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A Backyard Business With A Huge Upside

A few months ago I was looking to buy some rabbits to replace my livestock. The old man who I used to buy from had gone out of business (he is now in a retirement home) and all of the breeders I knew had nothing for sale. Craig’s list in Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas yielded nothing but a few pets. None of the feed stores had stock. And the local papers had even less.

Digging further, I did manage to find one breeder who said he was sold out of his main stock, but he offered to sell me his culls. The culls are smaller, slightly deformed, or possibly sick.

It was the only option I had so I asked him when I could come get them. “Oh, anytime this weekend after 2pm on Saturday”. Jason the breeder sounded quite casual.  Jason had told all his buyers that and he expected them to drift in all weekend.

So exactly at 2pm I pulled into his barnyard and got in line behind two other vehicles in front of me, and while I was waiting two more pulled in behind.  I chatted with some of the other buyers while we all nervously wondered how the transactions in front of us were going.

Most of the buyers were looking for livestock for upcoming 4H show season and had arranged with Jason months in advance.

What struck me dumb was how far they had come – one family drove all the way from Loredo! Yikes, that was far.

Do you recall I went to the “Be Ready Life changes’ expo in Florida last November? I did two premium classes were I processed a live rabbits and showed people how to do it, and how to use every bit of the carcass. Of course I had to have some live rabbits to work with and I almost went into a panic attack when I found out it is would be impossible for me to ship, or carry on, my own rabbits for the expo. So I looked for some rabbits to buy in Florida – and you know what? It is really difficult to find rabbits in Florida too. I searched for listing in Miami, Tampa, Orlando…

And lately, I’ve been getting comments from this community asking me where can rabbits be purchased? Thee seems to be a severe shortage of livestock rabbits all over the US. Of course, some people are wondering if there is a Gov’t conspiracy… :). OK just joking on that.

You know what? This growing your own groceries movement is growing. And by now, many people realize just what a great food source rabbits are. So the demand is way up, while a lot of the older breeders are retiring.

This is an opportunity for anyone with a backyard and a need to make some extra income.

So this is what we are talking about;
– a small business with huge demand and little supply
– very low costs to get setup
– not huge profits, but sales (the most difficult part of any business) will be easy
– a steady supply of quality meat for your family
– a product that will only get more valuable as our currency deteriorates

Raising rabbits on its own is not going to be that profitable, but there is an additional product which really makes this small business opportunity work well.

Worm compost.

Yes, underneath the rabbits cages you collect the manures and feed worms which makes one of the finest organic fertilizers you get; worm castings. Jay Mertz of Rabbit Hill Farms told me yes, the rabbits do make some profit, but by far, a rabbitry makes much more income from selling worm castings.

Raising rabbits is so important for your families food supply, and possibly for a small home business, that I am going to develop a whole detailed presentation on the topic. I am shooting footage and putting together the presentation and I’ll be getting that out to you after the holidays.

Until then, Stay Warm and wrap your kidneys!

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This post was written by Marjory

COMMENTS(0)

  • Kitty Corbett says:

    Marjory, the only problem with raising rabbits for meat is that they are not a kosher animal. Is it similarly viable to raise small, kosher meat animals, like sheep or goats, if one has grazing space? I have determined to live to 120 by eating kosher and organic so far as possible, and I believe it’s working. I do want to become self-sufficient and have something to sell or trade, too, but want to keep it kosher and organic for my own benefit as well as that of my trading partners. Chickens can be done, of course, and on less space; that’s a no-brainer. I haven’t yet got my retreat and may have to buy something without acreage. My area is a significant source of peach and pecan production, but nobody grows organic (yet!). In fact, I heard somewhere that to produce organic pecans one surrounds the pecan trees with chicken wire and turns chickens into the space. The idea is that the chickens will consume all the insects which otherwise would infect the pecans. Do you know if this works?

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Kitty,

      Gosh, I didn’t know rabbits weren’t kosher. I can’t say I am up on what is kosher or not. What determines kosher? Are Guinna pigs kosher? What we are looking for is a small herbivore that reproduces quickly. Herbivore is important as it makes feeding them much, much easier.

      Regarding the pecan trees I think having the chickens underneath would be good for many things – eating bugs, weeding, fertilizing. I’ve found they won’t do all of your weeding, but it does help significantly. The chickens won’t be able to help with fungus or molds of course. As with almost every other plant, plenty of fertility is going to be the biggest key to success in growing. And pecans like lots of water too. Organic pecans are definitely much easier than organic peaches.

      I love the goal of living to 120!

    2. Lela says:

      Hello Kitty,
      I, too, eat organic and kosher…and I grow pecans and peaches organically. Chickens underneath pecans will indeed work. Goats and/or sheep can help with weeds, if you have sufficient grazing for them (browse for goats). Two of the easiest small-stock species to grow on small acreage are chickens, of course, and if you can do aqua culture, fish are fairly easy. With a little more space, you can try sheep, goats, turkeys, etc. Good luck with achieving your goals!
      Lela

  • Leslie Parsons says:

    I have been doing almost all my own plant propagation for quite a while, and the one ingredient that I rely upon for high quality seedlings and starts is………yep – WORM CASTINGS!!! Rabbit litter would be an excellent material to use, because it would require no processing, such as, chopping or breaking up. Also, finding a source for fresh castings that are still alive with micro-organisms can be difficult. Many brands are a bag of dry dust. At that point, the enzymes are gone and the most you will have is a very low count of the precious micro-organisms that fresh castings have. But, those will be in a dormant state. So, when thinking about worm castings, think of a complex, living product. We are still unlocking the mysteries and learning about the details. Isn’t gardening interesting?

  • PJ says:

    There is a nice, free publication by Texas A & M AgriLife Extension titled “Rabbit Project Reference Manual.” This and many other publications can be found at AgriLifebookstore.org.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi PJ Thanks for posting this. The manual is a good one – although like most extension material it heavily relies upon agribusiness products and solutions (antibiotics for illnesses, chemicals, commercial feeds, etc). And, sorting through it, there is still lots of great basic info in there. Here is the link for anyone wanting a copy

      http://texas4-h.tamu.edu/files/2011/12/publications_projects_rabbit_project_reference_manual.pdf

  • Farmer Dan says:

    Hi Marjory,

    It’s interesting the timing of your article coming today. I processed 8 bunnies today after doing 6 of them yesterday. These were the last for the year until we start breeding again at the end of winter.

    This was our first year raising rabbits for meat and has largely been a success with many lessons learned. We will be taking what we have learned and making our little rabbitry even better next year. We have a buck and three does. We got them in the spring but they weren’t yet mature to begin breeding so we only got two litters this year. The first round we wound up with 30 bunnies to process which was wonderful. Our second round was less than spectacular as one of the does wound up not taking so we wound up with only two litters. Even so, we ended up with 14 in the freezer.

    We have come to absolutely LOVE eating our rabbits. They have become a delicacy around our kitchen table as my wife has become an amazing preparer of rabbit dishes.

    We were also able to sell a good number of them as well. We have a stand at our local farmers market and found a few folks that “get it” regarding rabbits. We are selling them at a very nice premium which has gone a long way towards offsetting our initial costs of building hutches, cages, watering etc.

    We first watched you last winter butchering a rabbit on your DVD set and very much like the way you respect and thank the animals for their gift to us. Our little girl says a prayer for them before I process them and I am always a little reverent just before the broom handle yank.

    Thank you so very much for your insights and counsel that your DVD set and weekly updates bring.

    Sincerely,

    Farmer Dan

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Wow Dan you’ve got a lot going on. I hope you can contribute article and updates on your project to our community here. And the recipes from you wife on cooking rabbit would be awesome.

      Thanks!

  • It’s interesting, I’m starting to hear a few more people here in Australia talk about meat rabbits. A few years ago, I only knew of one family anywhere near me (and I never met them) – now, there are several. And people ask me about it frequently.

    I’m hoping that the interest develops into a demand for breeding stock. I already have more people wanting rabbit meat than I can possibly help out (my Egyptian and Maltese friends, especially!). But you can sell live breeders for much more than an “eater” :-).

    I have been researching the worm bin thing recently too. I’m going to get a couple of old bathtubs from the local dump and set them up as worm farms, feeding them the rabbit manure and old straw. I’m hoping I’ll eventually get enough worms to be able to sell worm juice, worm castings, live worms, and still have enough left over to supplement my chickens’ and ducks’ diets!

    Plus I’ll also be able to use all that wonderful stuff on my own vegie gardens. Win, win, win, win, win :-).

    PS – I wrap my rabbits’ kidneys too. In bacon. Yum.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Oh yes, bacon wrapped anything sounds good!

      1. Alan says:

        BACON — The candy of the meat world.

  • V.L. says:

    Marjory,

    Thanks for making this site possible. I got your DVD a couple of years ago. I started raising rabbits and have loved the process.

    They are great if you choose to have them as pets and easy to raise if you need them for a food source.

    Thanks for all your great info.

    V.L.

    I’d like to offer to help with proofreading your articles. I’ve done this as a job in the past for drafters of legislation in Austin. Please let me know how I can help.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Thanks so much VL. I’ll be in touch.

      Thanks

  • Anonymous says:

    HI Marjory,

    Recently I did a little research about raising mice for my cats and dogs food. One of the main ways to kill mice is with CO2 (also crushing their brain with a brick, but I just don’t have it in me to do that). My question for you has to do with how you kill the rabbits. I watched your video, and the way you do it is very humane. I also want rabbits at some point soon, and am looking at ways to kill them that my heart can stomach, so to speak.

    Have you ever heard of anyone using CO2 with rabbits? Or is that just a mice thing?

    Thanks Marjory,
    Anna

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Anna,

      I have not heard about killing rabbits with CO2. You can do it with a broomstick, I promise you – you can. Especially if you fast for a day or so beforehand. Offer prayers of compassion and forgiveness for what you are doing, and offer thanks to the rabbit family.

      It is painful – the truth of what we have to do to live. to kill to eat. It is a brutal reality. I certainly avoided it for a long time. And then there is that little worry – will you become some crazy psychopath once you’ve done it? will you be able to control yourself? Yes, you will be able to control yourself. You won’t turn into a crazy ax murderer. Your insane neighbor is still safe – LOL.

      I always procrastinate when it comes time to do the butchering. It just is hard. But we can all do this. Our grandparents didn’t think a thing about it. Kids were often sent out into the yard to get a chicken for dinner. And they did.

      1. Alan says:

        My step-father just held them up by their ears and whacked them in the head with a piece of 3/4″ water pipe. I like your way better.

        1. Ah, yes, that is another option.

          1. Alan says:

            Really, partly I guess from the way I was raised, I am about the most cold hearted guy you could find. I would rather have them setting on a table and do a single short movement that was to pick them up by the ears and swing the pipe. The whole thing would be so fast and I believe easier on the rabbit than the broomstick. Having the broomstick on it’s neck then picking up on the rabbit takes more time and is very strange to the rabbit. My way the rabbit says, “Huh, What’s this?” then it is gone. I would not even pick it all the way up.
            I am the guy friends and family call to put animals down.
            I generally use a .410 slug in the brain.

        2. Joe says:

          I dispatch my meat rabbits with a pellet gun. One pellet in the back of the head and they go very quickly. I’ve been raising meat rabbits for a couple of years now and they are darn tasty! There are many ways to prepare them, and the meat is so mild that it can be used in almost any disk, it takes up any seasoning well. My wife served up some rabbit liver and onions last week that was so tasty it could bring tears to your eyes. She is gearing up to make some rabbit breakfast sausage that I think will be another winner.

          1. Hi Joe,

            Wow, please post that recipe on rabbit liver! And the rabbit sausage.

          2. Joe says:

            There’s really no recipe for the rabbit liver. They are from 12 week old rabbits who are fed a balanced diet of pellets, fodder and greens from the garden. Just fried up in a little olive oil, with a dash of salt and pepper and a touch of garlic. Cook slowly so they don’t toughen up and don’t overcook! Add the onions towards the end so that they are just tender, and not overdone.

            The sausage was very good and the recipe simple. Ground rabbit meat with enough olive oil to compensate for the lack of fat, then we added the prepared LEM brand spices to make sweet Italian sausages, along with a little extra garlic. We found the collegen casings to be a PITA to work with, but the hog casings did the job nicely. We used the LEM sausage press and it worked like a champ. The sausage making is kind of fun, a project my wife and I did together. Our mouths were watering, watching those juicy sausages come to form from the machine. When you combine the taste of fresh, healthy ingredients, along with a little homespun pride, you end up with memorable meals.

          3. Well, I would love to come over for dinner! LOL. Thanks

          4. Joe says:

            Sure Marjory, next time you’re visiting the Detroit area, let me know and we’ll fix you up with a meal you won’t soon forget! You’ll even get a deluxe guided tour of our little “Stony Creek Permaculture Farm”

  • Karen says:

    We’ve been raising rabbits for just over a year. We have 5 does and 2 bucks. We are not finding resources to sell our meat as easy as we’ve heard. We are not able to have a table at our farmers market, so we rely on word-of-mouth. So far, it’s not been too bad because we’ve been able to stock our freezer and even pressure can some of the meat for times when the wheels fall off the bus, but we have to find customers to make this work.

    Do you have any suggestions on how we can get more customers? Our next litter will be ready in February and we should have a constant supply going forward.

    I live in south western Missouri near Springfield.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Karen,

      SW Missouri and having trouble selling rabbits? I am surprised. How have you been letting people know you have them? Have you been offering them to the Springfield and then south a bit towards Fayetteville? Criag’s list, etc.

      Have you contacted any 4H clubs in the region to let them know you have stock?

      BTW, breeding stock is more valuable than ‘meat’.

      Marjory

  • Rob says:

    For those who are studying this, here is a description of kosher:

    http://kosherfood.about.com/od/whatiskosherfood/f/kosherfood.htm

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi rob,

      thanks for that link. In short

      In their most “biblical” form, Jewish Dietary Laws state:

      Pork, rabbit, eagle, owl, catfish, sturgeon, and any shellfish, insect or reptile are non-kosher.

      Dang, I wonder why rabbits? From a practical standpoint, most of the above animals are bottom eaters or scavengers – which makes sense to avoid eating. but rabbits? They are herbivores.

      I guess religion has its own reasons…

      1. june says:

        The Jews were only allowed to eat an animal if it had a split hoof,or forms a cleft in the hoof and chewed the cud. Also creatures or animals that walked upon their paws were not allowed for food. So animals that lacked one or both of these requirements were not allowed for food.

      2. Beth Oquist says:

        I wonder if the reason for no rabbits is because of their vitamin A content. It’s an animal fat based vitamin A, not a plant based. For some reason we aren’t able to process excess vitamin A out of our bodies if it is stored in animal fat, whereas if it is plant based we can. Too much vitamin A stored in our bodies (if I understand this correctly) is toxic to people. I read that some time ago, so the scientific understanding may have changed and no longer be accurate.

  • Brent Pendleton says:

    Any suggestions on what crops I could grow to support this rabbit raising effort. I live in Plain City Utah and have slightly alkaline soil.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Grass, clover, alfalfa, in the winter time

      Black eyed peas, any kind of legumes actually, more grass..

      I also give my rabbits the tree trimming each winter from the fruit and nut tree pruning. they love to eat the bark.

      If you can get info from a local wildlife biologist, ask them what the native rabbit population lives on.

      1. Brent Pendleton says:

        Thanks for the info and keep up the good efforts, its helping a lot of folks.

    2. Kim says:

      Brent, our rabbits love most herbs, so I grow a lot of them to supplement their pellets and hay. I recommend parsley, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, basil, mints, lemon balm, comfrey, dandelion, plaintain, any herb (weed) that is edible for you, chances are the rabbits will love, too. Supplementing with fresh foods is extremely beneficial for the rabbit’s gut health.

  • Walter says:

    Have both of your videos on butchering rabbits. Like the broom stick method of slaughtering, but we hang ours by their back legs for the removal of the head, skinning, and gutting. Luv your videos. Keep up the good work.

  • Patsy says:

    Hi Marjory,

    Any ideas on what to do about rats. They come into my rabbit shed and have even gotten into my wire rabbit cages with the rabbit to get to the feed. (I found rabbit poop in a bowl inside the cage where I had some food.) I store my feed in metal trash cans.

    1. Hi Patsy,

      Good for storing your feed in metal trash cans – that is what I do and it seems to work fine. Except I have had raccons open it up – even with double bungi cords. Triple bungee cords ended up working. Then we got the dogs and haven’t had a raccoon problem.

      But I digress. Have you thought of getting a good cat? Not sure what part of the country you are in, but in southern regions, a resident snake can also help (a nice rat snake, quite friendly and not harmful to humans). My dogs also cat and eat rats – although they are not as good at it as the cat or snake.

      Trapping works too. I got to practice my figure four deadfall one year when I improperly stored some grain and caused a rat population explosion.

      I also wonder if you are feeding your rabbits too much if there is leftover food laying around.

      some thoughts… good luck.

      1. Patsy says:

        I live in your area. We have several rabbit litters we are raising for 4H project and have the does on full feed right now. I am getting J feeders that have covers.

        This is an ongoing problem. We will get the rats under control for a while, but periodically experience a major problem. I guess the snakes are hibernating. They have helped in the past.

        I have had a couple of cats — one was an excellent mouser (he was a Tom and didn’t stay around); the other one wasn’t very good.

        Will look into getting a good cat. I hate using poison.

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