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Pauline Nyakio: how I earn a living from keeping rabbits

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I like rabbits. I like seeing them dart in their cages and nibble on fresh green matter with such ease and peace, not minding where the next meal will come from.

I keep 70 rabbits in our family’s quarter-acre farm in Mukuuri village, Embu County. These are mainly the New Zealand and California White breeds.

I have been keeping the animals for the past one-and-a-half-years.

I decided to rear them one day after visiting a farmer in our location. Then, I had unsuccessfully grown cabbages and I thus wanted something to engage in so that I can make some money.

At 24, I did not want to depend entirely on my husband and mother-in-law for all my needs, which is why I was growing cabbages.

I went to the farmer with a friend. My encounter with the animals made me love them. I knew that I wanted to keep them as soon as I saw them.

I looked at their pink eyes, their clean fur and how they fed and liked everything about them.

But I did not start immediately. I gave myself two months, which I used to pick lessons on rabbit rearing, including feeds and diseases from the farmer.

FEEDING

I, thereafter, engaged a carpenter to construct two cages for me, ensuring that they are a metre high from the ground as I had learned.

I then bought five-month old two California White and two New-Zealand rabbit breeds from the farmer at Sh1,000 each. Three were female and one a male.

I had saved Sh10,000 that I used to construct the cages, buy the animals and feeds.

It is from the four rabbits that the number increased to more than 70. They multiplied fast as the three rabbits were each calving at least 10 kits.

I had to increase the number of cages to 12 from two, each measuring four by three feet. Each cage holds between five and 10 rabbits depending on their age and size. I use three cages for mating, each having a doe and a buck.

I feed the rabbits pellets every morning and alternate with green matter and hay in the evening to help in digestion. I buy 20kg sack of pellets at Sh950 and they consume it for three weeks. The hay goes for Sh320 a bale.

I get a lot of assistance from my mother-in-law Eusephia Muthanje, who helps me take care of the animals.

I had over 90 rabbits before I sold 22 last month, my biggest sale, to two farmers at Sh1,500 each ending up with Sh33,000.

I find rabbit rearing a good agribusiness because it is not labour-intensive since you only feed them in the morning and evening. Besides, rabbits are prolific breeders, thus one increases their brood faster.

GESTATION

Their gestation period is 30 days and they give birth to as many as 12 kits.

Another good thing about rabbits is that they offer various products. I have built the cages in such a way that I harvest droppings and urine, which I use as manure and foliar in the family farm.

My mother-in-law normally mixes two litres of water with a litre of rabbit urine and sprays it on her tea bushes and vegetables to keep off pests. My aim is to increase the animals to over 400. So far, the rabbits have helped me to be financially independent and take care of my family.

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