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Rabbits: A Family Gold Mine

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In the recent past, hundreds of farmers have taken up rabbit farming, expecting to earn a lot of profit in a short time.

Many were disappointed when they failed to make the expected windfall. Suddenly, there were many rabbits with few buyers.

However, rabbits can be reared with lots of benefits for you and the family. Keeping rabbits can be great fun. It will provide food for the family and give you some income.

Deborah Gitta, a famous urban farmer in Mpererwe , a Kampala suburb, says rabbits mature quickly and multiply rapidly.

She says marketing of rabbits should not be a problem if they are of high quality.

“Although in some countries, rabbits are reared for fur and meat.  In Uganda, rearing the meat rabbits is more ideal.”

The medium size breeds have weights ranging from two to three kilogrammes when mature and need about five square feet of cage space.

According to Gitta rabbits produce an acceptable quantity of meat. The meat rabbits weigh between three to five kilogrammmes and take up about eight square feet of space.

Peter Mubiru, a veterinary doctor says there are small, medium and heavy rabbit breeds.

Mubiru says in countries with a highly developed rabbit farming industry, the smaller breeds are reared for their fur while the larger ones are kept for meat.

A small breed doe is normally ready to mate when she is five months old, and a buck is ready at six.

The medium size and meat doe is ready to breed when she is six months old and the buck at seven.

The heavy breed doe is ready at eight months and the buck at nine. It is usually a good idea to select breeding rabbits with good genetic ancestry. You may keep a ratio of one buck to 10 does if you wish.

Housing and feeding rabbits

Gitta says an interested farmer has to construct the rabbit house to allow them to live at least four feet above the ground. The house should be well roofed with good ventilation.

“Make the rabbits live on a wire mesh support to allow their droppings to fall through to the floor. Make cages for them to leave in with a feeding try positioned in one corner of the cage”, she advises.

Have a water container next to the feed tray. Do not keep more than one rabbit in a cage when the rabbit is three months or older.

Rabbits mature faster when alone, do not fight, and will not breed.

According to Gitta the rodents can be fed on food bought from animal food stores. These come in form of pellets.

He says supplement this feed with alfalfa grass, potato vines and other greens and change the drinking water daily.

Before breeding, Gitta says you check the bottom of the cage of both the doe and buck for signs of diarrhea or loose stool.

Do not breed the rabbit in this condition until it has been adequately treated.

“Also check the genitals of both male and female for any signs of diseases or infections (for example, extreme redness, discharge, sores or scabbiness),” he adds.

Mubiru says when it is ready to breed take the doe to the buck’s cage, never the other way round. This is because the buck will be too busy sniffing around the new cage instead of mating. It is advisable to leave the doe with the buck overnight.

Mubiru also says it is important to keep a calendar and accurate records of the day you breed the doe. You should place a nest box in her cage on the 29th day after breeding.

“Thirty-one days after breeding, she should deliver her litter. Never breed siblings or closely related rabbits,” he advises.

This is to prevent inbreeding. He states that also avoid breeding rabbits with defects such as lameness or those that produce off-spring with skull deformities.

About rabbits

A female rabbit is called a doe while a male one is called a buck. A mother rabbit is called a dam, and the father is called the sire.

When two rabbits mate, it is called breeding. When the doe gives birth, this is called kindling.

She gives birth to bunnies (also called kits) when the young rabbits are taken away from the mother, this is called weaning.

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