggs, and vegetables grown have to go a long way.I tend to look at things rationally. How much do we need to eat, clothing to keep warm with or look cute in, and raise to be semi-self sufficient.

    The ideals and pipe dreams of doing this for a living as for profit is far from my motivation for doing it. Keeping my family healthy and knowing what’s in their food is primary. Now if I do sell some eggs, rabbit meat, chicken meat, chicks, bunnies, or vegetables that’s just gravy. 🙂 It will help defer the costs of living this way because it ain’t cheap, but better for all.

      • You forgot one item in your list. Start small. Try it first for a year before you do anything. They might just fall out of love with the idea and then be stuck with cute furriness and a lot of them. That’s how I got my English/ French mix Angora. The owner was breeding them faster than her market. She couldn’t take him home from the market because there wasn’t enough room in her grow out pens with more babies on the way. She gave him to me for free.

  2. All great points! We learned our “no profit lesson” from our chickens. Sure, one would hope that you could sell enough eggs to friends and family to cover the cost of feed, since that was the great plan…. but in our case it simply has never happened. I think we are to the point that we realize 6 hens are all we. Funny how when you start charging for eggs people stop wanting them. Humph!! lol!
    No hate here- we like meat and we want rabbits simply as another clean source of meat. We already raise broiler chickens each spring (going to raise a few ducks this year for the freezer- hoping it goes well) and buy our pork and beef from a local farmer. I am definitely interested in tanning the hides at some point. I was a child of the 70s and remember rabbit fur mufflers.
    The plan for our rabbits is to start with 2 females and one male & hover somewhere around that number for breeding stock. We seem have better luck bartering or trading and would hope we could continue that with rabbits- in whatever form is needed. We have gotten perch a couple times, in exchange for eggs, from a friend who has a boat at Lake Erie. Just a few wks ago my husband brought home a nice moose shoulder which was ‘paid for’ with a doz eggs & a lb of hamburger we got at the farm (or maybe it was sausage? anywho). Our family enjoyed it the night before Thanksgiving made in the style of Mississipi pot roast in the crock pot along side homemade cast iron skillet pizza & salad.
    Thank you for your blog & your help 🙂

    • Hahaha! Yeah, chickens are perfect for teaching that lesson. I don’t know of anyone who has made a real profit off of selling backyard eggs.

      I LOVE to barter! You get the best things that way. Everyone leaves happy and with an item that cost them nothing more than what they already had extra of.

      No problem Rachell! Thanks for reading!

    • Rachell, It depends on who you are asking too. I used to sell eggs for $3 a dozen because they were organic, but then I have a lot of “only eat organic” friends too. The health food store was selling them for $3.50 a dozen…even my eggs. lol I’m a child of the 50’s. Being raised by post WWII and depression era folks left their mark on me.

  3. We have a hobby rabbitry where we raise Mini Satins for show. I have to totally agree with your article. We have just started this hobby a couple of years ago, mainly for our daughter’s FFA project, but my husband and I, being “ex-farm kids” enjoy the hobby as much as she does.
    With her FFA project, the measure success by dollars and cents, but with rabbits success comes in many other forms. For us, success is a best of breed win on the show table and the quality of our animals increasing. Culling hard isn’t easy but very necessary.
    It is a hard fact of life that the culls that do not meet the standard of perfection or make the show table do become a meal someday.
    We are now at the point where we can hopefully sell some show rabbits or rabbits for breeding.
    It is a fun and rewarding hobby, but you have to go into it knowing all these limitations.
    Thank you for a wonderful article.

    • You are absolutely right, it isn’t easy, but very necessary. Responsible breeders understand that, and even though we don’t enjoy it, some those rabbits are not worth being bred or sold.

      I am happy to say that all the 4-H and FFA kids I have sold rabbits to understand the limitations and are fairly willing to do what they need to should they come into that situation.

      Thanks! 🙂

  4. I have thought about this article some more and one more “key” came to mind. When buying rabbits and getting started, but from a reputable breeder that will become your mentor. You always need someone to call to answer any questions you may have.
    We were so lucky to have met through mutual friends the breeder that we got started with.
    Another suggestion, even if you don’t go into this to show, going to a show and “picking” the brains of some who do show and the judges. We were very fortunate to have a judges be totally honest with us about our rabbits. We were able to improve our stock so now when our rabbits hit the show table, we don’t have as many DQ’s.
    Always ask lots of questions and never be too proud to take the suggestions of those who have been in the business for many years.

  5. I wanted to raise chickens for meat and eggs but city council won’t allow it (which the town is small and my backyard runs into a field and my neighbors are all ok since I’m only wanting hens) so rabbits are my next choice. When I get them going their only going to be for meat and pelts for myself. So this is really how I was already thinking! Great list!

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