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BACKYARD RABBIT FARMING

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Abstract

Backyard rabbit farming can be a great idea for having healthy meat and an additional source of income for the family without much involvement. As a backyard animal rabbit is quiet, odorless and docile animal. They can be raised conveniently in residential area with minimum expense. It is easy to up keep the animal even children may carry out the farming operations starting from breeding to the fryer production. Only basic understanding of rabbit farming is needed to start with. The information presented in this booklet provides basic knowledge to run a backyard rabbitry. A small backyard rabbitry may consisting of about four breeding females (does) and one breeding male (buck) to produce two fryers per week the year-round. The unit can provide nutritious and wholesome meat for the family, enjoyable occupational activity, rich manure for garden and may also supplement house hold income. The meat from backyard rabbit is considered as white meat with high in protein and low in fat, sodium and cholesterol as compared to other common meats available in North-East such as beef, lamb, pork and poultry.
BACKYARD
RABBIT FARMING
Krishi Vigyan Kendra
National Research Centre on Mithun (ICAR)
Porba, Pfutsero, Phek, Nagaland
Web: kvkphek.nic.in
BACKYARD
RABBIT FARMING
P. R. Dutta
R. K. Singh
A. Dhali and
C. Rajkhowa
Krishi Vigyan Kendra
National Research Centre on Mithun (ICAR)
Porba, Pfutsero, Phek, Nagaland
Web: kvkphek.nic.in
Backyard Rabbit Farming
February, 2009
No. of Copies: 500
For Private Circulation only
Published by
Krishi Vigyan Kendra
Porba, Pfutsero, Phek, Nagaland
Web: kvkphek.nic.in
Financial support by
NABARD, Dimapur, Nagaland
Printed at : saraighat offset press, Bamunimaidan, Guwahati - 21
Preface
Backyard rabbit farming can be a great idea for
having healthy meat and an additional source of income
for the family without much involvement. As a backyard
animal rabbit is quiet, odorless and docile animal. They
can be raised conveniently in residential area with
minimum expense. It is easy to up keep the animal even
children may carry out the farming operations starting
from breeding to the fryer production. Only basic
understanding of rabbit farming is needed to start with.
The information presented in this booklet provides basic
knowledge to run a backyard rabbitry.
A small backyard rabbitry may consisting of
about four breeding females (does) and one breeding male
(buck) to produce two fryers per week the year-round. The
unit can provide nutritious and wholesome meat for the
family, enjoyable occupational activity, rich manure for
garden and may also supplement house hold income. The
meat from backyard rabbit is considered as white meat
with high in protein and low in fat, sodium and cholesterol
as compared to other common meats available in North-
East such as beef, lamb, pork and poultry. I hope this
booklet will be able to buildup confidence in farmers so
they may take initiative to start back yard rabbitry.
(C. Rajkhowa)
Rabbits can be raised in any type of environment,
whether be it rural, suburb, or city. It is a small
sized, friendly and low- maintenance family pet
animal for children as well as adults to care for.
This booklet will guide you to raise healthy and
happy rabbits.
BACKYARD RABBIT FARMING
Raising rabbit is a fun. It can be one of the important micro
livestock enterprises which have high potentiality in the North-
Eastern hill region of India as meat is considered an important
part of the usual diet of the people of this region and they
consume almost all kind of meat. Livestock farming is one the
major occupation of the local inhabitants but still this region is not
self-sufficient in meat production. About 45% of the total
requirement of the region is met by importing the meat animals
from other states. In this context, exploration of non-conventional
animal species like broiler rabbit can provide better scope to
fulfill meat demand of the region to certain extent. Moreover, the
meat value of rabbit is almost same as chicken. In addition to
meat production, rabbit fur and skin can be utilized for making
purse, hand-gloves, shawl, toy etc.
Table 1. Nutritional Value of Rabbit and Other Common Meats.
Skinless
Protein
Fat
Calories
Cholesterol
Meat (%) (%) (per g.) (mg per g.)
Rabbit
22.8
6.3
1.55
1.94
Beef 29.9 10.1 2.15 2.57
Catfish 22.3 5.9 1.41 0.70
Chicken 28.9 7.4 1.90 2.82
Lamb 28.1 9.5 2.04 2.75
Pork 27.7 14.8 2.11 2.53
Turkey 28.9 4.9 1.69 2.29
Source: USDA.
There are several advantages that make rabbit an important
meat producing animal:–
1. Small body size makes it easier to maintain in backyard and a
small unit requires limited space.
2. Rabbit is a prolific breeder and can be bred at any time of the
year. With shorter gestation period of 30 days only, 4-5 crops can
easily be obtained in a year from a single female rabbit.
3. Rabbit matures at an early age and becomes ready for
production by 6-7 months.
4. Rabbits do not compete with food for human consumption. A
small unit of rabbitry can be maintained in backyard with
kitchen/vegetable waste, grasses, tree leaves, etc.
5. Rabbit grows fast and attains a body weight of 1.5-1.8 kg
within 12-14 weeks and provides nutritious and wholesome meat.
6. Backyard rabbitry provides enjoyable occupational activity for
children and rich manure for garden. It is also a potential source
of extra income for house hold.
Selection of Breed:
There are about 38 breeds and 89 varieties of domestic rabbits
as recognized by American Rabbit Breeders Association.
However, 2 broiler breeds New Zealand White and Soviet
Chincilla were found to be suitable for NEH region as they are
well adapted to the agro climatic condition of this region. ICAR
Regional Center for NEH region Barapani is maintaining both of
these breeds in its farm.
Housing:
Rabbit house should be constructed in an elevated area for
easy drainage and shaded area for reduction of heat stress is
preferred. Location should be free from dust, fumes, smoke,
predator animals, etc. and should have easy access to water and
electricity. Rabbits can be reared in following three kinds of
housing systems:
a) Cage system: Cages can be kept on wooden or concrete racks
inside a shed. The shed may be permanent type which is half
walled with brick and iron wire netting above it and cemented
floor with proper drainage system. The roof may be made with
CGI sheet or asbestos. Semi-permanent type shed can be
constructed with locally available materials like wooden posts,
plank, bamboo, thatch, etc. Here the floor may be kutcha type or
cemented but proper drainage should always be there for easy
cleaning. The cages are to be kept on racks inside the shed by
keeping a common passage between the rows. Cages can vary in
size but generally they are of 3 feet by 2 feet by 15 inch height
and made with welded wire mash (16-18 gauge) with a hole size 3
by 4 inch. Cages should not be made with wood as rabbit chews
and consumes it and also difficult to clean as it absorbs urine,
water, etc. Cages can also be kept in tier system inside the shed
for efficient space and labour utilization.
b) Hutch system: The hutches can be made with iron, bamboo or
wood. Roofing can be either of CGI sheet or thatch. Flooring
should be made of wire mesh for easy cleaning, the size of each
compartment should be 3 ½ inch X 3 inch X 3 ½ inch. Few
numbers of compartments can be constructed together in a hutch
which can be shifted from one place to another. Partition between
compartments may be made with wooden plank, bamboo or wire
mesh. Hutches can be kept in shady place during summer to
reduce heat stress or thatch may be given over the CGI sheet roof
to keep it cool.
c) Floor system: This system is similar to deep litter system of
poultry rearing where rabbits are kept on the floor in a house. The
floor space requirement per rabbit is 4 square feet and the house
may be partitioned to keep rabbits of different categories like
grower, fryer, adult male and female, etc. separately.
General management of rabbits:-
Breeding:
Rabbits of both sexes attain sexual maturity at 6-7months of
age. Female rabbit is taken to the male rabbit cage for breeding
and it is done either in the morning or in the evening. Successful
mating is generally over within seconds and the male will fall
down from the female making a characteristic sound. It is better to
mate the female twice in the same day, once in the morning and
another in the evening to get better conception rate and higher
litter size at birth. The gestation period of rabbit is 30 days and
around 20 days after mating, doe should be kept separately in nest
box. Before kindling (act of giving birth by rabbit) the doe plucks
fur from her body to make a nest for the young ones. However,
extra bedding material like gunny bag, paddy straw or saw dust is
necessary to put within the nest.
Care of new born:
Kindling in most cases takes place at night and generally no
assistance is required. A doe gives birth to 6-12 nos. of young
ones with an average of 6nos. in one kindling. Rabbits are born
blind and naked. They start developing hair 4 days after birth and
open eyes after 10days. For the first 20 days the baby rabbits’
only food is their mother’s milk. Does nurse their kits only once a
day, usually in the early morning hours for about 3 to 4 minutes.
It may happen, especially in a large litter that some of the young
ones are weaker and are not able to compete with others in
suckling milk. Here the farmer can check every baby rabbit and
those underfed can be exclusively made to suckle again. In certain
cases, the doe does not allow her babies to suckle at all. In such
cases the farmer can feed the young ones on cow’s milk with
cotton or dropper. The baby rabbits start coming out of the nest
after 15-16days and show fondness for green grass and
concentrates while they continue suckling the doe. Gradually they
start eating more solid food and suckle less from the doe.
Weaning:
After 42-45 days the litter is separated from the doe.
Preferably the doe should be taken away and the litter should be
kept in the same cage so that they don’t have much separation
shock. After weaning the rabbits can be fed on green fodder,
vegetables and concentrates.
Management after weaning:
The young rabbits are tagged at 8-10weeks of age and the
growers should be housed separately. The selected breeding does
and bucks should be fed well so that they grow faster. The does
are ready to mate when they attain 60% of the total adult body
weight.
Feeding and watering:
Feed requirements of the rabbits differs with the stage of
growth. The average intake of balanced concentrate feed by an
animal ranges from 120-150 grams per day which should be
given twice daily, in the morning and in the evening. The palleted
feed fortified with mineral mixture, vitamin and salt can be
supplemented with green fodder or hay. Greens are preferably
offered in the evening because rabbits are most active during this
period.
A small unit of rabbit in backyard system can also be well
maintained with kitchen and vegetable waste along with some
selected grasses, tree leaves and root crops.
Clean and fresh water should be provided ad libitum
throughout day and night.
Health coverage:
Health coverage is one of the important aspects of profitable
rabbit farming. Some of the important diseases of rabbit, their
symptoms and preventive /control measures to be taken are
mentioned below:-
1) Coccidiosis: It is characterized by loss of appetite, pendulous
and distended abdomen followed by progressive weakness,
constipation and diarrhea, rough hair coat and lies in the cage
with sleepy eyes. For prevention of this disease, 30 ml of Sulmet
is mixed in 4 lt of water and given for 2 days followed by 15 ml
of medicine in 4 lt of water for 4 days once in a month. For
curative purpose some medicine can be given @ 1.5 ml per kg
body weight for 2 days followed by 0.75 ml per kg body weight
for another 4 days.
2) Ear canker or mange: It is caused by mites which attack the
inside of the ear causing inflammation and severe irritation.
Animal feels restless due to constant itching of the ear. Necrotic
tissues may be found inside the ear. As treatment, crusts and
scales are removed with the help of wool and Butox or Loraxne
lotion can be applied. Ascabiol is also effective against body
mange and ear canker.
3) Pasteurellosis: Pasteurella multocida causes a variety of
diseases in rabbits – snuffles, pneumonia, otitis, conjunctivitis and
abscess. The main symptoms of snuffles are thick sticky white
discharge from nose with constant sneezing. The animal wipes
away the discharges with its fore legs. Is is not a fatal disease but
can lead to the development of pneumonia if not treated. Snuffles
and pneumonia can effectively be treated by a combination of
400000 IU of Penicillin and 0.5 grams of Streptomycin
administered intramuscularly. Conjunctivitis and abscesses can
also be treated effectively with suitable antibiotics.
4) Aflatoxicosis: It occurs mostly due to feeding of concentrate
feed stored for long time, preferably in damp or moist places. The
disease is characterized by loss of appetite, distended abdomen
and abortion in pregnant animals. It causes high mortality. When
the affected animal is shaken with both hands it gives a distinct
gurgling sound. For prevention of this disease fresh and dry feed
should be offered to the animals. Feed should not be stored in
damp places and molded feed should be discarded.
Predator Control
In backyard rabbit production, predator attacks are more
emotionally disturbing than causing direct loss to the stock. The
predator can be the pets; snakes; or even insects like ants and
wasps. So careful management is essential to prevent losses from
predators. Many times predators gain entry through the gate or
they break open the cage, so the cages or hutches should be
strongly built and the gates should be well secured and locked.
Sometime even the predator may not succeed in breaking the cage
or hutch, but due attack may cause serious injuries to rabbits. The
best strategy for this is to keep large predators away from the
rabbitry by placing the cages or hutches inside a fence. Snakes
may create trouble for young kits so they must be watched
properly during 1st two weeks of age.
Insect some time creates problem but it can be controlled by
regular inspection of the nests and removal of dead kits after birth
from the nest box soon after kindling. Nest box should be checked
regularly and all the young dead kits should be removed regularly.
These dead young kits if not removed timely they attract ants.
Kits must be kept covered with fur as one hand it keep them warm
and on other it protects the kits from the bites of the flies and
mosquitos. Commercial insecticides, if used, should be used only
according to the labeled directions. Insecticides must be kept it a
safe place and away from the nests, feed and water of the rabbits.
Predators causes direct harm, whereas insects including house fly
increases the chance of diseases so sufficient care to control both
should be taken to enhance the productivity and reduce the spread
of disease.
Slaughter for meat purpose:
Rabbits are generally slaughtered for meat purpose at the age
of 90 days when it weighs about 1.8-2.0 kgs. The dressing
percentage of fryer is about 65 % and the skin obtained after
slaughtering can be processed for making shawl, hand gloves,
jacket, bag, etc.
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