Rearing rabbits otherwise known as rabbit farming or rabbit rearing is a very lucrative agribusiness to venture into because rabbits are fast growing animals that take 4 – 5 months to mature for slaughter. They reproduce very fast, kindling (giving birth) four times a year to an average of 8 kits per kindle.
There are different breeds of rabbits available in Kenya and other major cities of the world and they include but not limited to the following: the California white, Chinchilla, Dutch, New zealand white, Flemish giant, French earlop and the Angora.
A male rabbit is called a buck while a female rabbit is a doe and their young ones are called kits.
There are basically three systems of rabbit rearing (rabbit production) widely known and adopted, and they include the following:
1. Free Range System
It is one of the easiest ways to raise rabbits, by letting them run around, find their own food, mate as they want, and when you are hungry you can easily trap one for food. This is free range system.
However good it is, it comes along with disadvantages, yes the disadvantages are discouraging;
-very difficult to handle rabbits
-there is easy disease outbreak, eg. Ear canker
-high levels of predation.
By using that system, many people have got discouraged in rabbit keeping because the problems involved are many and inevitable.
2. Colony System
Under this system, rabbits are enclosed in a confined environment or room and left to run around in the enclosure. The floor may be placed with litter, with either wood shavings or husks.
This is more of free range system, however, the rabbits are controlled (mating, feeding)
They almost share the same challenges, except there is less chances of predation in this case than free range system.
Inbreeding can occur if not controlled.
The litter can provide rich mulch or manure for farm use.
3. Cage System
Unlike previous systems, here rabbits are ‘restrained’ in an enclosure, usually a wire cage. Rabbits are placed in their own cells/rooms/ cage.
In some cases, 2 or more young rabbits may occupy a single cell. Weaned rabbits may be placed 2 or 4 in a single cell measuring 1x1x0.5 meters.
Cage system is mostly practiced by commercial rabbit breeders. Some small scale producers are going into this system. This is because it is easier to manage rabbits under this system.
Keen observation is required for this system. Feeding and watering are all done by an external labor. In some rabbitry, watering and feeding are automatic .
Cage system also has the highest start up capital, but it is safe and reliable. We will discuss more of this than the other system.
There are essentially two kinds of housing in rabbit keeping; The stable and The hutches
1. The Stable
This is a main building in which or under which you place the individual hutches/ cages.
To build a stable is not always necessary, you might have a suitable place under the roof of your own house already.
However, building a stable provides safety and biosecurity of your rabbits. It is a common requirements for commercial producers.
Advise before you build a stable
Although initial expenses for stables are high, they are really relatively low. A good building last for several generations, so the cost per generation are low.
The real high costs are labour, dead or stolen animal, vet service etc. If you start with a bad stable design, it will force you day after day to do unnecessary things, and that is a low initial cost but a high recurring cost
Do not start big, but do not waste time on clumsy design.
Watch and consult relevant people.
Buildings should be constructed in such a way that working is not difficult.
Important features of a stable
Let us now discuss some features of a good stable, assuming that you need such a building. You can construct your stable keeping in mind of the following guidelines;
– rain, wind and sunshine
– humidity and fresh air
2. The hutches
This system is commonly used by beginner producers or those with fewer animals. It is also ideal for “testing out” the rabbit market in an area. It is strongly recommended that you start out with a system such as this.
Positives: Relatively low cost to build. It is ideal for a small production. Smaller units can be made portable with the addition of wheels.
Negatives: Because there is no exterior barn structure, choice of materials are essential and maintenance for the hutch is constant.
This system can be used outside (with proper ventilation and airflow which are CRITICAL for this system to work properly). However, this is preferably an indoor method.
Positives: It allows for a larger production while using less floor space because the cages are stacked. The regulated environment aids in reaching your rabbits’ production potential.
Negatives: It tends to be a more costly unit to purchase/make. Indoor production requires airflow (with air-conditioners) and extraction units. It can be costly to maintain and requires a greater amount of cleaning.
Suspended Cages with Barn Cover
This is the most common type of rabbit housing used for larger commercial rabbit productions.
Positives: The nature of this layout allows for reduced cleaning time, lower costs to maintain, and makes for easy expansion.
Negatives: Rabbits are more vulnerable to the elements than with an inside production.
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