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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Peter Kinyanjui: How poor housing killed my rabbits

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The stone-walled premises with a green gate along the Sironik earth Road, Rongai, hosts a refrigerator, weighing scale and packaging items.

The other partition, which is used as a slaughter room, is equipped with sharpened knives and water sinks.

Welcome to Rabbit Universe, a rabbit entity owned by Peter Kinyanjui and his wife, Anne.

Our arrival at this farm interrupts Kinyanjui who is in a white overcoat and a jungle-green cap. He steps out of one of the rooms to receive us. “I was slaughtering rabbits which should be supplied to our clients before midday,” he says.

Though the farm can now boast of more than 2,000 pedigree rabbits, the owner admits to having undergone a heart-breaking false start.

Four years ago, he lost over 57 kits (young rabbits) to what he would later link to poor housing.

“We built rabbit cages of polythene bags and grass thatches,” he explains. Before identifying the killer of their stock, the couple visited vet officers in vain.

It was only after fervent internet research and training from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock that they found out the truth.

They then constructed a house of corrugated iron sheet and then bought rabbit cages at more than Sh70,000. It is also then that the Kinyanjuis learned the appropriate feeding regime.

“We were advised to feed our rabbits on hay or dry grass and supplement them with 50 grams to 100 grams of commercial pellets,” says Kinyanjui.

SUCCESS STORY

Four years down the line, Rabbit Universe is more than a success story. Rabbit buyers and sellers, as well as rabbit meat enthusiasts jam this farm constructed on a quarter of an acre. Kinyanjui says he slaughters 10 rabbits daily from his stock of different rabbit breeds which include the Flemish giant, Californian white and Angora.

The couple has also moved into value addition. “I prepare rabbit meat which I serve with rice or mokimo. Most of the customers work here in Rongai,” says Anne.

The farm owner who also supply some two leading chain supermarket with rabbit meat, also sell tanned rabbit hide to a firm in Hurligham, Nairobi, which exports them to England.

A piece of hide fetches at least Sh600. The couple also uses two litres of rabbit urine mixed to 20 litres of water as pesticides on some vegetables they have grown in small sacks within the premises.

“We started rearing rabbits as pets four years ago with three rabbits. We bought them at Sh500 each,” explains Anne.

The idea of commercial rabbit farming only occurred to the Kinyanjuis a few months after their bunnies had given birth.

“Relatives and friends who came visiting would insist on buying the young rabbits. We sold them three-month-old kits at Sh700,”

After realising the enormous income opportunity the nibble-looking creatures presented, the couple sold off the local breeds and bought other three hybrid breed rabbits from a farmer in Ngon’g at Sh2, 500 each.

John Machiri, chairperson Rabbit Breeders Association of Kenya, Mombasa chapter, says a farmer needs to find out what the market wants and in what quantities before venturing into rabbit business.

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