Adults snatch rabbit keeping ‘hobby’ away from their children, making easy and fast returns

Farmers in Kenya are quickly embracing rabbit rearing owing to its , affordable starting capital low operational costs and quick returns on investment.
Farmbiz Africa spoke to Henry Kimani, a renowned rabbit keeper and supplier in Thika and sampled out some of the benefits that are enticing more farmers to this trade that was formally a preserve for school boys. Kimani, who started his business with just KSh5,000,  supplies at least 300 kilos of rabbit meat to two Nakumatt branches in Nairobi weekly.
Affordable capital
Rabbit keeping is cheaper, easier to manage, and more productive than other agricultural ventures, according to Kimani. He attributes the low cost of starting and production to the readily available construction materials and feeds.
"Constructing a rabbit hutch requires less skills and resources-all one needs are a few pieces wood and wire mesh," he says.
Kimani says he spent KSh3000 in constructing a simple well ventilated rabbit hutch to accommodate his initial breeding stock.
His first stock comprised three does and a buck, which he bought localy at a cost of between KSh350-KSh400.
Quick and high yields
Unlike dairy farming that can take almost two years before one starts getting returns, rabbits start to breed after six to seven months, with a 30-days gestation period.
Does can yield more than 50 rabbits per year as they have the potential to produce an average of nine kits per birth. Kimani explained that apart from their meat, which is in high demand in local and external markets, a rabbit farmer can generate more income by selling wool and urine.
Ripe Market
From his farm, which currently boasts of 500 rabbits, Kimani collects at least 20 litres per day of urine, which retails at Sh100 per litre. Rabbit manure is packed with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lots of other micro-nutrients making it one of the best organic fertiliser.
Rabbit is also valued for its wool and fur, which is for making us expensive coats especially in European nations like Scotland where fox hunting was banned in 2002. Just like guinea pigs, rabbits are also used as specimens in laboratories by scientists.
Mostly the meat is sold to restaurants and hotels that serve it as an exotic dish and charge up to KSh1000 per plate. This is due to nutritional benefits that come with the meat. For instance, 100g of rabbit meat contains 33g of protein, more than beef or chicken of equivalent weight.
Besides, it has highly concentration of iron, a mineral most needed for blood formation. The meat also contains less cholesterol compared to other white meat options like chicken. Local butcheries sell rabbit meat at KSh250 per kilogram while supermarkets can sell it for up to KSh500 per kilo. Kimani retails a kilogram of rabbit meat at KSh450 and sells at KSh300 per kilo to the supermarket chain.
Caution
Kimani, however, warns those interested in commercial rabbit farming to do more research on the best variety to keep for high yields.
"It is catastrophic to rear Angora rabbit for meat as it is known more for wool than meat," he says.
He also asked farmers to brace themselves for seasonal rabbit diseases in Kenya such as Coccidiosis, Pneumonia and Ear Canker, all of which can up wipe out the