For a long time, rabbit farming in Kenya has not been taken seriously. In many African societies, rabbits are considered as pets for young boys. This is however not the case as farmers can now make good money rearing rabbits. We set out to find out more about rabbit farming in Kenya.
Rabbits Farming in Kenya
Rabbits have a maturing period of 4 – 5 months after which they can start reproducing. A female rabbit gives birth every 2 months (60 days) to a litter of 6 on average after a gestation period of between 28 and 31 days. The litter number may be more in some cases. The weaning period(suckling) is 28-31 days after which a farmer should start feeding them on hay and pellets.
Benefits of Rabbits Keeping in Kenya
Rabbit keeping is cheaper, more efficient, and more productive than other agricultural businesses including poultry farming. This is partly because rabbit feed is much more easily available and constructing a rabbit hutch is very simple.
Rabbits are cheap to keep
Apart from meat, Rabbit skin and fur can be sold separately providing extra income. The skin and fur is used to make expensive coats in the western world where hunting of foxes has been banned. Additionally, rabbits produce dung, which is excellent manure.
They are also used as testing specimens by laboratories. The breed usually determine how they are used.
Rabbit rearing is inexpensive
Start up Costs
A Rabbits cost around Ksh.350 at the age of 1-2 months. The price of mature rabbits depends on weight and size. Mature rabbits can have a live weight of 5 – 6 kg.
You can buy breeding stock to start with from local breeders. Rabbits start to breed at the age of 6 to 7 months and give birth after a month of gestation. Female rabbits can produce up to 50 live rabbits per year. They produce an average of 9 kits per birth.
How to start rabbits rearing
To start your rabbit farm, prepare a rabbit hutch that is well lit and well ventilated with heating and cooling systems. You can build the hutch from scrap materials. Metal cages are usually recommended for its ease of cleaning.
Equip the hutch with feed and water basin and a nest box. To keep your start up cost low, you can construct rabbit housing yourself from available construction materials you have. Cleanliness is important to ensure that the rabbits do not get sick.
Rabbit Market in Kenya
There a high demand for rabbit meat in Kenya. Mostly the meat is sold to restaurants and hotels who serve it as an exotic dish and charge up to Ksh.1000 per plate.Rabbit farmers are therefore keen to sell to big hotels and restaurants.
Local butcheries sell rabbit meat at Ksh.250 per kilo while Supermarkets can sell it for up to Ksh 500 per kilo.
Benefits of rabbits farming in Kenya
You can also breed rabbits to be used for controlled experiments in laboratories. Breeding rabbits for laboratories has different demands because you will have to meet specifications such as weight and age.
It is important to identify your market segment before you embark on the venture. However you will not lack a market for your products once it is ready.
Rabbit farming can be a sustainable way to provide protein-rich high quality meat to a family. There is little space needed as opposed to a cattle farm, and from a small invest a rabbit farm can create a decent income, even part-time. Rabbits can be bred for their meat and also their hide and fur to make clothes or other items.
Rabbit farming can be for anyone with the desire to raise livestock for a living. A farmer with no land will enjoy this trade as little space is required. Young adults not sure which path to take educationally can benefit from a farming life. A stay at home mother can tend to the rabbits and keep her children entertained at the same time.
Rabbit farming is affordable. It does not take many rabbits to start a farm. They are excellent breeders and the farm will grow steadily with about 8-12 rabbits per litter. Rabbits are easily fed with available greens from around the yard and waste vegetables and grains from around the house. If compared to other meats, rabbit meat contains more protein and less fat than most. It can be fed to small toddlers and aging adults because it is easy to digest.
There are two ways to rear the rabbits. Both systems need a shed or shelter to protect the rabbits from predators and the elements. A Deep Litter System is used when rearing a small amount of rabbits. This option is more likely in an urban setting. Using a concrete floor will prevent the rabbits from digging holes and escaping the structure. Wood shavings, paddy straw or husk can be laid down about 4-6 inches thick and should be big enough to house about 30 rabbits at a time. Males should always be housed separately to keep population under control. It would be optimal for the urban farmer to have an area where the rabbits can eat free range outside of their shelter while under supervision and then locked up safely while indoors and overnight.
Cage systems can be elaborate and used for bigger farms. However not many rabbits enjoy them so they will not be advocated here. Sustainable farming should always include the best possible environment for the animals even when rearing for slaughter.
As a self sufficient hobby, rabbit farms are regaining popularity for city dwellers wishing to provide healthy food to their families. With the added incentive of extra income, small scale rabbit farming is a good investment to a sustainable future for a single family.