A Weird Way to Save Money on Groceries: Raise Rabbits in Your Backyard

Image: Rabbits
Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis under Creative Commons

Caleb, a little boy from my homeschool group, is only 8 years old, but he always has money in his wallet. Wherever we go, if he wants a snack or a toy, he doesn’t have to ask his parents for cash. He just pulls out his own money and makes the purchase himself.

When I noticed this, I asked his mom if he gets an allowance. She told me that neither of her kids receive an allowance. Instead, Caleb earns his money by raising backyard rabbits for meat and for sale.

Curious, I asked Caleb to share his advice for others interested in earning money raising rabbits. If you’d like to follow his lead, here’s what you’ll need to know.

Why Raise Backyard Rabbits?

Rabbits are quieter and cleaner than chickens, and unlike pigs or cows, you can usually raise them in cities. Their cages can be stacked to take up less space, so you can easily use a small building or garage as a shelter. Rabbit droppings make excellent fertilizer for your garden or flower beds.

Raising backyard rabbits can be an excellent activity for kids, because the animals are small enough for them to handle on their own, and they make a fantastic 4-H project. If your kids are interested in eventually raising larger stock, rabbits are a great place to start.

And these benefits are in addition to the biggest reason to raise your own rabbits: the potential to save and earn money.

Raising Rabbits Cuts Your Meat Budget

Ready to eat rabbit for dinner? A breeding trio of rabbits — two females and a male — can produce up to 600 pounds of high-quality meat each year, according to Mother Earth News. That’s more than a whole cow! Now, add up how much it would cost you to provide your family with 600 pounds of lean, all-white-meat chicken.

Caleb’s rabbits take about eight weeks to grow large enough to be sold or harvested for the family, and the meat freezes well. Caleb’s mother told me she prepares rabbit meat for at least a couple of meals a week, and says her family likes the taste more than chicken. At around 3 pounds of meat per rabbit, their grocery savings are substantial.

Sell Rabbits for Extra Income

In addition to helping feed the family with his hard work, Caleb sells his rabbits for a profit.  Breeding trios of his most popular meat breed, New Zealand White, sell for $30 to $40 for the set. Single rabbits of pedigreed show quality for up to $40 each. He earns even more during certain times of year, such as during the weeks leading up to Easter.

A trio of two does and a buck will produce 40 to 50 rabbits per year, and you can sell the young at six or seven weeks of age, according to rabbit farmer Ed Robinson.

What Supplies Do You Need?

Caleb and his family raise multiple rabbit breeds, but they focus on the New Zealand White for meat. If you plan to raise show rabbits, you might want to look into other breeds. You can purchase New Zealand White rabbits for as little as $10 each, and you’d probably want to get three, a male and two females, to begin breeding.

Rabbits need a sheltered cage to protect them from both predators and the weather. If you don’t have a garage or shed to keep the cages in, you might need to invest in one.

Whether you buy pre-made cages or build your own, each of the breeding rabbits needs its own cage, and you’ll need another, larger cage for the young bunnies. Caleb’s parents helped with his start-up costs, providing cages for about $30 for individual setups and $50 for the growing cage.

Maintaining Your Rabbit Stock

Of course, as your backyard rabbits breed and grow, you’ll need to feed and care for them. Caleb spends about $60 to $80 a year on feed for each of his breeding rabbits. He also buys worming medicine at a cost of around $5 a year, per rabbit.

In addition, there’s the cost of tattoos. Yes, tattoos! Whether your rabbits are for show or for meat breeding, they need identifying tattoos. These help you keep track of which rabbits are ready to be bred, which ones need medication, and all other care that could become confusing when dealing with animals that are essentially identical. You can buy a simple tattoo kit for around $50 online. Here’s a short guide to tattooing your rabbits.

How to Start Raising Backyard Rabbits

Ready to get started raising rabbits in your backyard? Whether you’ll focus on rabbits for meat, sale or show, contact a reputable breeder.

Another option is to visit local 4-H shows, recommends Caleb’s mother. These shows are great chances to meet breeders, learn more about the different breeds available, and get an idea of which rabbit breed is right for your family.

Your Turn: Would you raise rabbits in your backyard to help cut your grocery bill or earn extra income?

Tavia Fuller Armstrong, the Unplanned Homeschooler, is an award-winning freelance writer and a homeschooling mother of three. She enjoys bringing readers relevant and informative articles they can use.