Livestock Research for Rural Development 20 (11) 2008 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD News

Citation of this paper

Bamboo hutches as a replacement for wire mesh cages in rabbit production in Nigeria

O J Owen, E C Chukuigwe*, A O Amakiri and A O Aniebo 

Department of Animal Science

*Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension
Rivers State University of Science and Technology, P.M.B. 5080, Port Harcourt, Nigeria


A study was conducted to determine the potential of using locally made bamboo hutches in rabbit production. Twenty-four, two months-old Chinchilla rabbits were used in a Completely Randomized Design trial (CRD) that lasted for 84 days (12 weeks). The wire mesh cage used consisted of iron frame and wire mesh whilst locally made bamboo hutches (with wooden frame) represented local hutch.


Higher weight gains and better feed efficiency (P<0.05) were observed in rabbits placed in local hutches constructed of wooden and bamboo material. Higher mortalities, totaling 33.33%, were observed in rabbits housed in wire mesh cage. With respect to the cost of procuring the hutches, locally made bamboo hutch was superior over the wire mesh cages.

Key words: Iron frame, local hutch, potential, wooden frame


While human population growth in the developed countries is stabilizing that of developing countries is still increasing rapidly. Economic realities indicate that this population trend will continue, and that the additional mouths are to be fed by increases in agricultural output in the developing nations rather than through food imports into such countries (Allen 1993). Consequently, in order to maximize food production in developing countries, all viable options must be explored and evaluated (Chukuigwe et al 2008; Owen et al 2008). Among such alternatives is the use of livestock species that are yet to play a major role in animal agriculture within these countries especially in Africa. Small but fast-growing livestock such as rabbits possess a number of characteristics that might be of advantage in the small holder subsistence – type integrated farming in developing countries.


Apart from their well reputed prolificacy, rabbits have several other advantages over many farm animals (Ibeawuchi and Fajuyitan 1986; Aduku and Olukosi 1990; Fielding 1991; Berepubo and Baa 1994; Owen et al 2008). Genetic and environmental factors have been identified to contribute to effective performance and survival of livestock species (Preston and Willis 1988; Berepubo et al 1995). This study was therefore conducted to evaluate the potentials of rabbit production using locally made bamboo hutches in Nigeria.


Materials and methods 

Environment of the study


The study was undertaken in Port Harcourt, a port city located in the Southern tip of Nigeria. The location is within the typical tropical rain forest belt with a warm and humid climate. The environmental temperature range during the study was 23-32oC; mean precipitation and relative humidity were 3150mm and 78% respectively. The study was carried out from Feb – May which is midway between the dry and wet seasons.


Animals and treatments


Twenty-four, two month-old weaned rabbits of Chinchilla breed were used in the study. The animals which had an initial weight range of 870 – 880g were randomly assigned to two treatment groups of twelve animals in each group. There were two animals per replicate (and six replicates for each treatment) in a Completely Randomized Design trial (CRD).


The treatments consisted of two types of cages; the wire mesh (conventional hutch) and the locally made bamboo hutches which served as the control (Photos 1 and 2). These hutches were housed in a building with concrete floor designed to allow ventilation (half wall and the rest was covered with wire mesh).

Photo 1. Wire cage for rabbits  


Photo 2. Cage made from bamboo

Experimental procedure


Regular washing and disinfection of feeding/drinking troughs were done to maintain optimal sanitation. The forages used in this study consisted of grass (Panicum maximum) and legumes (Centrosema pubescens) and (Pueraria phaseoloides). Feed and water were provided ad-libitum. The wire mesh cage consisted of iron frame and wire mesh whilst locally made bamboo hutches (with wooden frame) represented local hutch. All housing patterns provided facilities for voiding faeces and urine.


Statistical / financial analysis


Data obtained on individual and group treatment means were compared based on the standard least significance difference (LSD) method of pair wise comparison (5% level of significance) (Steel and Torrie 1981). This was preceded by Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). Cost benefit analysis was also made strictly on the basis of money expended resulting from procuring the conventional and trial hutches.


Results and discussion 

The chemical composition of the forages used is presented in Table 1.

Table 1.  The Chemical composition of forages administered to the experimental rabbits (on percentage basis)

Nutrients, %




Dry Matter (as fed)








Crude protein (CP)








Crude fibre (CF)




Panicum maximum (grass) showed higher crude fibre (CF) content than the legumes. Variations existed in the dry matter (DM) contents between the forages.  Panicum maximum contained lower crude protein (CP) than the legumes.


Results obtained (Table 2) showed that significant differences in body weight (P<0.05) existed among the different groups of rabbits under different housing regimen.

Table 2.  The effect of different housing systems on the performance of weaner rabbits


Wire mesh hutch

Bamboo hutch

Initial weight, g



Average age of rabbit, months)



Final weight, kg



Total weight gain, kg

1.04 0.15b

1.22 0.19a

Daily weight gain, g



Total feed intake, kg



Daily feed intake, g

133 + 0.07

134 0.7

Feed conversion, kg total feed intake/kg total weight gain






Cost per hutch

*N5,600 ($46.7)b

*N1,800 ($15.0)a

ab means in the same row for each parameter with different superscripts are significantly different (P<0.05)

*Conversion rate: $1 = N120

Average daily weight gain was higher (14.5g/day) among the group housed in locally made bamboo hutches and (12.4/day) in the rabbits placed on wire mesh cages. The mean daily feed consumption ranged from 133 – 134g/day for those housed in wire mesh and bamboo hutches respectively. With respect to the relationship between mortality rate and the different housing systems adopted, mortality seemed to have been directly related to the type of housing system. For instance, whilst no mortality was observed in rabbits housed in locally made bamboo hutches, an incidence of 33.3% mortality was recorded in the rabbits placed in wire mesh cages.


The cost analysis in this study showed that the total cost of procuring one wire mesh cage is N5, 600 ($46.7). However, N1800 ($15.0) was invested on one locally made bamboo hutch. The analysis implies a difference of N3, 800 ($31.7) implying that the bamboo hutch has comparative advantage over the wire mesh cage.


Growth rate was higher in rabbits housed in locally made bamboo hutches compared to those placed in wire mesh cage. This was reflected in the values on weight gain and feed efficiency probably suggesting the superiority of bamboo hutch over wire mesh cage. A higher mean daily weight gain was also recorded in rabbits housed in local hutches. Considering the climate situation of the study location, this result is not surprising since local hutches made of local materials would reduce environmental stress (Rastimeshin 1980; Berepubo and Baa 1994; Berepubo et al 1995). This may further support the mortality rate (33.3%) observed in wire mesh hutches. Similarly Cheeke (1986) argued that local hutches in some cases were superior to cages with iron frame and wire mesh as they give support and comfort to the feet and legs thus minimizing pododermatitis (Sore hocks).


The value of financial difference in procuring one bamboo hutch was N3, 800 ($31.70) when compared to that of wire mesh hutches. From this observation, the expenditure on locally made bamboo hutches appear justifiable. This is without prejudice to the logistic problems suffered by farmers in the rural areas to procure wire mesh hutches.





The authors are grateful to the staff of Rabbitry Department of Rivers State Agricultural Development Project, Rumuodomanya.



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Received 11 June 2008; Accepted 19 September 2008; Published 6 November 2008

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