Rabbit Farming


Why Rabbit Farming?
  • With available small investment and in a small place rabbit farming gives more income
  • Rabbits eat ordinary feed and convert them into a protein rich high quality meat
  • Apart from meat production they can also be reared for hide and fur

 

Rabbit Farming is for whom?

For landless farmers, uneducated youth and women, rabbit farming gives an additional income as a part time job

Advantages of Rabbit Farming

  • By rabbit rearing one can produce a quality protein rich meat for his own family
  • Rabbits can be fed with easily available leaves, waste vegetables, grains available in the home
  • Growth rate in broiler rabbits is very high. They attain 2 kgs at the age of three months
  • Litter size (Number of young ones born/ kindling) in rabbits is high (around 8-12)
  • When compared to the other meats rabbit meat contain high protein (21%) and less fat (8%). So this meat is suitable for all age groups from adults to children

 

Rabbit breeds and Availability

Heavy weight breeds (4-6 kg )
  • White giant
  • Grey giant
  • Flemish giant

White Giant Breed
Medium weight breeds (3-4 kg)

  • Newzealand white
  • Newzealand red
  • Californian

Light weight breeds (2-3 kg)

  • Soviet chinchilla
  • Dutch

Soviet Chinchilla Breed
Good quality White Giant and Soviet Chinchilla breeds are available for sale at
Department of Livestock Production and Management,
Veterinary College and Research institute,
Namakkal-637002, Tamil Nadu
Ph: 04286 -266491, 266492

Methods of rearing rabbits


Rabbits can be reared at the backyard with in a small shed which can be constructed with a small investment. To protect rabbits from the climatic conditions such as in hot summer, rain and to protect them from dogs, cats construction of shed is necessary.
Rabbits can be reared in two system of housing

Deep litter system
This method is suitable for rearing small number of rabbits. To prevent rabbits to dig burrows the floor the floor should be made up of concrete. The Litter materials such as paddy husk, paddy straw or wood shavings can be filled up to 4-6 inches from the floor. Deep litter system is not suitable for rearing more than 30 rabbits. Male rabbits should be housed separately. This type of housing is not suitable for intensive system of rearing. Rabbits reared in deep litter system are more susceptible to diseases. Management of bunnies also very difficult in deep litter system.

Cage system

Floor space requirement
  • Adult male rabbit – 4 square feet (S.ft)
  • Dam – 5 S.ft
  • Bunnies – 1.5 S.ft

Adult rabbit cage
Adult rabbit cage should have 1.5 feet length, 1.5 feet breadth and 1.5 feet height. This cage is suitable for one adult rabbit or two growing rabbits
Growing rabbit cage

  • Length- 3 feet
  • Breadth- 1.5 feet
  • Height- 1.5 feet

The above sized cage is suitable for 4-5 rabbits up to 3 months age.
Cages for kindling
The cage size for growing rabbits is sufficient for the rabbits going to be kindled. But the bottom and sides of the cage should be made up of weld mesh of 1.5 X 1.5 inches. This used to prevent the young bunnies to come out of the cage.
Nest box
To provide safer and calm environment during kindling the nest box is essential. This nest boxes can be made up of galvanized iron or wood. Nest box size should be in such a way to keep inside the kindling cage.
Nest box size

  • Length – 22 inches
  • Breadth- 12 inches
  • Height- 12 inches

Nest Box
Nest boxes are designed to open in the upper portion. The bottom of the nest box should be made up of weld mesh of 1.5’’X 15’’size. A circle size hole of 15 centimeter diameter should be made in the longitudinal portion of nest box, 10 c.m from the bottom. This hole helps for the movement of dam from the nest box to the cage. Designing of the hole 10 c.m from the bottom of the nest box prevents the young rabbits coming out of the nest box.
Cages for rearing rabbits in backyard
Cages for rearing rabbits in backyard should be constructed 3’-4’ from the floor surface. The bottom of the cage should be water proof.
Feed and water troughs
Feed and water troughs for rabbits usually made up of galvanized iron. The feed trough should be designed in the shape of “J” and they are usually fit outside the cages. To reduce the investment cost the feed and water can also be provided in cups.

“J“ shaped Feed Trough


Watering Method

Feeding management

Rabbits relish all types of grains (sorghum, bajra and other grains) and legumes. Green fodders such as Desmanthus, Lucerne, agathi, kitchen wastes such as carrots and cabbage leaves and other vegetable wastes are also relished by rabbits.
Nutrients to be present in the rabbit feed

Details of nutrients

For growth

For maintenance

For pregnancy

For lactation

Digestible energy (K.cal)

2500

2300

2500

2500

Protein (%)

18

16

17

19

Fibre (%)

10-13

13-14

10-13

10-13

Fat (%)

2

2

2

2

Points to be remembered in feeding management of rabbits

  • The teeth of rabbits are continuously growing. Therefore rearing rabbits with concentrate feed alone is impossible
  • The time schedule for feeding should be maintained strictly. If there is late in feeding of rabbits, they become restless and which in turn reduces the body weight
  • Due the high temperature in the day time the rabbits won’t take feed during day time. But they active during night. Therefore the green fodder fed to rabbits at night time will helps the rabbits to consume the green fodder with out wastage. Because of this the concentrate feed should be given in the morning time
  • Concentrate feed can be given in the form of pellets. If pellet feed is not available the concentrate feed mixed with water and made in to small balls and given to rabbits
  • For 1 kg rabbit 40 grams of concentrate feed and 40 grams of green fodder should be given for one day
  • Rabbits always fed with fresh green fodder. The green fodder should not be put on the floor of the cages but they can be inserted in the sides of the cages
  • Clean fresh water should be provided to rabbits during all times of the day

Rabbit type

Approximate body weight

Amount feed/ day (g)

Concentrate feed

Green fodder

Adult male rabbit

4-5 kg

100

250

Adult female rabbit

4-5 kg

100

300

Lactating and pregnant rabbit

4-5 kg

150

150

Young rabbits

0.6-0.7 kg

50-75

150

Sample concentrate feed mixture


Ingredients

Amount

Broken maize

30 parts

Broken and ground bajra

30 parts

Groundnut oil cake

13 parts

Wheat bran

25 parts

Mineral mixture

1.5 parts

Salt

0.5 part

Breeding Management of rabbits

Breeding age
  • Female rabbits- 5-6 months
  • Male rabbits- 5-6 months (Even though the male rabbits mature at the age of 5-6 months they should be used for breeding at the age of one year to get the quality younger rabbits)

 

Selection of rabbits for breeding

  • Rabbits can be selected at the age of 5-8 months after attaining adult body weight
  • Male and female rabbits should be selected for breeding from the high litter size
  • Healthy rabbits only selected for breeding. Healthy rabbits are active and the feed and water intake is usually normal. Apart from this they keep their body clean. The hair of the healthy rabbits is usually clean, soft and shiny
  • While selecting male rabbits for breeding with the above characters they should have two well descended testes in their scrotum
  • During selection of male rabbits they allowed to mate with a female rabbit to know the breeding capability

 

Oestrous signs or heat signs in female rabbits

There is no specific oestrous cycle period in rabbits. Whenever the female rabbits allow the male rabbit for mating then the female rabbit is in oestrous. Some times if a female rabbit is in heat, its vulva is congested. When a male rabbit is kept near to a female rabbit in heat or oestrous, the female rabbit shows depression of its back and raising of its behind portion of the body. At the same time if the female rabbit is not in heat it will go the corner of the cage and attack the male.

Breeding of rabbits

Information about the breeding details

Male : female ratio

1:10

Age at first mating

5-6 months. Male rabbits the age of first mating usually at 1 year of age to get a good litter size

Body weight of the female rabbit during mating

2.25-2.5 kg

Gestation period

28-31 days

Weaning age

6 weeks

Time of mating after kindling

6 weeks after kindling or after weaning of the young rabbits

Age at sale

12 weeks

Body weight at the time of sale

Approximately 2 kg or greater than that

The female rabbits showing the signs of heat or oestrous taken to the male rabbit’s cage. If the female rabbit is in correct time of oestrous that used to lift her tail and allow the male rabbit to mate with her. After successful mating the male rabbit fall on one side and make a specific sound. One male rabbit should not be utilised for not more than 3 or 4 days in a week. Similarly a male rabbit should not be utilised for breeding not more than 2-3 times per day. The breeding male rabbits should be given adequate rest and good nutrition. In a rabbitry there should be one male rabbit for 10 female rabbits. One or two male rabbits can also be additionally reared in the farm and they can be used if the rabbits used for breeding become sick.
Gestation period in case of broiler rabbits is 28-31 days. Pregnancy diagnosis of can be done by palpating the abdomen of the female rabbit 12-14 days after breeding. Palpation should be done in the abdominal area in between the hind legs. If there is a round mass is palpated in between the fingers then the rabbit is pregnant. Those rabbits that are not pregnant after 12-14 days of mating, they again allowed for mating with the male rabbit. If a female rabbit is not becoming pregnant after three subsequent mating, that rabbit is eliminated or culled from the farm.
Twenty five days after mating there is usually increase in the body weight of pregnant rabbits from 500-700 grams. This increased weight can be identified by lifting the rabbits. If the pregnant rabbits allowed to the male rabbit for mating they won’t mate .

Care of Pregnant female

After the pregnancy diagnosis was done, the pregnant rabbits should be fed with increased quantity of concentrate feed from 100g to 150g excess than the normal feeding. The pregnant rabbit should be transferred to the kindling cage on 25 days after mating. Five days before the expected date of mating nest box should be kept in the kindling cage. Dried coconut fibre or paddy straw is used as bedding material in the nest box. The pregnant rabbit pluck the hair in their abdomen and form a nest for the young ones one or two days before kindling. During this period the rabbit should not be disturbed and persons from outside should not allowed near the kindling cage.
Usually kindling takes place at early morning. Kindling usually completed for a period of 15 to 30 minutes. The dam her self clean her young ones in the early morning. Nest boxes should be examined in the early morning. The dead young ones should be removed from the nest box. During examination of the nest box the dam become restless. So the dam should be removed before examination of the nest box.

Care and management of newborn rabbits

During birth newborn rabbits eyes are closed and they don’t have hair on their body. All new born rabbits are usually lying in the bedding material formed by the dam in the nest box. Usually the dam gives milk to the young ones one time a day in the early morning. If we compulsorily make the rabbit to feed her young ones there won’t be no milk secretion at all. The skin of those new born rabbits received the adequate quantity of milk from their mother is usually shiny. But the skin of those newborn rabbits who has not received the adequate quantity of milk from their mother is dry and wrinkled in appearance and their body temperature is low and they look lazy.

Step mother feeding

Generally a female rabbit has 8-12 teats in her udder. When the litter size is more than the number of teats the newborn rabbits won’t receive adequate quantity of milk and results in death of the young ones. In an addition the other conditions such as death of dam, lack of maternal care, falling of young ones from the cage results in difficulty in the identification of the dams, the step mother is used for nursing the young ones.

Points to be considered while changing the litter to the step mother

  • The age difference between the litters to be changed and the litter of step mother should not be more than 48 hours
  • We should not change more than 3 young ones/stepmother

 

Weaning of bunnies or young rabbits

Young rabbits allowed staying for first three weeks of age in the nest box. Later nest box removed from the kindling cage. Weaning of young rabbits or bunnies can be done at the age of 4-6 weeks. While weaning, first dam should be removed from the kindling cage and the bunnies allowed staying for 1-2 weeks in the same cage. Later the sex of the rabbits should be identified and the different sexes are raised in different cages. We should not suddenly change the diet or feed of the weaned rabbits.

Reduction of mortality rate in the bunnies

Up to first 15 days of age the young rabbits are under the dam. During this period the breast milk of the doe or dam is the only food for the young ones. Death of the young rabbits in this period is mainly due to doe or dam. After 15 days of age the young rabbits able to take water and feed supplied to them. In this time they are more susceptible to diseases. Therefore it is advisable to provide cooled boiled drinking water to the dam and the young ones. Hydrogen peroxide at the rate of 1ml per liter of water is added 20 minutes before providing to the rabbits.

Signs of healthy rabbit

  • Healthy and shiny hair coat
  • very active
  • Good and quick feed intake after feeding
  • The eyes are usually bright and without any discharge
  • Gradual body weight gain

 

Signs in diseased rabbits

  • Dull and depressed
  • Reduction in the body weight and emaciation
  • Heavy loss of hair
  • No active movement of rabbits. But usually they stay in one particular place in the cage
  • Reduction of feed intake
  • Watery or mucous discharge from the eye, nose, anus and mouth
  • Increased body temperature and respiratory rate

 

Diseases of rabbits

Pasteurellosis
Poor ventilation, poor hygiene, nutritional deficiency are the risk factors responsible for occurrence of this disease in rabbits. This disease spreads from dam to young rabbits.
Clinical signs: Because of continuous sneezing and coughing the rabbits rub their nose with the forelimbs. Sound produced during breathing resembles like the rattle sound. Apart from this there is also fever, diarrhea. The microorganism responsible for this disease also produces pustules under the skin and wry neck in rabbits.
Treatment : Treatment is not effective against pasteurellosis. Even though the rabbits affected with pasteurellosis recover after treatment but the affected rabbits transmit the infectious bacteria to other healthy rabbits. Therefore culling the affected rabbits from the farm is the only control measure of pasteurellosis in the rabbitry.

Enteritis

There are various microorganisms responsible for producing enteritis in rabbits. Sudden change in the feed, excess amount of carbohydrate in the feed, immunodepression, unhygienic feed and water are the factors predispose the rabbits for enteritis caused by various microorganisms. The clinical signs of enteritis in rabbits are diarrhea, enlargement of abdomen, dull hair coat and dehydration. Due to the loss of water due to diarrhoea which leads to dehydration, rabbits become dull.

Wry neck disease

Rabbits affected with the pasteurellosis are affected with wry neck disease. This disease affects the middle ear and the brain of rabbits. Because of the affection of membrane of the middle ear and pus is discharged from the ear, the rabbit turn its head to one side. Effective treatment of pasteurellosis controls the wry neck disease in rabbits.

Mastitis

Nursing dams are affected with mastitis. Affected udder is hot, reddish and painful to touch. Giving appropriate antibiotics to rabbits will control the disease.

Diseases due to fungal infection

Skin infection is produced in rabbits by Dermatopysisfungus. There is loss of hair around the ear and nose of rabbits. Because of irritation rabbits continously rub the affected areas results in formation of wounds in these areas. Later on secondary bacterial infection in these sites results in pus formation.
Treatment :Griseofulvin or benzyl benzoate cream can be applied on the affected areas. Griseofulvin mixed at the rate of 0.75g/k.g of feed and given for a period of 2 weeks control this disease.

Farm hygienic measures to be followed to control disease in rabbitry

  • Rabbit farm should be located in elevated place with good ventilation
  • The cages should be kept very clean
  • There should be trees around the rabbit shed
  • White washing should done twice a year
  • Lime solution should be applied below the cages twice a week
  • In summer seasons water may be sprinkled on the rabbits to avoid death due to heat stroke
  • Before providing drinking water it should be boiled and then cooled especially to the dam and young ones
  • To prevent diseases caused by bacterial microorganisms, Tetracycline mixed with drinking water at the rate of 0.5 g/litter and given for a period of 3 days per month