My homestead philosophy has always been that this lifestyle is an investment. An investment in our health, our security, and our future.
There are, what seems like, an infinite number of ways to house rabbits. From colonies to cages, the cost of your set up will be determined by a couple of factors. Climate, local predators, and available resources. Where I live we have long, frigid winter’s and summer storms with strong winds. Not having an existing out building to house them in, we went about building some sturdy hutches.
We started with a trio. One buck (male) and two does (females). We built a single hole hutch for our buck, a two hole hutch for our does, and another two hole hutch for a grow out space. The walls open up for ease of cleaning, feeding, and allowing airflow during hot summer days. The lumber and hardware cost us about $230. Now you can still have a sturdy and safe housing set up for even cheaper. By implementing some R&R, we have been able to build another set of hutches for just the cost of a few nails/screws.
We have two types of cages, hand made and ready to assemble. The hand made cage is 36x36x18 inches and is made of 1/2×1/2 inch hardware cloth. The ready to assemble cages are 30x30x18 inches. The floors are 1/2×1/2 inch hardware cloth while the walls and top are 1×1/2 inch. The materials for the hand made cage cost the same as the ready to assemble cages, $30 each.
In hindsight, the hand made cage is the better deal. We get more floor space for the rabbits and there has been no rust even after five years. The ready to assemble cages show lots of rust, although still solid. Less floor space and still need extra clamps to keep it all together. We had a spooked rabbit squeeze out between the walls at the corner one time.
Feeders (5), water bottles (5), and nest boxes (2), cost around $100. You can save quite a few dollars if you can find these used. Just be sure to give them a good wash before using. You can also go with simple bowls, but I have found that creates more waste in spilled feed and water.
Now the rabbits. We chose to use new Zealand and Californians, or crosses of the two. The average cost for pure bred is $40. So for our trio it cost us $120.
With everything accounted for, our start up investment was $600. Obviously your start up cost will vary based on your wants, needs, and resources.
Feed is a continuous cost for us, but it’s such a minimal one I chose not to include in the start up portion. I use feed cost in figuring what it cost to raise the rabbits we send to freezer camp. So let’s jump right in! (Pun intended 😂)
I use a pelleted feed. I can get a fifty pound bag for $16. With just our three breeders, that lasts us two months. Between the two girls we average thirteen kits (babies) every time we breed.
Feeding breeders and 13 growing kits, we go through fifty pounds a month. From breeding to butcher at 12 weeks: $8 in feed during gestation (28-34 days). $16 per month from birth to weaning at eight weeks. Although babies are nursing most of this time, mother’s appetite increases greatly. And an additional $16 in feed for the final four weeks from weaning to butcher, brings the total feed cost to $56.
This cost can be altered by growing your own feed for them through a fodder system or a dedicated plot in the garden. Some “free range” their rabbits in set ups similar to chicken tractors.
Each of our rabbits dress out weight has been between 2.5-4 pounds each. Let’s keep it simple and say three pounds per rabbit. So we’d get a total of 39 pounds for the freezer. So it cost us $1.43 per pound to send these rabbits to freezer camp.
With our breeding schedule we can breed the girls every three months. We like to wean at eight weeks. It’s the natural time the mother’s wean so there’s less stress when moving kits to the grow out cages. So we get four breeding’s a year. With 13 kits per litter we get about 156 pounds of rabbit meat in the freezer every year. If we were to wean at six weeks, we could get up to five litters a year, and that could give us 195 pounds of meat.
Rabbit meat sells anywhere between $5-$7 per pound in the grocery store. So even with the cost of the start up investment, you’re still saving at LEAST $300.
Rabbits are well worth your consideration. They’re classified as pets so you can raise them almost anywhere. Want some good info on raising rabbits? Check out Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits. It’ll give you a wonderful foundation to build from.
I hope this helps give you an idea and helps you take your next step toward self reliance and food security.