Rabbit Farming, Rearing,Production and Management


Rabbit farming is not a new enterprise in the World despite misconception by many as a non-income generating activity. However, in recent years many farmers have started to realize its potentiality as a profitable investment


Their feed requirement is low, especially with regard to demand for grain. Their housing and disease control managements are also low yet their meat is highly nutritious and healthier source of protein when compared with other sources of meat.

Rabbits are not rodents, they are lagomorphs. A male rabbit is a buck. A female rabbit is a doe. A baby rabbit is a kit. When the doe gives birth her babies are collectively referred to as a litter. The gestation period for a rabbit averages 31 days.

Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) farming is one of the fastest growing micro-livestock
enterprises . They vary very much in colour and weight (1.4-7.3 kg). Some have
small, erect ears while others have long hanging ears. The male is called a buck and the
female is a doe and the young are referred to as kids.
The rabbit enterprise has the potential to be a cheap and sustainable means of producing high
quality animal protein for the expanding human population. Rabbits can be reared
on cheap diets of forages and kitchen leftovers. They also utilise forages more efficiently than
cattle, shoats and the rabbits pose minimal competition with humans for similar food. With
good care a doe can produce up to 40 young ones per year compared with 0.8 for cows and
1.4 for ewes per year.

Housing for rabbits
The housing of Rabbits is called rabbitry. Rabbits are sensitive to space and when not granted
enough to freely move about, often exhibit abnormal behavior. This includes repetitive
chewing of cage bars or over-grooming.

The rabbitry should be an enclosed construction with proper ventilation, lighting, heating, and cooling systems.

The construction can be cages,hutches or a house with enough room to accommodate their feeders, drinkers, kits and
expansion of their population. Regardless, rabbits are good at taking care of themselves once
you create a nice habitat for them. Better still, they permit you to keep your day job while you
rear them if you so choose. The rabbitry with proper ventilation and lighting systems


There are several breeds of rabbits but the most common in East Africa are: New Zealand White, California white, Chinchilla, French lop, Dutch, Checkered giant, Giant Flemish, Angola and Rex.

Rabbit breeding
The common rabbit breeds are California White, Flemish Giant, New Zealand
White and some other local cross breeds. Rabbits multiply rapidly and they start breeding at 4
to 5 months of age. The gestation period for the doe (female rabbit) is 31 days and she could
give birth to between 6 and 10 kits (baby rabbits) in one go. Rabbits are also able to
reproduce seven times a year. The doe being capable of producing up to 50 baby rabbits in a
year translates into good income with successful breeding. For reproduction to take place, the
buck and doe must be kept together to induce mating, after which they should be kept in
separate cages. Bucks should be used for reproduction at least once in four days. The mating

process could be scheduled for every three weeks or every six weeks depending on your level
of patience. You should maintain the herd on a year-round schedule of 12 hours each of light
and darkness to keep them breeding throughout the year.

Feeding rabbits
Rabbits should be fed at least twice a day and provided with plenty of water. The best food
for them is grass, they can also be fed cabbage and lettuce. Rabbits are naturally nocturnal
creatures, preferring to eat at night. Rabbits should 273 have a daily diet of mostly hay, a
smaller amount of fresh vegetables, and a limited number of pellets. Hay is the most
important part of a rabbit’s daily intake. Unlimited, high-quality grass hay, such as Timothy,
orchard or brome, should make up the bulk of a rabbit’s diet. Thus rabbits feed on a variety of
feeds such as: green feeds that include growing plants such as grasses and leafy vegetables;
root crops such as sweet potatoes, turnips and beets; cereals grains namely oats, wheat,
barley, grain sorghums, corn and rye and milled feeds such as bran, middlings and shorts.
Rabbits feeding on vegetables.


Has a good growth characteristic, capable of attaining slaughter weight of 3kg live weight within 12-14 weeks depending on the feeding regime. It is one of the best commercial breeds that grows to a weight of about 5kg and has all-white colour making its fur marketable. It is considered a dam breed because of its excellent mothering instinct.


Th is is another commercial breed developed in the United States of America. It is bred to have broad shoulders and meaty back and hips and hence has a good meat breed with good dressing percentage. It is shorter and stockier and is white except for ears, nose, feet and tail which are either dark grey or black. It is an ideal sire breed for interbreeding with other rabbit breeds for purposes of meat production.


Th is is one of the largest rabbit breeds, weighing up to 7kg live weight. Though most farmers like it because of its size, this breed is not an ideal meat breed because of its high bone to meat ratio and its slow growth. Interbreeding it with other breeds may help improve its characteristics.


Outstanding characteristics the large ears that droop around the head. Th ey have short and stocky legs but are heavy-they weigh over 5kg. Though some rabbit keepers have shown interest in this breed because of its size, this breed is more suitable as a pet.


Th is rabbit is mainly bred for its wool. Because of the wool they produce, this rabbit requires regular grooming. It is therefore more suited as a pet than for a meat


Is a fairly small but compact rabbit with shorter forelegs, it has characteristic markings often as shown in the picture.


Originally bred for meat, they are short and stocky with a nice rounded back. They are 3 chinchilla breeds: Standard, American and Giant chinchilla.



• Coat should be smooth and shiny.

• Eyes should be bright without discharge.

• Movement should be easy and free, relaxed breathing, evenly and silently.

• Appetite should be normal.

• Droppings should be normal in amount and appearance.

• Body should be well fleshed. If bony or pot bellied it may be an indication of diseases.

• Weight and growth of adults should be fairly constant.

• Discharge from the eyes, nostrils, mouth, vent, teat and anus are signs of diseases.

• Sores and swelling are not normal.

• Normal temperature is 390C and normal pulse ranges from 140-150.



In a well managed rabbit unit, diseases should be infrequent. To avoid feed contamination, hutch floors should be made of wire-netting, so that the urine and the droppings do not accumulate inside.

• Good management: this entails proper housing and good feeding.

• Buy breeding animals from a reputable breeder.

• Have quarantine quarters where sick rabbits are confined or new arrivals to the farm are kept for two weeks before being introduced to the cages.


The commonest diseases in the rabbitry are:


Most affects the young rabbits, symptoms include diarrhea which sometimes may be white in colour or blood stained, loss of appetite, dehydration and death if the animals are not treated. When pregnant does are affected, there is a risk of passing this disease to unborn kids, and this usually leads to liver coccidiosis in which there are white spots on the liver. It is controlled by use of coccidiostats in feeds and drinking water and by isolating all affected stocks. Such coccidiostats are Ridocox which is mixed in feed and Amprolium in drinking water.


This condition is caused by mites, and it affects the inner side the rabbit ears. Th e disease is mild but disturbs the animals. The earliest signs are: constant head shaking and scratching of the ears due to irritation. There is a scab or crust formation on the inner side of the ear. Due to heavy infestation, the affected ears may drop downwards. Control by avoiding rats in the rabbitry since they are the vectors for these mites. Th is disease is treated by Ivermectin in drinking water or sub cute injection.


• Pneumonia-common during cold weather and in poorly ventilated hutches. Th e remedy to the disease is by use of antibiotics such as Oxytetracycline, Penicillin, Typhoprim and etc.

• Gastro-intestinal complication mainly arising from feeding.

• Internal parasites like ascaris especially when fed on greens. Therefore, regular de worming at least 3 months is advisable. It is important to avoid use of roadside forages to feed your rabbits as they may be infested by worms. Such infestations can be treated by drugs such as Piperazine citrate and Levifarm

Benefits of rabbit farming
There are several benefits of commercial rabbit farming . The main benefits of rabbit
farming business are listed below.
 -Source of cheap proteins (meat)
 -Source of manure
 -Income generation
 -Source of employment
 -Raw material for the leather industry (skin)
 -Rabbits are very fast-growing animals like broiler chicken. They gain maturity fast
and become suitable for slaughtering purpose within 4-5 months. 274
 Rabbit gestation period is less (generally between 28-31 days) and a doe give birth of
kids after every 2 months. Each time one doe can give birth of 2-8 kids
 Starting rabbit farming in Kenya requires very little capital or investment

Disease control in rabbit
The most important factors for maintaining a healthy rabbit herd are cleanliness, good
ventilation, close observation, and protection from sun and rain. Rabbits are susceptible to
several diseases that can reduce production to unprofitable levels. The respiratory disease
caused by Pasturellamultocida is responsible for decreased productivity and a high mortality
rate in does.
To help prevent diseases, do not permit casual visitors entry into the rabbitry. They may
introduce a disease or cause additional stress to the animals. Also, isolate any sick or injured
rabbit immediately. Disinfect both the isolation cage and the rabbit’s regular cage to avoid
further spread of the disease.
For a good health program, you should keep accurate records of each animal. Provide each
rabbit with a tattoo identification number or ear tag and attach an identification card with
health and breeding information to its hutch.

Share Now

Related posts