There is no money in rabbits
There are several reasons that raising rabbits isn’t profitable. I will list them out and explain.
1) Rabbits breed like rabbits- Everyone believes rabbits reproduce quickly. While this isn’t untrue, it doesn’t tell the full story. rabbits don’t reproduce much more quickly than most other household pets. They have litters as big as dogs, but as often as cats. In fact mice and rats reproduce at the same rate as rabbits. Bunny mills operate on the assumption that you can breed a rabbit and before or just after weaning breed it again and continue this cycle as many times as needed to make your profit margins fat. Not only is this incorrect, unethical and bad for the rabbit, it will shorten its lifespan from 8-14 years down to 1-2 years.
2) ARBA- The American Rabbit Breeders Association has been responsible for the rabbit industry for over 100 years. Except that they haven’t done anything to improve rabbit welfare in over 100 years. Because of this they have systematically devalued rabbit life by not changing their doctrine of inbreeding and culling. They haven’t made any standardized pricing or accounted for inflation. There are no barriers to entry for the field, so any body can grab two rabbits with no idea what they are doing and start breeding. And lastly and most abhorrently the valuation system that is in place revolves entirely around supporting ARBA. Rabbits are valued by pureness of breed(usually by rampant inbreeding), adherence to arbitrary standards, and how well they do in ARBA sanctioned shows. ARBA charges for every aspect of the rabbit world: membership, entering a competition, sanctions, online listings, the rabbits themselves. They also charge you for an extended period: takes a minimum of 3 years membership to become a registrar and you have to be a registrar before becoming a judge. All the educational materials cost money and are exclusively provided by ARBA. All the rabbit clubs pay tribute to ARBA and require sanctioning and then the clubs charge you to be in breed specific clubs. After all this we have not seen a penny go to lobbying for animal welfare, studies into rabbit genetics or even animal husbandry with more than 2 degrees of separation, no scholarships or grants, no microchipping programs and then they send you magazines filled with back biting and sniping articles. They have made a system to keep you dependent on them to succeed while they profit off of your hard work and make you thank them for it. Unbelievable!
3) Rabbits are the 3rd most popular pet and the 3rd most abandon- Rabbits are seen as abundant because so many people have them available. People will get rabbits at fairs thinking they are hamsters and get bored with them and give them up or they find another bunny to be their friend not realizing they threw two breeding age rabbits together and produce a whole litter of unwanted rabbits. Some people breed rabbits intentionally and become overwhelmed and just start releasing them into the wild which ends with them dying or being picked up by animal control. Any rabbit rescue is going to be full and even the rescues think there’s an abundance of rabbits because they get so many unwanted ones. In reality there’s 17 endangered breeds and at least 5 endangered species of rabbits. State wildlife conservation overlooks rabbits for the most part allowing open season year round and tell People if they find wild baby bunnies to let nature take its course. You can’t charge for wildlife rehab, you can’t sell them and no one pays you to save them or release them so most people don’t. All these abandoned rabbits flood the market devaluing them further coupled with the myth that there’s an infinite amount of them and that they reproduce between blinks of the eye.
4) Rabbits aren’t expensive- Most people have been trained through lack of education as both buyers and sellers to believe rabbits are cheap. So when people decide to enter this field they let themselves get haggled to selling rabbits for $10 $25 at most $50. To keep profit margins from vanishing you will see rabbits in poor living conditions or given an inadequate diet. People would rather lower the quality of life of the animal than raise their prices. This again floods the market with backyard bunnies at too low of a cost and causes people to question whether your rabbits are overpriced and demand some sort of proof that they are not. This is usually proven through the pedigree. A pedigree is just a piece of paper with the rabbits family tree on it. It’s not much in the way of proof, but again customers are trained to think the words ”pedigree” or “purebred” make them coveted and valuable. The pedigree only goes back 4 generations and you’ll likely see lots of inbreeding on any pedigree much less a “purebred”. After all this you still need $100 worth of cage materials and $50 worth of food. And without any experience you will likely buy a cage too small, buy a bunch of cute dysfunctional objects to decorate the cage and your rabbit will chew everything up and you’ll have to start over.
5) Industry Specifics- Rabbits don’t come in one shape or size, or one purpose. Rabbit industries include: meat, fur, pets, wildlife rehab, conservation, show, therapy and scientific. Because of this you need to be familiar with the breed, it’s most effective industry, and cater to the needs of that industries customers. Versatility and overlap is possible in a number of breeds, but you’ll have difficulty trying to compete in the wrong one or with the wrong breed for that industry. The meat industry is probably the largest next to pets, but the profit margins are narrow and you need large production capabilities. The rabbits will likely live in poor conditions with good or bad management if you bite off more than you can chew.
6) Medical Expenses- Most fancy breeders will tell you to cull a sick animal rather than treat it, most vets don’t treat rabbits, and anyone that does treat rabbits is expensive regardless of what you need done. Show breeders believe vets kill rabbits, vets believe rabbits will likely die because of owner negligence and after a hefty vet bill will simply blame them for the problem, and anyone in between is just trying to survive and care for their own rabbits. Education will get you a long way with self care, but you will still need a good vet sooner or later that’s willing to help and not gouge you. Vets are amazing, but not miracle workers. It is your responsibility to be knowledgeable and care for your animal.
I say all this not to discourage you, but to warn you. Bunnies are soft, but this field isnt. It takes time and dedication and intelligence and heart. If you waiver in any one of these areas you will struggle at the expense of you and your animals. Most people do this as a hobby, which is likely why the field suffers. This is my profession. I’ve created price charts, educated the public, seeded successful rabbitries, supported new pet owners and ensured the welfare of rabbits and humans alike. While this isn’t an easy line of work, none of us are actually in competition with one another. I can’t maintain 7 separate family lines, always have any breed available in any gender or any color. We all have to work together as a team. We all need to standardize prices together. We need to provide a minimum level of care together. And we need to breed ethically together.
I hope this article helps. I have 25 years of experience working with animals, 15 with rabbits specifically and I am a state expert on Lagomorpha(rabbits and hares). I am hoping through education I can raise the standard of living.