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  1. #1
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    Does breeding pay the bills?

    I just picked up a couple of new babies, bringing me up to 10 snakes now, and I think my husband is reeling from the sticker shock of a 3 bin rack (CB70 bins) and two baby ball pythons (which seem to cost twice as much in Canada as in the US). He has encouraged me to consider finding a way for my snake habit/hobby to pay for itself, especially since I like using the big expensive PVC cages for most of my other species. My cages alone have cost several thousand dollars, and I no longer have the income I used to have when I first started in this hobby. So I'm thinking about potentially, in the next few years (no rush, I have a TON of research to do first) producing a clutch or two to pay for some mice/rats/cages.

    Of those of you who have tried this, have you found that it was worth the trouble of having just a few clutches without starting a full-out business of breeding? I'm a person who enjoys researching genetics, and understands them pretty easily, but I am not great at sales, and have failed at starting businesses before so I'm really gun-shy to try this, and just end up with a bunch more mouths to feed. Assuming I will do everything in my power to do this responsibly and actually sell the hatchlings, do you recommend this option to assist in the upkeep of a small collection? (By small collection, I mean under 25 snakes)

    Of course, what my hubby doesn't realize is that this will only be an excuse to get more snakes. I have literally ONE ball python pair that would make some pretty babies... in two or three years when she gets up to size. And I'd need to invest in incubators and baby racks and... well, it would take a few years to become profitable. I'm just wondering what your experience or advice is for really small scale breeding. Is it worth it?

  2. #2
    Registered User Bogertophis's Avatar
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    Depends on SO many things! Luck, hard work, INVESTMENT in the right animals -so you're not just producing more common varieties in a saturated market!

    Actually, I had a HOUSE-FULL of snakes for many years & reproduced a few kinds of snakes over the years, but not so much for profit...just enjoying the hobby.

    I actually supported my snakes nicely by selling surplus rodents that bred prolifically...the rodent-ranch saved me money on snake-food, were convenient (having
    all the right sizes & types to keep my various snakes happy), but also a lot of work (& odor-producing! -be forewarned). I know little about life in Canada, but here
    in the U.S., doing something as a business also complicated life a bit requiring paperwork (record-keeping for taxes). Another "problem" is that with success (in
    breeding the snakes) there is all that temptation to 'hold-back' more & more snakes...I have to say that small-scale (pardon the pun) breeding is NOT likely to
    be profitable. And for me personally, I don't enjoy selling snakes that I truly care about & am invested in having raised, knowing they won't all have great homes...
    but that's something you'll have to answer for yourself. There's also the "joy" of shipping them unless you're in a big city with a market for what you've got.
    Many friends in low places...

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  4. #3
    Registered User wnateg's Avatar
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    Well, the good thing about racks, cages, and other such supplies is that they're reusable.

    But (and take my opinion with a grain of salt because I do not breed) I would imagine it would be a hard market to break into for ball pythons because the market is so so saturated. I mean look at morphmarket, you'd spend days looking through all the ball pythons.

    If I was going to get into breeding, I would lean towards more rarely bred snakes, but with a balance of available information, so you don't need to waste too much time (and money) figuring things out.
    0.1.0 Cat "Anna"
    -----
    0.0.1 Emerald Tree Boa "Samantha"
    0.1.0 Jayapura Scrub Python "Victoria"
    0.1.0 Titanium Reticulated Python "Alice"
    -----
    0.0.1 Antilles Pink Toe Tarantula "Katherine"
    -----
    0.0.1 Alligator Snapping Turtle "Deborah"


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  6. #4
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    More "small scale" breeders fail than succeed. This is why you see collections coming up for sale so frequently. It's a HUGE investment just to get into breeding, not to mention the increase in food that is hard to get in some places when your snakes are young.

    I put a lot of thought into the planning of this, and I made a few decisions that I've VERY happy to have made.

    1) I breed all my own feeder rats. I've got (12) breeding tubs and (3) grow out bins that I use to maintain a steady supply of rats for my collection. We're working towards (48) breeding females across all the bins, but until that point, we're selectively holding back female rats. Understand that I bought pet quality rats and breed for Temperament as well as appearance with the rats, so on top of providing feeders to locals, I also sell some of my prettier rats with amazing temperaments to pet homes locally. The people buying Feeders at this time are paying for all the food I need for the rats + a little profit, so I feed my 15 snakes for $0 per month.

    2) Timing Considerations. You really should have your entire setup ready to go that encompasses "Laying to Sale" empty and ready to go in advance of putting a male and female in the same tub. Your Incubator should be stable and cycled, you need to have 125% of the space for total average clutches for females, etc etc. For me, this means I need to have space for (6) clutches in every stage at any given point. My incubator will hold 12 boxes of eggs, the rack I'm buying for babies will hold a substantial number of tubs, I'm making sure that I have tubs for hatchlings to go into as groups pre-shed. All of this rack space will sit empty when there aren't hatchlings.

    3) Sales - How are you going to handle sales? Are you going to try to do local shows? What do these shows cost? How to do you display? How do you provide comfort for your animals at the show? Sales Displays are not cheap. Lighting is not cheap. Show space is not cheap, plus you'll want power. Facebook is no longer an option. MorphMarket accounts are $300/year if you're listing more than 2 animals.

    4) Target Market - The animals you're producing, do you have a market for them? Remember that everyone and their cousin is breeding single and double gene snakes to who laid the chunk. Most of these snakes are bought by kids and families with no clue and left to die. Can't tell you how many death sentences I saw at the show this weekend.

    There are literally a TON of expenses just getting off the ground with breeding. You'll need to produce a large number of snakes to even break even on the costs. One decent clutch might get you there if you have buyers.

    In the long run, if you're not going to make a run at being a wholly serious about it, a hobby breeder probably spends more than he or she brings in...

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  8. #5
    Registered User Bogertophis's Avatar
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    I think that a lot of the joy goes out of turning something you love into a "business"- it becomes work! Happily, I stopped short of allowing that to happen to me.

    I've seen several posts on this forum from members wanting to find a good rodent supplier in Canada...that might be something to think about, as far as supporting
    your snake-habit. All I can say is that I don't hate rodents, but for me it's much easier to part with them than it is parting with snakes, plus they can be profitable
    if done correctly, with far less money invested.
    Many friends in low places...

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  10. #6
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    Re: Does breeding pay the bills?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    I think that a lot of the joy goes out of turning something you love into a "business"- it becomes work! Happily, I stopped short of allowing that to happen to me.

    I've seen several posts on this forum from members wanting to find a good rodent supplier in Canada...that might be something to think about, as far as supporting
    your snake-habit. All I can say is that I don't hate rodents, but for me it's much easier to part with them than it is parting with snakes, plus they can be profitable
    if done correctly, with far less money invested.

    There is mad money in Rats. Right now cleaning for me is about 4 hours once a week for my entire setup. If I was at capacity and selling my excess at appropriate rates, I'd be clearing a grand a month for under 20 hours work....

    Paul

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  12. #7
    Registered User Bogertophis's Avatar
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    Re: Does breeding pay the bills?

    Quote Originally Posted by pbenner View Post
    There is mad money in Rats. Right now cleaning for me is about 4 hours once a week for my entire setup. If I was at capacity and selling my excess at appropriate rates, I'd be clearing a grand a month for under 20 hours work....

    Paul
    This ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ EXACTLY! Best way I know of to support your "snake habit". Breeding BPs would be about the last thing I'd do...just saying. Way too many as it is.
    Many friends in low places...

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  14. #8
    Telling it like it is! Stewart_Reptiles's Avatar
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    It can

    I will preface with this I personally I started out in 2006 wanting to produce a pied which where 10K/15K at the time, so I bought a pair of hets (only $1200) and at the time I thought that once I produced what I wanted I would sell everything else and be done but I got hooked and than my goal was to have my expensive taste in animals to pay for itself which by year 2 is something I achieved and here I am now.

    Now will you pay bill or break even with normal pastel spider bumblebee etc? No those times are gone, and buy the time those sells you will actually overall lose money, now a lot of people will say I don't do this for money and I understand I started that way also, however no one wants to lose money years after years they want to at least break even and have a collection paying for itself, and not everyone manage that which is why you see collection sales all the time.

    Now why do some people succeed and why do some people fail?

    Well first a lot of people out there do not have a clue and they believe breeding snakes and making money is as easy as putting a male and a female together, that is the easy part.

    A lot of people do not have a vision or plan (those are the I have this mutation what should I breed it to?), you also have the people that as a foundation for their breeding stock buy questionable and or low quality animals which are often Craigslist rejects, if you want to succeed you have to buy animals based on their quality not their price.

    A lot of people do not know nor do they care to know the market (you have to know what sells depending on whether you are mainly an online seller or show seller, you have to know about saturation of certain mutation etc), a lot lack customer service skills which is as important as the animal you are trying to sell.

    Yes you can succeed in this market regardless of the level you define to be a successful one, it can be having a collection that pays for itself, it can be making some extra cash, and it can be making a living.

    As a breeder who does not want to lose money you need to make a smart investment and you need to keep reinvesting in your collection and upgrade your collection to be able to evolve with a market that is always changing.

    So you can sell out of stocks, you can break even by year 2 and you can start making a profit by year 3 but there are many that do not achieve that and will usually blame it on the market crashing, well I have been in this since 2006 and the market "crashes" all the time however the reality is really their inability to treat this seriously and comprehend that it's not fast and easy money, there is a lot of work involved, and that it is more than putting 2 snakes together.
    Deborah Stewart

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  16. #9
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    What stopped me from breeding (so far) are choices I know I have difficulty making: selling babies to customers who may be sketchy or bad owners (I run into that a lot when I was looking for homes for my foster kittens. The amount of willingful ignorance out there will surprise you unless you don't care that much or will take that chance), finding and executing a humane way to put any babies hatched with severe deformities that would continue its suffering or diminish its quality of life, eggbinding that could kill your snake if not caught on time and the required vet care/money needed to save its life, etc. The risks are small but they are there.

    I know as a consumer, if I want cheap snakes, I go for the cheapest priced ones around. If I want my expectations met, the genes sold to me promised and guaranteed, and a higher chance that the transaction will go well with a health eating snake, I go with a reputable breeder that may charge more for these perks. In this oversaturated market, you are competing again at the big names and the small businesses like yours. The big names that have a good reputation and decades of experience and work behind them can afford to price their snakes higher. To sell your snakes, unless your snakes are exceptionally rare, you probably will have to keep it at or below the average market price just so you can get rid of your stock. The longer you keep your stock means you have to continue feeding it and keeping it which costs money and space that you need to invest in another snake. All in all, if you get lucky, you break even.

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  18. #10
    Telling it like it is! Stewart_Reptiles's Avatar
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    Re: Does breeding pay the bills?

    The big names that have a good reputation and decades of experience and work behind them can afford to price their snakes higher. To sell your snakes, unless your snakes are exceptionally rare, you probably will have to keep it at or below the average market price just so you can get rid of your stock.
    Not all true, quality will speak for itself, I do not price my animals below big breeder' s prices and I have been breeding and selling competing with the big breeders for over 10 years. People who drop their prices below market levels are impatient people that are already in upside down due to poor investment to start with, you need to be willing to hold on those animals and if you can't afford to do so, you should not produce them to start with. But I will agree with this it will be harder for anyone big or small, quality animal's or not to move animals if you do not have a reputation, even if you make a massive investment and get very high end animals, people will be very weary about send $1000 to someone they never heard of, and the solution is not dropping price it's working on that reputation which is part of treating this like a business.

    Desperation in this industry is another big issue that lead to failure and collection sale.
    Deborah Stewart

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