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Rabbit farming guide: How to raise and grow rabbits

If you are interested in knowing how to raise rabbits, you have come to the right place, I will explain extremely important facts about their breeding that you should know whether you want to raise rabbits as a business, for self-consumption or simply to have a healthy pet companion.

Image credit Dexter’s World YouTube channel

Rabbit farming in the Philippines

Most Filipinos are not used to consume rabbit meat but the trend is changing and the demand is increasing. Many Filipinos, especially returning OFW are not investing in the rabbit farming business because they know they could make a living with the cute bunnies.

There are two markets for rabbits in the Philippines. Pets and meat. Meat is not yet so popular but rabbits as pets can fetch a handsome amount of profit. A pair of New Zealanders can cost between P400 to P600 and sometimes higher. Other breeds can cost higher too. Pet shops are always looking for animal suppliers and rabbits are one of the in-demand pets.

The raising of rabbits is a safe activity and one of the best to take at home, they take up very little space and the whole family can participate in their daily care since they are small and docile.

Breeding for fattening and consumption is more and more frequent thanks to its nutritious meat and the profitability of its production, it is not too expensive to feed them correctly and they reproduce extremely quickly.

One of the key points in raising rabbits is food, regardless of whether they are raised for their meat or to keep at home. These animals have a very delicate digestive system and quite specific nutritional needs, although it does not mean that it is impossible to maintain.

The foods that a rabbit requires to grow properly are based on three types: Vegetables, forages, and grains; this with the intention of providing them with the proteins, fibers, fats, and vitamins they need to be healthy.

It is important to know that the diet must be balanced, combining as much as possible the three groups. An exclusive diet of a single group can make rabbits seriously ill. In the same way, they need to always have water available to drink, it is of vital importance.

Vegetables, the basic and most important rabbit food

Vegetables are a staple in the rabbit’s diet, but it is not exclusive. Much of what they can consume is also easily harvested in a garden, under the same conditions: win, win. This category includes:

  • Skins: Apples, melon, potatoes, or sweet potatoes.
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach.
  • Carrot
  • Leaves of: Willow, beet, sweet potato.
  • Celery
  • Chard.

Forage

Within this category are fast-growing and long-lasting herbs such as:

  • The common grass.
  • Shamrocks.
  • The Zoysias.
  • Alfalfa
  • Hay

With regard to this part of the diet, it is vital that we be very dosed and careful, especially with alfalfa. We should never provide unlimited amounts, being about 30% of the necessary food.

Grain

The grains for their part are about 1/3 of their nutritional needs and we will only serve them in the feeders previously broken, shredded, or crushed. You can give a rabbit:

  • Corn
  • Raw oats
  • Soy (previously roasted)
  • Wheat
  • Sorghum

If for some reason it is decided to change the diet of rabbits it is important that we do it little by little. A sudden change in their diet produces stomach disorders that can lead to diarrhea, one of the main causes of mortality in breeding rabbits.

Ideal conditions for rabbits

Rabbits need careful and exhaustive control of two main elements to have the ideal growing conditions:

Temperature and Humidity

Temperature

The ideal temperature for raising rabbits is greater than 10 ° and less than 25 °. In cold seasons without the help of burrows and hay to warm up to more than 10 °, there are more chances of loss of litter and diseases related to the lungs.

With excessive temperature rise or sudden changes, rabbits will have less sexual initiative and general fertility.

Humidity

We must ensure that the humidity stays close to and below 70%. Not controlling humidity properly can lead to fungi, which are lethal to rabbits, and in very dry environments the accumulation of dust and environmental dryness are critical for their lungs.

How to raise rabbits at home

Rabbits are easy to raise at home, as long as we are able to provide them with the right space and temperature conditions. Rabbit manure can be used as home compost after being processed, which provides an extra benefit if you have a home garden.

The most advisable thing is to raise the rabbits in cages, in this way not only is their abundant reproductive capacity much better controlled but they are also kept away from the vegetation destined for our own consumption or garden waste that may be harmful to them.

How to raise baby rabbits

A doe can give birth from 6 to 14 bunnies. In the first days, the young are born without hair and with limited capacities, they are delicate and completely depend on the care of the mother. They must be handled as little as possible and the first days stay away so as not to stress the mother.

They should be fed exclusively on breast milk, at least for the first 30 days. The mother will take care of covering them from the cold with her own fur, so it is normal for them to lose it or remove it from themselves before giving birth.

If a mother has more than 8 kits per birth, it is important that we make sure to rotate them when they breastfeed as there will not be enough space for all of them. If you have more than one newborn rabbit, you need to match the number of bunnies so that they feed as equally as possible.

How to raise orphaned newborn rabbits

To raise orphaned newborn rabbits, things change. You have to remember how delicate and sensitive they are, also their exclusive feeding of breast milk. To find a substitute, you can get kitten milk, which is more common at veterinarians than supplements for rabbits. Never use cow’s milk.

They must be fed using a bottle and under personal supervision, do not leave an inexperienced in charge of them because any wrong movement could permanently harm the young.

Keep them together and with strict temperature control, as they are completely dependent on the mother for everything, at least the first two weeks.

Efficient breeding and reproduction of rabbits

The females are ready to reproduce 4-5 months after birth, unlike the male who needs just over 7 months to be ready. For the reproduction to be efficient and planned, the females can stay in the same cage, but the males must have their own cage since after 4 months they begin to fight for territory.

To begin mating, the female should always be taken to the male cages, otherwise, the male will not be willing to mount her. The task does not take more than a couple of minutes and if you notice that the female is not ready, remove her to her cage and try it about 24 hours later.

An adult male can be responsible for the fertilization of up to 10 adult females, in periods of up to twice a week. It is not recommended that you repeatedly appear to the same female.

The gestation time of a rabbit is approximately 30 days so a couple of days before, you should prepare a burrow for it, making a bed with hay or newspaper sheets that must be changed frequently.

Nursing rabbit care

Females do not usually need assistance in childbirth and this is very fast (no more than 30 minutes). Once the work is done, you must remove the dead guinea pigs and any debris such as bags or placenta.

Nursing rabbits need a constant supply of food and water. Leave servings ready so you have access whenever you need them.

After the first 3 weeks, it is advisable to start weaning gradually. Already at 35 days complete lactation, a doe is ready.

How to make a rabbit cattery

Rabbit farms can be found with a multitude of models and prices in specialized breeding and animal husbandry stores. If you do not have the resources or you are one of those who prefer to do it yourself, there are many homemade materials that you can use to create your own rabbit hutch.

All rabbit farms are usually made up of two elements, the cage, and the den.

1. The cage

The cage can be made with the same materials that we would use for the chicken farm: wire for the walls, spiral mesh for fences, and wood. The cage should be at least 60 x 60 for each rabbit, and the individual cages for the males should be slightly larger (80 X 60).

It is necessary that it has a roof to cover it from the rain and the direct impact of the sun, in addition, we will make sure that it does not frequently perceive direct blasts of air that can raise dust since rabbits have sensitive lungs. We can create one or two walls as required, although it is necessary that they receive sunlight in the mornings.

2. Burrow

Female cages should always be accompanied by a burrow or artificial nest so that they take shelter frequently, avoiding stress and so that they can breed satisfactorily.

The burrow can be a box, with a separate doorway that can be half the size of the cage and at least 30 to 50 cm high. It is important to add a removable roof, similar to a drawer lid, in order to clean the burrow.

Grooming and sanitation of the rabbit

As I have already mentioned before, rabbits have a health that is easy to maintain, but at the same time very fragile. As part of the daily grooming and maintenance care of a rabbit or burrow, it is important that we take into account the following tasks:

  • Check the rabbits to detect any possible anomalies in time.
  • Be wary of evidence of diarrhea.
  • Change the newspaper or hay if it is wet or very dirty.
  • Remove food containers at night to prevent contamination.
  • Check the surroundings of the bunny for evidence of other rodents such as mice as they are sources of disease.
  • Make sure feeders and water sources are as clean as possible.

Weekly tasks

  • Wash the cages with hot water.
  • Use veterinary disinfectants.
  • Rotate the rabbits to do deep cleaning of the rabbit.
  • Monthly or sporadic tasks:
  • Retouching burrows with lime
  • Clean the mesh of the cage, with boiling water or a burner (obviously without the rabbits inside)
  • Remove sick or stressed rabbits to an individual cage.
  • Ensure ventilation and control the humidity of the cage.

Health: Most common rabbit diseases and how to avoid them

Like all farm or hatchery animals, rabbits are not exempt from diseases that can put at risk not only profitability but also health, both of them and of us. It is our responsibility then to know what are the most common diseases and what we can do to keep our rabbits healthy.

Scabies

Scabies is produced by mites or fungi, of rapid advance and that becomes extremely contagious on contact, not only between animals but in cages. It is quickly identified by lesions on the rabbit’s skin, the fur falls off and formed with a scaly consistency and sometimes with discharge.

Mange should be treated with ivermectin and by isolating affected animals. It is advisable to clean up the habitat where there has been a previous outbreak.

Dermatomycosis

Another disease is caused by fungi and is very frequent in poorly maintained environments or cages that do not receive the required cleaning. Dermatomycosis or ringworm is characterized by leaving hairless circular regions, especially on the chin, ears, eyes, and nose.

In veterinary medicine, it is possible to obtain iodine-based compounds that will be applied to the lesions. Overly affected rabbits should be isolated or euthanized to protect the rabbit. Hair is one of the main routes of spread and contagion.

It is necessary to wear gloves and sanitize the hands with iodine or veterinary supplement as it can also spread to people.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a symptom rather than a disease in itself but it frequently affects rabbits either due to stress, poor diet, sudden changes in diet, temperature. Rabbits become dehydrated very quickly and die easily if left unchecked.

To help them, the best solution is to give food that helps regulate their delicate digestive systems such as plantain leaves, hay, and a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar in water.

Breeding rabbits for consumption

Raising rabbits for their meat high in protein and almost 4 times lower in cholesterol is an activity worth considering. Rabbit meat can command a high price in the markets and the space required to obtain the rearing conditions is little.

The extraction of rabbit meat per slaughter ranges between 1.5 and 2 kg of meat, considering a quantity of 5 to 6 deliveries per year, with a minimum utility of 6 offspring per delivery, we speak of 15 kg of first quality meat per year. minimum year per doe.

The most common breeds of rabbit for meat are The New Zealander and the Californian. This is clear because of the average size and weight that they can reach, even more than 4kg.

As a final recommendation, if you just venture into raising rabbits at home, it is best that you get to experience the breeds in your area that are much more adapted and will be more resistant.

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