This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
Rabbits are easy to raise. The long-eared animals are clean and quiet. They do not need a lot of room. And you do not have to spend a lot of money to feed them. With rabbits, you get a big return from a small investment.
One male and two females will produce in a year as many as fifty more rabbits. That is enough to provide a good supply of meat for a family. Rabbit meat is high in protein and low in fat.
You do not have to be a farmer to raise rabbits. You can raise them in the city.
There are about sixty different kinds of rabbits. The ones that produce the most meat from the least amount of feed weigh four and one-half kilograms.
Rabbit houses are easy to make with wood and wire fencing material. They do not have to be very big. But each rabbit must have its own little room in the house. This is very important. Each room should be about seventy-five centimeters wide, sixty centimeters high and one meter deep.
Fencing is used for the sides and floor of the rabbit house. The holes in the wire fencing should be about one centimeter square. Wastes from the animals will drop through the holes. This keeps the rabbit house clean and dry.
Rabbits need a lot of fresh air and sunlight. Cover the sides of the rabbit house only to protect it from rain.
Rabbits eat mostly grass and leaves. Feeding containers hung on the outside of the house let the rabbits eat whenever they want. They simply pull the grass and leaves through the holes in the wire.
Each room should have fresh water. The water containers should be heavy so the rabbits cannot turn them over. Or you can tie the containers to the wire.
One month after mating, female rabbits give birth to about eight babies. In two months, a baby rabbit should weigh about two kilograms. This is big enough to make a meal for a small family.
Rabbits are also valuable for their fur. It takes time, skill and money to prepare the fur and skin for use. If you have only a few rabbits, it probably would be best to let a professional tanner prepare the fur for you. Skill is also needed to remove the fur from the rabbit.
But rabbits do not have to be dead to be valuable. Many people enjoy keeping rabbits as friendly pets. And rabbit manure makes an excellent fertilizer. It can be mixed directly into the soil to improve the growth of vegetables, trees and flowering plants.
And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
Editor's Note: Although our programs are intended for foreign audiences, we received the following comments from the United States.
From Pamela Alley, director, Rabbit Industry Council:
I am sorry to see that the comments you received in regard to the article "Raising Rabbits Offers a Big Return From a Small Investment" are so negative and, in fact, incorrect in their information.
As a long time professional rabbit breeder in the US, I can assure your readers that rabbit is indeed a good and healthy source of food which is easy to raise on limited resources.
The flavor and texture is excellent, although getting used to it after store-bought chicken can be difficult for some. Care in preparation is key.
Fed on a commercially prepared pellet, it takes just about two to three dollars at most per kilogram to raise a young rabbit to 2 kg for slaughter. Fed a mixed diet of available roughage, it will be substantially less expensive, but the growth rates will also be less, with 8 week old fryers weighing in at only 1.5 kg or so.
Rabbits are extremely adaptable in their dietary needs and when proper information is given the owners, they can thrive in almost any circumstances. Ghana, for instance, has been very successful in promoting rabbit as a vital source of food.
Rabbits penned singly in appropriate cages do very well and do not "eat little or nothing," as my own herd and thousands of others can show. They are healthy and do not have the problems shown by many pet rabbits such as gut stasis and tooth spurs.
From Jason Laube, CEO, Lagomorph Inc. and raised by a Northern Iowa corn farmer:
Rabbits are a very poor food source for several reasons. Their taste is considered bland to awful for most who choose to eat it. Plus the very muscular structure of a rabbit most who choose to eat it cannot stand the meat's texture.
The article states feed costs are low, while in fact feed volume is extremely high for their size and expensive, quality feed is required due to the complex nature of a rabbits digestive system. Rabbits who are not fed properly die very easily and are not resilient without extensive medical attention. Also, although a very unhealthy diet for rabbits, most farmers use corn feed because it 'fattens them up' but with the price of corn skyrocketing due to the ethanol boom, corn is no longer a viable option for a cost effective food source.
Possibly most important of all of these factors is that rabbits are the 3rd most popular companion animal. Eating rabbit is tantamount to eating dog or cat meat ... and in most parts of the country it is considered a taboo not just frowned upon but viewed in utter disgust.
Finally, rabbits, since they groom each other, share food, water, and go to the bathroom together disease spreads rapidly and can easily wipe out an entire farm in a matter of days. Rabbits who are penned up alone to prevent disease end up eating less or nothing which further reduces profit on top of the added costs of building and maintaining separate pens.
From Olga Mill, Spokane, Washington: Your article about raising rabbits is outrageous. you are asking people to rase rabbits for fur, and it is not acceptable. I am disgusted.