Rabbit Farming: The Untapped Venture
Many people rear rabbits in small scale for meat, as a hobby or as pets. But, did you know it is possible to turn this into a lucrative agribusiness venture?
For the longest time, commercial rabbit farming in Kenya for meat production has been unexploited. Nevertheless, with the increased cases of lifestyle diseases such as heart disease and related ailments; and increased awareness of the harmful effects of cholesterol in our diets, demand for white meat is on the rise.
Rabbit meat is healthier than other meats, contains more protein and is less in fat than beef, turkey, pork and even chicken. As a result, commercial rabbit farming in Kenya is becoming popular day by day.
In Kenya, we have various breeds of rabbits including the California white, Chinchilla, Dutch, New zealand white, Flemish giant, French earlop and the Angora. A breeder rabbit costs between Ksh. 3,000 and Ksh. 5,000 depending on its age. This means that a 3-month old rabbit costs about Ksh.3000 while a 5-month old goes for about Ksh.5000. At maturity, a rabbit weighs 4kg on average and may weigh more if well fed.
Rabbits have a maturing period of 4 to 5 months after which they can start reproducing. Does (female rabbits) give birth every 60 days to a litter of 6 bunnies on average. This is after a gestation period of between 28 and 31 days. The litter number may be more in some cases. The weaning period takes between 28 to 31 days.
It is vital to construct a proper house for your rabbits. A rabbit house is called a hutch and may be constructed with wood, concrete or iron sheets depending on the material available to you. However, all-wire cages are the best as wooden parts are not sanitarily convenient. The cages should be raised from the ground, well ventilated, have access to sunlight and should not face the wind.
It is also advisable to build several cages for your rabbits to prevent inbreeding, for it reduces production. Experts advise that each rabbit that gives birth should be kept in a cage with its bunnies and once the bunnies mature, you need to separate them and find them their own cages. When breeding, the doe (female rabbit) should be taken to the buck’s (male rabbit) cage and not vice versa.
Raising rabbits is not labor-intensive like cattle and poultry. Rabbits are easy to feed and often don’t need a lot of attention and their feeds are readily available. Rabbits enjoy a nice mix of hay, pellets, and fresh water. They also enjoy vegetables such as cabbages and can also eat maize, banana and cassava peels.
Overfeeding leads to a fat doe or buck that does not reproduce efficiently. A mature rabbit consumes about 120gms to 150gms of hay or pellets per day until kindling time (giving birth). Feed your rabbit 340 to 450 grams for three to five days after kindling, and then give it full feeds until the bunnies are weaned. Never feed damp or mouldy feeds to your rabbits for it may cause bloating which could lead to death.
To minimize chances of disease outbreak, the farmer needs to observe hygiene by keeping the cages and all equipment used in handling the feeds clean and dry.