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Paddock shift idea for rabbit, pigeon, quail

Brad Davies

Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 213
Location: Clarkston, MI
Hi all!

I have been working and reworking an idea for a paddock shift system to raise rabbits, pigeons, and quail in. I am currently raising rabbits in wire cages in the garage, and will be adding quail in about a month or so. Eventually I would like to create a setup that would let me raise them outside during the warmer months. Basically I'm looking for some outside input as to what could go wrong, or right. Good idea, bad idea, crazy idea whatever, all comments are welcome.

The jist of it:
I have a 50'x300' suburban lot. Older sub no HOA, thank god, dead end road.
Neighbor is awesome, old retired southerner who loves eating rabbit and quail.
The back 50'x150' will be a food forest once complete.
The food forest will consist of ~30 100sq ft paddocks surrounded by hugelkulture beds planted with all kinds of stuff.
The paddocks will be planted with forage for the animals, the hugelbeds will be planted with forage for me.
The paddocks will be arranged like a honey comb with the gate from one, leading to the next.
Each paddock will have a wire fence around it, either chain link or welded wire, about 4' high.
Each paddock will have a water line ran to it so I can automate the water supply.
An underground rabbit den will be located in each paddock, they will be blocked off when rabbits arn't in there.
Each paddock will have a pipe set underground in the center so that a pigeon cote on an pole can be placed in it, or just a pole.
When housing pigeons or quail, maybe rabbits also, I will throw a large net over top and clip it to the top of the fence with something.
I am hoping the center pole will act like a tent pole and hold the netting up, if needed I can use multiple poles to hold the net up.[/li]

Why an overhead net?
A couple of reasons really:
1) I don't want pigeon shit all over everything.
2) I want to keep my neighbors in the happy zone, and don't know how happy he would be with pigeons landing and pooping on his stuff.
3) I can throw a football from my backyard and hit a restraunts dumpster, I'd really rather my pigeons weren't "free ranging" in garbage.
4) Help deter predators*

* As far as predators go I am pretty lucky here. In 3 years I have not seen any except a neighbors cat, my dog almost caught it and it hasn't been back since. I have never seen a raccoon here or an opossum, not saying there not here but I set my trash out on the back porch routinely when I don't want to walk to the trash can and I have never had anything get in it. There are occasional hawks that fly overhead.

As far as managment of this system goes... well that's a whole 'nother post. Here are some quick pics to help give an idea of what I am describing. The sketchup one I drew, the guy in the pic is 5'8" for scale. The other is from a PDF on underground rabbit housing, basically taking this idea but instead of a pipe leading to a cage, it leads to the paddock.

[Thumbnail for Underground rabbit den.JPG]

[Thumbnail for Rabbit pigeon paddock idea.jpg]

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Shawn Harper

Joined: Mar 01, 2012
Posts: 234
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
Interesting. I see a few problems though. Pregnant rabbits are loners, they would need a different paddock. And how do you plan on moving the birds without losing them. I do like your ideas.

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Brad Davies

Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 213
Location: Clarkston, MI
Thanks for the reply.

I was thinking one rabbit per paddock, maybe moving the babies to their own after they are weened. For moving the pigeons I was thinking I could get out there before they woke up and slide a cover or board over their enter / exit hole then pick up and move the whole unit. The pigeon house is 2'x2'x3' in the picture, so managable with one person. As far as moving the quail, I have no idea. I am planning on getting them mostly as egg layers in the garage then had the after thought of maybe doing a couple meat bird runs a year with them. I could maybe setup the paddock next to them, open the gate and chase them into the new one. I figured I'd burn that bridge when I came to it.
Brad Davies

Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 213
Location: Clarkston, MI
Oh and there would only be a rabbit, possibly with liter, or a pigeon coup, or some quail in each paddock. I wouldn't try to have them all in there at once, but I would like the paddock to be usable for all three.
Abe Connally

Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1492
Location: Chihuahua Desert
I kinda like this idea. I see where you are trying to stack animals at different levels.

I don't know where the "pregnant rabbits are loners" thing comes from. I keep 8-10 does in a colony, and they make their own burrows, and often share burrows for kindling. Some can be a bit territorial, others not so much.

You'll have to bury the fence to prevent the rabbits from escaping, and I'm not sure what climate or size you are talking about, but even for one rabbit, it'll have to be pretty big to prevent overgrazing. Figure at least 10 square feet per rabbit per day. If you live in a fairly wet environment, you might only need 30-60 days for the vegetation to recover. In my area, it takes 9 months, so I would need at least 2700 square feet per rabbit.

The man who designed that underground burrow "cell" is Alessandro Finzi, from Italy. I've talked with him via email, and he is a super nice guy. He has a book in Italian (L'allevamento ecologico del coniglio, Edagricole, Milano, Italia, ISBN 978-88-506-5397-6) that describes different applications of that "cell". They did test it in a colony setting with 2-3 does penned together with 2 cells for housing. His conclusion was that cages were better, and it was more efficient to cut and bring forage to the rabbits, rather than allow them to graze. In cages, they average more than 40 kits weaned per doe, whereas in the colony setup, they were averaging 40 kits per COLONY.

I've been able to average 30+kits a year per doe in my colony, but I will be converting to cages with the underground cells, mainly from a management standpoint. It is really hard to control certain things, like feed, for each doe in a colony. I've had issues with does becoming too fat and not breeding, but by feeding them as a group, it has been difficult. Another issue is snakes. I've had to kill 3 big snakes within a 3 week period, this year alone. They love my baby rabbits, and I've had them wipe out entire litters.

The other issue that comes up is disease. Quail should not be housed with other birds, and pigeons could potentially infect your quail.

Also, poultry manure is bad for rabbits. I think it is because it is very acidic, but it can give them sores and other issues. So, maybe some sort of collection trays under the pigeon roost or something that addresses this issue.

You can also put one-way doors on the pigeon roost to capture them.

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Juan Pedro Ortiz

Joined: Feb 06, 2013
Posts: 21
Location: Land of Oz
hey I realise this is an old post but I was curious Abe to see if you ended up converting to the underground cells?
If so how has it worked for you and could you put up some pictures please?

Abe Connally

Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1492
Location: Chihuahua Desert
I am still in the process of doing it. Initially, I had planned to use half barrels as the cells, but plastic barrels have been hard to find, so I am now making them out of brick. Things slowed down for the winter, and I didn't really do anything, but now that Spring is here, the rabbit shelters should get done in the next few weeks. I will certainly post photos when I have them.
kadence blevins

Joined: Dec 01, 2012
Posts: 548
Location: SE Ohio
dont have a chance right now to read all through but one thing, you NEED to have a thick gauge wire, small hole section wire fence/cagewire for the ground or you wont have the rabbits long at all. rabbits are diggers and can dig 8ft in a single night.
also rabbits eat A LOT more then people think they do. the grass will quickly be eaten to dirt and will not regrow until the rabbits are gone.
perhaps a colony setup with a cement floor would be better? with cutting forage to feed them.

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subject: Paddock shift idea for rabbit, pigeon, quail