Rabbits? You can make money with those? As a matter of fact, you can, it's just a matter of knowing what you're getting into and knowing how to maximize the potential and tap into the market. I spent approximately eight years raising rabbits and saw my rabbitry go from a couple of breeding trios thrown together for 4-H to a full-scale commercial rabbitry with 153 breeding animals. However, because of the rate at which rabbits reproduce and grow past their useful age, there has to be careful planning to keep your overhead low and your stock moving.
The first thing to think about when designing a rabbitry is, what are my long-term plans for this? How many animals do I want to end up with? Paramount in this consideration is the local demand; namely, are there contracts available with pet stores, meat buyers or research facilities? If you don't have any possibility of contracting any of your animals, approach with extreme caution because you have no certainty of being able to sell a single animal. Every non-breeding animal in your rabbitry after it has reached sale age is just eating profits. If you even have contracts for half of the animals your rabbitry can produce, you have some windfall. Ideally, you will contract for at least enough to cover your operating expenses so you are sure not to go into the red as long as you hold up your end of the deal.
Next, what is the purpose for your animals and what is in demand in your area? Most rabbits are raised for show, meat or pets with some being raised for research. Look into the laws in your area - where I live, rabbits are not allowed as pets within city limits and the commercial sale of rabbit meat is prohibited - as these laws may limit your options or throw in additional considerations. Talk to all the people you possibly can who are tied to the field in some way. Ask pet store owners how rabbits sell in their shops. If there is a rabbitry in your area, ask the proprietors what kind of market they cater to and what kind of suggestions they'd have for people just starting in the business. Nothing replaces experience in a field and experienced people may offer advice and insight you'd have had to learn through trial and error otherwise. Generally, whatever you choose, it's a good idea to diversify. Keep some rabbits on the side for show, sell for meat contracts, sell a few locally as pets - as with most fields, diversity decreases risk and increases your potential for success.
No matter what area you're looking into for your rabbits, always buy the highest-quality breeding stock you can afford. Just selling rabbits for meat for low-dollar? Pedigreed New Zealand Whites with ARBA registration (or whichever rabbit breeder's association is in your country) may seem superfluous, but then any offspring can be sold for any one of the most common purposes. Many good show rabbits sell for $50 on up while meat rabbits may only be $3 each, but if you can sell as many of your animals as possible for show and then any that do not sell, have breed faults, or do not socialize properly can be sold at market rates and keep the financial drain on your business to a minimum. The highest possible quality for your breeding stock will allow for maximum diversity and, as a result, maximum profit potential.
Businesses live and die by their reputation and your rabbitry is no different. Not only is it important to produce high-quality animals that are well taken care of and fulfill all your contract commitments, it is also important to build a name and reputation in your local community. In addition to regular sales, you may decide to donate to charity causes such as the local animal shelter or offer special deals to members of 4-H, FFA or similar community groups.
Bear in mind, rabbits have a limited amount of time that they are in prime condition for breeding and no matter how good of an animal it is, it will eventually have to be rotated out of your breeding pool. Many breeders keep the animal's genetics in the pool by replacing it with one of its offspring, especially if it was bred out of the rabbitry to prevent inbreeding. Either way, know when it will be deleterious to your animal's health to continue breeding them and have a plan for regularly rotating the breeding pool.
Finally, this business does come with a lot of risk. You must practice good business and management to the utmost of your ability and there are plenty of times when there is little room for error. Raising rabbits successfully hinges on a huge number of factors including the quality of facilities, your animals' health, the food you use, the contracts you can get, the kind of community sales you can get and so on. In many cases the income will fluctuate dramatically between one month and the next, so money management has to be at the forefront of your mind no matter how good the numbers are in a given month. Giving your animals the best possible treatment and keeping good business practices in mind at all times is the key to a successful and profitable rabbitry.