A while back, my wife and I spent a couple years in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a beautiful but isolated swathe of dense forest, rocky hills, and inland lakes stretching along Lake Superior’s south shore. We were based in a sizable town, but my wife occasionally traveled to a tiny, half-abandoned mining hamlet on the Keweenaw Peninsula, which juts north into the big lake from the town of Houghton.
The hamlet had only a few dozen permanent residents, it seemed. They were likely outnumbered by a decidedly non-human presence: a docile, faintly absurd flock of oversized, multihued free-range rabbits.
The bunnies blissfully hopped around town, mowing down overgrown lawns and roadside brush patches. Who knew how many were lost to predation – wolves, bobcats and coyotes roamed the surrounding forests. The owners didn’t much seem to care. (Though we never met them. In retrospect, I’m not sure they even existed. These furry lawnmowers may well have been descended from the inhabitants of some long-abandoned rabbit farm.)
The Keweenaw rabbits got me thinking: Is it profitable to raise rabbits at home? Or is it a better bet simply to keep one or two as house pets, as most people do?
So, I went down the rabbit hole, so to speak. Here’s what I learned.
Where to Raise Rabbits Legally
First things first: You need to determine whether it’s legal to raise rabbits for food on your property.
1. Raise Rabbits on Your Property
Most municipalities allow rabbits to be kept as pets, but that’s a different proposition than raising rabbits for slaughter. In many places, commercial rabbit-rearing – even at hobby-farm scales – is not permitted on properties zoned for residential use.
Elsewhere, raising rabbits (and other small livestock, such as chickens) may be permitted, but slaughtering and processing them may be prohibited. For instance, the relevant section of Austin’s city code reads:
“For properties zoned residential, raising of fowl, rabbits, and aquatic foods using an aquaponic system is permitted in accordance with Chapter 3-2 (Restrictions on Animals) of the City Code. Slaughtering and processing of aquatics foods is permitted. Slaughtering, processing of fowl and rabbits is prohibited. Composting of animal parts is prohibited in residential zoning districts.”
Even where raising and (less frequently) slaughtering and processing rabbits on residential property is permitted, amateur rabbit farmers need to abide by the relevant city ordinance terms. See below for more detail on this point. Rules around slaughtering and processing rabbits tend to be more lenient in rural townships and unincorporated areas than in urban or suburban neighborhoods.
2. Raise Rabbits on a Communal Farm
If your hometown doesn’t allow you to complete the rabbit-rearing lifecycle on your homestead, don’t despair. You can still raise rabbits for meat without using a third-party processor to humanely kill and process them. You’ll just need help from an urban farm or community garden.
Back in 2010, the Minneapolis foodie publication The Heavy Table reported on a motley group of urban farmers who’d turned an abandoned lot into a produce and livestock factory. Their farm, part of a low-income housing cooperative, included “a sundry congregation of ducks, geese, chickens, and rabbits,” according to The Heavy Table.
Compared with its space- and feed-intensive chicken-rearing operation, the cooperative’s rabbit farm was a breeze to maintain. The rabbits huddled together in a corner of the livestock shed they’d built, ate hay and naturally occurring vegetation, and only needed to be moved inside on extremely cold winter nights.
If you’re not allowed or would prefer not to process rabbits on your homestead, or you’re seeking a more community-oriented approach to rabbitry anyway, you can find or start a communal farm in your city.
To find an existing urban or community farm, check out this comprehensive directory from Urban Farming or search for active Facebook groups in your area. To start your own, follow this step-by-step guide from the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources.
You Might Also Like: Curious about another type of sustainable community garden? Check out our post on community solar gardens, an increasingly popular power generation solution that’s viable in most of the continental U.S.
3. Components of a Municipal Rabbit Ordinance
Whether you choose to raise rabbits on your own property or a vacant lot given over to small-scale agriculture, you need to know what you can and can’t do with your rabbitry operation.
Rabbit ordinances (often included in broader small livestock or market garden ordinances) vary widely from place to place, but most include provisions for:
- Permitting: These items spell out if and when your backyard rabbitry operation requires a municipal permit. It’s not uncommon for municipalities to waive permitting requirements for small rabbit herds, usually no more than three or four adult animals. Larger operations usually require permits. Keep in mind that you can generally keep greater numbers of juvenile rabbits – younger than three months or so. Juvenile rabbits, known as fryers, produce tastier meat, so you’ll likely slaughter or send your rabbits off to slaughter before they reach full maturity anyway. (Adult rabbit meat is better braised or in stews, and it’s much gamier – not a deal-breaker, but not something you’d want to eat on its own.)
- Neighbor Notification: Neighbor notification requirements vary widely. Portland, Oregon’s rabbit ordinance requires notification of all neighbors within 150 feet of your property lines. Some ordinances don’t mandate notification at all.
- Fees: Where there’s a permit, there’s a fee. These fees usually aren’t onerous: Portland’s is $31, one-time, for instance. If your city’s permits expire after a year or two, you may need to pay a renewal fee that should be lower than the initial fee.
- Dwelling Units On-Site: Some cities discourage extralegal urban farming by prohibiting rabbit enclosures on parcels without dwelling units. Likewise, most cities prohibit livestock-keeping on more densely built residential properties, such as apartment buildings or complexes. In Austin, you can’t raise rabbits on properties with more than two dwelling units.
- Herd Size: Ordinances’ permitting requirements are de facto limitations on herd size. If you don’t want to pay the fee and fill out the paperwork for the permit, you need to keep your herd small. Otherwise, permitted rabbit herds are generally constrained by enclosure size limits, space-per-rabbit requirements, or limits on slaughter frequency. For instance, ordinances that spell out space-per-rabbit requirements mandate at least 10 to 15 square feet per animal. Ordinances that limit slaughter frequency may do so as a function of farm or lot size. For instance, Austin’s ordinance limits slaughter to one animal per week, per tenth of an acre.
- Setbacks and Placement: Enclosures need to be placed away from neighboring structures and property lines. In Portland, the minimum required structural setback is 15 feet.
- Enclosure Size and Dimensions: In many cities, enclosures are further governed by minimum or maximum size limits and space-per-rabbit requirements. Don’t assume that your ordinance explicitly spells out these matters, though: Portland’s Specified Animal Facility code doesn’t say anything about the size or layout of your rabbit hutch.
- Slaughter and Processing: Rabbit ordinances generally treat these issues in one fashion or another. If on-site slaughter and processing are prohibited, there may or may not be language about how to legally arrange processing off-site. If slaughter and processing are permitted, there should be language spelling out permitted frequency and method.
- Sanitation and Disposal: These matters treat permissible ground cover, composting of waste and remains (if permitted), and any action required to protect local water quality. Note that some city ordinances, such as Austin’s, prohibit or restrict animal husbandry in critical watershed areas, where effluent can pollute drinking water or sensitive habitats.
Some municipal codes may require you to submit detailed schematics for your rabbits’ enclosure, or hutch. This is a common feature of livestock fowl (chicken, duck, turkey) ordinances, which tend to be more detailed and specific than rabbit ordinances due to the comparative prevalence of backyard fowl farming and the disruptive character of domestic birds.
Choose the Right Rabbit Breed
Don’t even bother setting traps for those gray and brown hares hopping blissfully around your yard. They’re not worth the effort. If you’re serious about keeping rabbits for meat, you need a breed built for the job. Meat rabbits are longer, fatter, and fluffier than your typical wild bunny. These are generally regarded as the best rabbits for eating – though some make good house pets as well. Unless otherwise noted, all are recognized and sanctioned by the American Rabbit Breeders Association:
- Champagne D’Argent: This larger heritage breed has been around since the early 17th century. Though it’s less common these days, it’s still regarded as a fantastic domestic breed – prized for its distinctive black fur in addition to its meat.
- Palomino: These attractive, pale-orange bunnies range from eight to 12 pounds. They’re quiet and cooperative – perfect for denser urban neighborhoods.
- Flemish Giant: These monster bunnies can grow up to 20 pounds. Unsurprisingly, they’re prized for their meat, though they’re also raised for fur. Originally hailing from Belgium’s Flanders region, Flemish giants are regarded as one of the most docile rabbit breeds around.
- Chinchilla: Not to be confused with the funny-looking desert rodents after which they’re named, these fluffy, stocky rabbits grow up to 12 pounds. Though they’re frequently kept as pets, they’re prized for their meat and make good livestock.
- New Zealand: Despite the name, this breed originated in the United States, though it may trace its lineage to New Zealand at some point in the now-forgotten past. It’s regarded as one of the best meat breeds. Adults grow up to 12 pounds and come in five colors: white, blue, black, red, and broken (multicolored). New Zealand whites’ flesh has a distinctive pinkish hue, like undercooked poultry. Don’t worry, it’s safe to eat – and delicious.
1. What Does a Meat Rabbit Cost?
Rabbits aren’t especially expensive. Whereas pet rabbits purchased from shelters typically carry adoption fees ranging from $50 to $100, New Zealand rabbits can cost as little as $10 apiece, according to Crossroads Rabbitry. Non-pedigreed Flemish giants cost $20 to $50 apiece.
Younger rabbits almost always cost less than mature rabbits, since they’re smaller (meaning less meat) and face higher mortality risk. You can buy rabbits as young as four weeks, just a few days after they’re weaned.
Small operations need only one buck (male) and two does (females) to get started. This is fortuitous, as many municipal rabbit codes limit non-permitted backyard farms to three adult rabbits. To avoid extended rearing time, you’ll want to start your herd with adults. Expect to pay at least $75 total for three healthy adults – more for certain breeds.
2. How Much Can You Get for Rabbit Meat?
Many hobbyists are perfectly content not to sell their rabbits’ meat. If you’re starting your backyard rabbit farm simply to reduce the long-term environmental and ethical costs of your carnivorous habits, you don’t need to worry about this part.
According to reputable sources I’ve seen, commercial meat processors pay anywhere from $1 to $2 per pound for live rabbits. You’ll likely need to work with a non-USDA processor or locker plant, as USDA-certified facilities aren’t permitted to butcher meat from non-USDA-certified farms. To find one, search online for locker plants in your area or check with your state association of meat processors.
If you’re able to process your rabbit meat on-site, you can expect to get $5 to $7 per pound, depending on quality. However, as a small operation, you’ll likely struggle to find butchers or independent meat markets willing to purchase small batches. Unless you have the space, resources, and legal runway to scale up, it may be best to live-sell any excess rabbits you produce, reinvest the (modest) proceeds into your operation, and eat as much as you can.
If you’re relying on a processor for meat that you’d like to eat, you should expect to pay the difference between the meat’s retail cost and the price the processor is willing to pay for your live rabbits: $3 to $6 per pound. However, you can probably negotiate a better deal on a recurring or bulk processing arrangement – perhaps as low as $2 or $3 per pound.
Pro Tip: This guide is geared toward hobbyist rabbit farmers. If you’re interested in launching a legitimate commercial rabbit farming operation as a source of primary or secondary income, check out this guide from Crossroads Rabbitry. It includes additional details around cost, breeding schedules, and logistical considerations, beyond what I’ve included in this post.
What You Need to Raise Rabbits – Supplies & Costs
Your rabbits need somewhere to live and supplies to keep them comfortable. These are the most important components of your backyard rabbit farm.
1. Hutch Plan
Your rabbits’ home base is a solid enclosure, usually wooden with metal components, called a “hutch.” Hutches are generally smaller and more mobile than chicken coops, so not all municipalities regulate their construction. However, many cities do, so you may be required to submit a formal hutch plan to the proper authorities – usually the zoning or animal control department. Your hutch plan spells out your hutch’s layout, dimensions, construction, and placement on your property. It may also cover your rabbits’ outdoor enclosure, if you’re providing one.
Even if your municipality doesn’t require you to file a plan, a hutch plan could be good for your bottom line. Other than the rabbits themselves, your hutch is likely to be your largest startup expense. Larger pre-built hutches appropriate for outdoor rabbit herds reliably cost more than $100. Hutches that include small outdoor pens (enclosures) typically cost more than $150.
By contrast, a scratch-built hutch made from low-cost wood and wiring costs a fraction of that and should take a capable DIYer less than a day to put together. Free hutch plans abound online – check out these nine from The Balance, for instance.
Your rabbits will spend a good amount of their time in the hutch, so make sure it’s comfortable. Review online hutch plans or check out models like this one ($150) for an idea of what your hutch will or should look like.
Your hutch’s size will depend on the size of your herd. The more rabbits you have, the more space you’ll need to house them. Some other hutch-related items to keep in mind:
- Waste Control and Disposal: Most pre-built hutches have wire floors with enough spacing to allow waste to fall through into a sub-floor tray or box that’s easy enough to remove and empty. If you’re building yours from scratch, this is an essential sanitation feature.
- Nursing Compartment: Pre-built hutches have separate compartments where new mothers can nurse their litters in peace and quiet. DIY hutches should as well – preferably with four solid walls and a solid wood floor that can support adequate bedding.
- Climate Control: Rabbits are fairly hardy mammals, but temperature control is still important in extreme climates. If it gets really hot in your backyard, try to find a shaded spot for your hutch. Provided it’s safe to do so, consider rigging a standing electric fan ($15 and up) to provide additional climate control. In cold climates, space heaters are optional – they consume lots of energy, are prone to shorts and fires, and typically cost $25 or more. If you’re worried about your bunnies on frigid days, make arrangements to house them indoors, perhaps in a basement or garage.
3. Outdoor Enclosure (Pen or Run)
If your hutch doesn’t have a built-in pen, construct or install an outdoor enclosure that provides your rabbits with some breathing (hopping) room.
You can buy pre-built pens with solid framing and adequate room to run, but they’re pricey. This basic wire-frame model is nearly $100 at Overstock.com. A DIY alternative is likely several times cheaper and requires minimal handiness – you just need to know how to nail together wood frames, hook together wire, and keep the whole thing stable on level ground (tent stakes work well).
Pro Tip: If your yard is fully fenced in and you’re not worried about predatory birds, you might be able to skip the enclosure altogether. Check that this is permitted in your city first, though.
4. Separate Areas for Does and Bucks
Rabbits are notoriously prolific breeders. Unlike many mammals, does are fertile year-round, meaning the likelihood that they’ll conceive after intercourse is quite high.
If you’re raising a small herd for meat, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, even rabbits have limits: Experts recommend waiting until the last litter is weaned, usually six weeks after birth, to reintroduce does and bucks. Back-to-back pregnancies tax does, shortening their lifespans and raising infant mortality rates. In the meantime, don’t let does and bucks out of the hutch simultaneously. The best way to avoid unintended pregnancies is to maintain two separate hutches and enclosures – one for each gender.
If your budget doesn’t allow for this, use a solid wood barrier to delineate male and female sections in your outdoor enclosure and hutch. It’s not pretty, but a plywood barrier anchored to the ground with tent stakes and to the enclosure’s walls with twist-ties is perfectly functional – and doable with found or repurposed materials at virtually no cost.
5. Predator Protection
Your rabbits have adequate predator protection inside their hutches, but what about in their open-air enclosures? If your yard isn’t fully fenced in, it may be time to invest in a pragmatic, low-cost perimeter.
Per Homewyse, you can expect a basic chain-link fence to cost $5 to $10 per linear foot. Gates are more expensive, particularly if they’re designed with low clearances to prevent quadruped predators from sneaking into your yard. To protect against birds, consider rigging your outdoor enclosure with chicken wire or sturdy mesh wiring above and on all sides.
Your outdoor enclosure’s bedding doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but it does need to be absorbent and relatively easy to change. Straw bedding is the default. It’ll set you back $5 to $10 per bale. How much you need depends on how much space you have to cover and how often you’re willing (or compelled by odor) to change it.
Bedding is optional inside the hutch. Assuming you have a waste-catching tray, it’s not necessary for sanitation purposes, but it can definitely reduce odor in between cleanings. The one exception is in the nursing compartment, which should have plenty of straw or hay covering its solid floor. Baby bunnies don’t like solid or wire surfaces.
7. Food and Water in Proper Containers
Rabbits need food and water, obviously. Unlike goats and chickens, they’re not super effective foragers, though they’ll happily mow your lawn if you let them. If you do let your rabbits browse, introduce them slowly to the practice. Suddenly switching from processed or dried foods to fresh greens can cause bunny indigestion (yes, that’s a thing).
Healthy meat rabbits thrive on high-quality Timothy hay. A 24-ounce mini-bale costs about $4 at Mills Fleet Farm; your local pet store probably has variously sized bales in stock too.
Rabbit experts recommend supplementing hay with protein-fiber pellets and fresh vegetables, such as lettuce and carrots. These should comprise 10% to 20% of the total food volume consumed by adult rabbits. Pellets are more important for younger rabbits. They’re not super expensive: a 10-pound bag will set you back less than $12.
Place your rabbits’ food in a tightly latticed container or sifter feeder that’s difficult for them to enter. If they can readily gain access to the container, they’ll defecate freely in it, contaminating their food and increasing the risk of illness. Sifter feeders are cheap and effective: Amazon sells a small one suitable for small herds for $9.
For water, you’ll want an ample water bottle that can last for a while between refills. The larger the herd, the larger the bottle. Amazon sells bottles up to 64 ounces for under $8.
8. Slaughter and Processing Station
If you’re going to slaughter and process your rabbits on-site, you’ll need this gruesome but necessary feature. I won’t go into the gory details of slaughter – if you’re interested, there are plenty of reputable resources elsewhere online.
Suffice it to say that you’ll need a couple of sharp knives (with a sharpener), flat surfaces, storage supplies, and some material you can readily procure at a hardware store. Assuming you already have knives and a sharpener, the whole setup shouldn’t cost more than $10.
Pro Tip: If you plan to get fancy with your processing – like making sausage or ground meat – then you’ll need a meat grinder. This will easily be your biggest meat-related expense: Expect to pay at least $60 for a small but functional grinder, and upwards of $150 for a fancier model.
Run a Rabbit Hobby Farm – Setup, Breeding & More
This is a general guide to acquiring rabbits, setting up your rabbit farm, and raising and breeding your rabbits humanely:
- Plan Your Herd. First, decide on your herd size and composition (breed). As noted, you can start a hobby herd with just one buck and two does, though adding another doe or two (if budget permits) allows for more diversity. Experts recommend no more than one buck per five does.
- Plan Your Hutch and Run. Look for a pre-built hutch or hutch plan with adequate room for your herd, keeping in mind that you’re going to have a lot more rabbits on your hands soon. Hutch plans and product descriptions generally spell out capacity. Mind local space-per-rabbit ordinances, if there are any. And make sure your backyard has enough space, in a suitable location, for the whole thing.
- Apply for the Requisite Permits. Determine whether you’ll need to apply for a permit from the requisite authorities. If so, make sure you have all your ducks (or rabbits) in a row before you send in your application. When in doubt, contact your municipal zoning or animal control office for details direct from the source.
- Build or Install Your Hutch and Run. Once your farm is legal, set up your rabbits’ future home. If the prospect of building a DIY hutch is daunting, tap a handy friend or family member to lend a hand.
- Get the Space Ready for Your Rabbits. Ready everything your rabbits will need to be safe, healthy, and comfortable: food and water containers, hay and pellets, bedding, and sanitation equipment. Don’t forget to prepare the nursing room inside the hutch with adequate bedding. Before you populate the space, make sure everything is clean and clear one last time. You don’t want to find a colony of chipmunks in your hutch on the day you bring your rabbits home.
- Purchase Your Rabbits. Next, find a local breeder for your chosen breed. If you’re not sure where to start, check with your local chapter of the American Rabbit Breeders Association, or use an aggregated list from a site like RabbitBreeders.us. (Note: I haven’t independently evaluated these sources.) Don’t worry about getting pedigreed rabbits with papers. That’s only necessary if you plan to show your rabbits in the future.
- Get Into a Rhythm. Get into a feeding and cleaning rhythm that aligns with your rabbits’ habits and your personal schedule. Every herd is different – and, as your herd grows, your responsibilities will change.
- Breed Your Rabbits. Now for the fun part. Remember, does are eternally fertile, so don’t mix genders until you’re ready for the consequences. If you have more than one buck, use a spreadsheet to track which does he mates with and the generational lines that result. You’ll know your doe is about to give birth when she starts (literally) pulling out her hair and adding it to the bedding in the nursing room. Rabbits are born blind and helpless, and you won’t see much of them until they’re weaned. Neither will the mother, for that matter: she’ll feed them twice a day, but otherwise go about her business more or less as usual. Just check periodically that the babies are still alive, but don’t be sad if any don’t make it – it’s common for younger mothers to lose most or all of their first few litters. Always use gloves when handling baby rabbits – their immune systems are as tender as their skin.
- Let the Litter Grow. Once the litter’s surviving members are weaned, let them do their thing for a few weeks. For most breeds, four to six pounds is the ideal fryer size – larger than that and the meat is too gamy, smaller than that and you don’t get enough. Wait at least 14 days after weaning to breed the mother again. Some experts recommend as much as 30 to 45 days, but that’s up to you.
- Decide What to Do With Your Bounty. You can’t keep your fryers forever. At 12 to 16 weeks, you’ll need to decide what to do with them. If slaughter is prohibited on residential properties in your hometown, find a local meat processor to humanely and efficiently process the fryers. Otherwise, you’ll soon learn a thing or two about amateur butchering.
- Repeat As Needed. A healthy doe on a fast but safe breeding schedule (14 to 21 days between weaning and conception) can produce 200 to 250 pounds of meat per year. As long as you’re willing to keep the cycle going, your rabbits will keep your family well-fed.
Pros of Raising Rabbits for Meat
1. It’s More Ethical Than Store-Bought Meat
If you’re not willing to embrace a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, the next best change you can make is resolving to eat only ethically raised meat. While “ethical” is an admittedly fuzzy standard when it comes to commercial meat production, few would argue that lovingly hand-raised rabbits aren’t ethical to consume – notwithstanding justifiable moral arguments against consuming any animal protein.
2. Rabbits’ Lifecycles and Generations Are Short
Rabbits are famously efficient breeders. Does reach sexual maturity at just a few months of age and remain fertile year-round. The gestation period lasts about a month. Litters wean after four or five weeks, but mothers are ready to breed soon after giving birth – though experts recommend at least two weeks’ rest before re-breeding to keep mothers healthy and happy.
On a 14- or 21-day breeding schedule, you’ll yield seven to eight litters per year. With each fryer producing five pounds of meat, on average, one or two breeding does will likely produce as much rabbit meat as your family can handle. What you do with the rest is up to you.
3. Rabbits Are Efficient Metabolizers
Pound for pound, rabbits require less food than domestic fowl. If you’re not trying to make money off your backyard rabbit farm, every dollar saved on feed is a dollar kept where it belongs – in your wallet. Since your rabbits likely replace at least some of the store-bought meat you’d otherwise consume, you can look at this as indirectly reducing your grocery budget.
4. Rabbits Don’t Require Specialized Diets
Rabbits aren’t picky eaters. Adults primarily consume hay, with some protein-fiber pellets and fresh veggies thrown in. Pellets and hay are both pretty cheap, and if you have space for a few lettuce plants in your garden, you can surely grow enough fresh stuff to keep your bunnies happy.
5. Rabbits Are Hardy and Easy to House
Rabbits are hardier than most other small livestock. This is important in places with harsh summers or winters (or both). The Minneapolis rabbit farm mentioned earlier in this guide lets its rabbits run wild most of the year, with temporary indoor accommodations only on the handful of nights when the mercury dips below minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit
6. Rabbits Are Pretty Good Neighbors
All things considered, rabbits aren’t bad neighbors. They’re not as noisy or smelly as goats or fowl, both of which can be intensely odorous and are known for making rackets at odd hours. As long as you have an actionable waste mitigation plan and good defenses against escape and predation, your neighbors shouldn’t have reason to complain about your backyard rabbit operation.
Cons of Raising Rabbits for Meat
1. They Don’t Produce Eggs or Other Sustainable By-Products While Alive
Unlike chickens, rabbits don’t lay eggs or produce any other sustainable by-products while they’re alive. Besides meat, the only other commercial rabbit product is fur. Unlike sheep’s wool, however, rabbit fur can’t be harvested while the animal is still living.
Though it’s still common in Europe and parts of the United States, farming rabbits for fur is highly problematic. Rabbits are kept in abysmal conditions, with anywhere from 10% to 30% dying before they can be killed for their fur. Discarding meat from rabbits raised for fur is wasteful. If you’re a committed vegetarian averse even to ethically raised meat, there’s no reason to keep rabbits other than for companionship.
2. Many Cities Prohibit Slaughter and Processing on Residential Property
It’s not unlikely that your hometown permits small-scale rabbit farms on residential-zoned property. It’s less likely that it permits rabbit slaughtering and processing on residential property.
Needless to say, this adds to the cost and complexity of homestead rabbitry. Unless you’re swayed by other calculations, such as sound ethics or the simple satisfaction of eating meat raised by your own hand, it might be a better deal financially and logistically to simply purchase ethically produced rabbit meat from your local butcher.
3. Startup Costs Are High
Depending on the number and breed of your starter rabbits, and whether you buy a pre-built hutch or construct one yourself using a free plan, you can expect to spend anywhere from $150 to more than $300 to get your rabbitry operation off the ground. Even assuming reduced grocery bills or side income from sales of excess fryers down the line, you can’t afford to spend that kind of money on what’s at least initially going to be a hobby project if you’re living paycheck to paycheck (or close to it).
4. Enclosures Require Work to Keep Clean & Well-Maintained
You’ll need to put in several hours per week cleaning and maintaining your hutch and outdoor run: changing food and water, emptying waste, replacing bedding, and the like. Rabbitry isn’t a super high-maintenance project, but it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it hobby either.
5. Predation Is a Risk
Rabbits live at the bottom of the food chain. Depending on your location, your rabbits face existential threats from birds of prey, stray dogs and cats, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, snakes, and other carnivorous animals. The solutions described above can help, but there’s no way to completely protect your herd. If you’re worried about the emotional or financial costs of losing your rabbits to predators, consider a pet rabbit kept safely indoors instead.
Raising rabbits for meat isn’t for everyone. Beyond the planning requirements, financial costs, and day-to-day supervision that even the most modest backyard rabbit farm entails, rabbitry forces farmers to ask themselves some uncomfortable questions.
Am I really comfortable with the idea of raising rabbits solely to harvest their meat? Will I become too attached to the animals I’m planning to eat at some point in the not too distant future? And, most vexing of all: If I feel this way about consuming ethically raised meat, should I consume meat from animals raised (and slaughtered) in far worse conditions?
I can’t answer these questions for you, but I’d advise giving them some serious thought before you go all in on your backyard rabbit farm. This is one decision you want to be sure you won’t regret.
Do you raise rabbits at home, or know anyone who does?