My experience with Rabbit Farming in Kenya.
Rabbit Farming as a hobby vs as a business.
I got my first two rabbits back in 2020. They were a gift from my mum which I still have to date. Sadly one of them died halfway through 2021. I woke up one morning and just found it dead in its hutch. I never understood what went wrong. However, since then, I have learned to manage my rabbit in its hutch.
Thinking about trying rabbit farming as a business.
The initial plan was to start rabbit farming as a business… so, I had a chat with my mum who gifted me the two rabbits just to get me started. The journey has been smooth so far. The only bottleneck was losing one of them to some mysterious disease that I did not quite contemplate.
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Rabbits are calm animals unless agitated by predators or loud noises. The only way they can respond is to move around, sneeze or stomp their hind legs on a hard surface in case a predator or foreigner comes close to them.
So, when one dies or you find one dead in its hutch in the morning, you may never find out the cause. It may be one of the following;
- A predator came close to them that caused the rabbit to have a heart attack.
- There was a loud noise that caused the rabbit to have a heart attack.
- Maybe you gave the rabbit poisonous leaves or rotten veggies. (avocado leaves are dangerous)
- Or the rabbit was just silently suffering in pain from one of the common diseases that affect them; like coccidiosis.
When this happens, you have the option to contact veterinary personnel or just burry the carcass and dust yourself off. These things happen!
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- So did it turn out to be a hobby at first?
Keeping a rabbit had become much of a hobby to me, because I did not invest much of my time or resources into managing my single rabbit. At the time I bought it, it was very tiny. Rabbit pellets are great for providing enough nutrients that support the growth and development of a rabbit.
Being just a hobby, I got free food from Kongowea Market and some of my local vegetable vendors who would arrange for me some leftover vegetables. Rabbits are abit choosy, so select mostly green and leafy vegetables for a happier and healthier rabbit.
They love fruits as well! Being a beginner enthusiast, I sought to discover what would be the tastiest meal to a rabbit. Do you know that aside from the common norm that rabbits love carrots, it is not their favorite?
Bananas are by far rabbits’ tastiest fruit… At least I know my rabbit loves bananas more than carrots. It’s a bit difficult to tell the difference but once they get used to you and their feeding schedule, you will naturally see.
Why rabbit farming and not any other form of farming?
So why did I decide that rabbits are my new hobby? From the business-minded perspective;
- They multiply fast
Since I had and still have only one rabbit, there is no possible way I could prove this point, however, advice from my mum before she gifted the rabbits to me was that instead or unlike poultry farming, or any other type of livestock farming, rabbits multiply much faster within a shorter period. And are favorable for beginner farmers with little to no income whatsoever. So I jumped in!
- Eat less
Having one rabbit, there is a schedule in place just like the feeding schedule in the kitchen. Besides the regular boost in nutrients with a few fruits in between feeding times, the meal schedule is morning, lunch, and evening. The contents of the meal will most certainly depend on what is available in the market. However, I always pay attention to giving the rabbit only leafy green vegetables. i.e Sukuma (kales) Spinach and or cabbage.
- Grow fast
When rabbits are provided with a specific protein diet, they are bound to grow faster. There will be a specific difference between a rabbit that is fed on rabbit pellets and a rabbit that is only fed on cabbage or spinach.
Bottom line is, despite the easy feeding ability of this type of animal, their growth rate is phenomenal.
- They do not need a lot of space
Constructing a rabbit hutch will require a lot of attention to cleanliness, space, and ventilation.
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Rabbits are very clean animals. If you watch closely, you will clearly see some form of arrangement within their hutch. I have one rabbit that has taught me so much! Keeping their hutch clean as well as their bodies and ears clean is a priority for them. For my rabbit, I leave a basin of sand inside its hutch just to make sure the rabbit is more comfortable and I realized, it likes it!
Space is a problem that most starter rabbit farmers have. You do not need an acre of land to build a rabbit hutch, you do not even need an eighth! Even though you are able to build a hutch for a rabbit project in a small space, you need to consider that rabbits are mobile animals. They love to hop and move around. While building a hutch, make sure it is spacious enough for the rabbit to skip around once in a while. That advice is for hobbyists and enthusiasts like me! For those here for business advice, construct a hutch that is suitable for the wellbeing of the rabbit and that will guarantee its security.
Ventilation is important for a rabbit hutch. Having good airflow in the rabbit hutch will eliminate any form of ammonia that will be left in the rabbit hutch even after regular cleaning. Rabbit urine has a very strong smell and it is even used as a pesticide… so you can imagine the environment of a poorly ventilated rabbit hutch. Failure to do this will cause unexplained rabbit deaths which are just discouraging.
- Rarely get attacked by disease.
This is not a go-ahead to neglect certain disease prevention methods like constructing a good hutch or maintaining proper hygiene in the hutch. Rabbits rarely get attacked by diseases.
- They are quiet
This was the number one reason why my mum recommended the rabbit to me.
Rabbits do not make a single sound! Maybe it is a form of defense… but I think it most of the time it works against them. Rabbits are very quiet creatures. Despite the regular rush that I hear from the hutch every now and then and the hopping and stomping sounds, the rabbit environment will always be a peaceful place. This will be advantageous for farmers thinking about starting a venture or agribusiness kind of hobby in a residential area.
All projects must be backed up by relevant professional advice from authoritative bodies or organizations in your area.
Challenges facing Rabbit Farming in Kenya.
- Pests and diseases that I encountered?
- Mites in their ears.
When I started out back in December 2020, I immediately found out that one of my rabbits had white scales in its ears. Its left ear was always low and it kept itching and itching it. I was worried! I could not afford the services of a veterinarian in Nyali Mombasa! So I asked Google for help.
Mites are a menace. They attack chickens, rabbits… even my dog had issues with mites. The DIY fix that I found was aloe vera and cooking oil. Trust me, it worked!
The mites had caused some form of bleeding inside and outside my rabbit’s ear. So, I regularly applied aloe vera in and around the dry scabs.
The cooking oil I poured just into the ear carefully not to deafen the rabbit. It did not like it, but it was necessary!
After a week of doing my due diligence, the rabbit stopped itching and the scabs were gone… Thank you, Google!
What largely contributed to mites was the environment that I kept my two rabbits. It was not as favorable as the one I use now. You live and you learn!
Rabbit meat and its benefits.
This is a great way to market one’s rabbit business in case one is looking to go into commercial rabbit farming to produce rabbit meat. Rabbit meat is actually quite nutritious. Other than the other types of meats, rabbit meat is termed as white meat. The healthiest that you can get!
What should you do to start a small rabbit project?
I will continue to update this article as I continue to spend time with my rabbit. But in general, here is what you should do to start a small rabbit project in Kenya;
- Choose a good breed.
- California white. (the large white one with a pink nose)
- Flemish giant.
- New Zealand white.
- Build an inexpensive but well-ventilated hutch.
- Get a source of feeds.
- Maintain cleanliness within the hutch or rabbit house.
- Find out how you can sell your rabbits!
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