Rabbits just like pigs are monogastric or non-ruminant animals. They are medium-sized mammals with long legs,long ears,and short tails.
Rabbits are mainly reared for their meat. Rabbit meat is normally regarded as a white meat.
Terms used for Rabbit
- Buck. —————– An adult male rabbit.
- Doe. —————- An adult female rabbit
- Kitten/warren ——- A young or baby rabbit.
- Hutch ——– The house of a rabbit.
- Kidding ——— The act of parturition in rabbit.
- Pelt ———— The skin of a rabbit.
- Litter ———— All the young ones ( rabbits) produced at the same time by one doe.
- Sucking ——— Feeding of young ones on the mother’s breast milk.
- Sire ———– The father of a set of young rabbits.
General Characteristics Of Rabbits
- They have small medium sized body.
- They are easy to house.
- Rabbits are very prolific animals or can produce many liters.
- Rabbits have a short gestation period of 30-31 days.
- They grow fast and reach maturity weight in about five to six months.
- They are efficient converter of wide range of vegetable matter into meat.
- The fur-covered skins can be processed as pelt for sale.
- Rabbits are easy to handle or manage.
- They have a weaning period of six to eight weeks.
- They make good quality meat,more delicious and nutritious than that of chicken.
- They are susceptible to stress.
- The rate of cannibalism is very high.
- They have high rate of disease resistance.
Breeds Of Rabbits
It is a lighter breed and the adults may attain a mature weight of 3.5kg.it is characterised by black markings on the ears,feet, tail and nose. It has s high growth rate and good flesh to bone ratio.
(II) The chincilla
It is grey bodied animal and it can weigh up to 5kg at maturity. It is one of the best fur or pelt producers and also a meat producer.
(III) The new Zealand white
This is most popular meat breed in use. It is a fur breed and can attain a mature weight of 4.5kg in eight months. It is a good converter of feed to meat with high dressing percentage. It also a fat maturing breed.
(IV) The news zealand red
This breed is bright-red in colourand weighs over 3kg. It has a high growth and feed conversion characteristics.
(V) The Giant Flemish
This breed can weigh over 5kg and its the largest of all the breeds. It is dark steel-grey in color and produces dense and hard pelt. It is a good meat producer.
This breed requires a lot of care and attention. It is the only rabbit reared for its wool. Its most common color is white. It has tuff of wool on its ears and feet.
Importance Of Rabbit
- Meat: The meat of rabbit is white, fine grained, tender and nutritious than that of poultry chicken.
- Rabbit skin or pelt: This can be used for making jackets, head-gear, carpet or rugs and other decorative household or ornament.
- Manure: it has been discovered that rabbit manure is high in nitrogen and phosphorous and therefore can be used to improve the fertility of the soil.
- For research purpose: At the National Veterinary Research Institute (N.V.R.I),Vom,rabbits are kept largely as laboratory animals.
Problems Militating Against Rabbit Production In Nigeria
- Unpredictable breeding behaviour of rabbits.
- Incidence of respiratory diseases,e.g.,snuffles and pnuemonia
- Inadequate sanitation and proper sanitation programmes.
- High nest-box mortality of litres.
- Lack of ability to embark on mass production,because most operation in rabbitry cannot be automated.
- It is labour intensive
- Lack of capital also impedes large investment in rabbitry.
- Inadequate supply and high cost of concentrate feeds.
Housing Of Rabbits
- Rabbits are usually kept in hutches
- The hutches are arranged in single,double or triple tiers.
- The waist-high, single tier hutches are preferable for they save time and labour in feeding and management.
- Wooden or metal hutches with wire netting surroundings are widely used.
- The hutches are placed under a building usually referred to as rabbitry must be well ventilated.
- The floor of the rabbitry should be made with concrete for easy cleaning.
- The roof should be made with corrugated iron sheets or abestos sheets.
- The hutches can also be placed in poultry deep liter-house.
- The males are kept separate from the female within the rabbitry.
- Legs of hutches should be placed in disinfectant bowls to keep off termites and other insects attack.
- Rabbits are simple stomach herbivores,i.e,they feed mainly on plants.
- They are given concentrates I form of pellets in small quantities.
- The pellets given can be supplemented with aspilia africana, water leaf, sweet potatoe leaf, Amaranthus, centrosem spp, Tridax spp and calopogonium app.
- Rabbits can be given poultry grower’s mash in the absence of rabbit pellet. This should,however,be sprinkled with water to prevent wastage and nasal irritation.
- The protein contents of feeds for dry Does and Bucks should be 12-15% while that of pregnant and nursing Does is 16-20%
- The feed should be served in feeding troughs.
- Water should be supplied all the time.
Common hygiene or sanitary measures to be adopted in rabbitary include;
- Clean the floor of the rabbitry daily.
- Disinfect the rabbitary at regular intervals.
- Clean the feed and water troughs to prevent contamination.
- Remove dusts and cob-webs from the rabbitry.
- Isolate any sick animal for treatment.
- Remove and bury dead animal.
- Deworm the rabbits at regular intervals.
- Treat the rabbits with drugs such as antibiotics and coccidiostas.
- Keep the surrounding of the rabbitry weed-free.
- Provide a disinfectant bath or footh dip at the entrance to prevent introduction of germs into the rabbitry by visitors.
Dseases of Rabbits,Symptoms and Treatment.
- Coccidiosis: coccidiosis is caused by protozoan. The symptoms include; passing of soft faeces which may be blood stained,loss of appetite, loss of weight, death in severe cases. Control measures include; Treatment of sick animal with coccidiostat, Raising rabbits on wire/raised cages, prophylactic use of coccidiostat in feed.
- Enteritis: This I caused by protozoa, feed, changes, stress or through poisoning. The symptoms include; High temperature,Diarrhoea which smells unpleasantly, loss of appetite, watery faeces. Control measures include; Avoid lumping together the young with different litres,apply appropriate drugs (antibiotics), maintain good sanitation practices, adopt good feeding regime/ programme.
- Ear Canker: Ear canker is caused by mange mite. The symptoms include: brown scab inside the auditory canal, swelling and painful ear, ear scratching. Control measures include; Treat affected ear with appropriate drug( liguid paraffin on cotton wool ), Isolate affected animal, invite a veterinary doctor, use of meticides.
- Helminthiasis: This is caused by worms. The symptoms include; Poor growth, anemia, Diarrhoea, Death in high infestation, constipation. The control measures includes; Deworm regularly, practise good sanitation.
- Ringworm: This is caused by fungus. The symptoms include; circumscribed lesion on the skin, Loss of hair on affected skin. Control measures include; use of fungicides to cure lesions, Isolate affected animals.
- Sore-hock: sore-hock is caused by pressing the hick against hard structure which leads to injury and infection. Symptom include; raising up the hock when in sitting position. Control measures include; Dress wound with disinfectant solution, cover wounds with antibiotics dressing.
Finishing of Rabbit to Market Weight
The adult doe does not have any particular gestation period. The presence of a buck could stimulate the doe to come to heat. The gestation period of doe is 31 days.
Prior to kidding, nest boxes and bedding materials are provided for the doe in the hutch. The doe can give birth to four to eight litres at a time. The young rabbits (fryers) are weaned and they will start to feed on solid food and green feed as well. Growth is rapid and in the absence of diseases and parasites, coupled with good feeding programmes and management, the rabbit will mature after attaining 4-5kg at four to six months of age
Rabbits should never be lifted by their ear or legs as that might permanently inure them. Small rabbits or fryers ma be lifted and carried comfortably without hurting them by grasping the loin with the heel of the hand towards the tail of the animal.
For heavy rabbits, grasp a fold of skin over the shoulder and lift, holding the rabbit against the body with its head under an arm, the forearm being extended along the head under its rump for support. This prevents struggling and the rabbit may be carried comfortably.