Ultimate guide to Rabbit Farming in Nigeria manual is the right guide, if not the best for anyone who wants to start rabbit farming in Nigeria and does not know how, or needs materials, breeding stock, etc.
I want you to take your time to read through, as it will be of great benefit to your farming journey.
Caring for Rabbits
When the hutch is ready, the rabbit raiser can get started.
Check New Stock Carefully
The source of supply depends upon the area. In some places, rabbits are available in the market, from another rabbit breeder or perhaps from government sources. Wherever the rabbits come from, they must be checked very carefully before they are taken home. Remember that it is not possible to breed and raise healthy rabbits unless the rabbits you begin with are good rabbits.
You must be able to answer YES to all six of the following questions before you take the rabbit home:
- Is the animal active and alert?
- Are its eyes bright and clear?
- Is its nose clean, not runny?
- Are its ears clean and dry inside?
- Is its fur smooth and clean?
- Are its feet dry and free of sores?
If the rabbit fits these guidelines, ask about the litter from which the rabbit came. Choose rabbits that have come from large litters and from females that have had good, large litters. Do not select brother and sisters for breeding; they will not produce healthy young.
Just a short word here on the proper ways to handle rabbits. Rabbits are generally gentle and will not bite, but they do become frightened and can hurt themselves or the handler if they jump suddenly. It is always better to handle rabbits properly.
Never lift rabbits by their ears or legs: they can be hurt if lifted this way.
Adult rabbits – There is plenty of loose skin at the back of the neck over the shoulders. Hold the rabbit by this loose skin with one hand and support its weight by placing your other hand under its rump (tail). Be sure to hold the rabbit’s feet away from you to avoid scratches from the long toe-nails.
Small rabbits – Lift and carry small rabbits by holding them between the hips and the ribs. The heel of the hand should face the rabbit’s tail; the rabbit’s head should be pointing toward the ground.
proper way to pick a rabbit
Heavy rabbits – Grasp a fold of skin over the shoulder and lift. Hold the rabbit against your body withits head under your arm. Your forearm should extend along the side of the animal, and your hand should be under the rabbit’s rump to support the weight of the rabbit.
Rabbits are not hard to feed because they can live on plants and other foods, which you can get from the market near you, where fruits and vegetables are sold. You can ask the seller for the peels of watermelon, pineapple or even for unwanted vegetables. You find these materials all over Nigeria and the rabbits will enjoy, easily convert them into protein (meat). Rabbits get the vitamins, minerals and fiber they need by eating the leaves of plants. Corn, peanuts and other seeds can be eaten by rabbits and are a good source of protein.
It is important to feed rabbits well.
Well-chosen food can help keep the rabbits free from disease while producing good growth at low cost. Breeding females, called does, must be especially well-fed to produce healthy young rabbits and the milk to feed them. Elements in foodsProtein. Protein is a substance which helps rabbits grow and stay healthy. Protein is contained in rabbit meat and is one reason why rabbit meat is so healthy. Rabbits must be fed protein to produce protein.
Proteins from plants are best for rabbits. Rabbits can eat peanuts (groundnuts), soyabeans, sesame, linseed, hempseed and cottonseed. These seeds are usually ground and added to rabbit mashes and pellets. Whole soyabeans have about 36 percent protein but are not enjoyed by rabbits unless the beans are ground into a meal or pelleted. Oil cake from soyabean, peanut, sesame, flax and cottonseed is a good source of protein.
Salt:: There is a noticeable difference in the amount of salt each rabbit consumes daily. For this reason, it is a good idea to place a block or spool of salt in each cage. Each rabbit will take what it needs by licking the salt. Salt should not come in contact with metal cage parts, such as screening. Salt can be added directly to the food in a quantity of 1/2 percent.
Vitamins. Very little is known about a rabbit’s requirement for any of the vitamins, but rabbits do need vitamins A and D. Freshly cut green plants, some root crops and high quality hay are excellent sources of vitamin A. The best source of vitamin D is found in cured roughages, especially field-cured luzerne. Fresh cut greens will also provide vitamin B and vitamin E. When labor and expense permit, rabbits should be given good quality green plants as part of their diet.
Minerals. All dry and fresh green plants will contain some or all of the minerals needed by rabbits. If the rabbit’s feed is properly balanced, there will be plenty of minerals for the rabbit. FoodsCereal grains. Rabbits will eat oats, wheat, barley and grain sorghums (milo, kafir, feterito, hegari, darso and sagrain). These grains may be fed whole as soon as the young rabbits come out of the nest box at three weeks of age. Grains fed to rabbits should be plump and not spoiled or moldy. Soft varieties of maize (corn) can be eaten by rabbits, but the tougher, flintier types must be crushed or ground. Rabbits enjoy sunflower seeds but these seeds are usually valued more for other purposes.
When rabbits are allowed to choose from several types of grain, their first choice will be oats, followed by soft varieties of wheat, grain sorghums and barley.
Usually, it is a good idea to prepare a feed mixture which contains a number of grains. Here is one suggestion for a grain mix (the quantities are for a small number of rabbits):
1kg whole oats1kg wheat1/2kg crushed corn (soft varieties)1kg soyabean meal in pellet form
Nursing does should be full-fed (food continuously available) the grain mix. Dry does and herd bucks should be given as much as they will consume in 20-30 minutes.
Grains which are ground and made into a mash should be dampened with water before serving. Otherwise, dust will get into the rabbit’s nose and cause irritation. When possible, feed should be pelleted: there is less waste when pellets are used. Green feeds and roots. Rabbits enjoy green plants; tender cane tops have also been used with success. Rabbits also like sweet potatoes, carrots, sugar beets, turnips, and white potatoes.
Green plants and root crops contain protein, minerals, and vitamins; they are almost 90 percent water. These contents make them very important food for rabbits.
However, if rabbits eat too many greens then they will not eat enough of concentrated feeds (like grain mixes). And these concentrated foods produce faster weight gain.
NEVER ALLOW GREEN FEED TO STAND IN PILES AND BECOME HEATED BEFORE FEEDING TO RABBITS.
Green feed which has been standing too long can cause serious digestive problems in the herd. Also, NEVER PLACE GREENS ON THE FLOOR OF THE CAGE where they will become dirty. Disease is spread when greens are not hung up or placed in a manger.
Dried plants (hays). Luzerne; clover, peanut, lespedeza, vetch and kudzu hays are excellent for rabbits. Hay must be of good quality: it should be leafy, small stemmed, green in color, free of dust and mold, with a nice smell. Tender elephant grass and Sudan grass can be fed to rabbits but contain less protein than the plants listed first. Often weather conditions do not allow for the making or storing of hay. When hay is available, it can be placed before the rabbits at all times. They will eat about 55 – 85 gm (2 – 3 oz), daily.
Commercial feeds. Many rabbit raisers prefer to buy a COMPLETE feed for their rabbits. The packages should indicate the amount of protein, fat, etc. that they contain. The following chart shows how much of each of the listed substances rabbits require. If the concentrate contains these ingredients in about the same percentage amounts, it is a complete feed.
Suggested Rabbit Feed Concentrate Analysis
protein 15 – 20 %fat 3 – 5.5 %fiber 14 – 20 %nitrogen-free 44 – 50 %extract ash or mineral 4.5 – 6.5 %
Coccidiostats. These are preventive medicines for coccidiosis. If available, it is wise to add some medicine to the feed to protect rabbits from this disease. A ration containing 0.025 percent of sulfaquinoxaline is effective for reducing the infestation of intestinal and liver types of coccidiosis in the herd. The use of medication should not take the place of good management. It is more economical to prevent than to cure.
Young rabbits are born free of this disease but may quickly become infected by licking their soiled feet, fur, or hutch equipment, or by eating feed or drinking water that is contaminated with the “eggs” (oocysts) of the disease organism (protozoans).
When rabbits are raised in areas where there is considerable humidity or long periods of rain or fog, the coccidia infestation may build up until it causes heavy losses. Manure pellets do not cause danger while they are whole, but once they begin to break down or get mashed the disease organism is released. Hutches with self-cleaning floors, mangers and proper food, and good management practices all help reduce the possibilities of infection. Authorities on rabbit raising feel that it is impossible to get rid of the disease entirely, but they feel that good practices such as those mentioned here can reduce the problem considerably.
Other foods. Kitchen scraps, except greasy and spoiled food, are enjoyed by rabbits. By weight, dry or stale bread has about the same feeding value as the cereal grains. Bread can help reduce the cost of feeding rabbits. The fruits and rinds of oranges and grapefruits and trimmings from vegetables can be fed to rabbits. Cow’s or goat’s milk is good for rabbits. Although poultry mash (formulated for growers and layers) is generally more expensive than rabbit feed, it is nutritionally adequate for homestead rabbits.
A note on feed storage: Keep feed dry and protect it against insects and rodents. Keep feed away from dogs and cats; they can be a source of tapeworm infestation.
Proper amounts and combinations of foods : Rabbits can be given a combination of foods as long as the total food intake is about the same. In general, herd bucks (males) and dry does (females not breeding) need only 1/2 cup of mash each day; pregnant or nursing females require 3/4 – 1 cup per day.
Learn About Bucks. Rabbits can be full-fed by leaving food in the hutch at all times. Rabbits fed by this method eat small amounts of food more often and gain weight more quickly. Herd bucks, however, should be hand fed. This means supplying them only with as much food as they can eat in 20 – 30 minutes. If herd bucks are allowed to eat all the time, they become fat and lazy.
Two possible daily feeding plans for bucks are:
125 – 185gm (4 1/2 – 6 1/2 oz) concentrate (depending upon weight), plus 15-minute feeding of greens.or
85gm (3oz) of grain mixture and all the good quality hay or greens they will eat.
Please note: All weight conversions, here and following, are given in approximate figures.
Learn About Does. A doe at six months of age will eat at the rate of 3.8 percent of her live weight, daily. For example, a 4.5kg (about 10 lb) doe will eat .038 x 4.5 = .17kg = 170gm (or .038 x 10 = .38 lb = about 6oz), daily. If hay and grains are fed, she will consume 70gm (2 1/2 oz) of a grain mixture and about 100gm (3 1/2 oz) of hay, to make 170gm (6oz).
To feed a doe correctly the rabbit raiser must know when she is pregnant. An experienced rabbit raiser can feel for the babies inside the mother at 14 days after mating
A doe must be given all the concentrates she will eat without waste while pregnant. After the young rabbits are born, continue to feed the doe and the young rabbits all the concentrates they will eat without waste. The doe’s diet should be reduced only when the young rabbits are removed and until pregnancy is noted again.