Raising Rabbits Guide For Beginners:
Introduction to Raising Rabbits
Raising Rabbits is very profitable and fun. These animals are grown for many reasons such as pets, meat, pets and laboratory purposes. The meat of the rabbit is high in protein and low in calories, fat and cholesterol relatively when compared with other livestock meat. Rabbits are fast growing and the litter rate is very high. Raising rabbits is labor intensive when rearing commercially. They feed on variety of foods and efficient in converting forage to protein. Indian climatic conditions are suitable for growing rabbits commercially. The animals are raised in our country from long time ago.
Why Raising Rabbits in India
Rabbits are small animals in size that they need less space, feed, and care. They can be home grown as pets and for meat in backyard, farm house, and terrace. Most of the breeds are suitable for growing to agro-climatic conditions in our country. Rabbit offspring rate is very high and give birth three to five times in a year with three to eight babies at each litter. They grow very fast and reach market weight of 1800 grams to 2000 grams within 90 days. They feed on wide range of leafy greens and grasses. In small production or in backyard raising they can be fed with leafy and fruit vegetable waste, grains. Coming to disease they are almost free from any worm infestation and with minimal disease problems.Rabbit manure is used as organic fertilizer with 3.7% Nitrogen, 1.3% Phosphorous, and 3.5% Potassium. Rabbit meat is free from religious taboo for its meat consumption in the country. Raising Rabbits is a good source of income and employment with least investment.
Advantages of Raising Rabbits
- Rabbits are very fast growing animals when compared to other livestock.
- The FCR (food conversion rate) is excellent than other livestock.
- The advantage is multi-kidding. You can expect a female rabbit to give birth about 2 to 8 kids each delivery.
- You no need to have large space and raised in short spaces. They are best raised in cages.
- Setup and production cost is less when compared to other livestock.
- Rabbit meat is excellent in taste and nutritious too.
- Rabbit occupies second place in meat production after poultry.
- As rabbits can feed on kitchen wastes, grass, plant leaves. You can raise them in backyard with low cost.
- Commercial Raising Rabbits does not require much labor to handle. Family members cab manage the farm.
- Initial investment of Raising Rabbits is less and can get the amount within short period of time.
- Commercial Raising Rabbits is highly profitable business.
Raising Rabbits – Rabbit Meat
Rabbit meat is best white meat having high percentage of easily digestible protein. The meat contains less fat and cholesterol content among all the meats. The meat contains highest nicotinic acid about 13 mg/kg, which helps in reducing the production of triglycerides and VLDL. Meat content percentage is high about 60 to 65% and ratio of meat to bone is also high about 5:1.2 which is higher than chicken.
Housing in Raising Rabbits
Housing depends on the purpose of raising rabbits. Housing plays an important role when it is for commercial farming and depends on other various factors such as farm location, business size, and local climate. Rabbit house must be built in an elevated area for easy drainage and ventilation. The house must have enough shaded area to avoid heat stress. Farm location must be free from noise, dust, smoke and predator animals. Clean water and electricity must be easily accessible. The shed roof must be of adequate height that it will protect from rain, hot and cold temperature and can be of asbestos, thatch or any locally available materials.As said earlier housing is provided based on purpose of raising rabbits which can be reared in three types of housing systems:
- Cage System: This type of housing is used for commercial Raising Rabbits. Cages of about 50 cm x 50 cm x 45 cm size is built for breeding buck and replacement animals, and cage size about 75 cm x 50 cm x 45 used for breeding doe and fattening cage. The cages are kept either on wooden, iron, or concrete racks inside a shed. They can be placed in single, two or three tier systems depending upon the production scale and shed size. Cages are made with welded wire mesh on metal stand which is above two to three feet above the ground level. Water containers are placed either opposite or adjacent to feeders and cage doors, this prevents leakage into nest. Each cage must be comfortable with proper drainage system that can be cleaned easily of feed leftovers, urine and faeces on a regular basis. Avoid using wood to prepare cages as they absorb urine, water and rabbit chews and consumes it.
- Hutch System: This type of housing is best suited for backyard and small scale farming. They are free standing cages having two to ten hutches in a row, built to house few animals they are self-contained cage cum nest. Cages have roof that are CGI sheet or thatch while flooring is of wire mesh for easy cleaning. Size of each compartment can be 100 cm x 75 cm x 100 cm. Hutch floor must be 50 cm above the ground. Each compartment can accommodate five to six rabbits.
- Colony System: This is also called floor system similar to deep litter system of poultry rearing. Rabbits are grown on the floor in a house and for healthy growing each rabbit must have 100 to 120 sq.cm space. Pucca walls can be erected up to half the length and the rest half with mesh wire net in this house system. The top wire mesh helps for lighting and ventilation. The size of an open room about 300 cm x 300 cm x 300 cm and this can accommodate about 25 to 30 rabbits. Flooring can be concrete and the roof is made of tin or thatch or asbestos. Adequate feeders and water must be provided inside the house. Partitions can be provided for different ages such as grower, fryer and adults separately inside the house.
Breeds in Raising Rabbits
There are many varieties available in rabbit breeds all over the world. Each variety has individual characteristics in growing and best suited to regional habitat. Some of the breeds that are best suited to tropical regions such as India are White Giant, Grey Giant, Flemish Giant, New Zealand White, New Zealand Red, Californian, Dutch, and Siviet Chinchilla.
Breeds must be chosen to suite your needs. Some breeds are excellent for backyard while some are excellent for commercial Raising Rabbits. For commercial farming breeds that produce large litters and maintain them to weaning must be selected. Crossbreeding or mixed breed animals show tolerance to tropical conditions with good litter rate and high meat quantity.
- Offspring from crossbreeding of New Zealand White and Californian will grow from 45 grams to 1600 grams in 12 weeks.
- Offspring from crossbreeding of New Zealand White and Californian show good tolerance to Indian climatic conditions.
- Mixed breeds of New Zealand White and Californian have six to eight kits per litter.
- Flemish Giant has less litter rate and can be used for crossbreeding programmes.
Breeding in Raising Rabbits
Breeding plays an important role in commercial Raising Rabbits. Male rabbit comes to maturity by seventh month and the female rabbit attains maturity to mate by sixth month. Almost both buck and doe reach mating maturity by six to seven months. The right time to mate is usually in the cool time of the mornings or evenings. Female rabbit must be moved into male cage and successful mating happens within seconds as female emits a characteristic sound while buck falls down. At times doe doesn’t reciprocate to buck advances post phone mating to next three to four days or sometimes need assisted mating. Farmer has to check female abdomen by palpating for pregnancy two weeks after mating or try for rebreeding if the female is not pregnant. It is recommended to mate the doe morning as well as evening, mating twice in a day helps better conception rate and high litter size. A mature and healthy buck can successfully mate four to six times in a week.
The gestation period of female is 30 days. The pregnant doe must be separated 20 to 25 days after mating to a nest box for kindling. Provide quality straw or diet in the cage. Pregnant doe display this signs a day or two before kindling by plucking its own body hairs to make a nest for the young ones. Extra bedding such as saw dust, hay, or straw must be provided within the nest. In most cases kindling takes place at night and usually assistance is not required.
Kits are usually weaned at 30 days of age and rebreeding can take place about one and half months. At this rate doe can deliver four to five litters in a year. Some farmers rebreed doe within a week from kindling for maximum production up to 10 to 11 litters in a year which leads to poor health in newly born. However, farmer must allow doe take rest after every three or four delivery to regain its health. Rebreeding of doe must be taken immediately after weaning.
New Born Rabbits Care in Raising Rabbits
In one kindling a doe gives birth to six to 12 kits. Kits are hairless and with eyes closed when born. Hair starts growing from fourth day and by tenth day kits start opening their eyes. Doe feeds kits once or twice in a day and for 20 days kits fed on mothers milk only. Farmer must observe those kits which are weak and cannot compete to suckle milk. Usually doe nurse once or twice for three to four minutes in a day, assistance must be provided that every baby rabbit is fed. In certain cases doe avoids to feed her babies, at such times farmer must provide cow’s milk to feed young ones through dropper. Doe at times displays cannibalism due to poor nutrition or for no apparent reason. If doe repeat same habit of cannibalism and does not allow baby rabbits suckle at all in the next kindling, it is recommended to cull that doe.
Weaning in Raising Rabbits
Doe stops feeding baby rabbits by 30 days and by 40 – 45 days the litter is separated from the mother. Litter must be kept in the same cage while the mother is moved; this will reduce separation stress on young ones. Little rabbits must be fed on green fodders, vegetables and concentrates after weaning. By 60 to 70 days old the rabbits are tagged and housed separately.
Feeding in Raising Rabbits
To achieve profits in Raising Rabbits careful feeding must be administered depending on rabbit growth stages.Animals derive nutrients from the food they eat. Nutrients help them to build strength, health, grow, and reproduce. Daily feed consists of both green fodder and concentrates at a ratio 70 – 75 : 25 – 30. Feeding is done twice in a day morning as well as evening and concentrates must be given first followed by green fodder. Pelleted feed contains fiber, protein, fats, vitamin and minerals this gives rabbits enough nutrients. In tropical regions like India, rabbits tend to eat at night in summer time and in winter they shift to day time.
Feed must be given early mornings and late evenings when the weather is cooler. Turn off bright lights at night in the rabbitry, they eat less under bright lights at night. Lawn clippings and poorly dried grass cause heat and lead to digestive problems. Wilt grass for 12 hours before feeding as this reduces diarrhea. Animals in the rabbitry must be fed with fresh stock every day. Left over pellets attracts rats at nights instead wilted grass must be provided at nights. Pellets must be free of contamination, rats waste and free of mould. Daily diet or feed must have enough salt along with a variety of plant matter. Change of feed must take place gradually but not suddenly. Replace the new diet in phased manner and complete the change by four to five days. Farmers must keep adequate food supply throughout the year by cultivating grasses in the farm such as dub, hybrid napier grass, guinea and para grass, and fodders such as maize, oat, cowpea, radish leaves, cabbage, cauliflower which are relished by rabbits. Mulberry leaves are the choicest greens rabbits love for. 10 to 12 rabbits in the farm requires 80 sq.mt open land is sufficient to cultivate fodder for feeding rabbits. According to their stage of growth, rabbits must be fed by the following pellet feedamounts:
|Growth Stage||Days Old||Feed in Grams|
|Weaned||41- 70||30 – 50gms|
|Grower / Fatteners||71 – 90||50 – 80 gms|
|Breeding buck||–||100 gms|
|Adult Doe||–||100 gms|
|Pregnant doe||–||100 – 120 gms|
per young in the litter
|–||120 + 10 gms|
Concentrate feed can be manually prepared at the farm site by mixing the following ingredient combinations. For every 100 kilogram mix with Maize 32 kg, Wheat 14 kg, Wheat bran 5 kg, broken rice 11 kg, ground nut 15 kg, Soybean 13 kg, molasses 7.5 kg, mineral mixture 2 kg, and salt 0.5 kg. Clean water must be provided daily and an adult will drink 300 to 400 ml per day. Periodical vitamin supplements must be given for healthy growth of the rabbits.
Health and Diseases in Raising Rabbits
Profits in Raising Rabbits also rely on rabbit health management. Some of the common diseases, symptoms and control or preventive measures are as follows:
- Coccidiosis: This is a protozoan disease affecting the intestines. The symptoms include diarrhea, loss of appetite, constipating, rough hair coat, lies inside cage, depression and death. Preventive measures include, 30 ml of Sulmet is mixed in four litres of water and given for two days followed by 15 ml of Sulmet in four litres of water for four days once in a month. Disinfecting of hutches, cages and regular cleaning are some of the preventive measures.
- Snuffles: This is a bacterial disease which is contagious. The symptoms include thick white nasal discharge, sneezing and high body temperature. To control use registered antibiotic treatments as prescribed by vet and proper ventilation will keep the disease away.
- Mange: This is a parasitic disease affecting the skin, ear and mouth. Wounds and irritation are the symptoms leading to stunted growth. This can spread by contamination of water, hutches, feed or bedding. This can be treated with Ivermectin injections 21 days apart and isolation of infected animals will keep the disease in control.
- Mastitis: The symptoms include change in mammary glands color and due to the pain doe avoids feeding the kits eventually leading the kits to die because of starvation. This is bacteria infection caused by teats injury and gets aggravated by dirty nest. Kits of infected doe must be foster cared if they are too young. To control the inflammation of mammary glands of infected animals administer antibiotics as prescribed by vet.
Processing in Raising Rabbits
Rabbits are generally culled for meat purpose. Rabbits that are grown with proper feed diet reach market weight of 1.8 to 2.2 kg live weight by 90 days. Older rabbits that weigh above 2.8 kg’s have tough meat and are less valuable in the market. Rabbits are slaughtered by two ways stunning and killing. Stunning is done by hanging the rabbit upside down; give a hard blow at the back of the neck right at the base of the ears. Killing is done by holding rabbit upside down. Place the rabbit head between index finger and thumb, stretch the rabbit over the upper part of the leg then push the neck lower while bending the head backward this will break the neck and become loose killing the rabbit. Hang the rabbit immediately upside down with hooks or rope tied to the legs. Cut the head and the front feet letting the blood to come out properly. Cut the skin near the hocks and peel off the skin. Cut the belly from the anus to chest bone and remove inside the gut, liver and kidneys. Cut the back hocks and clean the meat inside and outside with water. The carcass is cut into six pieces and packed for distribution and marketing.
Marketing in Raising Rabbits
Marketing is still a big challenge for commercial rabbit in India as there are few who buy live rabbits in the market. Rabbit meat market is not distributed evenly in the country and the demand is concentrated at certain regions only. The demand is still there but unlike other livestock and the meat can also be exported for more revenues. The skin can be marketed for leather and textile units. Rabbit manure can be marketing as organic fertilizer at local garden nursery.