The cost of raising rabbits for meat has several important variables that we need to consider.Will you buy new rabbits continually or breed them?I'll buy new rabbits as needed.
In this case, you must factor in the cost of the rabbits. I find $2.00 is pretty common in rural areas (about the same as pullets and sold in the same places). Typically, you butcher in 8-12 weeks depending on the breed. When buying rabbits, you must consider the seasonal availability. They're easy to find in march and april, but harder to come by in september and october. If you plan on 12 rabbits at a time, and slaughtering 3-4 times a year, extpect the cost of the rabbits to be $75 - $100. That's about the same as the cost of commercial feed for as many rabbits, so you're essentially doubling your expense. On the plus side, breeding can present some hassles, so it may be worth it. Also keep in mind, when you buy rabbits, they're already several weeks old and weened in most cases. If you mix rabbits from two different litters in the same cage, there's a much greater chance of fighting, so if possible, buy from the same litter. After all, you need not worry about inbreeding if they're all regularly slaughtered and replaced.I'll breed my rabbits.
This saves you the expense of buying new rabbits, and can be helpful if you can't find a good supplier in your area. You will however need to assume some additional up-front costs. A simple rabbit hutch is insufficiant for regular breeding. Each breeding doe should have her own seperate cage in which to nest and raise her litter. As the space requirement goes up, so do heating and cooling. No problem if you have an old shed or build a roof over the cages for shade, but whatever you do, don't get suckered into buying commerical hutches at $100-$300 a piece, you'll eventually want atleast four, and that gets expensive. That's two breeder cages for two does, and 2 larger grow-out cages for rabbits after their weened. A fith cage may be desired for a sire buck if you want to selectively breed for specific traits, but that's optional. You do want at least two different does from two different parents to serve as your breeders. That way their offspring can be interbreed without inbreeding. Among rabbits, first cousins are fine for breeding, but brother/sister and mother/son will deterrierate the breed.Commercial Feed or Home Grown?I'll use commercial feed.
This is expensive, but provides the rabbits with a ballanced diet year-round. Expensive is a relative term, I pay about $15 for a 50lb bag. That's usually enough to grow out one litter to fryer size. Resist the urge to buy in bulk. Yes, it gets cheaper, but rabbit food gets moldy easily.I'll grow my own food for them
Plan on needing 25²ft (5'x5') of garden space for each birthing doe, and 9²ft (3'x3') of space to grow food for each fryer. Plant them a variety of food. Lettuces, carrots, radishes, beets etc are all suitable. The emphasis must be on planting things that have a high nutritional value for the rabbits as wells as being fast to grow. Slower growing plants would obviously require more space. Supplement with weeds or vegetable scraps from the kitchen. Hay, buckwheat and alfalfa are good, but should constitute only about a third of the rabbit's diet. Look for high protein plants like soy (be careful, some breeds can't digest it) or duckweed. Keep in mind, you'll need to dry or freeze a small portion of the food regularly for the winter months in temperate climates since the garden just won't be producing. In many cases the preferred method is to mix fresh food with commercial pellets.Heating and Cooling:
Not much is needed in terms of heating, except to keep their water and food from freezing. Rabbits love the cold, don't worry about them. A common beginner mistake is to heat a hutch so they can stay warm. That gets expensive and can actually aid the growth of harmful bacteria and fungus. A lightbulb near their water is sufficient, or buy a heated water disppenser (about $15). In hot areas, cooling may be necessesary. Make sure their hutch or cage is well ventilated and shaded. Keep a small fan nearby, it will cool them and help keep their cages dry.Medicating:
Rabbits get sick. medicated feed and injections get expensive, even if self administered. Some times it's best to cut your losses and cull the lot of them. Preventative measures are much cheaper than trying to fix a problem that shouldn't occur in the first place. Clean the cages regularly, disposing of waste in an area away from their cages to keep the spread of disease down. That means if you're composting it or collecting it for the garden, at least once a week, move it to the other side of the yard. Remove any uneaten food regularly. Never let anything go bad in the cages. Make sure water is kept fresh. If feeding from a tank, make sure the water in the tank is up to your standards for drinking water. Butchering:
There is no shortage of businesses willing to kill and clean your rabbits for you, but at $3-$4 each, it's just not worth it. One thing I find common with people raising meat rabbits is they get attached to them and can't kill them. Worse, the wife and kids get attached, then you really can't kill them. Don't fall into that trap. Go out, buy a full grown bunny, bring it home and introduce it to the family. Then snap it's neck and throw it on the grill. If you hesitate or catch hell from the family, it's better to find out with one rabbit than after raising 20. Sometimes people need to be reminded that they're on the top of the food chain, but not above it.
The more direct answer to the question "How much does raising rabbit meat cost?":
I'll assume 20 rabbits at a time, at a cost of $2.00 per each purchased rabbit.
|All commercial feed||50/50 Home grown and commercial feed||All home grown feed|
|Breed your own rabbits||$1.00/lb||50¢/lb||Free (except occasional medication and cleaning supplies)|
|Buy new rabbits every time||$2.00/lb||$1.25/lb||75¢/lb|
You can assume an up-front cost of about $100-$200 on the cages, water dispensers etc.