Enterprising farmer makes a fortune by rearing rabbits and
capturing a market for them
By Brenda Wambui
For rabbit farmers and breeders, versatility presents an immediate decision. Should you raise rabbits for meat, or should you focus on selling them to pet stores and rabbit lovers? As part of your due diligence on farming rabbits as a business, it’s a wise move to learn as much as you can from somebody who is already experienced in that field. If you think your local competitors will give you advice, you’re being overoptimistic. Why would they want to educate a future competitor?
However, an entrepreneur who runs the business in another town can be an invaluable source of information for you, as long as he does not view you as a competitor. If you are persistent, you can find a business mentor who is willing and able to give you the necessary guidance and insights.
George Kanyingi is a telecommunications engineer by profession. He started farming rabbits as a business in November 2014. Rabbit farming has become a major enterprise in Kenya because of the minimal amount of investment that is required when starting out. The ability of rabbits to breed fast is one of the advantages. “Rabbits start breeding at an early age of three to four months. They have an average life span of around five to eight years,” Mr. Kanyingi explains.
Many people may not be aware that rabbit meat contains a very high amount of digestible proteins as well as low fat and cholesterol.
Rabbit farming is considered a trendy business idea from which entrepreneurs can earn a huge amount of money. It is fast becoming popular in the country as people embrace healthy eating habits in order to keep lifestyle diseases at bay. It is estimated that annually, over one million tons of rabbit meat is consumed worldwide.
George Kanyingi, the proprietor of Navina Farm started his thriving business by buying two rabbits for his daughters to play with. But with time, the number increased. He sold some and made a few coins. “I realized that the demand for rabbits was very high in the market because of the nutritional value of their meat and I therefore decided to venture into the business,” he recalls.
That decision led to the birth of Navina Farm which specializes in rearing rabbits. It is located at Joska, along Kangundo road and it has a wide variety of exotic rabbit breeds including: New Zealand White, California White, Chinchilla, Angora, Flemish giant and Dutch among others. “In 2016, the business got a major breakthrough when I won a tender to supply rabbit meat to one of the leading supermarkets in the country which remains my biggest customer to date,” says Mr. Kanyingi. He buys rabbits from small scale farmers in order to meet the ever raising demand from his customers. “I have a network of farmers whom I encourage to rear as many rabbits as possible with an assurance that I will purchase them,” he notes.
Businesses undergo a lot of challenges especially at their initial stages and farming rabbits is not an exception. In order to overcome such hurdles, Mr. Kanyingi advises farmers to start by establishing small ventures as hobbies and gradually grow them as they establish relationships with customers.
Secondly, it is advisable to run the business personally. Rabbits reproduce at an extraordinarily fast rate. With a gestation period of approximately thirty days, a single female can be the genesis of as many as eight hundred offspring during a given breeding season, providing the entrepreneur’s business with an ample supply of live inventory.
Thirdly, it is important to be mindful of the rabbits’ health and sanitation. Unfortunately, rabbits are susceptible to several diseases including tularemia (rabbit fever) and rabbit starvation. If left unchecked, these diseases can jeopardize the food supply and decimate your startup.
In the same breath, it is important for the farmers to hone their skills. According to Mr. Kanyingi, successful rabbit farmers have strong networks in the business and they are attuned to the trends in the market.
Equally important, before you decide which breed of rabbit you will keep, you should find out its maturing period. For example, if you want to earn a lot of profit, then choose the breed that will mature early. Indeed, some rabbits can weigh as much as five kilogrammes within three months.
In addition, it is important to house rabbits properly. Generally, rabbits have a very short gestation time and they give birth to numerous off spring at a go. So from the very beginning, you should make a holding house separately for the offspring. It is not advisable to keep them with the mature ones.
Moreover, it is advisable to keep an accurate record of the number of rabbits. By counting them on a regular basis, you are able to find out if they have developed any abnormalities (like dwarfism) which should be eliminated immediately.
Another critical step is that rabbits should be given a variety of food so that they can mature fast and be healthy. “Rabbits can consume a variety of food like green vegetables, dry grain and grass,” says Mr. Kanyingi adding that they are also very careful about what they eat.
Thus, it is necessary to observe which food items your rabbit loves to eat and consequently, provide the same to them. He adds that rabbits should be fed on dry foods like pellets, hay and water. “Avoid feeding them with fresh vegetables since they might be infested with worms forcing you to seek for the necessary medication,” the entrepreneur advises. Giving water to the rabbits on the other hand helps them in digestion.
Navina Farm rabbits are slaughtered at its business premises before being transported to the market. To ensure that the meat is safe for human consumption, a veterinary doctor is invited to check on the health of the mature rabbits and after they pass the test, they are slaughtered.
The road ahead
Navina Farm is planning to expand by utilizing more land to build hatches so as to increase the number of rabbits that it can produce. In addition, it is exploring new markets for various byproducts of rabbits. “For instance, rabbits’ droppings are widely used for manure while urine is used as foliar feeding – a technique of feeding plants by applying liquid fertilizer directly to their leaves,” says Mr. Kanyingi adding that the urine can also be used to manufacture pesticides.
Did you know?
- A female rabbit is called a doe while a male is called a buck.
- Rabbits are very clean animals and they are easy to house and train.
- Rabbits are natural runners and can reach speeds of up to thirty to forty miles per hour.
- Rabbits have 28 strong teeth.
- Domesticated rabbits do not open their eyes until they reach about two weeks of age.
- Rabbits are very social creatures.
- The busiest time of day for rabbits is at dusk or dawn.