Rabbit farming in Nigeria is not a popular business, this is because of the poor opinion we hold of them. But quite recently a few individuals have taken upon themselves to domesticate rabbit not only as pets but also for its profits (economic value).
Like Grasscutter and Pig, this animal is a very prolific one. It is believed and has been proven scientifically that rabbits are the second most prolific animal in the world. This is because the female can litter up to 25-30 kits in a year. It will surprise you to learn that eating/the consumption of a rabbit is equal to the consumption of two chickens (Poultry birds) because of their protein content. This explains why its meat is now being openly accepted by many people even in European countries. Because of this, their meat has become very expensive.
Rabbit can be hunted in the wild but to avoid violating animal rights and to prevent them from going into extinction any time soon, it is wisest to domesticate them. I remember the good old days when my friend and big cousin used to set traps for rabbit; their trap caught these animals on a daily basis. They sell off or will roast their bounty and proceed to eat them; after giving me parts of its yummy meat. Oh God! It tastes like HEAVEN; it was as if I shouldn’t stop the tearing and crunching of meats and bones…. Till God knows when….
For a long period of time, the debate has gone on between Grasscutter and rabbit farming as per which is more profitable. I believe rabbit rearing is more profitable than Grasscutter farming because rabbit can deliver up to 30 kids and above in a year, gestation period is just a month but a Grasscutter can litter only an average of 8, and they can only deliver twice in a year, their gestation period is between 140-154 days and so on and so forth.
In this article we shall be looking at rabbit cage/pen construction, gestation period, Reasons you should go into rabbit farming, ways to feed them and all that is necessary to know in regards to successful rearing of rabbits in your farm.
SOME COMMON TERMINOLOGIES IN RABBIT FARMING IN NIGERIA
Kit young or baby rabbit
Doe – female rabbit
Buck – male rabbit
RABBIT CAGE CONSTRUCTION
There are really no specifications for dimension in rabbit pen construction; you can build it the way it will be convenient for you to manage. But here are some steps to follow:
Quick tip: Height 70inches, width 42 inches, depth 22 inches
20 inches for hutches and you need 3 hutches for the height and 10 extra for their standing. This makes it a total of 70 inches for the height.
Width (2) 20 inches for each hutch and extra 2 inches for contingencies, making it 42 inches altogether.
Use a V-shape aluminum sheet underneath the cages for the urine and faeces to be channelled away (maybe into a gutter) or a container (if you plan to sell them or use them as manure). This way the leftover faeces can easily be flushed away by pouring water from the top down.
The rabbit house must be spacious in expectations for newborns. It should be constructed in a way that direct sunlight and rainfall are avoided. Use a cage that is more open during heat period then use tarpaulin to cover it up during cold period.
I recommend you use hard woods in their cage constructions just in case they want to eat through. Under normal circumstances, Rabbits won’t eat wood but occasionally they do when the need arises. They start to look for what to eat in other to suppress their teeth from growing wild because their teeth is said to grow every day. Rabbit also chew on wood when their mating becomes more violent.
TYPES OF RABBIT
- Chin chilla
- New Zealand
- California white etc.
The most popularly commercially reared rabbit in Nigeria is New Zealand.
FERTILITY IN RABBIT FARMING
The gestation period of rabbit is just 31 (a month). They are capable of reproducing 7 times in a year. The young rabbit (kits) suckle for one and a half months before weaning so as to prepare the doe for another mating period (the buck). 2 females and a male can give approximately 48 rabbits in 6 months.
Rabbits are very unique as they can become pregnant a day after delivery. But wisdom and proper farm ethics demands that they rest for about 1-2 months before taking them for mating so they won’t be over stress resulting in low productivity or death (you certainly do not want any of these).
The kit takes about 5-7 months to mature and breed. The male and female rabbits should not be put in the same cage; as they exhibit different behaviours. They love conquering territories; things can get really messy when put together. They also feel safer when left alone but the duo can only be brought together for the purpose of mating after which they should be separated.
Does should be kept in maternity boxes when they are due, to litter in and also feed the young there. During delivery the mother rabbit will pull most of her hair to insulate the babies (do not be freaked/ scared when this happens; it is normal). Rabbits are ready for slaughter at 4 months old; they are also sexually active at this stage. Rabbits can live both in the wild and at home for a period of 8-10 years.
FEEDING OF RABBIT
You should provide food for your bunnies twice a day (morning and evening). Feed them more of coarse ground dry corn, soya and any other leguminous crop during dry season. Because these are their favourite crops. Rabbits can also consume kitchen left over such as yam peelings, beans etc. In factthey can eat any other thing apart from meat.
They also like tridax, sweet potato, green leaves, ripe paw paw and milky weeds. You might also find them eating the soft pellet of their faeces. Do not be afraid when this happen as they do this to recover the nutrient in their droppings
BENEFITS OF RABBIT MEAT
- It serves as a source of food which is particularly good for pregnant women. Rabbit meat is rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins, their fibres are easy to chew, digest and taste real good.
- They have very high protein content but low in fat when compared to other animal meat such as pork. It is often recommended in hospitals for persons who are suffering from obesity because it is helpful in weight loss.
- Because of the presence of small sodium content, it is best for hypertension patients.
- Rabbit is super helpful in cardiovascular health because it frees harmful cholesterol in the heart region.
- It contains calcium which is essential for bone and teeth formation. It also contains Potassium and magnesium for the healthiness of nervous system, strengthening of immune system and protect against stroke.
- It is increases/boosts female fertility and male sexual potency because of the presence of zinc.
- Rabbit when eaten overtime helps in the prevention of anaemia due to the presence of high percentage of iron a component of haemoglobin.
- Their meat also helps in building muscle and tissue due to the presence of phosphorus.
WHY YOU SHOULD ENGAGE IN RABBIT FARMING
- Rabbit farming is very profitable, you are sure to make good profits within a year.
- The capital to start this business is not much. With#100,000 you can comfortably start this business at the comfort of your home. You can start with male and 4 females, 1 rabbit can be bought or sold between the price of NGN5000-N10,000.
- The space required for rabbit rearing isn’t much and can be done almost anywhere such as in the store, passage, parking lodge, balcony, under stair case etc.
- It is highly lucrative; you can start selling them after 4 months or use them increase your stock. Within a year you can realise the money you use in setting up the business if done successfully.
There is this belief that if you touch a new born bunny with your bare hands, the doe will reject them because they have that instinct in them to discern it. The best solution to this problem is to use their mother’s urine to rob her mouth part so that she will not be able to detect any human touch.
Advertise to people who are into hotels, road side bush meat vendors, barbecue, bars, restaurant, individuals etc. Funny though many people are looking for where to purchase rabbit without success so you can take it a step further by advertising online through market stores or through the use of social media such as Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn etc.
The beautiful side of this business is that after the first marketing, you wouldn’t have to do that again as people will keep coming to you for supply.
You can also sell to individuals who want to start rearing them commercially or as pets.
HYGIENE IN RABBIT FARMING
There is the great need to keep the rabbit environment clean because like other animals, they are susceptible to diseases. They are cute and fragile and because of this, their surrounding must be from dirt, predators such as snakes and rodents, pests such as flies and soldier ants etc. Rabbits may likely die from any small scratch on their bodies as the wounds get infected.
You can give them medicine against Newcastle diseases but if you notice white rashes in their ear or nose give them Ivermectin injection.
Apart from high nourishing meat the rabbit provides, their faeces and urine can be used as organic fertilizer. A litre of rabbit urine when mixed can be used to fertilize 1 acre of land. How amazing is that?
They also have plenty hair for making coverings. Why not try rabbit farming in Nigeria today and enjoy the income benefits of doing so.