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Tuesday,December 01,2020 14:08 PM

Make quick returns from rabbits

By Vision Reporter

Added 31st August 2010 03:00 AM

AWUCA Arikanzilo of Enako village in Okavu parish in Logiri sub county has been keeping rabbits for the last 10 years. He says, rabbits multiply very fast, producing between four and 10 kits every three months.

AWUCA Arikanzilo of Enako village in Okavu parish in Logiri sub county has been keeping rabbits for the last 10 years. He says, rabbits multiply very fast, producing between four and 10 kits every three months.

By Richard Drasimaku

AWUCA Arikanzilo of Enako village in Okavu parish in Logiri sub county has been keeping rabbits for the last 10 years. He says, rabbits multiply very fast, producing between four and 10 kits every three months.

That means one rabbit can produce up to 30 kits in a year. From Awuca’s experience, exotic breeds are even more productive.

Normal gestation is about 30 days. The average size of the litter varies but is usually between 4 and 12 babies, with larger breeds having larger litters. A kit (baby rabbit) can be weaned at about 4 to 5 weeks of age.

This means in one season, a female rabbit can produce as many as 800 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. A doe is ready to breed at about 6 months of age, and a buck at about 7 months.

Courtship and mating are very brief, lasting only 30 to 40 seconds. Courtship behaviour involves licking, sniffing, and following the doe. Spraying urine is also a common sexual behaviour. Female rabbits are reflex ovulators. The female rabbit also may or may not lose clumps of hair during the gestation period.

Ovulation begins 10 hours after mating. After mating, the female makes a nest and line the nest with fur from her flanks and belly. This behaviour also exposes the nipples enabling her to better nurse the kits.

Kits are born blind, naked and helpless. Passive immunity (immunity acquired by transfer of antibodies or sensitised lymphocytes from another animal) is acquired by kits prior to birth via placental transfer. At 10 to 11 days after birth, the baby rabbits’ eyes open and start eating on their own at around 14 days old.

Although born naked, they form a soft baby coat of hair within a few days. At the age of 5 to 6 weeks, the baby coat is replaced with a pre-adult coat. At about 6 to 8 months, this intermediate coat is also replaced with the final adult coat, which is shed twice a year later.

Due to the nutritious nature of rabbit milk, kits only need to be nursed for a few minutes once or twice a day. Dr. Gordon Victor Toa, the Arua district veterinary officer, says rabbit rearing is an ideal backyard enterprise since it requires little capital to get started.

“They are small meat producing animals, easy to keep and free family labour can be utilised to look after them,” he explains.

The male (buck) should, however, be kept separate from females. One male can serve 10 females. A farmer should be careful when taking a female to a buck, because they sometimes fight.

The secret to successful rabbit rearing, according to Toa, is maintaining the environment around the rabbits clean since most rabbit diseases result from poor hygienic conditions.

A rabbit hutch (house) can be made out of simple material like wood, so long as it can shield the them from weather extremes and predators such as dogs.

Leaving rabbit droppings to accumulate in the hutch leads to a break out of diseases like conjunctivitis, diarrhoea which cause worms and attract fleas.
On the other hand, too much coldness causes pneumonia.

Rabbits are sensitive to coldness and too much heat. So with good housing, feeding and hygiene, you can prevent most of the diseases.

Since there are few rabbit farmers in Uganda, medication for rabbit diseases is sometimes hard to come by. However, many drugs used to treat poultry, goats and sheep can also be used to treat rabbits.

Toa believes more people should take up rabbit farming, especially those with limited income and limited space, as a way of getting meat.

Besides being highly nutritious, rabbit meat is white meat, which is very healthy. A 2000 survey by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) revealed that uptake of animal protein was very low in Uganda – 6kg per person per year yet the recommended level is 40kg of animal protein per person yearly.

That gap can be filled according to Toa if people invest in keeping rabbits since they can be fed on a variety of plants like potato vine as well as solid foods eaten by humans.

Awuca says he sells each rabbit at sh8,000 and uses the money to pay workers on his rice and cassava fields. His plan is to expand the rabbit farm and fence the area to keep away dogs.

Yovan Adriko, the Logiri LCIII chairman, says they have planned to expand Awuca’s capacity as a model rabbit farmer under NAADS.

Make quick returns from rabbits

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