Commercial rabbit farming in Kenya is becoming a popular investment day by day. Reared for domestic and commercial purposes, rabbits can be kept in virtually any part of Kenya provided that the farmer meet all requirements for starting up rabbit farming. This is the most easy and fast agri-business venture due to its low start-up capital and its reported higher returns in a short period of time. These animals grow and mature very fast within months -time. Coupled with that, their gestation period is often short (one month) and can give birth after every two months, giving birth to at least 2 months each time. Most rabbits reach maturity in 5 months and achieve slaughter weight in just 3 months. They reproduce 3 to 4 times annually. Just like pigs, the rate of food –meat conversion is very high and its meat is very delicious and soft to digest.
Oxfarm Organic has made it easy for anyone wishing to venture into rabbit farming. With this easy check-list for rabbit rearing, you can comfortably start up the enterprise and reap enormous benefits from the same.
- Decide the Size of the venture
Make a decision on whether you intend to do it in a small farm or in a massive place with extra arrangements. Good thing with rabbits is that they can be reared in any farm despite the size. Space should never be an issue during the start –up. It is the proper management of the available space which brings favorable results. They can be reared in terrace, backyard or even your balcony. Whichever the case is, their living quarters should accommodate enough room for their feeders, drinkers, kits and expansion of their quantity. The number of rabbits that can be accommodated in a place of 500 square feet area is approximately 80.
- Choosing the best breed
There are a variety of species in rabbits. Choosing suitable breeds for rabbit farming is most important. Choose breeds according to your desired production. The common breeds that do well in Kenya include California White, Flemish Giant, Chinchilla, New Zealand White and some other local cross breeds. Chinchilla is a grey-brown breed and is preferred because it has a large mature weight and therefore preferred for meat. Though proper care and setup, one can rear any of these variety of rabbit, their nature of living should not be disturbed. If you wish to rear 2 or 3 species at a time, you can easily do that but ensure you maintain them separately.
A breeder rabbit costs between sh3000 and sh5000 depending on its age. A 3 month old rabbit costs sh3000 while a 5 month one costs sh5000. This means that a farmer who buys a 5 month old rabbit would expect the rabbits to start reproducing immediately while those that go for the 3 month old ones would only wait for at most 2 months before they reproduce.
Adopt a suitable housing structure for your bunnies. The cages do not require a lot of specifications. Rabbits should be kept in clean, neat shelter with access to sunlight and should not face the wind and should have good ventilation system. Heating and ventilation are crucial because rabbits do not tolerate extreme temperatures very well. You can cover the walls, doors, roofs of a hutch with chicken wire netting or made up of bamboo or wood placed 20mm apart. This system is suitable for hot tempered areas. Choose the housing method according to your production type and investment capability.
Some breeds weigh heavier than others therefore consider the holding capacity of the unit you choose. Generally, an adult rabbit would weigh between 2-7 kg. And for commercial production 1200-1500 squire centimeter clean space is required for 1 kg weight. That means 80cm * 80cm space is required for a medium sized rabbit. Keep in mind that rabbits are sensitive to space and when not granted enough to freely move about, often exhibit abnormal behavior. This includes repetitive chewing of cage bars or over-grooming. Keep the young rabbits in a group until they reach 4 months of age. 20-30 young rabbits can be kept in each group. Leave a drain inside the house so that you can easily clean the house.
The estimated cost of the cages which measure 2.5ft cubic including labor and material is sh3500. This cost is however dependent on factors such as the source of material so if well sourced; the price should be brought down significantly. You should maintain the herd on a year-round schedule of 12 hours each of light and darkness to keep them breeding throughout the year.
This is by far the most important part of rabbit farming. Rabbits consume about 25 grams of pellets per day. This translates to 2.25Kg in 90 days. On average, 2Kg of rabbit pellets cost between Ksh90 and Ksh150 in the local market. The rabbits should always have regular supply of food at all times. They can be fed with any variety of greens including kitchen garbage, leaves and various trees. An average rabbit feeds on 2 leaves of sukumawiki per day. You may also feed them cabbage, carrots and lettuce. This food will be both nutritional for the rabbits and very economical for you. You can also feed your rabbits commercially prepared supplementary feeds available in the market. Hay is also highly recommendable due to its availability and nutrient rich feature. Sufficient amount of nutritious and balanced diet food keeps the rabbit healthy and productive. Additionally, adequate supply of clean and fresh water is also required. Use small bowls and containers for feeding the rabbits. Rabbits are naturally nocturnal creatures, preferring to eat at night. Therefore, feeding them well in the evening is critical.
Breeding should be an important consideration during the life of a rabbit. It is not a simple process as it might generally appear. Generally, rabbits are fast growing animals and normally mature much earlier compared to other domestic animals. They become suitable for breeding when they reach 6-9 months of age. However though, the breeding age is very dependent with the type of the rabbit breed. For small breeds, 6 months is ideal for breeding but for the case of heavy breeds, the age limit is higher than 6 months, going up to 9 months. Rabbits should be allowed to breed with the male rabbit only of the weights are complimenting each other. Rebreeding can take place after an interval of 6 weeks. Ideally, a doe would give birth after every two months, each time giving birth to 2-8 young ones. Gestation period of a rabbit is approximately one month (28-31 days).
- Disease control and management
After the rabbit farming venture has been established, proper supervision of these animals should be conducted safety and health of the bunnies. They are very susceptible to several diseases and therefore close observation should be maintained. Anytime the rabbits get infected with a particular disease, they would often become weak and die immediately or soon. Diseases also greatly reduce productivity. In cases where the rabbits are reared on large farms, it is always necessary to do regular medical check-ups to check and control infections. Have certain medicines ready all time to treat injuries or any wounds. This will help you to lessen the chances of death. Always ensure that you maintain farm hygiene at all times o keep of pests that could be vectors of certain disease. Use antiseptic sprays and other similar medicines to keep the rabbits out from any diseases due to insects. Keep the shed always clean, well ventilated and well protected from direct sun, wind and/ rain. For a good health program, keep accurate health records of each animal. Provide each rabbit with a tattoo identification number or ear tag and attach an identification card with health and breeding information to its hutch.
Before starting up any business, it is always necessary to identify potential market for your products. To market rabbits you need certification by the Veterinary services department. Although the market for rabbit products is not well established in Kenya, don’t fear investing in rabbit rearing. Try local hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and even in certain agricultural research centers. Rabbit Republic and Benida Foods are perfect companies in Kenya that deal with rabbit marketing. There are also foreign markets for rabbit products in countries such as China. Rabbit meat slaughter houses are coming up due to the high popularity and increasing demands of rabbit meat. Social media is also a reliable channel for these products. Rabbit meat retails at a price range of Ksh400 and Ksh700 per kg. For small scale farmers with less than 100 rabbits, you can form groups at the county level in order to strategize on how best to supply to other countries.
With the notable growth in rabbit farming, investing in it can never be disappointing. Investing in this venture now will definitely be a success story in future. Rabbit meat is white meat, a health alternative for health conscious individual. Rabbit meat has low cholesterol level and high in proteins. The meat is very tasty, low in fat and easy to digest. Their fur is used in processing of clothing and other items. Rabbit urine is used as an insecticide and fertilizer.