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How to Start a Rabbit Farm (Step by Step Guide)

Agriculture has been our major source of income in Nigeria over the years, Food and agriculture industry is the richest industry of any economy across the world and the same appplies to Nigeria. 

Today, we’ll be looking at the rabbit farming as case study, what it entails, it’s advantage, potentials and how to maximize the opportunity in the Industry. 

Rabbit farming is widespread across the globe, people raise them for different reasons such as; pet, meat, fur etc. 

I will be sharing with you how to venture into commercial rabbit farming and make huge returns from it.

Rabbit (Oryctolagus Cuniculus) are small sized non-ruminant animals from the family Legomorpha, they are wonderful creature found in the wild, but through the process of evolution, they have been domesticated at home, which is now the common practice across the world. They are loved by many people for various reasons such as it’s body size, beautiful color combination of its fur, reproductive ability, it’s funny and attractive instinct, feeding nature etc.

Rabbit farming in Nigeria is a very lucrative business as many people have been doing it many years ago(more than 50 years). Initially, rabbits were raised for domestic meat, family consumption. They are easy to feed and they multiply fast, thus they are preferred for home delicacy. 

However, over the years, the rabbit business has experienced tremendous transformation in Nigeria as more people come into the awareness of the health benefit of white meat over red meat, the low cholesterol fat and the fact that rabbit meat can actually cure arthritis and some other ailments in the body.

Globally today, France is the largest producer of Rabbit and China is the largest consumer of rabbit meat. Nigeria is still growing in the business of rabbit farming thus providing you the opportunity to tap into the potential it carries. Unlike poultry birds which consumes large amount of feed, rabbits eat less so you will spend less in growing the rabbits, another good news is, though rabbits are non-ruminant animals, the presence of their caecum helps them to digest cellulose in leaf, and that makes it possible for rabbits to feed on a wide range of food, like pellet, grass and kitchen waste, thereby saving you some more money.

Terminologies in Rabbit;

Male Rabbit – Buck

Female Rabbit – Doe

Small rabbit/just weaned – Kits/ weaners

Gestation Period: 28 to 33days

Rabbit cages – Hutch

Rabbit Hair – Fur

How to get started with rabbit business

The first thing you need is a housing system, rabbits that are domesticated are restricted and fully under your care and their performance is at your mercy so you need a well structured cage for them to do well. 

For instance, it is not healthy for rabbit to be in touch with their urine, as it can affect their body system and also cause infection to them, so the best thing to do is to make use of net for their cage. A good rabbit cage should have cross ventilation for free flow of air that clears the atmosphere and toxic pollutants as rabbits are very sensitive to smell and their environment. Any toxic pollution can kill them.

In a commercial farm, building shed over the rabbit cage is the best as rabbits don’t like sun and heat, they do well in cold weather than dry season as they can suffer heat stroke and die. 

Below are lists of things needed to start your rabbit farming business:

1. The rabbit cage

2. Feeders and drinkers

3. Rabbit feed

4. Drugs and injection

5. Breeding stock

6. Knowledge

Many people think because rabbits are small mammals, it won’t be difficult to take care of them, but rabbits are quiet animals and they can hide their sickness, so you need to pay attention to them to understand their body and health.

Nigerians love Rabbit meat a lot because it taste much better than Chicken, especially when it is grilled or smoked. Rabbit meat also happens to be a White meat, making it a better healthy meat compared to Pork and Beef.

What can I derive from rabbit?

There are many things you can get from rabbit such as: fur, poo, urine, meat, bone, blood and money.

Rabbit has become a major venture today, and the above listed products are the challenges of financial rewards from rabbit venture

In Nigeria today, Rabbit Business is divided into two major aspects;

1.Breeders Market

2.Meat Market

As the awareness of rabbit farming keeps increasing, the breeders market seems to take the lead as more people are looking for the right breed to get started and we have the exotic rabbit breeds now which includes: Hyla, American chinchilla, New Zealand white, Giant rabbit, Angora and a few others. 

Hyla seems to be the most sorted after in the market right now, and this is not without the involvement of an offtaker Company that buys rabbits from Farmers in Millions of Naira; BELLA RABBIT WORLD

The activity of the offtakers which started around 2019, and became more effective in 2020, has been a major attraction to investors both in Nigeria and in Diaspora, causing many to Invest a lot into Rabbit Farming Business.

 With the price of poultry feed becoming too outrageous, more people are venturing into rabbit business making it’s demand high. If you want to start the rabbit business, I’ll advise you to go for hyla breed as it seems to be more demanded than the other breeds. You might be wondering, where do I get this Hyla rabbit? At the end of this article, I will leave my number so that anyone can contact me for the best rabbit breed.

Breed selection

Breed selection matters alot in rabbit farming and this depends on the purpose for which you want to purchase them, some are good for meat while some are good for breeding(reproduction). In this article, I will mention various rabbit breeds, and recommend the best for breeders market and meat market.

We have more than 50 Rabbit Breed, but I will just make mention of the Major ones today.

New Zealand White

Dutch

Angora

Hyla white and hyla colored

English spotted

Black giants

American chinchilla

Beveren

Flemish giant

Checkered

Harlequin

California white

New Zealand White

Dutch

Dutch Rabbit Breed

Angora

Hyla White and Hyla Colored

Hyla (Max and NG)
Hyla Colored

English Spotted

Black Giants,

American Chinchilla

Beveren

Beveren Rabbit Breed - Adopt a Rabbit

Flemish Giant

Checkered

Checkered Giant Rabbit | Giant rabbit, Rabbit breeds, Rabbit

Harlequin

California White

California White Rabbits | Large Bountiful Meat Producers - YouTube

There are many more breeds of Rabbit like Rex and co, but we are just going deal with the few ones above and move to the next thing.

Standard Rex Rabbit Breed | Curiously Cute Facts About the Rex Rabbit Breed  | Pet rabbit care, Rabbit breeds, Mini rex rabbit
Rex

There are more breeds of rabbits such as Rex and co but we are just going to deal with the above listed ones 

What type of rabbit is best for the breeders market in Nigeria today?

The best rabbit breed for breeders market in Nigeria is Hyla. Hyla is still the first and most sorted after among the rabbit breeds in breeders market in Nigeria. As awareness is increasing, more people want to venture into the rabbit business, Nigeria has alot of people and that’s beneficial to agriculture. People get to know about rabbit from reading articles or even words of mouth from people around them and they get interested thereby looking for foundation stock to get started. If you are into production of breeding stock, you will select the best fast growing ones among your litters and sell to them, this demand is ever growing as rabbit production continues to gain attention and awareness is increasing daily.

You become the best match for customers, when they know that your Rabbits are of good quality, because there are some adulterated rabbit breeds that flows in the market, if you want to gain good reputation and patronage in Rabbit breeders market, you must have the best of Breeds.

So for Breeding Stocks selection, the best option includes;

Hyla

New Zealand White

Angora

American Chinchilla

Dutch

California White

Colored Hyla

Now let’s go to Meat Rabbit Selection

For Meat Production, you can consider

Colored Hyla

Dutch crossed to Hyla

Giant breeds (Giant black and chinchillas)

New Zealand White

Cinnamon

There is virtually no rabbit breed that does not fit into meat production. The main focus is it’s good body weight that is why the best way to raise good rabbit for meat is to cross regular breeds with exotic ones like Hyla, Hyla Colored, Pureline New Zealand White and co. There are big rabbits that does not fit into meat production like Flemish giant, even though it can attain 7 to 12kg weight, the are not good for meat rabbit because Flemish has more bone-to-meat ratio i.e it has more bone in it’s body than meat hence it’s not fit for meat production.

When you make crosses of Rabbit like New Zealand White to Hyla, or Dutch to Hyla, you get very fast growing breed, and this is best for meat rabbit as they produce fast growing offspring that obtain better weight gain within a short period of time. But the breeders rabbit, pure line is always the factor of consideration. Crosses are better for meat rabbit however the pattern of the fur might scatter as a result of the cross breeding, but it is good for meat production as they gain more meat.

Most rabbit breeds are identified by their fur, so when it comes to the breeding pattern for foundation stocks, the pureline is essential, which often time is verified by growth rate, the color pattern of the fur, muscular development.

Rabbit cages and housing system

Rabbits are kept in hutches, their hutch needs to be well ventilated as they don’t do well in heat, their housing system needs to be well ventilated for good respiration, the quality of housing you use will go a long way to determine the level of success you will have in rabbit farming. Ensure you consider the direction of rain and sun, if you are making a small cage for your rabbit in the house, make good covering to avoid direct contact with the sun and rain

A good example of standard rabbit cage and house can be seen below;

Also, note that you can make galvanized iron cages that will have urine and poo collector, making it easy for you to harvest their urine and poo, this is also another major source of income for rabbit farmers. The waste from rabbits are very good for organic manure, if you have a small farm at your backyard, or even a big farm, you can test the use of rabbit urine and poo on it, you will be amazed at the result that will come forth from it. 

Matured rabbits are kept inside their cages as 1 per room, rabbit when matured cannot be kept together as this will cause a lot of fight among them, especially the males, don’t make the mistake of keeping two matured male rabbit together, you won’t like the story at the end.

Breeding (reproduction) in rabbit

Rabbits are extremely prolific in terms of reproduction, they can multiply very fast, this is because their gestation period is 30 to 35days, (that’s about 1 month). 

One rabbit can give birth to 5 to 10 kits at a time, I’ve had my rabbit give birth to 14 kits before. 

Take for instance you have 10 does(female rabbits) in your farm and you breed them at the same time, at the end of one month you can expect delivery, if all of them gave birth to 5 each (which some will definitely give birth to more or x2) you can expect 50 litters of new baby rabbit (bunny), and the cycle continues.

How do I breed my rabbits?

The female rabbits tends to come on heat easily under good management, feeding and other factors being in place. You can take your female rabbit to the male and wait for the male to cross her, normally a female rabbit on heat will easily allow the male to cross her, and sometimes she could make attempt to cross the male, it is a sign of heat, another major sign is red pinkish swollen vulva.

Note: Always take the female to the male for crossing, not the male to the female, this is very important, a mature male rabbit ripe enough for crossing can cross the female 3 to 5 times, and the sign of successful crossing is that, the male will fall off from the top of the female, (sometimes with a shout).

Normally, fertilization takes place 12hours after breeding, so female rabbit can be confirmed pregnant 24hours after crossing, you can count 30days afterwards and expect a delivery.

During pregnancy of your doe, you must ensure there is adequate rabbit pellet available and green grasses for rabbit too (guinea grass, elephant grass, tridax, banana leaf amongst others).

You can also make multivitamin available for your rabbits twice a week during pregnancy to help nourish the foetus. (It’s necessary but not compulsory)

Also make a good nest box available for her 5 days to the expected delivery date (EDD). Rabbits have instinct so they can make use of the nest on their own. Rabbits are born without fur on their body and with blind eyes, however, you can make soft materials or grasses available in the nest box for the mother to use for her kits. 

As the kits are breastfeeding from the mother, they start growing new fur and by 8 to 12 days, they open their eyes, by the 15th to 20th day, most rabbit jump out of the nest box to experience the new environment with their mother.

Feed and feeding In rabbit;

The domesticated rabbits are at the mercy of their owners, so as a rabbit farmer you have to provide them with healthy food to enhance their growth and productivity. A malnourished rabbit is susceptible to disease and loss of pregnancy or even die of hunger.

In Commercial Rabbit production, rabbit are feed and raised on Pelletized feed and grass, it is not wise to raise rabbit on 70% hay, such rabbit will never perform well. There seems to be a lot of literature and text on the internet that talks about raising rabbit on 70% Hay, if you do that, your rabbit will lose weight and not grow well. There are many good quality pelletized rabbit feed in various parts of Nigeria right now.

If you want to formulate your own rabbit feed, you can reach me on 07066784204, I will assist you on rabbit pelletized feed

Below is a data that can be of help to you:

Materials needed for rabbit feed formulation.

 CARBOHYDRATE [energy sources (COH)]

Maize

Cassava

Rice

Yam

PROTEIN (including amino acids)

Soya bean cake (SBC)

Groundnut cake (GNC)

Fish Meal

CALCIUM

Bone meal

Oyster shell

Periwinkle shell meal

Limestone

Snail shell

FIBERS

Wheat offal

Palm kernel cake (PKC)

Rice bran

Soya beans offal

MINERALS(supplements/premixes)

Salt

Lysine

Methionine

FAT AND OIL (also essential fatty acids)

Animal fat

Vegetable oil

VITAMIN

· Vitamin supplements/

premixes

Other forms of grass you can feed to you rabbit include;

Tridax, Guinea grass, spear grass, elephant grass, potato leaf, banana leaf, pawpaw leaf, giant star grass, timothy grass, alfalfa, oat grass, rice chaff and grass, beans chaff and leaf, maize leaf, cobb and chaff, Cabbage.

Some kitchen waste for rabbit includes, yam peel, dry cassava peel, the green part of water melon, cucumber, dry potato peel, leftover food, cut and chops vegetable stems.

All these are treats and vitamins for the rabbit, the major feed concentration for good growth and development is pelletized compounded feed. To know if your rabbits are healthy and well fed includes good and shinning fur, fluffy looking fur, healthy muscular development and a good reproductive cycle. 

Marketing your rabbit

Before you think of marketing your rabbits or even starting a rabbit farm, define your goal. Are you raising meat rabbits or breeder rabbit for people who wants to start and needs beginner stock? 

You can combine both, if it’s for meat production, it’s an international trade where you can export rabbit meat to China and other parts of the world.

Rabbit meat is a white meat and widely accepted by many, for the unique taste and the bush meat quality that it has. Hence, Africans love it thereby making it more costly than chicken. There are hotels in Lagos that sells 1kg of processed rabbit meat for #5000, if you can supply them consistently, they will be your number one market, many eateries and restaurants will definitely like to add rabbit to their delicacy, but can you supply them regularly?

Go back to the drawing board and plan a broad production capacity before venturing into meat production, there is always market for it. Bella rabbit world, is a major offtaker of rabbit meat in Nigeria today, as at the time of writing this report, bella world buys 1kg of rabbit meat at #2500. 

What are the prices of exotic rabbit right now?

Presently, the weaners of Hyla, American chinchilla, Angora and New Zealand White is N5000 

Growers (3months old) are N10,000 to N12,000 while the female seems more expensive than the male

For the matured ones, the female is between #20,000 to #25,000 and the male is #15,000

New Zealand White tend to be less expensive compared to the other breeds mentioned. Dutch and cross breeds are less expensive compare to the exotic breeds.

If you are into raising foundation stocks, you can easily market your rabbit, by joining various rabbit WhatsApp groups, you can also join Facebook or even sell your rabbits online via nairaland, jiji, and other product listing platforms. There are more than 100 groups of rabbit farmers in Nigeria today, where you can easily sell your rabbit, you can also tell people around you about the benefits of raising rabbits. But the real truth is, people only need to know you in the Business, immediately you secure some level of knowing, the market will start looking for you, this is what I have experienced raising rabbit for the past 5years now. There is market scattered everywhere in Nigeria and outside Nigeria, reach out to people both online and offline to market your rabbit, you will only need to do this in the beginning, after a while you will be bombarded with market demand that you cannot meet.

The major things a beginner needs to know about rabbit farming before getting started has been listed in this article but it’s more than that. 

I have written a comprehensive book on Rabbit Farming in Nigeria, which is easy to understand and follow, especially on critical things like the medication aspect, injection, diseases and infections of rabbit and how to handle them. You will do yourself a lot of good by getting the book before you start your rabbit farm, it is an eBook that can be sent to your whatsapp or email address. To get the eBook, you can call me or reach me on whatsapp at 07066784204.

I wish you success in your adventure in Rabbit Business.

Matthew Tolulope (07066784204)

Matex Rabbit Farm.

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