For a long time, rabbits were taken to be a boys’ affair. The tide is now changing as commercial rabbit farming is becoming a reliable source of income. In a previous article, I shared tips on how to start and run this business. In this article, I will guide you on how to raise the young from birth to maturity. A couple of days before giving birth the doe with good mothering ability will start to make a nest by collecting hay in her mouth. She then pulls hair from her chest and under her neck to line the nest. She will pull out more hair after giving birth to cover the kits.
To enhance the survival of a large litter of kits, observe the following:
Doe care: Kits are born blind and without hair. They are usually confined to the nest for at least two weeks. They should not be separated from the doe before four weeks of age. When weaned too early, they may be affected by separation shock.
Suckling: The only food for the kits for the first three weeks is the doe’s milk. Because rabbit milk is so calorific, baby buns only need to be fed twice per day. It’s normal for their mother to stay away from the nest most of the time.
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Warmth: Kits should not get cold especially in the first three weeks after birth. The nest should be checked to ensure that the kits are not carried out by the doe after feeding. Check early mornings as feeding normally takes place during the night. Abandoned kits may be found outside the nest and cold, it is crucial to warm the kits up quickly lest they die.
Feeding: The kits start coming out of the nest after two weeks. They will try to chew green matter and/or concentrate while still suckling. By the fourth week, they eat more solid food and suckle less.
Proper feeding entails feeding your weaners with feeds well constituted with carbohydrates, proteins, mineral salts, and vitamins. Small quantities several times a day should be sufficient to accelerate a high growth rate. Clean water should be readily available.
Sexing (sex determination): At one month, the kits should be weaned and the males separated from the females. To determine the sex of the kits, lay the kit on its back in your hand and gently blow on the hair around the genital area. With two fingers, gently separate the genitalia towards the tail. The males show a small upwards protrusion while the females show a small opening.
Housing: The kits should then be put in separate weaning houses to control early breeding. A double pen of 90 x 180 cm can comfortably house six young rabbit growers. Good quality mesh wires can be used to help in the collection of droppings.
Coccidiostat administration: The kits’ immunity is not very well developed and is very prone to coccidiosis. Treat the weaners with coccidiostat - (the one used for chicken). Put one ml in a litre of water for three days to protect them from diarrhoea.
Deworming: Deworm the kits with 0.25 ml of Albendazole administered by mouth with a small syringe - without a needle. This is enough for each month-old rabbit. Be gentle when deworming, lest you can choke the kits and kill them.
Handle the babies beginning at eight weeks. Before they’re weaned, the young ones are highly susceptible to illness and bacteria, more so E. coli, which can kill in a few hours. You should thoroughly wash your hands anytime that you need to handle the kits until they’re weaned. After that, try to handle them often because it will lead to tamer adult rabbits in the future.