Starting a Rabbitry
Updated: Mar 10, 2022
Before you decide to start a Rabbitry there’s a few things I think you should know
You will want to know your target audience and where they shop. Most people who start a Rabbitry are not particularly good at advertising. This is where I outshine most. I am listed on rabbitbreeders.us , I have a google business page, I have a website: 180degreesaboutface.com , I’m a listed breeder on ARBA.net , and I make my own promotional materials in house including photography photo editing and printing. I’m a member of ARBA, I attend ARBA shows and farmers markets regularly and I’ve posted flyers and business cards at local farm supply stores. As good as I am with advertising and networking given my educational background in business this is only part of the equation. Which leads us to our next two topics.
Customers can be your best friend or a total nightmare. Since rabbits are considered an exotic pet most people will choose a cat or dog over a rabbit. So as a pet you’re competing against more popular animals. A lot of rabbit customers are flaky. It doesn’t matter if they belong to an organization or not, you are going to get a lot of people that flake out on set deals. The way to avoid this is to take deposits in order to reserve rabbits. Otherwise sell away, first come first serve.
As a breeder you have the right to refuse service. I’ve been lucky with my customers this year. I’ve raise over 30 rabbits and sold them as pets and breeding stock. I don’t regret any of my sales.
There is one person I won’t sell to again though. He was nice enough, but he doesn’t know anything about rabbits, they are just a meal ticket to him, he breeds to sell as pets mixing any breeds and leaves them outside year round and doesn’t work with them. He treats them like meat rabbits are treated which is poorly in general. Then he offered to help me sell my rabbits by having me sell them to him at a fraction of the cost so he could up charge them and make a profit off of my rabbits. Absolutely atrocious. I’ve also had a customer tell me to hold a rabbit for a week to tell me to hold the rabbit for two weeks and then tell me after three weeks that she didn’t want a rabbit. So as I said, money up front for reservations and some customers will get on your nerves.
All complaining aside some customers will make your heart melt. I’ve sold mostly breeding stock to good homes trying to start meat rabbit farms, but I have sold a few as pets. I sold one as a birthday present and one as a Christmas present to the sweetest children and their rabbits bonded with them immediately. Sometimes customers will send photos of the rabbits cuddling in their new homes and it makes it all worth while. Once you finalize a sale the rabbit becomes the owners property and you no longer have a say in how the rabbit is handled so it’s always nice to know that the animals are in good hands.
The final and probably most crucial part of selling rabbits regardless of purpose. You need to know your target audience and your competition. When advertising at a vets office they don’t want you to advertise meat rabbits, and when advertising to meat rabbit farmers you don’t want to say stuff like “forever home”. The key is to have multiple advertising strategies for the multiple categories you are selling to.
Demand also plays a part in selling aside from the market itself. Demand for pet rabbits and breeding stock will always be high, however you are competing with backyard breeders trying to make a quick buck, pet owners who didn’t realize they had a boy and a girl bunny in the same cage, even peoples idea of what a rabbit should be. I’ll get people who want my rabbits to be bigger and the next customer wants them to be smaller. Some people think pet rabbits should basically be dogs and others think they should be forever bunnies roughly the size of hamsters. The rabbit market is pretty saturated all over and it doesn’t help that people are breeding without restraint in less than ideal conditions, selling at too low or too high a price, or have bigger marketing budgets or better infrastructure. All this being said don’t be afraid to network with your competition and make friends. You can’t change demand by yourself, but as a team you can influence understanding and change how the world perceives the industry.
I chose New Zealand Reds for their versatility. They can compete in several markets: show, meat, pets, education, pelts, ecology. They don’t produce fiber like an Angora, but the pelts are decent quality. They are excellent meat rabbit breeds. They are docile and make good pets. They are easy to take care of yet hardy making them good for education. Rabbits produce manure for gardening and mow your lawn adding balance to your ecology. And the standards of perfection for showing New Zealand’s is much simpler compared to other fancy breeds. Most importantly I picked New Zealand Reds because I love them. Even if I don’t sell a single rabbit I have an animal I will love and cherish.
I know this was a long post and there is a fair share of complaints based on real life scenarios, but here’s the bottom line. Rabbit breeding is fun and rewarding. It will take some effort and some education, but anyone can do it. There are some hurdles to overcome. What makes those hurdles easier is finding creative ways around them. If customers don't understand how to care for rabbits educate them. If you have a competitor in rabbit selling, network with them. If you have trouble with advertising join a specialty club. And if you don’t know what to do ask for help. Collaboration and Education are the keys to success.
I hope you all found this article helpful and not discouraging. Let me know if there’s any topic you’d like me to explore further on rabbits or any other animals.