Now that I talked a bit about the pros and cons that I have found while raising both rabbits and guinea pigs for pet food and my own consumption in part 1 of this post, I wanted to get down to the nitty gritty costs of keeping my stock, specifically. I am at the startup phase of homesteading, and can reflect very frankly on how much it costs to keep and maintain each animal, and the potential production from the startups. Even though I have nine does, and two bucks, and 54 guinea pigs, I am controlling production based on a square foot basis.
This is a cost breakdown for assembling 2 – 8 foot long by 30″ wide cages. Each of these cages are large enough for the does to kindle, and raise a herd to weaning size. These cages are split for two does, and one buck, with four cages for growout (not what I did, but growout pens can be smaller). I assumed I had my angle grinder, and a J clip pliers. Hardware was split between projects.
- 3- $4.99 1 lb bags of J clips = $14.97
- 2- $21.99 Cage wire 30″ x 10 ft, 1/2″ x 1″ openings = $43.98
- 2 – $42.99 Cage Wire 36″ x 25 ft, 1″ x 2″ openings, cut into 16″ and 18″ tall segments for the two cages themselves and dividing walls. = $85.98
- 6 – $0.95 Cage closures = $5.70
- 2 – $6 Cage edge protectors = $12.00
- 5 – $11.75 metal nest box 18″L x 10″W x 9″H = $58.75
- 6 – $3.95 rabbit resting pads = $23.70
- 6 – $4.37 water bottles = $26.22
- 6 – $8.29 Sifting feeders = $49.74
- 2 – $13.23 PVC roofing panel for drop pans = $26.46
Why is adding this stuff up so painful!?! $347.50, not including the 6.5% sales tax! Yikes, I mean, I just buy what I need when I need it.
To protect them from the elements, we needed a windblock of a tarp, and the cages needed be on racks.
- 2 – $13.23 PVC roofing panel for drop pans = $26.46
- 11 – $2.92 2 x4x8′ wood = $32.12
- 1 – $1.96 roll of aluminum wire = $1.96
- 2- $13.49 10′ x 20′ tarps = $26.97
And the shelter cost another $87.51, not including sales tax.
For the 40 sq feet of cages, that is $347.50 + $87.51 = $435.01, or a cost of $10.88 /square foot.
Guinea Pig Cages
- 2 – $2.92 2 x4x8′ wood = $5.84
- 2 – $4.34 2 x4x10′ wood = $8.76
- 8 – $2.97 2 x2x8′ wood = $23.76
- 2 – $24.98 1/2″ 2ft x 25 ft hardware cloth = $49.96
- 6 – $2.67 1-1/2 in Zinc Plated Corner Braces (4 Pack) = $16.02
- 1 box – $3.22 3/8 in staples = $3.22
- 1 – $8.79 7″ Sifting feeder = $8.79
- 4 – $4.37 water bottles = $17.48
- 1- $13.49 10′ x 20′ tarps = $13.49
- 3- $6.99 Pigloo shelters = $20.97
40 square feet of guinea pig living space cost $168.29, or $4.20 per square foot
Animal Cost and Reproduction
On average, my american chinchilla rabbits are $20 each. Some more, some less.
Guinea pigs, on the other hand, I pay around $2.5o each for, as a majority of them are free off craigslist.
So, Rabbits cost 3 x $20 = $60, and Guinea Pigs cost $2.50 x 20= $50.
We are assuming that all animals are of breeding age, 2 does, each have 7 babies at day 32, and are rebred, get 11 litters a year. = 77 babies this grows to. Does bred January 1 won’t be ready until June (and realistically, the last four litters aren’t ready for harvest in a startups first year, so, 49 babies can be counted). This is with weaning occurring around 3.5 weeks, and males and females split into different grow out cages per litter (need 4 cages total for that, plus the two for the moms) until they can grow out to maturity at 4 months (low estimate) and 5 lbs each.
What most people don’t consider is the extra cage cost, if you have all of this capital already, because you have been breeding for years, this is no problem, but in startup, this adds up quickly. Each set of litters needs four cages as growout (males and females for each doe). This results in an additional need for 4 – 8ft by 30 in cages (aside from the one parent cages). One for the one for weaned in March/July/November Kits, one for weaned in April/August/December, one for May/September/January weaned kits, and one for June/October/February weaned kits.
This adds up to a hefty $1090 for initial capital for rabbits! Not including the cost of labor.
But, in the first 12 months you get 196 lbs of meat from three rabbits, assuming 4 lbs final weight. Of that, 98 lbs is meat and bones. This is eating everything, and not adding anything to your operation.
All 18 sows are of breeding age. Each have three babies after a 2.5 month gestation, and grow out for four months before harvest, with babies sexed and males sorted out at 3 weeks of age (a small 16 square foot area out of the 40). Sows bred January 1 are ready to give birth March 15. They rebreed and give birth again June 1, and then again August 15th (any litter after that won’t be ready in the start up year). This gives a total of 162 guinea pigs, harvested in July, October, and December.
Now, again with the extra cages needed. The cage can hold 40 total pigs, 16 males and 24 females in two sections. Assuming a 50/50 gender split, one more cage would need to be built as a grow out. The original 20 pigs + 56 offspring is 76 pigs in 80 square feet. Acceptable numbers for pigs. But, they aren’t ready to go until July 15, so a new set of 56 pigs would be born on June 1, and with their parents until the end of June. Since the pigs are growing out and small, having them overlap in the grow out pen is ok for two weeks until harvest time. But, if you want to play it safe and build a grow out pen for females, and one for males, that gives a total of 3 pens.
$505 for initial capital for guinea pigs! Not including labor.
In the first 12 months, 162 pigs results in 243 lbs of meat, about 121 lbs of that is meat and bones. (Guinea pigs are a pain in the butt to skin though).
This is assuming that pelleted food is supplemented with hay, and the youth eat what the parents do.
One cup of rabbit food weighs 0.36 lbs so a 50 lb bag = 139 cups, which feeds 556 rabbits. 180 “rabbits” are needed the first two months, 600 the third, 1020 the fourth, 1440 the fifth, and 1860 the sixth, and every month thereafter. That is 30 bags of food for the year, @ $18.99 = $569.70 + $156 hay = $725.70
One cup of guinea pig food weights 0.38 lbs, so a 50 lb bag = 132 cups, which feeds 1,056 guinea pigs, or 53 days with 20 pigs, or 14 days with 76 pigs (starting March 15). That is 2 bags before birth + 19 bags for the rest of the year.
21 bags of guinea pig food @ $21.99/bag = $461.79/ first year + $156 for hay = $617.79
THE FIRST YEAR
Rabbits: $1090 capital + $60 animals + $725.70 = $1,875.70 /98 lbs dressed carcass = $19.14/lb (around $9.5olb for pet food).
Guinea Pigs: $505 capital + $50 animals + $617.79 = $1172.79 /121 lbs dressed carcass = $9.69 /lb, or $4.85 /lb for pet food. If guinea pigs are free ranged and given spent grain and garden waste, that feed goes down by half or more.
Final Analysis… Startup is much cheaper if you have guinea pigs, even if you get less food per animal.
Rabbits: 77 babies @ 4 lbs each = 308 lbs. 41 bags of food ($778.59 + $156 hay) = $935 = $3.03 /lb for pet food, or $6.o6 for dressed carcasses.
Guinea Pigs: 224 babies @ 1.5 lbs each = 336 lbs. 26 bags of food and hay = $727.74 total = $2.17 /lb for pet food, or $4.33 /lb for dressed carcasses.
There you have it folks. Guinea pigs are cheaper, especially if you can free range them, and do a fantastic job mowing and fertilizing your lawns. I am feeding all 54 of my guinea pigs on less than $0.70 per day.