Senior Information Officer, Cathy Lashley interviews Veterinarian and Agricultural Officer I, Dr Ronnette Bowen of the Animal Nutrition Unit on how to start rabbit farming. (BGIS)

Without a doubt, we are living in straitened times and the prevalence of COVID-19 has meant coming up with viable solutions to jump start the economy and promote development. Chief amongst these initiatives is a call to reboot farming, with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security at the forefront of championing this initiative.

One such enterprise that is suitable for persons of all ages is rabbit rearing. During a recent interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, Veterinarian and Agricultural Officer at the Animal Nutrition Unit, Dr. Ronnette Bowen, stressed that this was a worthwhile and financially lucrative venture.

She explained: “Rabbits have been in Barbados for quite a long time. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security first got involved in rabbit rearing around the 70s at the Central Agronomic Research Station…in the Pine, and what happened is that they tried to introduce it to farmers that were interested in a cheap alternative source of white meat, and we found that the farming community really took to it.

“So, we had gained and waned over the years, but essentially, we still have a good corps of rabbit farmers here on the island, and we find people are very, very interested.”

Rearing rabbits for commercial and domestic purposes has become increasingly popular, as rising feed prices have forced some persons to choose rabbits as a better alternative to the more expensive cuts of chicken and lamb.

According to research, rabbits or bunnies are small mammals in the family Leporidae. There are said to be up to 305 breeds of domestic rabbits worldwide. 

Rabbits or bunnies are small mammals in the family Leporidae. There are said to be up to 305 breeds of domestic rabbits worldwide. (Stock Photo)

In Barbados, there are a number of varieties such as the New Zealand White, the New Zealand Red, the California, the English, the Flemish Giant and the Chinchilla.

Varieties that are more suitable for meat production include the Flemish Giant and the New Zealand Red.  Both of them, according to Dr. Bowen, are “quite large, with a hefty weight”.

In fact, Dr. Bowen noted that rabbits need very little space and care and she said this made them ideal for persons who may have small backyards. “Even the smallest space, as long as it’s a square foot, will be ideal for rearing rabbits,” she explained.

Regarding providing the right housing for rabbits, the Agricultural Officer advised that constructing a cage was quite simple for the average person, with wire, some clips, metallic feeders and a water system being required.  She stressed that a cage was easy to construct.

In terms of food and nutritional concerns, the costs were not seen as prohibitive. “Well, most persons just feed their rabbits, rabbit rations.  It is what you can get from the feed store, but rabbits can also eat forage. They like Mulberry. They like any food that you give them from the garden. You know how they say you shouldn’t let rabbits loose in your garden, they’ll eat everything!  They will!” she quipped.

Rabbits may be purchased from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, at $50 per buck and doe. Officials will also be on hand to offer advice about rabbit care and maintenance.

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