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RABBIT FARMING: ANOTHER WAY OF INCREASING YOUR INCOME


Rabbit farming is a profitable business that can give good return within six months. Rabbits belong to the category of micro-livestock because of their small nature. Rabbits are very easy to raise even in a small space and of course, highly prolific, moreover, they grow very fast. Rabbit can provide a good quality and healthy source of protein (white meat) for family. Rabbit meat contains high protein ratio, energy, calcium and vitamin than any other species of animal. Rabbit meat contains low cholesterol and sodium with a distinct taste.
A mature rabbit weighing 4 – 5kg is sold between N4,000 – N8,000. Gestation period of a female rabbit (doe) is between 28 – 32 days and can give birth to 6 kids on average. A doe can give birth 5 – 6 times in a year. Species of rabbit include, New Zealand White, New Zealand Black, New Zealand Red, Flemish giant, Belgium White and Chinchilla.
To raise rabbit profitably, you need to consider the following;
Breed Selection: Select good breed/parent stock based on your preference however, it is important to select breed that is healthy, active but calm.  A mature male usually have big scrotum. To check for sexual maturity, hold penis in between your thumb and your first finger and slide it downwards towards the loin, this will distend the shaft of the penis and the sperm duct will protrude, it makes sharp protrusion then it is sexually matured and if otherwise, it is not sexually matured.
Housing: Battery cage system (Intensive system) is the best way to raise large number of rabbit. They can as well be raised on deep litter system on floor with bedding (from wood shavings, maize stubbly, etc). In battery cage system, rabbits are kept in a cage (hutch) made of iron or wood. The hutch should have space for drinker, feeder and kindling box. The hutch should be kept in a shade place having cross ventilation Male and female rabbit should be kept separately from each other unless during mating. This system allows easy harvesting of urine; rabbit urine contains 46% Nitrogen which can be used as fertilizer for crops.
Feeding: Feed consumption rate and nutrient requirements varies according to rabbit age and species. Commercial poultry feed (like grower mash) can be served to rabbits. They should be given sufficient water according to their demand.  Its feed should contain 17-18 percent crude protein, 14 percent fiber, 7 percent minerals and 2700 kilo calorie/kg of metabolic energy. Green leafy vegetables, seasonal vegetable, spinach greens, Triadax procumbens, carrots, Muller, cucumber, green grass and vegetable waste can easily be used as feed for rabbit. The feeders and drinkers can be made of concrete materials. A lactating mother needs concentrate two times a day.
Reproduction: The female rabbit are naturally shy, the workers should keep away, the female should be taken to the male for mating and never put a male in the female cage. Use bigger male for crossing and after successful crossing, the male fall off the female with its back on the floor with typical sound. Separate the two after mating. Best time for crossing is between 5 and 7am in the morning. Pregnancy can be confirmed with hand after 15 day. A pregnant rabbit looks attractive and prefers more rest. Gestation period is between 28 – 32 days. The mother is separated from the kittens after one month and put for crossing again. Kittens are born blind and can remain for 8 - 10 days hence they need to be helped to get milk from their mother and should be protected from cold. Avoid touching the kittens with bare hand.
Biosecurity: Ensure the hutch and shed are kept clean. Remove faeces, urine and waste food materials from the hutch and floor.

Pest and Diseases: Block soldier ants entry into the shed and hutch. Proper management will keep the rabbit free from diseases and pests, however, fever, cold and cough are very common, diarrhea, dermatitis, are also common. Proper treatment should be administered. 

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