How to start a rabbit farm
Rabbits are kept mainly as a source of meat. It is one of the best sources of protein and known to be healthier than other meats due to its nutrients.
Rabbit meat is tasty and usually more expensive, thus it can be a good source of income and create employment.
Starting rabbit farming is easy as it requires little capital. Rabbits also reproduce rapidly.
Rabbits used to be mostly kept as pets as a hobby but rabbit farming can be done as a business.
Rabbits are playful and move by hopping if let free which is why they are kept in cages called hutches that are usually off the ground.
A farmer can construct a hutch himself using several pieces of wood and a wire mesh or buy one.
The hutches should allow maximum movement of the rabbits inside and should have proper ventilation.
A farmer should always ensure the hutch is always clean and warm.
Proper housing in rabbit farming that is easy to clean, is key to preventing diseases such as Pasteurellosis which causes snuffles and pneumonia.
There are many breeds of rabbits reared for various reasons like the skin, meat, fur, urine, for research purposes as lab animals, manure or as a pet. The fur is used to make expensive coats in the western world.
A farmer settles on the best breed preferred according to their purpose and desired production.
The various meat rabbit breeds include: California White, Flemish Giant, Canada Giant, New Zealand White, French Ear lop, Chinchilla, Dutch and ILRI Giant.
The California White for example matures quickly and reaches up to five kilograms in weight. Angola breed is kept mainly for fur and as a pet.
A farmer is advised to consider a breed with a higher meat bone ratio to get more meat and that is more resistant to diseases.
Rabbit gestation period is usually less than 31 days and a doe can give birth after every two months producing two to eight bunnies.
The most critical time for rabbits is after females give birth. The bunnies usually require a lot of basic care including keeping them warm and ensuring the mother breastfeeds them.
Bunnies grow very fast and mature within four to five months are ready for slaughter.
One great advantage of rearing of rabbits is that they feed on a wide variety of green vegetation from weeds, grasses, kitchen vegetable remains, and leaves which reduce the feeding cost.
However regular commercial feeds are necessary too from time to time. Rabbits have the highest feed conversion ratios of 4:1
They should also be offered adequate clean fresh water for healthy growth. The farmer should remember to vaccinate them regularly to keep them free from all types of diseases and infections.
In terms of handling rabbits, the best method is to grasp the ears and the skin close to the head with one hand while the other hand takes the full weight of the rabbit at the hips.
It is important for a farmer to keep records to easily and properly identify the rabbits in times of vaccination, breeding, slaughter, exhibition due to their huge breeding rate.
There is readily available market for rabbit meat farmers which include high-end restaurants, supermarket and butcheries.