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Pastured Rabbits: experiences, ideas?

Nicholas Covey


Joined: Oct 09, 2008
Posts: 178
Location: Missouri/Iowa border
Anyone have any really great ideas on how to keep rabbits that doesn't involve the notorious cages. I've read about a few ideas that sound similar to the chicken tractor ideas, but as they tend to dig, you still need a slatted or wire bottom on the cage, which still isn't ideal.

I had thought about trying something drastically unusual when I get my ten acres bought from family. I had thought about using old tires and building retaining walls along the edges of a steep valley that runs through the proper to to create a sort of man made canyon. In the bunnies cant climb the tires, they're stuck on three sides. If i can fence along the downhill side and put poultry netting or something above to keep out raptors, i can just let them roam and set live traps whenever i want to collect a few for dinner or the freezer. Obviously this plan has its downsides.

I despise the idea of having livestock be totally dependent on me 24-7, so that's the only thing about keeping rabbits that i don't care for. It falls under the "work smarter, not harder" principle. Anyone have any other innovative ideas?
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14191
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I think if I were to raise rabbits, it would only be pastured rabbits. 

I researched it a lot about five years ago.  Many people are doing it. 

The thing is that if you give them a warm home and lots of fresh food, they, apparently, don't burrow. 

I think there is another thread or two in this forum about it. 


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Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I think if I were to do pastured rabbits I would use one of the turkey tractors made from pvc pipe and chicken wire. light weight and easy to drag around and conforms slightly to areas that are not perfectly level. i had a bunny in a tractor for a while and it never burrowed. I guess that would be survival of the fittest for me. just like the chickens that wander into the backyard that get eaten, any bunnies that were diggers would be on their own at my place as far as raptors or other predators go.


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"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
Valorie Hatfield


Joined: Mar 23, 2009
Posts: 16
I have to vouch for what Paul said, based on my experience:  my rabbit doesn't burrow, and he is what I call "semi free-range".  He used to be completely free range but was nearly carried off by a hawk, (he saved himself by darting under a hammock), so we cornered him under a large maple tree with about 150 square feet I think, and an underground shelter to hang out in.  He's so happy (or lazy) that he has never burrowed in the 5 years we've had him. 

In contrast, my next-door neighbor's rabbit is totally free range and is burrowing into other yards (we're in suburban LA with suburban sized lots).  Both rabbits are albinos rescued from shelters, living in nearly identical lots.  The one variable is that my rabbit has an underground shelter and hers doesn't.  Maybe that's the key?

This is how we constructed the underground shelter.  We took my old wood hutch (standard issue thing), and we cut off the legs to just a few inches.  We got two curved sections of HVAC ventilation thingies from Home Depot, to be used for entrance and exit tunnels, cut round holes on either side of the cage and attached them.  Then we wrapped it in that porous weed barrier fabric (we had a big roll leftover). Then we dug a bit pit and buried the contraption.  We added river rock around the edges for a more natural look.  It's bunny heaven.

He doesn't poop in his underground burrow at all, so we don't have to open it up to clean it.  Since we're in a dry area, mold is not a problem.  We only have a hard rain about once or twice a year, and then we unbury the top and prop it open to air it out.  It looks and smells clean and healthy.  And our rabbit has never been sick.



 
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Valorie, I was recently informed (here) that only female rabbits burrow, males don't.  Is your neighbor's rabbit female?

Just curious.

Sue
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
hmmmm. I'm pretty sure our little bunny was a girl. no burrowing. but then, rabbit genitalia is rather mysterious to me. it just looks wrinkly and furry.
Valorie Hatfield


Joined: Mar 23, 2009
Posts: 16
Wow, I had no idea that burrowing behavior could be gender-specific.  That would make it easier to keep bunnies outside, we could just select the non-burrowing kind.

However, our burrowing bunny neighbor is a boy by the name of Ted.  My non-burrowing bunny was listed as "U" for "unknown" at the animal shelter.  So my example is not very helpful after all.

Sorry!
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Well, there goes THAT theory! 

I guess it's like dogs -- some are diggers and some aren't.

Sue
Jocelyn Campbell
steward

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 2232
Location: Missoula, MT
    
  38
Welcome Valorie! 

I think the theory (yours and Paul's) that if rabbits have a shelter (preferably a burrow, even if man made) it could prevent digging makes a ton of sense. I can imagine the neighbors closing up the burrows that rabbit dug as an annoyance and to prevent escape, leaving the rabbit with nothing underground to nest in.

Now I'm curious: Leah, did/does your turkey tractor have a house or shelter of some kind?


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Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 943
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
While I think the theory of giving the rabbits an underground shelter to prevent burrowing is interesting and makes a degree of sense, and is worth experimenting with, I'm not sure it would hold true with all rabbits.  I have kept rabbits (in cages) for many years, but only recently had experience with one who wasn't caged.  I'd gotten three new rabbits, and while in my garage waiting to be put in their cages, one doe escaped from the dog crate she'd been transported in (I probably didn't have the door latched all the way).  I decided to leave her alone for a while, just to see what she would do, since she was enclosed inside the garage (and therefore safe from stray dogs).  I store hay in the garage for my goats, and the first thing she did was eat her way into the stack of bales, making several neat tunnels!  So she had shelter, equivalent to being underground.  Then after a few weeks she started trying to burrow into the floor -- the garage has a dirt/rock floor.  I haven't completely exposed her hole in the ground yet (still have some hay on top of part of it), but she didn't get really deep, as the floor is hard-as-a-rock clay (when dry) mixed with packed rock.  There is actually a layer of cement underneath, too (from washing out the cement trucks when the footing for the house was poured); this probably was all that kept my ambitious little rabbit from getting out of the garage by tunneling under the foundation! 

I am dubious about keeping domestic rabbits on the ground.  I realize that cages aren't the most natural environment for them, but everyone I've talked to who has tried pasturing or colony raising has had disease or other problems.  The only way I could see even trying it in our climate would be inside a building to keep the baby dens dry, as people have had dens with kits in them flood, drowning the babies.  At least with the cages, I know that I can keep my rabbits healthy and dry.  There is a technique used in France where wire cages are attached to artificial dens underground, giving the rabbits a more sheltered and natural place to raise their kits, and to keep out of either hot or cold weather.  I'd like to try this, but will have to build an earthen bank first, and there are other projects that are higher priority right now.

Kathleen
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14191
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I have read of folks trying it and everything going to hell.  And I've read of folks trying it and having great success.  I suspect it is one of those things that could use a lot of research in getting started.

Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Yes, this is one of those concepts that seem like there should be a good answer, but no one knows what it is.

The one thing that I thought of was one of those Toad Abodes, a sort of upside-down clay pot with an entrance for toads to hide in during the day.

I visualized a clay or hollow concrete tube with a den at the end  ==O, covered with mulch for extra warmth and/or cooling, in a tractor. 

As Paul mentioned, it needs more work.

Sue
Jody B


Joined: Jul 15, 2007
Posts: 26
I tried the chicken tractor idea and mine were always escaping. Eventually, we added a 50sq ft fenced area outside their hutch. The fence is fully enclosed all around and buried about 6". They have lots of room in there and I  supplement their diet with grass clippings, dandelions, chickweed, raspberry leaves, and apple branches to chew on.

Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Jody, so does that keep them in?

50 sqft is pretty small, about 7'x7'.  Is that what you meant?  Or 50 feet square (50' on each side of a square)?

Was the fencing buried?

I am wondering if the escapee problem is a combination of not enough room and no place to hide (or have a nest)?

If you gave them enough room in an area with shrubbery to hide in, and a secure place to nest, like a concrete tunnel/nest ==O buried underground or set right on the ground and covered with a mound of soil, maybe they would have no reason to try to escape?

Hmmmm.......  Kinda sounds like we need someone with rabbits to do some experimenting.

Sue

Sue
Jody B


Joined: Jul 15, 2007
Posts: 26
Sue,
We buried the fence about 6" down and angled toward the inside of the cage. I forgot to mention that we made them a burrowlike habitation out of a recycled bin with a makeshify lid ontop. This thing has a ramp that we call a "drawbridge" because its his castle. I filled with with arborist chips for him to move around.

Maybe you can see it in the pics. He seems happy and content with 55 sq ft of area, but I must say it was never my intention to have a fixed location for him to run around in.

We are sad to say that there is only one rabbit now because his brother passed away. The living bunny is getting special attention these days. His brother lived to be aroung 8 or 9 years old.


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Valorie Hatfield


Joined: Mar 23, 2009
Posts: 16
Here's a postscript to my bunny behavior notes:

Last week I adopted a second bunny, who also shows no interest in burrowing.  I've determined that both are un-neutered males (they say only un-neutered males spray, and these guys spray like crazy).  The two are getting along famously--always with their bodies pressed together, or chasing each other around.  The bunny websites made it sound like it was so hard to get two males to get along. 

I should note that in addition to an underground burrow, they have a large mound on which to climb and check out the surrounding area.  Plus, they can keep their backs to the fence.  I couldn't really tell you which aspect is more appealing to them.

My only problem is this:  I adopted a second bunny to augment the poo supply, to close the loop on my nitrogen consumption so to speak.  But now I can't find any poo.  Their appetites are huge now, after all that frolicking they're doing, they're going to eat me out of house and home.  But I can't find the poo.  It has to be underground, but it's too dark to see without digging the whole thing out.  Did the new bunny whisper in my old bunny's ear, "let's poo underground now!"?  It can't be!  That should be against their bunny natures, shouldn't it?
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
A friend of mine used to have a house rabbit for many years.  She used a litter box.  Could the new guy have been used to pooping just in one area, and the old guy has picked up the habit?  Maybe they're doing it just in one corner or something?

Unless you have a knowing neighbor who is sneaking into the pen with a bucket, trowel and flashlight...

POOP THIEF! 

Sue
Valorie Hatfield


Joined: Mar 23, 2009
Posts: 16
Poop theif!  Ha!  But I think you're on to something:  the neighbor reports that she can't find her bunny poo, either, and that she's caught the squirrels eating it...


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Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
Jocelyn Campbell wrote:

Now I'm curious: Leah, did/does your turkey tractor have a house or shelter of some kind?


I can't find a pic now I know I have seen one! part of it is tarped for shade and rain protection. I suppose little bunny pvc holes (sections of large pipe) could easily be attached. I have always wanted the one I have seen pictured......somwhere........but I don't have one.
Gwen Lynn


Joined: Sep 04, 2008
Posts: 736
Let this be a warning to all who keep rabbits:

"Look at the bones!"

                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Gotta love monty python..
Jennifer Smith


Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 666
Location: Zone 5
Well,  my new housemate has 2 rabbits.  She keeps them in a cage in a shed but the male is super friendly.  She can let him follow her around the yard, the girl, not so much.

I told her I happen to have chicken wire and posts and we can make a rabbit yard.  Not for all the time but so the girl can learn to play outside too. 

Now I know we can build them a burrow home. 

And that it will be rabbit I use to graze the baby orchard, wrap trees of course.
Chelle Lewis


Joined: Dec 10, 2009
Posts: 417
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
    
    1
Valorie wrote:
I have to vouch for what Paul said, based on my experience:  my rabbit doesn't burrow, and he is what I call "semi free-range".  He used to be completely free range but was nearly carried off by a hawk, (he saved himself by darting under a hammock), so we cornered him under a large maple tree with about 150 square feet I think, and an underground shelter to hang out in.  He's so happy (or lazy) that he has never burrowed in the 5 years we've had him. 


It is usually the female that burrows not the male. In a natural colony he will leave her to do the burrowing... only on rare occassions will he put in a poor effort because no female is around to dig a shelter. She also burrows for nesting... and then after giving birth will cover it up with the kits inside for safe-keeping. She feeds them only once or twice in 24 hours and then leaves them in the nest.

Chelle
Jennifer Smith


Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 666
Location: Zone 5
If I can not share this here I can not share it anywhere...I am looking forward more to the new rabbits than the new house-mate. 

Next week we all start to co-habitate.  I did meet with Heather once before in person.

Wonder if she stays over 30 days, none have so far.  But if we build her a bunny habitat and she goes I will get a bunny or two later.
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1760
    
    3
Pastured rabbits are very different from colony raised rabbits (this is the correct term). Pastured rabbits are in cages on the ground that are moved around on pasture, these cages have bottoms of wire.  While Colony raised rabbits are in an enclosed area of several square feet.  They are allowed to dig their burrows.  When raised this way, with burrow, from birth they don't tend to dig out.  The burrows have several entrances/exits all within the enclosure. 

The planned colonies have several females and limited males (1 or 2 that get along).  A special tunnel/room is made when it's time to give birth.  If you give rabbits a mounded area they will keep the sleeping rooms above the water line.

Creating some housing underground for ones rabbits will go a long way toward stopping the escape digging.

I have kept my rabbits in a colony arrangement for years.  I allow digging, except that which would run under the fence.  Once they have the living arrangements as they want all digging stops.

My colony is against my house, here in Oregon so there is several feet that doesn't get wet.  I also have the ground rising as it comes toward the house.  This helps the water not to overwhelm all the soil in their area.

In the winter, when things are wet and cold they have a place underground designated as the community toilet.  In the summer, when they are out and about they have a place also above ground they use.  Rabbits have set potty areas, this habit makes it easy to train them to use littler boxes.

Given enough of the right conditions rabbits will take very good care of themselves.  But they need dry ground, enough land, protection from predators,  proper food (Not pellets) and the ability to escape their fecal matter.  My friend who has raised and butchered rabbits for 30+ years says she can always tell a rabbit raised in cages, their organs show the prolonged exposure to their own waste left on the wires.  Most cages just don't afford enough room for proper sanitation, unless someone wants to scrub wire with bleach every 3 months.

One day during the end of spring, as I was redesigning my rabbits area and collapsing winter tunnels I found the 'toilet' area and later the 'nursery' with 6 of the cutest all black angora rabbits   It seems the kids were not watching our buck as much as they thought.  The babies had the best room filled with soft angora fur, dry and very warm.  They came through winter just fine.  After this coming-out the babies would sleep in the small basket we used to carry hay into their area.  They still wanted a round shape to curl up in.





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Jennifer Smith


Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 666
Location: Zone 5
my new house-mates are here.  I plan a better habitat for them but it was getting dark as they arrived and they are not even mine after all.


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permie mama


Joined: Mar 11, 2008
Posts: 36
Location: Snohomish, WA
I raise meat rabbits here at SongCroft. We raise enough to feed our family the majority of our meat during the year. It helps that other than my teenager, we are not huge meat eaters.

While working on another farm, some 20 or so years back, I encountered pastured rabbits. It was a good idea but there were constant run-aways. The fact that they chewed through the bottom wire worried me a lot. They had material to build above ground dens but were never truly happy and often ended up in danger from dogs and other predators when they broke free. (They were not wild rabbits so they were not as good at fleeing danger). I am still interested in colonies but have not had the time to del with the exploration yet. I would love to see more colony photos.

My rabbits are cage raised. For me, cage raising makes certain things easier. For one, I have a lot of different projects going on so I need to be able to keep track and have everything in  full view. I prefer to have my does separate so I can keep track of who is "open" and who is bred. I can keep better track of the kits and such too. I also collect all of their manure so having them in one place for part of the time is good. I pasture them in "rabbit tractors" in the dry weather and in the greenhouse when it is wet. Their manure immediately goes to the intended place when they are tractored. They have never tried to break out from the tractors. I think it because they are moved around and are happy eating greens.

When in cages, we give them green chop, herbs and cuttings. I know they are healthy since i am the one who harvests them. We also take them out of their cages every three months and burn off hair and poop with a propane torch.

Colonies and pasture can be good but when there are a lot of rabbits involved, I find cages easier to manage.


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Chelle Lewis


Joined: Dec 10, 2009
Posts: 417
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
    
    1
Jami McBride wrote:
Pastured rabbits are very different from colony raised rabbits (this is the correct term). Pastured rabbits are in cages on the ground that are moved around on pasture, these cages have bottoms of wire.  While Colony raised rabbits are in an enclosed area of several square feet.  They are allowed to dig their burrows.  When raised this way, with burrow, from birth they don't tend to dig out.  The burrows have several entrances/exits all within the enclosure. 
Yes. Pastured rabbits are different to farmed colonies. And in terms of farmed colonies there seem to be many variations. I have been a member of the colony raising rabbits forum on yahoo for some time now and even those who have just an extensive run for their rabbits consider it "colony" because the rabbits run free.

In natural colonies... out in the wild... the females do the burrowing. R M Lockley wrote a very interesting book THE PRIVATE LIFE OF THE RABBIT ....considered by many to be a definitive work… he bought an island and let his rabbits colonise it naturally and went to extraordinary lengths to learn about them. In the book he describes how it is the female who does the burrowing. Watership Down, written by Richard Adams, was based on this scientific work in terms of the working dynamic of natural colony life in a warren. A kids story but I loved it.

I have started laying out for pasture raising of rabbits....... but with lock-up at night. I have leopard, jackal, snakes etc to protect them from. I joined a very interesting e-seminar with Dr Finzi answering questions about colony raising of rabbits. His main concern was the prevention of coccidiosis.... and so advises against true colony raising on a limited piece of land. By the end of the seminar I decided that rotational camps... or mini-meadows as I like to think of them .... will work best for me. I will grow dandelions, kikuyu, mulberry (coppiced), moringa, etc... in these camps. Once the rabiits have been through I will probably let chickens follow for a little while to clean up pests. Not too long so they don't decimate the vegetation. Dung can be swept up and fed to the tilapia if they survive the chickens... Hope they don't. I don't have flat farm land but more like bush with rock bits etc... so a tractor would not sit snug and tight on the ground for me. That would be a super way to go if possible, but I would also be very concerned about watching for predators all the time. Baboon would even take a rabbit easily this way. My mini-meadows will in fact become my "tractors" with me rotating the rabbits rather than the other way around. And lock-up at night in a stone place I am in the process of building fo rthem. More peace of mind. Handling them each day for transfer into the camps will give me the contact I need each day to check on them. I was told to be sure to dig each fence in deep enough to prevent escape. Only females will be in this "colony" set-up. I will keep the males elsewhere and take her to him for servicing. French Angoras.... so breeding for wool and not just meat.

Chelle
JIGGY JIGGY


Joined: Jan 20, 2010
Posts: 25
Location: Sherbrooke, QC
It may have already been said, but a concern on raising rabit colonies is danger of escape and over population... look at New Zealand!

The Rabbit runs could be a reaaly good controlled alternative. I love the ideas of rabbit colonies, where I live, wild rabbit or Hare  are all over the place in our forrests. We dont have the issue that NZ has. So a colony would be ok here.

Else where were they may not be native might be more concerning.
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1760
    
    3
Great info!  Your right about people calling any situation on dirt a colony now days.  I consider a colony when the rabbits are allowed to form colonies and create their own housing.

Your plan to pasture the rabbits for health is a good idea, seems continuous moving of animals, as Joel Salatin does is the best way to prevent many diseases.

Here are some reference links for colonies -
http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/showthread.php?t=93394  You can click on the link in a post for some great pictures if I remember right.

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Raising+rabbits+in+colonies.-a0111897693  "I also add a little apple cider vinegar to their water daily as a coccidiosis prevention".

Good points Permie mama, thanks for adding your insight.

I also want to mention the 'official' warning that rabbits can get diseases when exposed to bird feces's (chicken/duck) and cow feces's.  I allow my rabbits to run free in my backyard during the summer, along with the birds and so far no problems.  I also disperse the feces, blasting with water, on a regular bases so the soil gets the fertilization and the surface is free of poo-piles.  This in effect cleans anything the rabbits might want to munch on, I believe therein is where the contamination of rabbits occurs.

This first picture below is of our winter setup - the rabbits have tunnels into the hay and under into the ground.  We feed and water above.  This pic was taken in early spring before I have recycled the hay and many of the plants have sprouted back.  Most of the rabbits are in the tunnels....  The 'door' in is at the back of the dog kennel which has no bottom as the tray has been removed.  The kennel has a top shelf (turned the kennel wall panel horizontal for a loft affect, which I put a square of carpet on so the rabbits feet don't fall through.  FYI - Dog kennels are/were much much cheaper than rabbit hutches 

You can see a strip of chicken wire running in front of the set up - this keeps the rabbits from digging this area and causing holes for us to maneuver around.


Our theory is a few rabbits offer human-enrichment.....





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Joined: Jan 28, 2010
Posts: 175
several years ago when I first moved to this rural Alabama town I was looking for a source for hay for my rabbits.  I drove out to the country to find the farmer who had the hay.  When I drove up into his driveway I found rabbits grazing all over his yard.  There weren't too many -- but they were free and happy.

Then I saw that they farmer had his dogs in a pen.  He said I just decided to keep the dogs penned up and let the rabbits range.


There is no doubt in my mind that one some occasions those dogs are used to hunt rabbits in the woods.  But he said the one's in his yard always live like that -- free ranging.
                        


Joined: Jan 28, 2010
Posts: 175
http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/poop.html

rabbits eat cecotropes which are expelled from their anus.  They may look like they are eating rabbit poop, but they are really eating these dietary pellets.  The rabbits can get sick if they are kept so clean they are deprived of the cecotropes which are essential to their nutrition.
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1760
    
    3
Wow, Wombat that is sooooo strange.  Thanks for the link.

The more I live the more I find keeping animals caged is counter productive in many ways.

Thanks again
                        


Joined: Jan 28, 2010
Posts: 175
there is a classic book called "Watership Down" which is about rabbits.  In it the old male rabbits gather round eating the cecetropes and discussing politics.

Actually male rabbits do not like to socialize much with each other, but Watership Down captured the spirit of rabbits if the all of the correct facts (!).
clubforgrowth McCoy


Joined: Feb 11, 2010
Posts: 5
these guys raised rabbits in pens that had wire in the corners and slats only on the edges. It worked MOST of the time at keeping the buns from breaking out.
http://www.weathertopfarm.com/id69.html

another option is to put down wire mesh over the entire pasture. Over time, the soil builds up through the mesh, and for a couple years, the rabbits are standing on grass, not chicken wire, but there is chicken wire shallow enough to prevent them from digging. But if you manage your pasture too well the mesh gets buried under growing topsoil. This method was used by polyface farm, but for some reason they switched to the slatted pens.
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1760
    
    3
Chicken wire, or anything of that gauge will break down in soil in just a couple of seasons (depending on moisture).  However, it will not break down completely, it leaves sharp shards of twisted metal.  Also chicken wire not secured to another material to stabilize it like wood or metal posts will bend, buckle and crimp - hardly laying flat or remaining flat, even without traffic of any kind. 

What I saw on the Polyface video was chicken wire attached to their cages, not left on the ground, but maybe what I saw was after they learned this lesson 
clubforgrowth McCoy


Joined: Feb 11, 2010
Posts: 5
this information was from "you can farm" which was published a few years back. According to Joel's reports, their topsoil grew so quickly that it was buried deeply underground before it broke up in the way that you described. (they average 1 inch of new topsoil annually) either way, this is clearly not a desirable method. Thanks for that graphic description to discourage anyone from trying that method!
Chelle Lewis


Joined: Dec 10, 2009
Posts: 417
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
    
    1
Jami McBride wrote:
Great info!  Your right about people calling any situation on dirt a colony now days.  I consider a colony when the rabbits are allowed to form colonies and create their own housing.

Your plan to pasture the rabbits for health is a good idea, seems continuous moving of animals, as Joel Salatin does is the best way to prevent many diseases.

Here are some reference links for colonies -
http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/showthread.php?t=93394  You can click on the link in a post for some great pictures if I remember right.

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Raising+rabbits+in+colonies.-a0111897693  "I also add a little apple cider vinegar to their water daily as a coccidiosis prevention".

Good points Permie mama, thanks for adding your insight.

I also want to mention the 'official' warning that rabbits can get diseases when exposed to bird feces's (chicken/duck) and cow feces's.  I allow my rabbits to run free in my backyard during the summer, along with the birds and so far no problems.  I also disperse the feces, blasting with water, on a regular bases so the soil gets the fertilization and the surface is free of poo-piles.  This in effect cleans anything the rabbits might want to munch on, I believe therein is where the contamination of rabbits occurs.

This first picture below is of our winter setup - the rabbits have tunnels into the hay and under into the ground.  We feed and water above.  This pic was taken in early spring before I have recycled the hay and many of the plants have sprouted back.  Most of the rabbits are in the tunnels....  The 'door' in is at the back of the dog kennel which has no bottom.  The kennel has a top shelf which I put a square of carpet on so the rabbits feet don't fall through.
Dog kennels are/were much much cheaper than rabbit hutches 

Our theory is a few rabbits offer human-enrichment.....
Nice link. Thank you. Interesting too about chicken poop and rabbits. Will watch for that then.

Nice set-up you have there. Definite human enrichment... and rabbit enrichment. 

Chelle
Terry Jenkins


Joined: Feb 11, 2010
Posts: 7
Hello, I am a new member, but have been visiting for awhile.  For some years in the 1980's, I raised meat rabbits in a colony (the "Rabbit Recreation Area" at the small rescue zoo I managed.  It was small, probably only 100 square feet, and on a slope.  We ended up concreting over the soil so we could clean it, but it was nice in that most of the pellets rolled to the bottom.  We had a wooden nest box similar to a hen nest box that could house up to 6 litters at a time, and could be opened up to clean, check bunnies, etc, from outside the pen.  Much nicer than cages, and the rabbits were happy, but sure not ideal.  We used most of the bunnies at a younger age than you would for human consumption, and this system did "produce".  They were fed whole and freshly killed to every carnivore and bird of prey at the zoo at least once per month. We finally stopped because too many volunteers complained of having to care for the cute bunnies only to have to feed them to carnivores the next week... I dreamed of creating a large pasture adjacent to the wolf exhibit where the rabbits might go through a tunnel and self feed the wolves on occasion.  Never did that.  But I love to hear that so many others are pursuing such improved situations for their rabbits, wether "family members" or "meat".

For protection from predators, wouldn't an LGD be a good idea?  I have known many rabbit/dog friendships, so don't know why you couldn't raise a dog to be a rabbit guardian - carefully of course. 

Terry Jenkins
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1760
    
    3
composter wrote:

For protection from predators, wouldn't an LGD be a good idea?  I have known many rabbit/dog friendships, so don't know why you couldn't raise a dog to be a rabbit guardian - carefully of course. 



Yes, but breed selection in this case would be important.  Those smaller Rat Terrier type breeds go crazy at the sight of rodent-type animals.  There are LGD breeds specifically for the task of protection.  There are discussed on another thread, I'll see if I can find the link....
And your dog would need to sleep near or in the same paddock as the rabbits.

Here are the threads -
http://www.permies.com/bb/index.php?topic=928.0 ; Dogs
http://www.permies.com/bb/index.php?topic=928.0 ; Livestock guardian animals


 
 
subject: Pastured Rabbits: experiences, ideas?
 
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