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Rabbit keeper makes fast cash from her dream job by Larry9ja(: 10:14 pm On Aug 20, 2016

IN SUMMARY
What started out as a strange dream has now grown into a passion that provides her with a strong revenue stream in Kenya.
Keziah Wambui Gitau, a mother of three says her husband bought her the first stock , a buck and a doe, and by the end of the year they had multiplied to 30. Today she has more than 60 rabbits from seven breeds.

Ms Wambui sells a mature buck for about Sh2,000 and a doe for Sh3,000. She at times sells pregnant does for up to Sh35,000 depending on their breed and the number of times it can give birth in a year.
For Keziah Wambui Gitau, a resident of Kiambu town, rabbit keeping is close to the heart.

What started out as a strange dream has now grown into a passion that provides her with a strong revenue stream in Kenya.

“In May 2011, I dreamt that I had so many rabbits that I did not know what to do with them. I asked my husband what to do and he told me to sell them. When I woke up and narrated my dream to him, he encouraged me to go into rabbit farming,” she says.

The mother of three says her husband bought her the first stock , a buck and a doe, and by the end of the year they had multiplied to 30.

Today she has more than 60 rabbits from seven breeds — the New Zealand White, Californian White, Chinchilla, Ear Lop, Flemish Giant, Angora and the Palomino. She is now seeking to acquire the Dutch dwarf breed.

“I have grown fond of the rabbits and I prefer to take care of them on my own so that I ensure they are all fed well,” she says.

A doe can give birth an average of three to four times a year with an average of nine young ones in each litter. Depending on the breed, farmers can have more litters as some does give birth up to six times a year. The young ones are normally weaned at between eight to 10 weeks, soon after which the doe can be mated again.

At six months, a young doe is ready for breeding and can be artificially inseminated when a suitable buck is not available, enabling farmers to benefit from their prolific nature to maximise profits.

Ms Wambui, however, prefers to give her “mothers” time to recover from nurturing their young, having them give birth thrice a year.

“I have just weaned 20 young ones from their mothers last week at the age of two and a half months. I will start looking for bucks for the three mothers to mate in a week’s time,” she explained.

At the time they are weaned, Ms Wambui separates the young bucks from the does to avoid inbreeding, which she says from experience results in “weak and disabled” offspring that barely survive to four months.

She also ensures that no young rabbits are born during the cold season as the chance of survival is greatly reduced since baby rabbits are born without fur.

Over the last three years, rabbit farming has increased in central and western Kenya because it requires little capital to start and farmers incur few operational costs.
The current rabbit population in the country is estimated at 600,000 by the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries.

This has led to the emergence of butcheries where rabbit meat is sold, in addition to five-star hotels where it is served.

Yet for farmers new to the trade, the challenge remains marketing the meat.

The Internet has gone abuzz with information on rabbit rearing ranging from websites to pages on social media. The information is on appropriate housing for rabbits, the breeds, feeds and where to find the right market.

Pages like Mkulima Young, Rabbit Republic and Rabbit Breeders Association of Kenya exist on Facebook.

Ms Wambui has sold her rabbits to starting farmers in Kiambu, Ndumberi, Thindigwa and Kayole in Nairobi.

A kilo of rabbit meat goes for between Sh300 and Sh450. Ms Wambui sells a mature buck for about Sh2,000 and a doe for Sh3,000. She at times sells pregnant does for up to Sh35,000 depending on their breed and the number of times it can give birth in a year.

In July, the government through the Department of Livestock Production, set out a 19.2 million project to intensify rabbit farming in 16 sub-counties across the country.

Each sub-county would get Sh1.2 million to build hutches, buy hybrid breeds and grinding machines that small-scale farmers can use to manufacture their own feed.
Under the project, farmers would create a common pool in which the rabbit meat can be exported.

This is expected to boost the already existing rabbit farms and create employment opportunities, especially among the youth.

But the rabbits are not just good for their meat; Ms Wambui uses the droppings to produce biogas for cooking in her home.

“After every two days, I clean the hutches and store the droppings in sacks,” she says.

The droppings and waste are put in a fermenting tank and a little water added before the mixture is fed into the biogas digester after a minimum of twelve hours.

“I acquired the digester for only Sh55,000 when I attended the agricultural show in Ndumberi in April and since then I have never bought coooking gas,” she says pointing to a gas pipe that connects to the table top twin burners in her kitchen.

Every two kilogramme container of the fermented mass produces gas that she can use for three hours of continuous cooking.

“Waste that the digester emits has no smell at all and I use it as fertiliser for the bananas in my backyard. These little animals change your whole lifestyle,” she quips.

Courtesy: BusinessDaily

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