The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
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Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
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RABBIT PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA
L. R. Arrington and K. C. Kelley
Professor and Graduate Assistant, respectively;
Department of Animal Science, University of
Domestic rabbits are raised in all areas of Florida. Some are
produced commercially for meat and laboratory animals while
others are raised for show or fancy, for home use or for youth
projects. The total number of rabbits in the state is not known,
but it may be estimated that 70,000 to 80,000 are raised annually
by about 1,500 to 2,000 breeders. As an industry, rabbit produc-
tion is small in comparison to other livestock industries and the
production and marketing procedures are not as well organized
as for other livestock enterprises. Commercial production can be
profitable but depends upon the overall costs and the availability
of consistent markets.
The principles and practices of rabbit raising, the purposes of
production and the methods of marketing in Florida are similar
to those in other states. Questions frequently asked by pros-
pective producers are: (1) Which breeds are most numerous?
(2) What are the marketing opportunities? (3) Are there special
problems associated with rabbit production? The purpose of this
publication is to describe briefly the basic procedures of rabbit
production generally applicable to this state.
The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) recog-
nizes 38 breeds and 87 varieties of domestic rabbits. These range
in size from the small Netherland Dwarf, weighing about 1.1
kg (2.5 lb) when mature, to the Flemish Giant, weighing 6 kg
(13 Ib) or more. The breeds differ in body type, color, type of
fur and weight. They are classified as small, medium or large
breeds according to mature weight and are divided into commer-
cial breeds (those produced primarily for meat) and fancy breeds
(those raised for show).
A listing of the most common breeds in the state along with
the mature weight is shown below:
kg lb kg Ib
New Zealand White 4.5-5.4 10-12 4.1-5.0 9-11
Satin 4.1-5.0 9-11 3.9-4.8 8.5-10.5
Californian 3.9-4.8 8.5-10.5 3.6-4.5 8-10
Rex 3.6 8 or over 3.2 7 or over
Dutch 1.6-2.5 3.5-5.5 1.6-2.5 3.5-5.5
Standard Chinchilla 2.7-3.6 6-8 2.5-3.4 5.5-7.5
The New Zealand White, Satin and Californian are produced in
largest numbers. They are desirable as meat animals and the
New Zealand White is most widely used in the laboratory for
research. The Florida White rabbit was developed here and ac-
cepted as a breed in 1966 but presently is raised in very limited
CHOOSING A BREED
Rabbits are raised for different purposes and the serious pro-
ducer should choose one or more specific breeds for a particular
production purpose. The different uses or purposes of rabbit
production with the breeds desirable for each are outlined below.
Meat production-New Zealand, Californian, Satin, Stand-
Research or laboratory-New Zealand White primarily;
a small number of Dutch used
Fancy animals-Havana, Tan, Florida White, Dutch; the
personal preference for a breed and the availability of
good breeding stock should guide the selection of fancy
Youth projects-Most breeds suitable; the use of medium
weight breeds is desirable if rabbits are to be sold for
Any breed chosen should be one for which suitable foundation
breeding animals are available. If high quality animals (See
Selecting Breeding Stock) of a desired breed are not available,
it is best to choose another rather than begin production with
Figure 1 New Zealand
White rabbit (above, cour-
tesy of K. C. Kelley) and
Dutch rabbit (left, cour-
tesy of Ann Randles, Ocala,
undesirable foundation animals. Preference should be given to
breeds raised in the area so that a visit may be made to the
breeder for selection of desirable rabbits.
SELECTING BREEDING STOCK
The initial foundation breeding animals should be of high
quality which means that they are representative of the breed,
healthy, vigorous and alert. They should have good production
records in terms of litter size, weaning weight, dressing percent-
age or be from parents with good production records. Breeding
stock should be purchased from an experienced producer with a
good reputation as a breeder. Selection of trios (1 male and 2
females) from the same genetic line is desirable for the pro-
duction of a strain or genetic line.
The type and quality of animals can be improved by the care-
ful selection of breeding animals and their use in a definite breed-
ing plan. Breeding systems or plans which may be used with
rabbits are indicated briefly below. An essential feature of any
system is the selection of good quality breeding animals as indi-
cated in the section on Selecting Breeding Stock. The system to
be used should be carefully planned and followed if it is to be
effective and several generations of matings may be required
before the desired changes or improvements are realized.
Inbreeding involves the mating of related individuals for suc-
cessive generations and tends to produce uniform animals. It
may be as intensive as brother x sister and parent x offspring
mating or it may involve the pairing of less related individuals
such as cousin x cousin. Inbreeding, especially if it is intensive
for many generations, may lead to the accumulation of unde-
sirable as well as desirable traits, so extensive culling may be
required. This system, to be successful, must be combined with
strict selection of those animals with desirable characteristics.
Linebreeding is a form of inbreeding and is the system gener-
ally used by producers of purebred rabbits. It leads to increased
genetic uniformity with less chance of undesirable traits than
would be likely with more intensive inbreeding. The general ob-
jective of linebreeding is to keep the line related to a particular
animal having the desirable traits. One form of linebreeding is
illustrated in the following chart.
A x C B x C Generation 1
D E Generation 2
F Generation 3
Does A and B are bred to buck C, the male to which other
animals are linebred. Selected animals from litter D are mated
with E to produce F (generation 3). Females from this genera-
tion may be then bred to C to produce linebred animals closely
related to male C. Females in later generations may be mated
with C or to selected males in later generations. Linebreeding
with more intensive inbreeding, as practiced by some rabbit
breeders, involves mating of females in generation 2 with the
original male C (generation 1). In any case, strict selection of
breeding animals with desirable traits related to the original
animal is important in linebreedng.
Outbreeding is the crossing of unrelated lines (strains) within
the same breed. It may be desirable when the rabbits in a line
begin to develop faults such as weak shoulders, undercut hind-
quarters, narrow loin, buck teeth or poor reproduction. Crossing
with another line tends to correct such problems.
This system involves the mating of animals of different breeds
and may be the first step in development of a new breed. In some
domestic animals, crossbreeding results in a hybrid vigor, or
heterosis, in the first generation cross with growth rate and
other traits often superior to either parent. The limited studies
and experience with crossbreeding rabbits, however, have not
shown the same degree of hybrid vigor observed in some other
animals. The only apparent advantage, if any, in crossbreeding
rabbits would be in the first generation cross which might be
marketed to advantage as meat animals but further breeding of
the crossbreds would likely lead to wide variations and no im-
provement. Use of the system would require the maintenance of
two breeds and strict selection of breeders.
Rabbits may be raised without following a specific breeding
plan, but unless the breeders are selected carefully and used in
some definite plan, the quality of animals will most likely decline.
Some rabbits of unknown breeding are raised and they may be
slaughtered for meat or kept as pets, but they are not economical
REPRODUCTION AND CARE OF YOUNG
Rabbits of the small breeds reach breeding age at 4 to 5
months, medium breeds at 5 to 6 months and large breeds at 8
to 10 months of age. Animals of both sexes, however, should be
near full body size and in healthy condition before breeding. Fe-
male rabbits do not have a true estrous cycle with a definite
heat period as is characteristic of many animals and they may
mate at any time. Ovulation is induced by mating and occurs
about 10 hours later. Although there is not a definite heat period,
there is a time when the doe is more receptive to the male than
at other times. This may be observed as restlessness, rubbing the
chin on the feed or water container and the vulva may be slightly
swollen and reddish in color.
For mating, the doe is taken to the buck's cage and returned
immediately to her cage after mating is complete. Normally this
occurs within a short time (1 to 3 minutes) and a successful
breeding is noted when the male falls to one side or backward.
Occasionally the female will move about the cage and appear to
refuse the male. When this occurs, she may be restrained thus
allowing the male to mate. For restraint, the doe is held by the
skin over the shoulder with one hand and the other hand placed
under the abdomen to raise the hind quarters to a normal height
A record should be made of the date of each breeding so that
the scheduled kindling date is known. The gestation period is
30-32 days. Two days prior to the time for kindling, a nest box
(Fig. 2) containing some clean hay, straw or other bedding
material should be provided. Prior to kindling, the doe will pull
hair from her chest and abdomen to prepare a nest. On the first
day after the litter is born, the nest should be examined carefully
to determine condition of the young and to remove any dead or
injured. The average number per litter for medium weight breeds
is 7 to 10 and a smaller number per litter are produced by the
Figure 2 Examples of wooden (left) and metal (right) nest boxes. (Courtesy of Univer-
sity Presses of Florida, Gainesville, FL).
Most does will feed and care for their young when a suitable
nest box has been provided. The female may not be seen in the
nest box for she nurses the young only once daily in the early
morning. To determine that the doe is lactating, the young may
be examined and milk may be seen in their stomachs during the
first 5 to 7 days. If there is a very large litter or if the doe ap-
pears not to be providing adequate milk, some of the young may
be fostered to another female with a litter near the same age.
Rabbits should not be fostered from a doe that has any disease.
Young rabbits grow rapidly when receiving adequate milk and
they will emerge from the nest box and begin eating at about 3
weeks of age. The nest box may be removed at 31/2 to 4 weeks
or may remain longer in cold weather.
Rabbits may be weaned at 6 to 8 weeks of age and the doe
rebred at that time. If she is bred regularly at 6 weeks after
kindling, she should be able to produce 5 litters per year. A
recent trend among some producers is to rebreed the doe at 4
weeks after kindling and before the litter is weaned. This would
permit her to produce 6 litters per year. With this system, it is
desirable to provide a creep feed for the young from 21/ to 3
weeks of age until 6 weeks when they are weaned.
FEEDS AND FEEDING
Commercial pelleted rabbit rations which are available from
many feed stores are the most practical and are most widely
used for domestic rabbits. There are a number of different brands
manufactured by different companies. These are considered com-
plete diets which may be fed without supplements and there is
little wastage. The cost of prepared pelleted feeds, especially
when purchased in small amounts, may appear to be high; but
when compared to the problems of procuring feed ingredients,
mixing and feeding non-pelleted feeds, the commercial diets are
more practical and economical. Rabbits will consume a variety
of grains, protein supplements and hays which could be used, but
these do not promote the rate of growth and efficiency of gain
equal to the balanced, pelleted diets.
The amounts of feed indicated below refer to pelleted feeds.
Lactating does and growing young should be full-fed with a
ration containing 15 to 17 % protein. A doe of the medium weight
breeds with an average size litter will consume about 70-80
pounds of feed from the time of breeding until the litter is
weaned at 6 weeks.
Mature bucks and non-producing does could be fed a diet with
12 to 13'r protein, which may be less expensive. It may not be
practical, however, to. maintain two types of feed so it is best
generally to feed a diet with 15 to 17%, protein to all animals,
but limit the amount so that they do not become too fat. The
amount for mature, non-producing rabbits of the small breeds
should be 115 to 140 grams (4 to 5 ounces) and for medium
breeds 170 to 200 grams (6 to 7 ounces) per day. These amounts
are approximate and may need to be adjusted so that the rabbits
are maintained in good condition without excessive gain or loss
in weight. Feeding once daily is adequate and the late afternoon
or early evening time is desirable since rabbits are most active
at this time and it is a good opportunity to observe the herd for
Small amounts of hay may be fed as a supplement to pellets
and there is some evidence that it may be desirable as an addi-
tional source of roughage. Unless the hay is of high quality,
however, the amount should be limited so that it does not reduce
the intake of pelleted feed. Good quality legume hay could make
up a major proportion of the feed for mature, non-producing
rabbits, but it is often not available or the cost is high so ex-
tensive hay feeding is not practical.
Greens and root crops should be fed with caution. Rabbits learn
to relish these materials and they will consume large amounts,
but they contain mostly water. When fed in large amounts, they
cause a decrease in pelleted feed intake and poor weight gain
results. Moldy feeds of any kind should not be fed and cabbage
contains a toxic substance which can cause goiter, so it should
not be fed or fed in very limited amounts only.
HOUSING AND CAGING
Rabbits raised commercially are housed in wire cages ar-
ranged in rows and normally suspended from the roof trusses
or framework of the building (Fig. 3). Double rows of cages
Figure 3 Suspended wire cages used in a commercial rabbitry. (Courtesy of University
Presses of Florida, Gainesville, FL).
opening onto a walkway are convenient and widely used. The
building should be well lighted and ventilated and provide pro-
tection from wind and rain. It should be located, preferably, in
a well drained, shaded area. Procedures should be taken to keep
the temperature below 320C (90'F). A water spray system on the
roof or exhaust fans may be used.
Adult rabbits are housed in individual cages and normally
the only rabbits kept together are the doe with her litter or
young animals being held for brief periods until market size.
With group caging, care must be taken to avoid overcrowding.
Cages constructed of galvanized welded wire are the most
practical and widely used. These may be purchased or may be
constructed using the appropriate size and type of wire. Two
measurements are important in selecting the wire for cages.
These are (1) the mesh or grid which refers to the size of open-
ings between strands of wire and (2) the gauge which identifies
the diameter or size of the wire strands (Fig. 4). Proper mesh
size is particularly important for the cage floor. If openings are
too small, fecal matter will not pass through and if too large,
the feet may become caught.
Figure 4 Illustration of the measur rents of welded wire for cages, (upper) common
quugu numbers and approximate sizes, (lower) mesh, or size of openings in wire. Sizes
other than those shown arc available.
The overall size of cages and recommended floor mesh for dif-
ferent weights of rabbits are indicated below:
Breed Size Width Length Height Floor Mesh
in cm in cm in cm in
Small 30 76 18-24 46-61 18 46 1 x
Medium 30 76 24-30 61-76 18 46 /2 x 1
or 5/8 x 1
Large 30 76 30-36 76-91 18 46 5/8 x 1
Doe and litter
Small 30 76 30-36 76-91 18 46 2 x 1
Medium 30 76 36-48 91-122 18 46 2 x 1
or 5/8 1
Large 30 76 48 122 18 46 5/ x 1
The wire mesh for sides and tops of cages may be 1" x 1" or
1" x 2" but if the 1" x 2" size is used, the horizontal width should
be 1" and the vertical 2". A type of wire known as "baby saver"
wire with 1/`" x 1" openings on the lower side is available. Wire
of 14 gauge is most desirable for floors, but 15 or 16 gauge may
be used in small cages.
Cages may be constructed as single units or in multiple units
of two or more compartments joined. Multiple units permit some
saving in material, but they are heavier and more difficult to
handle in removal and cleaning.
Housing for small "backyard" rabbitries with only a few ani-
mals may be provided with individual, or duplex, self-contained
outside hutches (Fig. 5). These are frequently made with a
wooden frame, an appropriate roof, wire sides and floor raised
about 4 feet from the ground. This method of housing is not
desirable for commercial rabbit production and can be recom-
mended only when all-wire cages within a building cannot be
Bowls or crocks of heavy glazed porcelain are widely used in
backyard and small commercial rabbitries for feeding and water-
ing. The containers should be about 10 cm (4 inches) deep, or
raised to that height from the floor, as an aid in reducing con-
tamination by feces and urine. Metal self-feeders, which are
attached to the cage and filled from the outside, reduce the time
required for feeding and most types will aid in reducing contami-
nation (Fig. 6).
Figure 5 Type of outside hutch often used in small rabbitries.
In rabbitries with 20 or more pens, an automatic watering sys-
tem can be justified by the saving in labor. Several types of sys-
tems are available from rabbitry supply houses. Automatic
watering systems must be checked regularly to see that water is
available to each cage and that valves are not leaking. Fresh,
clean water is required for good rabbit production and if this is
not adequate, a reduction in growth and increased heat stress
will result. A doe with an average litter may consume a gallon
or more of water per day.
Figure 6 Examples of feeding and watering equipment.
Other items of needed equipment are:
1. Nestboxes (Fig. 2) 10" wide x 20" long x 12" high for
2. Scales suitable for weighing rabbits
3. Transport or carrying cages for delivery or movement
4. Cleaning equipment (wash tank, brushes, hot water
DISEASES AND DISEASE CONTROL
Rabbits are subject to a number of diseases and abnormalities,
but fortunately some of them are easily treated and measures
may be taken to reduce the incidence of others. Good sanitation
and proper feeding and management can be effective in mini-
mizing disease problems. Veterinary services for rabbit ailments
are often difficult to obtain so it is important that producers
become familiar with the causes, prevention and treatment of
Figure 7 Example of sore hocks (left).
(Courtesy of USDA).
S Figure 8 Example of wry neck, Otitis
I media (above). (Courtesy of USDA).
Numerous factors can contribute to diseases or other abnor-
malities and these should be considered in all of the procedures
involved in the management and care of the herd. The houses
and cages should provide protection from excessive heat, wind
and rain, but be well ventilated and lighted. Cage floors should
be made with welded wire of a size that permits fecal matter
to pass through and not to accumulate in cages. The floor should
Figure 9 Example of ear mange
S (left) and one method of treat-
ment of swabbing with medicated
oil. (Courtesy of USDA).
Figure 10 -Example of buck
teeth, Malocclusion. (Copyright
1971, K. C. Kelley).
be of proper mesh size (see section on cages) to provide comfort
and be free of rough or sharp areas which could contribute to
Feed containers, water cups, cages and all equipment in con-
tact with rabbits should be kept clean and sanitary. A regular
schedule or program of cleaning the equipment and premises is
essential in good management.
Sick rabbits, especially those suspected of having an infectious
disease, should be isolated from others. New rabbits brought into
the rabbitry should be inspected for any evidence of disease and,
if possible, should be quarantined before introduction to the rab-
bitry. Treatment for any disease should be started as soon as
possible after it is observed.
Following is an outline of common diseases and abnormalities
of rabbits along with the cause, clinical signs and treatment
where a practical treatment can be recommended. Treatments in
terms of a particular drug and the dosage level cannot be given
in all cases. Where a type of drug is indicated, the instructions
accompanying the drug should indicate the dosage level and
method of administration. It may be necessary to consult a veter-
inarian for the source of certain drugs and dosage level.
COMMON RABBIT DISEASES AND ABNORMALITIES
Wry neck (Otitis
Inner car infection
usually caused by
multocida. May be
aggravated by dust,
Tyzzer's disease Bacillus piliformis
Coccidiosis; liver Five species of
and intestinal Eimeria coccidia
Nasal discharge, sneezing and
rattling noise in breathing.
Hair on inside of front feet
matted from rubbing nose and face.
Head held to one side; difficult
walking, loss of balance (Fig. 8).
Watery discharge from eyes,
irritated eye membranes, fur on
inner side of front feet matted.
Small blisters around sex
organs; may be seen later
on nose and mouth.
Diarrhea, listlessness, loss of
appetite, dehydration. White
lesions may be on liver,
hemorrhagic areas in intestine.
May cause death in 24-36 hours.
Diarrhea, loss of appetite,
weight loss, rough hair coat,
loss of condition. May cause
death in young.
Treatment and Control
Complete elimination difficult.
Antibiotics in water or chlori-
nation of water helps prevent spread.
Treatment difficult. Broad spectrum
antibiotic in early stages may be
Clean eyes; apply antibiotic eye
ointment under eyelids.
Intramuscular injection of 50,000
units penicillin for 3 days or
100 000 units for 1 day.
Transmitted by feces. Avoid stress
such as high or low temperature,
overcrowding. Treat with terramycin.
Keep cages clean and free of fecal
matter. The coccidia eggs pass out
in feces and undergo part of life
cycle outside rabbit. If feces eaten,
reinfection occurs. Treat with sulfa
drugs in drinking water. Triple sulfa
COMMON RABBIT DISEASES AND ABNORMALITIES
Ear mange (ear
Genetic factors; wet
dirty cages, rough
Hereditary or may
result from injury
Injury from excitement
to excessive heat.
high humidity and/or
Lesions of brown, waxy, crusty
material on inner surface of ear;
discomfort to rabbit with attempts
to scratch ears. Seldom causes
mortality but causes loss of
condition (Fig. 9).
Loss of appetite, diarrhea in
varying degrees, excessive
drinking. Young primarily
affected and mortality may
Inflamed areas or sores on
under surface of hind feet.
Weight loss. Large breeds
or heavy animals most often
affected (Fig. 7).
Incisor (front) teeth grow
excessively long and rabbit
becomes incapable of eating;
weight loss (Fig. 10).
Paralysis of hind quarters;
no control over urination or
Prostration, rapid breathing,
comatose before death. Preg-
nant does most susceptible.
Treatment and Control
Swab affected areas with mineral or
vegetable oil. Use of an insecticide
in the oil aids treatment. Treat all
rabbits and keep premises clean
to keep mites under control.
None considered effective.
Use clean, dry bedding or a resting
board. If sores are ulcerated; lance,
remove pus, flush with antiseptic and
treat with antibiotic ointment.
Do not breed affected animals. The
tooth overgrowth may be cut away to
permit rabbit to eat and reach
None in most cases; slaughter animal.
Place rabbit on wet burlap or wet with
tap water. Remove bedding and fur
from nest box.
Effects of Heat Upon Rabbits
Excessive heat has adverse effects upon rabbit production, but
with adequate housing the effects can be minimized and major
problems are not normally encountered in Florida. As the am-
bient temperature increases above 32'-C (90'F.), feed consump-
tion and weight gain tend to decline, males and females become
slightly less fertile and embryonic mortality increases. The ef-
fects are minimal at 32C but become evident and more severe
as the temperature rises and remains high for long periods.
These effects are not permanent and rabbits will return to nor-
mal within a few days at cooler temperatures.
Heat prostration (heat stroke) may occur at very high tem-
peratures and occurs more readily with poor ventilation, high
humidity and prolonged exposure to the heat.With heat stroke,
rabbits become prostrate on their sides, their breathing rate and
body temperature are increased; coma and death may follow.
Pregnant females near the time of kindling and young in a poorly
ventilated nest box are most often affected. Rabbits with heat
stroke should be wet with tap water or placed on wet burlap for
cooling. In hot weather, the fur and excess bedding in nest boxes
should be removed for better ventilation. The roofs of buildings
may be sprayed with water and the buildings fitted with exhaust
fans to assist in cooling.
Management of a rabbitry involves many plans and procedures
relating to breeding, feeding, sanitation and disease control which
have been discussed. Some other practical matters of manage-
Successful management and production of rabbits requires
that they be handled frequently for examination, breeding, tat-
tooing, movement to different cages and other purposes. Using
proper methods they may be handled easily without injury to
the rabbit or the handler. Adult rabbits are lifted by the loose
skin over the shoulders holding the ears in the same hand and
supporting the hind quarters with the other hand (Fig. 11).
Rabbits should never be lifted by the ears, but holding ears
with the shoulder skin helps control the head. Young rabbits
may be lifted and held with the hand over the lower part of the
back and around the loin area. Effort should be made in all cases
to avoid struggling since this may result in a back injury.
Figure 11 Proper method of holding an
The normal and preferred method of identifying rabbits is the
tattoo on the inner surface of the left ear. Tattooing equipment,
with appropriate instructions, may be obtained from pet stores
or supply houses often advertising in rabbit magazines. The rab-
bit's left ear is normally used for the herd identification number;
the right ear for a registration number if the rabbit is to be
Purebred rabbits may be registered with the American Rabbit
Breeders Association, ARBA, (present address: 1925 S. Main,
Bloomington, IL) if proper records are maintained to establish
ancestry. Registrars in various parts of the country who are li-
censed by the ARBA are authorized to register rabbits. Contact
should be made with the ARBA for additional information on
Adequate records are essential to good management of rabbits
and should be of two types: (1) Animal records and (2) Financial
Animal records should indicate the following and any addi-
tional information considered desirable for each animal kept in
Birth dates Breeding dates
Identification number Date of litter
Ancestry Weaning weight of litter
Sex Number in litter
No specific system or method of keeping records is required and
the producer may plan his own system. Hutch cards attached to
each cage provide a convenient method of recording information
daily. These cards, however, may become lost or damaged so the
information should be transferred periodically to permanent
records kept in an office or the home. Hutch cards and other
record forms are often available from feed companies and 4-H
Club record books are available for these projects.
Financial records are necessary for determining profits and
losses and are needed for income tax purposes. These records
should include the following and any other items of expense and
income relating to the rabbit unit:
Capital outlay for building, Number and value of rabbits sold
cages, equipment Meat rabbits
Cost of breeding stock Research or laboratory sales
Feed cost Sales for breeders
Labor cost Skins or by-products sold
Replacement cages and
ECONOMICS AND MARKETING
Major items of production cost are (1) the initial capital out-
lay for land, buildings, cages and equipment and (2) the routine
expense items which are primarily labor and feed. If land is
owned, or is otherwise available without zoning restrictions
for its use and where an existing building might be modified for
housing rabbits, these costs could be minimal. Assuming pur-
chase of land and construction of a building, the prevailing land
and construction costs would need to be determined. Relatively
little land is required other than that for the building but pos-
sible zoning restrictions regarding its use for animals must be
checked. In estimating the size of building needed, it may be
noted that a structure with 2,000 square feet could house ap-
proximately 100 breeding does depending upon arrangement of
cages within the structure.
Major items of routine expense are labor and feed. Assuming
that labor is to be hired, it may be estimated that one person
devoting full time could care for about 200 breeding does. In
many cases, the labor is provided by the family and normally
a husband and wife team devoting most of their time to rabbits
could manage about 300 breeding does without additional labor.
Feed costs may be estimated from the prevailing unit cost
and amounts needed, calculated as follows. A doe of the medium
weight breeds with an average size litter will consume 80 to 90
pounds of pelleted feed from the time of breeding until the young
are 8 weeks old, at which time they should be ready for market.
Mature bucks, females being raised or .replacement breeders and
other animals not in production will require about 175 pounds of
feed each per year.
Other items of expense including drugs, feeders, cages and
equipment, utilities, cleaning supplies and miscellaneous items
must be considered.
Prospective producers of commercial rabbits need to make a
careful evaluation of the total expected production costs and of
the marketing opportunities. These costs and expected income
will vary in different locations and for different types of pro-
duction. Each producer must evaluate all of the available infor-
mation relating to his or her particular planned program. Unless
adequate market opportunities can be assured for a particular
size of production unit, it is best to begin on a small scale and
expand if markets and profits develop.
Most of the rabbits produced commercially are sold for meat
and a market exists in many larger cities where good quality
rabbit meat is made available consistently. Some problems as-
sociated with marketing have been the lack of slaughtering plants
operating consistently and fluctuating seasonal demand for the
meat. There is a need for a small number of rabbits for research
use, but this market fluctuates widely. Rabbits are sold as breed-
ers, as pets and for youth projects, but the numbers are not suf-
ficient to represent commercial production for the average pro-
ducer. The market channels and outlets for sale of rabbits have
not been as well established and organized as they have been for
poultry and other livestock. Prospective producers will need to
seek or develop markets and should be reasonably assured of
suitable sales outlets before beginning commercial rabbit pro-
Marketing for Meat
Meat rabbits are sold primarily as fryers at 7 to 10 weeks of
age and weighing about 3 to 5 pounds (1.4 to 2.3 kg). A few
older rabbits may be dressed and sold as roasters, but there is
less 'demand for these rabbits and the price per pound is less
than that for fryers. Large producers may operate their own
slaughtering (processing) plant; small producers normally sell
market age rabbits to a processor. The operation of such a
slaughtering plant, in the area where producers may sell their
rabbits regularly and at a fair price, is essential and where this
facility does not exist, the marketing of meat rabbits by small
producers is a problem. The processing plant and equipment
must be inspected and licenses issued by the appropriate health
officials. Federal inspection of rabbit meat is not presently re-
quired, but it is expected that this may be required soon and
slaughter house operators should become acquainted with all ap-
propriate regulations. Methods of slaughtering and preparing
carcasses for market are described in other publications listed
below for further reading.
The by-products of rabbit slaughter have some value but it is
generally not practical to make use of these by-products except
from the large slaughter plants. Skins, when properly dried and
prepared, may be sold; heads, feet and offal may be processed
for fertilizer and certain wastes may be used in pet and zoo
animal food. Organs and tissues may be frozen or otherwise pre-
served and stored for use in research.
Marketing for Research or Laboratory Use
The laboratory animal market is a rather specialized one and
research animals are normally provided by producers who
specialize in laboratory animals. It is possible, however, for a
producer to sell both meat and laboratory rabbits. The breed
normally required for research is the New Zealand White which
is also a desirable meat breed.
Producers seeking a market for laboratory rabbits should
contact various research centers or laboratories to determine
needs and specifications for the animals required. Research rab-
bits should be highly uniform; they may be required to be of the
same strain and known to be free of certain disease organisms. A
laboratory may require a large number of a specific age, sex, size
or strain at one time and this may be followed by periods when
few, if any, are needed. In some cases, research rabbits may be
sold to a broker who specializes in marketing small animals for
research. Prices paid for research rabbits are higher than those
for slaughter animals, but the overall production and delivery
costs are greater for laboratory animals. A license issued by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture is required for marketing re-
Marketing For Other Purposes
Arrangements for sale of breeding stock are made with in-
terested parties on an individual basis. Established breeders
with specific lines and production records may wish to advertise
their stock in rabbit magazines or other publications. Adver-
tisements may be placed in local newspapers for sale of rabbits
as pets or for other purposes. Pet stores may purchase rabbits or
may serve as contacts for possible sales. Contacts regarding
sales for various purposes often may be made at rabbit shows,
fairs, club meetings or other gatherings of persons interested
For Further Reading
Commercial Rabbit Raising. Agriculture Handbook No. 309 by R. B. Casady,
P. B. Sawin and J. Van Dam. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington,
D.C. (1971). Available from: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Govern-
ment Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. Price 75 cents.
Domestic Rabbits: Diseases and Parasites. Agriculture Handbook No. 490 by
K. W. Hagen, J. R. Gorham and R. E. Flatt. U.S. Department of Agricul-
ture, Washington, D.C. (1976). Available from: Superintendent of Docu-
ments, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. Price
Selecting and Raising Rabbits. Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 358.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. (1972). Available from:
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washing-
ton, D.C. 20402. Price 40 cents.
Nutrient Requirements of Rabbits, Second Revised Edition, 1977. Published
by National Academy of Sciences- National Research Council, Washington,
D.C. Av.ailble frm Supprintpnrlpnt n f Dncumpn TT R GWnvarnmana
Pliriting Office, Wazhington, D.C. 20102. Price 10 ec.tZ.
Domestic Rabbit Biology and Production (1976), by L. R. Arrington and
K. C. Kelley. The University Presses of Florida, Gainesville, FL.
The Biology and Medicine of Rabbits and Rodents (1977), by J. E. Harkness
and J. E. Wagner. Lea and Febiger, Philadelphia, PA.
Domestic Rabbits. Official Publication of the American Rabbit Breeders
Association, 1925 S. Main, Bloomington, IL 61701.
Rabbits. Published by Countryside Publications, 312 Portland Rd., Highway
19 East, Waterloo, WI 53594.
Rabbit and Cavy Gazette, 5003 Merriam Dr., Merriam, KS 66203.
This public document was printed at an annual cost
of $468.90, or 15.6 cents per copy, to inform resi-
dents about rabbit production in Florida.
Single copies are free to residents of Florida and may be obtained
from the County Extension Office. Bulk rates are available upon
request. Please submit details of the request to C.M. Hinton, Publi-
cation Distribution Center, IFAS Building 664, University of
Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, University of Florida
and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
K. R. Tefertiller, Director