Raising rabbits for profit may seem unachievable and even laughable, but you can do it! All sizes of rabbitries can implement techniques to cut costs and drive income. We spoke with Olufemi Hunjenukon of Semafojj Integrated Farms to dig deeper into the methods used to gain profit from rabbits. It doesn’t matter if you are raising meat, show, or pet rabbits, you can use the byproducts and evaluate and cut costs to raise rabbits for profit.
About Olufemi and Little Angels Rabbitry
Olufemi is the CEO of Semafojj Integrated farms which is located in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria. He has been raising rabbits for four years and spoke with us about methods used to raise rabbits for profit. His rabbitry is called Little Angels Rabbitry and they raise a variety of rabbit breeds for a few different purposes.
Semafojj Farms Rabbit Breeds
- Hyla – The “Hyla” rabbit is a cross between New Zealand White and California White and was created by professionals at Eurolap in France. Hyla rabbits are noted for their high meat-to-bone ratio and exceptional growth rate. For this reason, Little Angels Rabbitry uses them as a meat rabbit. They currently have 74 does and 21 bucks.
- Dutch – Olufemi notes that Dutch is the most common rabbit breed in Nigeria and they are known for their exceptional mothering skills. But, Dutch are small in size compared to the typical meat rabbit. In order to combat the smaller size while creating an ideal meat rabbit Little Angels Rabbitry crosses their Dutch does with Hyla bucks and calls the kits “Improved Dutch”. The kits retain mothering ability from the Dutch breed while exceeding in growth rate. The majority of the rabbit meat produced by Semafojj Integrated Farms comes from their Improved Dutch.
- American Chinchilla – Raised for meat with 12 does and 4 buck.
- Standard Chinchilla – Raised for meat with 2 does and 2 bucks.
- New Zealand White – Raised for meat with 7 does and 3 bucks.
- English Spot – Raised for pets with 2 does and 1 buck.
- Angora – Raised for pets with 1 doe and 1 buck.
About 60% of the rabbits raised at Little Angels Rabbitry are for meat production, while 35% are sold for breeding stock, and 5% for pets.
Olufemi has found success with raising rabbits for profit due to exploring numerous avenues for revenue. He has worked to vertically integrate his farm by growing rabbit feed, making organic preventatives and supplements, and growing a greenhouse of plants with rabbit manure.
You will find insight from Olufemi on his practices to raise rabbits for profit throughout the article.
Can You Make a Profit Raising Rabbits?
Sure you can! But, it can take a lot of planning and creative outlets to do so. Often we fall into the trap of keeping all of the cute kits our breeders produce instead of choosing the ones most viable for profitability. In order to raise rabbits for profit, you must run your rabbitry like a business, while keeping exceptional animal welfare in mind.
Rabbits typically involve a large investment both monetary and education wise. For this reason, it can be a while before a rabbitry sees income. Olufemi mentions that he spent two years in active rabbit production before he started learning how to break even.
Profitability isn’t usually the main purpose that families start raising rabbits, but it can be achieved with business principles and a little creative thinking. There are tips and tricks within this article that will help give you more ideas to generate income in your rabbitry.
Meat Rabbits for Profit
Raising rabbits for meat is one of, if not the most, common ways rabbits are utilized. Meat rabbits are also a popular avenue when the goal is raising rabbits for profit.
Rabbit meat is lean, very healthy for you, and becoming more popular across the world. Profit can be found while breeding meat rabbits on both small and large scales.
You can also sell breeders when raising meat rabbits. If you keep exceptional records and focus heavily on type as well as growth rates you will have a valuable source when new breeders are looking to get into rabbits.
Finding Your Breeders
When you first set out to find your breeders it is important to get them from a farmer that pays great attention to their growth rates. This can often be difficult to accomplish. But, starting with good stock is very important and will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
Well-bred meat rabbits look very different on the plate compared to rabbits bred without the intention of growth. Ultimately they taste the same, but profitability can be greatly influenced by your animal’s ability to convert feed into flesh.
You will want to choose breeds proficient in meat production such as New Zealand and Californian. If you’re looking for a more dual-purpose rabbit that also has a stunning hide, you may prefer Rex or Silver Fox.
Processing and Selling Meat Rabbits
Your processing can look very different from others depending on the scale of your rabbitry, the size of your market, and where you are selling. Before selling for human consumption you need to look into your local laws on selling rabbit meat.
Some states require USDA-inspected processing to be sold for human consumption. Others may have exceptions based on where you are selling from (your property or a store), and how many you sell per calendar year.
If you are selling for pet consumption the laws are typically less strict and allow home processing. Processing at home can save you money when striving to raise rabbits for profit. But, you need to make sure you have the equipment to do so.
Show Rabbits for Profit
Raising show rabbits for profit is not as common as meat rabbits and typically requires a large investment. Those who show rabbits often do it for the love of rabbits and wanting to improve their breed/s. But, you may be able to find a market selling to people who want to begin their journey in agriculture or showing.
Sufficient Breeding Stock
Acquiring your breeding stock may be the most important step in raising show rabbits for profit. It can also be the most costly step. By starting with good breeding stock you will skip many generations worth of improvements.
After you have decided what breed or breeds you want to raise, you will have to find a breeder who strives for quality rabbits.
Before you breed, you should be informed of the ARBA’s Standard of Perfection for your breed. The ARBA sells a book that lists the qualities you should be striving for while breeding. These qualities will make your rabbits more successful while showing.
Part of raising show rabbits for profit is having to cull rabbits. After you have decided which rabbits need to be culled, you can choose between soft or hard culling. Soft culling means selling the rabbit or ultimately keeping the rabbit alive. Hard culling, or terminally culling, means killing the rabbit and using it for meat.
No matter what, you will have rabbits that do not meet the SOP and do not carry traits that you want to keep in your breeding program. You will need a plan for these rabbits before you are overloaded with them.
Selling your cull rabbits for pets or meat will be an extra source of income when raising show rabbits for profit.
Selling Show Rabbits
There are multiple outlets for selling show rabbits. Some of these include selling to children involved with 4H or FFA. Rabbits are one of the easiest animals to start with if a child wants to get involved with showing or agriculture in general, and often they can be sold directly at county fairs.
Another outlet is selling to breeders who want to begin breeding show rabbits. Keeping detailed, accurate records of your rabbits will make your stock more desirable when selling. Everbreed is a very efficient way to achieve this. The Everbreed software automatically generates kits’ pedigrees and calculates reports to ease the decision of determining breeder viability.
Pet Rabbits for Profit
If you’re located in an area where pet rabbits are common, you may be able to breed pet rabbits for profit. These rabbits will need more time and attention in order to have the proper socialization to make good pets.
You can also sell undesirable, friendly meat rabbits and soft cull show rabbits for pets.
Choosing your Breeders
Typically, any cute rabbit with a good personality will make a good pet. Your breeders do not need to be any special breed. But, they must come from a breeder who pays close attention to health.
Even if you only intend to sell for pets, you may still want pedigreed rabbits for your breeding stock. This way you can also sell to children showing in 4H and FFA.
Small breeds of rabbits are usually preferred by people looking for pet rabbits, but some large, specialty breeds are also sought after by pet owners.
Selling Pet Rabbits
If you choose to sell pet rabbits there might be a lot of education involved. You will likely run into a lot of people who are new rabbit owners and will not know how to care for their new pet. This is something that should be expected and you should be prepared to stay in contact with the new owners until they have a thorough understanding of rabbit care.
Color is often a great selling factor when it comes to breeding pet rabbits for profit. Customers tend to prefer uniquely colored rabbits. This is another thing to keep in mind when searching for your breeders.
No matter what you are raising rabbits for, there will be byproducts. You can maximize your income by finding creative outlets to sell these byproducts. Meat rabbits will have the largest amount of byproducts, but even pet rabbits produce manure that can be sold instead of going into the trash.
An inevitable rabbit byproduct is, you guessed it, waste!
Rabbit manure differs greatly from other animal manures. Rabbit manure has four times as many nutrients as cow or horse manure and twice as many nutrients compared to chicken manure (MSU).
Not only that, rabbit manure is a “cold” fertilizer. This means that it can be applied directly to plants without burning them as other manures would. Rabbit manure is great on gardens and house plants too.
Rabbit breeders have created many different manure collection systems, but you do not need anything fancy. The manure can be shoveled from the ground into empty feed bags and sold that way too.
If you are in an area where gardening is common you may have a new hot commodity and an easy way to get rid of your manure pile! Rabbit manure can also be packaged and sold online for plant owners and the like.
At Little Angels Rabbitry they have built a greenhouse and grow plants in strictly rabbit manure. This helps to show consumers the value of raising rabbits as well as buying manure to be used as fertilizer.
Rabbit urine is a natural pesticide and fertilizer. It can be collected and sorted from the manure. When diluted with water and sprayed on and around plants rabbit urine naturally keeps pests away.
Olufemi has set up a system where customers can drop off containers that are filled with rabbit urine before they are picked up again.
At Little Angels Rabbitry they are using rabbit manure to produce and sell biogas. Olumefi mentions that Nigeria is the first to research biogas created from rabbit manure.
This extra income outlet draws in customers that are interested in sustainability.
Part of raising rabbits unfortunately includes dead-born kits. Instead of disposing of these kits, they can be kept in the freezer and sold for pet consumption. Dead-born rabbit kits are called pinkies and they are common when feeding reptiles. They can also be used in a raw dog food diet.
The majority of byproducts when raising rabbits for profit will come from processing. No matter what you are processing for, there is typically a bucket of odds and ends left over that finds itself in the garbage or compost. Below are some general ideas for butchering byproducts, but there are many more creative ideas out there as well.
Some breeders raise strictly for hides and others put them in the scrap barrel. Either way, they can all be used, no matter size, color, or breed. Hides can be tanned and used in crafts or garment making, or sold to someone who will tan and use them.
Rabbit hides can also be composted and used to fertilize plants instead of being thrown away.
Organs are a great source of nutrients for both humans and pets. Livers, hearts, and kidneys sometimes find themselves as table fare. But, if that is not something you are interested in then they can be used as dog food too, along with the lungs, pancreas, spleen, and brain.
Some raw feeders even opt to feed their dog the entire animal in a “whole prey” presentation, after dispatching of course, as it would be inhumane otherwise. Chickens also love any type of scraps from processing day.
If you do not have any other animals that can enjoy the less desirable organs they can also be composted for fertilizer.
Bones are needed in a raw dog food diet, but they have to be raw and treated with absolutely no heat. Finding a raw feeder near you could secure a home where all of your bones will be used.
Rabbit bones also make a lovely and nutritious bone broth to be used in soups and stews with little effort. Here is a recipe.
Gathering and Calculating Inputs
Before starting your rabbitry, you should add up as many costs as you can to determine your investment. The investment will vary depending on what you are raising rabbits for. This cost will also help determine what price you should be listing your rabbits or products for.
You may be past this point already, but it is still possible to calculate what your cost of production is.
Adding Up Costs
It is easy to forget things when adding up the overall cost of your rabbity. Below is a general list of things you likely purchased in order to run your rabbitry:
- Cages (materials if you built your own)
- Feeders/ waterers
- Feed (pellets, hay, supplements, vitamins)
- Medical supplies (tattooing equipment, emergency first aid)
- Resting mats
- Nest boxes and nesting material
Receipts piles can quickly become messy and out of hand. Alternatively, Everbreed offers a Finance Ledger that automatically calculates your income and expenses as you enter transactions. The software also breaks your finances down on a per breeder scale.
Being able to cut costs will be key when raising rabbits for profit. It can be difficult to make a profit from rabbits, especially a small-scale rabbitry, and it is not a “get rich quick” scheme.
Investing in quality equipment at the start will likely save you from spending more money replacing mediocre equipment down the line. This might mean you have to grow your rabbitry at a slower rate, but your overall profit should increase as you will not constantly be replacing equipment.
One of the best ways to cut costs is to build your cages. Wire cages are ultimately the most sanitary when it comes to raising rabbits. They are the only material that can effectively be cleaned of any possible lingering diseases. There are many YouTube videos available for building wire rabbit cages.
Implementing biosecurity techniques is a proactive way to cut rabbitry costs. Olufemi says, “If we allow infection to enter the herd we are going to get into trouble losing investment by purchasing drugs to treat ailing rabbits.”
There are many rabbit diseases and they often spread rapidly. At Semafojj Farms they use plants and roots that are readily available to boost immunity and prevent coccidiosis.
Keeping your rabbitry clean, quarantining new rabbits, and using supplements to improve the overall health of your herd will ultimately cut costs in the long run.
It is difficult to create a balanced rabbit diet on your own, but it can be done. You can also grow supplemental food to add to your rabbit’s menu.
Olufemi mentions that in Nigeria about 70% of rabbit breeding costs come from feed, especially if your main purpose is a quick growth rate.
Little Angels Rabbitry has purchased software dedicated to formulating rabbit feed. This software helps them to acknowledge the varying nutritional requirements for different categories of rabbits and formulate feeds based on requirements.
By using this software, Semafojj Farms has been able to cut costs by using ingredients that are not competing with human consumption. This is similar to the way cattle farms in the US create their feeds.
Olufemi mentions that they replace maize (corn) grains with cassava peels that are typically thrown away after processing cassava flour. Below is a list of some other ingredients they use that can be found cheaper than the usual rabbit feed ingredients in Nigeria.
- Peanut husks
- Cowpea husks
- Mango kernel meal
- Rice stalks
- Maize cobs
Formulating your rabbit pellets can be a daunting and time-consuming task. Many breeders opt for purchasing commercial pellets that are already a complete source of feed. Even if your main source of rabbit feed is a commercial pellet, you can still cut costs with supplemental feeding.
Rabbits do not need hay because your pellets should be a complete source of nutrition and include all of the nutrients they need. But, if you decide to feed hay, this is something you can grow on your own. Rabbits can even eat your grass clippings if you collect them.
Little Angels Rabbitry grows highly nutritious greens in any space they have available. Some of these include alfalfa and potato leaves which are grown in old tires and buckets. They can be grown in strictly rabbit manure too! These supplemental greens are fed twice a week at Semfojj farms and help to add nutrients to their rabbits’ diets.
Many other types of greens can be grown at little to no cost. It is important to make sure the greens or vegetables are safe for rabbits and not fed in quantities that will harm them. Rabbits have a delicate digestive system and drastic changes can quickly induce bloat.
Foraging for your rabbits is another way to cut costs. This means finding plants in your yard that your rabbits can eat. You must be able to accurately identify the plant and ensure it is rabbit safe before feeding because there are natural plants that are toxic to rabbits too.
Olufemi states that adequate record keeping will significantly influence the profitability of raising rabbits. This is because it reduces the chances of kits being born on the wire and helps maximize efficiency. Semfojj Farms uses Everbreed to keep track of breeding records and finances. The Everbreed software also calculates Reports to directly show you how your breeding rabbits are performing on a statistical level.
Keeping all of your records in one place helps reduce messiness and confusion while also making you aware of the downfalls and upsides within your rabbitry. It is important to be aware of where you can improve while raising rabbits for profit.
You can breed meat, show, or pet rabbits for profit if you utilize byproducts and evaluate and cut costs. Growing a profit-worthy rabbitry can be intimidating, but it is doable. Hopefully, Olufemi’s insight will help to give you ideas on where you can improve input costs and generate more income within your rabbitry.