This afternoon I visited the home of a prominent rabbit farmer in the town of Dingziqiao 丁字桥, whose successful operation has made him a leader in the community and a major participant in some of the community empowerment initiatives which ARDY runs in the area. His son, Qiu Yukun 秋玉坤, showed me around their rabbit farm, which in seven years of growth has grown into a large operation encompassing several hundred rabbits.
Yukun led me into one of the two large brick sheds on his family’s property, each of which contain two long rows of concrete cages. A small food bowl is wedged into the bars of each cage such that it can be easily removed and refilled, while an ingenious water pump system reaches all of the cages through a series of plastic tubes. The floors of each cage are comprised by evenly spaced bamboo slats, such that rabbit droppings fall through to another level for easy cleaning.
All of the rabbits that Yukun and his father sell for profit come from a select few breeder rabbits which have been selected as yielding particularly good offspring. Used to the rabbits which maraud gardens in suburban America, I was surprised to see that these creatures were several times larger, bigger than the average housecat. Yukun pointed out a couple of their best breeders to me, including one which, because it had been caught in the wild, produced particularly hardy offspring. These prize rabbits, if sold, are worth at least 170 RMB a piece, though a male and female pair can fetch several hundred RMB.
While the breeder rabbits are generally kept in individual cages, male and female rabbits are periodically placed together, “to see if they are a match,” as he explained to me. I watched as he removed several females and placed them in cages with males, but after preliminary expressions of interest none of the rabbits took to one another. Judging when a rabbit is ready to reproduce, and who it wants to reproduce with, is apparently a delicate art which, Yukun explained to me, he had not yet fully learned from his father.
Once one of their breeder rabbits gives birth to a new litter, the offspring are raised to a size of about 4 jin 斤 before being sold to a local slaughterhouse. Yukun explained to me that their farm raises two different varieties of rabbit. One variety, raised for its meat, takes about 2 months to reach the prerequisite size and is usually sold for around 40-50 RMB apiece. A variety with softer, sleeker fur which is used to make clothing takes longer to raise, at least four months, and thus is sold at a higher price.