I have to admit that I never knew that people could keep rabbits for commercial purposes.
Back in my place rabbit keeping was done by young boys and I remember I did this when in class six. It was just for fun and we kept them as pets. Fast forward to 2011, it’s the old men who keep rabbits this time not as pets but for business purposes.
I had a chance to go to a farmer’s field day in Kiambu the other day and I was so surprised to see how the rabbit business is booming. Meat rabbit farming is one of the fastest growing new industries in Kiambu County. While its long term size will never rival that of our traditional meat industries, it is providing a useful source of income diversification for a number of people in regional and rural areas where farm incomes have plummeted in recent years.
The best part about this business is that the production costs are very minimal and the rabbits multiply at a fast rate.
In Kiambu, the farmers sell one mature breeder rabbit for Ksh. 3000, the one for meat is sold at 250-300/KG which is a good price. This means that a serious farmer could fetch around 25,000 from this business every month.
The basics on Rabbit keeping is as follows:
In general, the type of housing is dependent upon the climate, location and size of the rabbitry. The optimum temperature in a rabbit shed is around 10 – 25 0C. Effective ventilation is required to control extremes of temperature and also to remove ammonia. Housing is a critical issue for rabbit health. Poor ventilation will result in irritation to the respiratory tract and susceptibility to infection from bacteria. Heat stress will cause major rabbit mortalities and reproductive failure.
Natural ventilation systems can use wind and animal heat to move air. Natural ventilation is low cost, the disadvantages being lack of control over air movement, inability to lower the inside temperature of the rabbitry below that outside, and over-ventilation. Natural ventilation can be provided with a high gable roof, a Ventilation ridge vent, and open sides with flaps that can be opened or closed depending on the atmospheric requirements. In high wind areas, a stub wall or wind baffle outside the open sided sheds is needed to reduce wind velocity. Mechanical ventilation systems are used in environmentally controlled buildings, using fans to provide required airflow. The advantage of this system is the ability to control rate of airflow for effective removal of moisture, heat and ammonia; disadvantages being the high initial and operating cost and the need for backup systems in case of power failure. Evaporative cooling systems may be used in a hot, dry climate. A water sprinkling system on the roof of the rabbit shed will help to reduce high temperatures.
2. Space requirements
Sufficient room is required for caged rabbits to move around, to feed and drink without difficulty. The minimum legal standards for different classes of rabbits are given below:
Doe and litter (5 weeks) – 0.56 sq.m (total area)
Doe and litter (8 weeks)-0.74 sq.m (total area)
Rabbits (5-12 weeks) – 0.07 sq.m (per rabbit)
Rabbits (12 weeks or more) – 0.18 sq.m (per rabbit)
Adult does and bucks for breeding –0.56 sq. m
Cage height (>12 weeks) 45cm
If the floor of the cage is of wire mesh material it should be of woven or flat construction. The square mesh of the floor should not exceed 19 x 19 mm for adults and 13 x 13 mm for kittens.
The optimum for rectangular mesh is 50 x 13 mm. The thickness of the wire mesh should not be less than 2.5 mm diameter (12 gauge). Cage arrangement can vary depending on the size of the enterprise. Multiple deck configurations require a faeces diverter.
3. Feeders and watering equipment
Good feeding and watering equipment will supply feed and water in hygienic condition and will avoid causing discomfort or stress to the rabbits. A feed hopper in a cage should have a sufficiently big opening and should be large enough to feed all the rabbits in the cage at the same time. An automatic watering system can be installed. The drinking nipples of the watering system should be at optimum height from the floor of the cage, around 10 cm from the floor of the cage and they should not project more than 2.5 cm into the cage. It is always advisable to have a backup system to ensure that rabbits have access to water in case of a failure of an automated system.
4. Floor of the shed
Earthen floor is preferred by some breeders as it absorbs urine and thereby reduces ammonia accumulation in the shed. Earthen floors combined with compost worms under the cages require less cleaning than concrete floors thereby saving a lot of labour. Mucking out is only required about 3 times a year. Concrete flooring needs regular cleaning and a high quality epoxy coating is desirable to completely seal the pores of the concrete.
The average daily requirement of pelleted feed for rabbits of different ages is given below:
- Does 100g
- Pregnant does 160g
- Lactating does 350g
Oaten chaff can be fed at the rate of 20 g per day per adult rabbit.
Pellets should be formulated to give basic nutrient requirements for rabbits.
For those who want to start up this business you can contact new vision Rabbit breeders Self help Group Located at Ndumberi in Kiambu County
Their contacts are
Phone: 0722644139 or 0721174722