Archive for July, 2009

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The Economics of Backyard Rabbit Raising

July 24th, 2009

This spring after I wrote “Anyone Can Raise Rabbits” my wife and I decided to get back into rabbit raising – something that we did for a while almost 20 years ago.  I haven’t mentioned this up until now because I wanted to have something more informative than just cute pictures of our rabbits.

We started out with 4 young “New Zealand” rabbits – 3 does and a buck.  The reason that I put New Zealand in quotes is because we did not buy pedigreed stock from a breeder.  We bought Easter bunnies which we found in online classifieds.  However our rabbits conform pretty well to the New Zealand standard.  New Zealands are especially good for meat production, and make good mothers  – not very nervous or prone to lose, abandon, or kill their litters like some other breeds might often do.  New Zealands are the stereotypical “white Rabbits”.

A 2 day old baby New Zealand Rabbit

A 2 day old baby New Zealand Rabbit

We’ve just completed one “cycle” of backyard rabbit raising and I thought that some of you might be interested in how it comes out in the real world.

One week old baby New Zealand Rabbit - Grow fast dont they?

One week old baby New Zealand Rabbit - Grow fast don't they?

We raised a total of 10 baby rabbits from two litters.  In the 10 weeks beginning with when the two mothers were first bred we fed 3 – 50 lb bags of commercial rabbit feed at $15 per bag – for a total of $49.00 more or less including tax.

As soon as the bunnies were old enough to ween (7-8 weeks)  we advertised them for sale on Internet classifieds and eventually sold 4 for a total of $38.00.  When the babies were 10 weeks old they were almost as big as their mothers, and the time had come when they could no longer remain in the same cages with them any longer.   We would have been happy to have sold all of them if possible, but the plan had always been to use any that we couldn’t sell by 10 weeks for food.   So that is what we did.

The remaining 6 rabbits yielded about 18 pounds dressed weight of meat at a total cost of 61 cents per pound based upon the cost of rabbit food minus the proceeds from the sale of live rabbits.

In addition we also got quite a lot of weed free high quality organic fertilizer for our garden.  According to the university of Maine ag department fresh rabbit manure has an analysis of 2.4-1.4-0.6 NPK ratio which is about 1/2 that of store bought “organic” fertilizer from the home improvement store – which is actually pasteurized, processed chicken feathers, manure, and by products from a commercial factory farm.  If you compare it to that stuff we got an easy $25 worth of fertilizer out of the deal.

So to sum up:

  • We bought $50 worth of feed
  • We sold $38 worth of live rabbits
  • We got to use $25 worth of organic fertilizer
  • We harvested 18 pounds of dressed rabbit meat

In addition to the breeding does and their litters we were also maintaining the buck / sire, and one idle (unbred) doe during the same time period – both of which were also fed out of the same allotment of rabbit feed as the working does and bunnies.  So the total  feed conversion rate of our little rabbitry was about 5 pounds of feed consumed per each pound of dressed meat produced – including what would have been yielded by the 4 that we sold.  Really not too bad for a very small first effort.

I might point out that even though this isn’t all that bad (nor all that great) That we can conceivably improve our efficiency in the future.  For one thing we won’t usually have an unbred doe just taking up space and consuming food.  Also, 5 offspring per litter is low, and I believe that will improve  – these are first litters for these does, and subsequent litters are likely to be larger.  Also there is a breeding technique that I wasn’t previously aware of that is supposed to increase the litter size.

Obviously I’m not including the cost of the initial investment in cages and other equipment or breeding stock.   Even so this is certainly not a get rich quick scheme, and if you value your time at all then it’s an exercise in futility.   You would certainly be better off financially to work an hour or two of over time and just buy your food at Wal-Mart.  Of course from that point of view it’s probably also cheaper to just feed your kids happy meals than to fix them a home cooked supper.  Though if that’s how you looked at it you wouldn’t be reading this blog would you.