Peaceful Valley*
Permies likes rabbits and the farmer likes Raising Rabbits in Texas Heat permies
  Search | Permaculture Wiki | Recent Topics | Flagged Topics | Hot Topics | Zero Replies | World Domination!
Register / Login
permies » forums » critters » rabbits
Bookmark "Raising Rabbits in Texas Heat" Watch "Raising Rabbits in Texas Heat" New topic
Author

Raising Rabbits in Texas Heat

                              


Joined: Feb 07, 2011
Posts: 1
We live on a ~30 acre farm in Central Texas about 40 miles SE of Austin.  We just started raising rabbits this year and we had a great plan of having the hutch out in the garden where their droppings will be readily accessible for composting into our raised beds and we can keep worm beds under the hutch for rabbit dropping vermicompost.  We hoped to breed the rabbits for meat as well as use their droppings for our large garden.  We built a very nice wood and wire 20' long hutch divided into six ~30"x30" wire floor cages with a high corrugated metal roof and long eaves.

I started with 2 Californian does and a Californian buck since those seem to be the most popular rabbits to raise around here.  We got them in January and they seemed to do just fine over the winter but our buck wasn't fully sexually mature until early April.  Once his testicles descended we went ahead and bred one of our does to him.  The pregnancy took and everything seemed to go to plan with the birth of the kits according to what I read in the Storey's guide to rabbits... I put one of those sheet metal nesting boxes in with some straw in it and she padded it all with her fur.  Six kits were born and all of them seemed to do just fine for awhile.  Then in mid may the temperatures started reaching into the 90s and on one particular day when it got in the upper 90s every last one of the kits died. 

I then noticed that the adult rabbits would stretch out in their cages and pant so i tried putting those blue ice freezy packs in with them during the day, but those melted too fast to be of much help.  I tried to rig up one of those cheap mister systems from tractor supply to keep them cool, but that doesnt seem to do much but keep them damp.  We are in the midst of a terrible drought down here and so far this year we have had 12 days over 100 degrees and haven't had any measurable rain for over 30 days.  I'm at my wits end as to how we can possibly raise these rabbits down here with it so hot.  I've heard it suggested that you bring pregnant does and kits inside where the A/C is running until the kits are old enough, but I my wife insists that they will be smelly and will get pee and poop all over the floor so she wont have anything to do with that (yes, I know they make cages with pans to catch pee and poo, but she thinks they will still make the house stink somehow). 

Out in the garden we have running water but no A/C electricity out there so fans are not an option (plus running a fan outdoors seems pointless).  We jury rigged a frame to hang shade cloth OVER the roof of the hutch, but even that seems like it doesn't help much when its 102 degrees in the shade and 80% humidity.  Are there other ways of keeping bunnies cool outside that doesnt require 100v AC power?  I thought about something solar powered, but in order to run a fan that blows enough air to cool the rabbits with solar, it would take $1000 worth of solar panels.  I could have a whole new 200amp service pole dropped there for that price.

How do other people raise their rabbits in the south?  Do they raise them inside buildings in suspended or stacked cages and then scoop the poop out of the catch pans every day by hand?  Half the purpose of raising rabbits was to have an easily accessible self-filling pile of bunny manure at the ready for the garden.  Moving it into the barn which is nearly 250 yards away from the garden would require not only re-tooling new hutches for inside, but running A/C or fans in the barn, and then manually cleaning and hauling out the poop every day.  Thats a lot of expense/work for a few $10 rabbits.

Once again, we're on our 12th day of 100+ degree temps and 35 days with zero rain and no relief in sight.  Im getting near my wits end here on how to keep these critters alive while not spending more money on them then they will ever be worth.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
The only people I know who raise rabbits in the south keep them indoors at least part of the time.  One keeps hers indoors all year because they are Angoras.  The other (my sister in Austin) moves hers into the house when it gets warm.  This climate is really too warm for domestic rabbits, in my opinion, unless you're willing to go to extra effort to keep them cool. 


Idle dreamer

Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 4612
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
173
I'm no expert with rabbits, and I live in Portugal, not Texas, but it gets pretty hot here in the summer!  

Here, rabbits are *always* kept indoors, where it's secure from predators and relatively cool in hot weather.  Even so, the rabbits don't breed in the hot weather.  I used to raise them in the UK all year round, but here they stop breeding as soon as the weather warms up.  We tried raising some of the youngsters in outdoor runs where they could graze a little last year and the neighbours were horrified that we'd put them out in the sun.  The rabbits promptly picked us some horrid disease from the wild rabbits and we lost pretty well all of them, so we never did find out if they could cope with the sun.

Ours are now housed in a brick built shed and we put a 'private run' in at ground level when the females want to start nesting.  And the top of the shed is occupied by pigeons.  I just keep adding loads of bedding and clear it all out to add to the compost heap every now and then.  


What is a Mother Tree ?
Tabatha Mic


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 26
Location: North Central Mississippi
Shade and lots of it, without being closed in at all. We used a reflective tarp held about 3' above the cages. It was open on all 4 sides. We need to get that back up too...
Marble slabs frozen every night & taken to the buns by 10 am. Marble's ambient temp is typically lower than the surrounding air, so it works better than just ice bottles.
Plenty of water, especially at night.

Your bunnies aren't going to drink nearly as much water during the heat of the day as they will at night. Or at least mine don't. They drain their bottles at night though. I've been filling up waterers once in the morning, once when I get home (around 5:30pm) and once right before bed (around 10pm) The bottles are usually half full at 5:30 and almost always nearly empty at bedtime & in the morning.

I have a 10 day old litter of kits from a mom who was accidentally bred (free ranged for a time) and all her kits are looking fantabulous, even with the 98+ temps we've been having. I've only brought a bun inside once, for doctoring. This is my second year with bunnies in Mississippi and we haven't lost a single kit.

Can you setup a simple solar powered fan? Airflow really does a lot to help cool them off as well.
ETA: Never mind, just saw the the solar mention in your post. Poop...
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
a good friend of mine,  went to florida to get some of her breeding stock.  stock that is bred and raised in the warmer temps.  do better for obvious reasons....its been very hot here in VA. not to the extent that you are mentioning.  but upper 90's for a number of days.  past couple wks..............get your rabbits under trees and well shaded.  trees have a cooler moister type of shade.  the deeper in the trees the better.  man made shade no matter the source or type does not come close to what trees can do..  give them enuff cover to keep any rain that may fall off them.  nothing more.  make sure no sun can touch them no matter what time of day.  they will survive.  with that said. i lost my last two litters.  i blame heat.  18 kits total.  but thats the way it is at times with animal husbandry.    this past wk, its been cooler here.  i had 3 does breed up. hopefully the buck wasnt sterile from the heat.  i dont breed commercially,  so i dont really care if the does wont breed up for the next few months.  when they do, its a bonus litter IMO.  but once fall hits breed the heck outa them till they shut down again cause of winter time. or lack of daylight. either way, you should have plenty of rabbit in the freezer to carry you through.
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
We raise them here in hot Mexico (near Chihuahua City).  We have a rabbit barn with huge runs outside.

The key is giving them access to ground, let them burrow a bit, and providing lots of shade and air movement.  Underground stays a nice 70 degrees here, even when it is 95 outside.

Also, give them plenty of clean water.


Living off grid - guides for the off grid lifestyle in the modern age
Homesteading - latest updates and projects from our off grid homestead
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1392
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
  10
Natures Harmony Farm in Ga raises rabbits.  And if you don't think it is hot there, go hang out for the next few days.  Today our area was 105 w/ 112 heat index - 100% humidity.

Apparently they do well enough to make money off of them so I am including a link if you want to research.  They have been kind enough to answer a couple of questions about other animals for me even though I am not a customer.

My hubby raised rabbits a few years ago and keeping cool was a big deal.  Our rabbits were in elevated cages (circulation all around) and the cages were in the shade of trees all day = no direct sun.

The project came to a screeching halt after the cages were torn apart twice by local farmers dogs.  We are surrounded by larger tracts of property and, as is common practice, farmers have loose dogs to patrol thier property.

Here is the link to Natures Harmony http://www.naturesharmonyfarm.com/


1. my projects
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
.223 will take care of that dog problem
                


Joined: May 03, 2011
Posts: 51
I have to agree with Velacreations here.  In your kind of weather I think indoors or underground are about the only non-electric or water cooled systems you can go with.

I would have a very well shaded area and then shade over the burrows as well.  You can usually find those plastic dog crates used and with rusted out doors for cheap.  Throw away all the metal parts and you end up with two bunny shelters.  Some people will further insulate with the hay stacked above the shades on the burrow.

Or, maybe trade out your rabbits for guinea pigs...rumor has it they are good eating. 



Dave Bennett


Joined: Jun 25, 2011
Posts: 641
perdurabo wrote:
We live on a ~30 acre farm in Central Texas about 40 miles SE of Austin.  We just started raising rabbits this year and we had a great plan of having the hutch out in the garden where their droppings will be readily accessible for composting into our raised beds and we can keep worm beds under the hutch for rabbit dropping vermicompost.  We hoped to breed the rabbits for meat as well as use their droppings for our large garden.  We built a very nice wood and wire 20' long hutch divided into six ~30"x30" wire floor cages with a high corrugated metal roof and long eaves.

I started with 2 Californian does and a Californian buck since those seem to be the most popular rabbits to raise around here.  We got them in January and they seemed to do just fine over the winter but our buck wasn't fully sexually mature until early April.  Once his testicles descended we went ahead and bred one of our does to him.  The pregnancy took and everything seemed to go to plan with the birth of the kits according to what I read in the Storey's guide to rabbits... I put one of those sheet metal nesting boxes in with some straw in it and she padded it all with her fur.  Six kits were born and all of them seemed to do just fine for awhile.  Then in mid may the temperatures started reaching into the 90s and on one particular day when it got in the upper 90s every last one of the kits died. 

I then noticed that the adult rabbits would stretch out in their cages and pant so i tried putting those blue ice freezy packs in with them during the day, but those melted too fast to be of much help.  I tried to rig up one of those cheap mister systems from tractor supply to keep them cool, but that doesnt seem to do much but keep them damp.  We are in the midst of a terrible drought down here and so far this year we have had 12 days over 100 degrees and haven't had any measurable rain for over 30 days.  I'm at my wits end as to how we can possibly raise these rabbits down here with it so hot.  I've heard it suggested that you bring pregnant does and kits inside where the A/C is running until the kits are old enough, but I my wife insists that they will be smelly and will get pee and poop all over the floor so she wont have anything to do with that (yes, I know they make cages with pans to catch pee and poo, but she thinks they will still make the house stink somehow). 

Out in the garden we have running water but no A/C electricity out there so fans are not an option (plus running a fan outdoors seems pointless).  We jury rigged a frame to hang shade cloth OVER the roof of the hutch, but even that seems like it doesn't help much when its 102 degrees in the shade and 80% humidity.  Are there other ways of keeping bunnies cool outside that doesnt require 100v AC power?  I thought about something solar powered, but in order to run a fan that blows enough air to cool the rabbits with solar, it would take $1000 worth of solar panels.  I could have a whole new 200amp service pole dropped there for that price.

How do other people raise their rabbits in the south?  Do they raise them inside buildings in suspended or stacked cages and then scoop the poop out of the catch pans every day by hand?  Half the purpose of raising rabbits was to have an easily accessible self-filling pile of bunny manure at the ready for the garden.  Moving it into the barn which is nearly 250 yards away from the garden would require not only re-tooling new hutches for inside, but running A/C or fans in the barn, and then manually cleaning and hauling out the poop every day.  Thats a lot of expense/work for a few $10 rabbits.

Once again, we're on our 12th day of 100+ degree temps and 35 days with zero rain and no relief in sight.  Im getting near my wits end here on how to keep these critters alive while not spending more money on them then they will ever be worth.
The author of this book raises rabbits in Texas: http://www.raisingrabbitsebook.com/ ; I raise a different breed than any she recommends but the information in the book is sound. I think it is a very good reference guide.


"When there is no life in the soil it is just dirt."
"MagicDave"
                  


Joined: Jun 29, 2011
Posts: 3
Check out Marjorie's video & website.

They live in Central Texas also and they raise rabbits entirely outdoors.
http://www.backyardfoodproduction.com/

Great video in general on many homesteading topics.

- Jeff
                              


Joined: Jul 05, 2011
Posts: 10
yep as velasaid give them access to the ground during the summer months

in a pinch when i had some freak hot weather during spring i have gently hosed down my
rabbits a few times per day they dont like it but it will keep them cool and alive.
Dave Bennett


Joined: Jun 25, 2011
Posts: 641
Lucky for me I only have 3 adults.  One buck and one doe just "hanging out and one nursing.  When it gets too hot I move them into my house.  I take really good care of my food supply so there is never any odor problems.  They are used to being moved once I a while.  If I was doing this commercially I would make arrangements for big fans.  Ever since I asphalted my roof and then painted it with white elastomeric paint my cooling problems for my mobile home has gone bye bye.  Covering shingles with that black goo sure was a chore but when it came time for the white stuff it covered the asphalt easily.  $300.00 was better than having to do 5 squares of shingles.  I am too old for crawling around on a roof. LOL  Keeping my rabbits comfortable is important.  Hiding them from the property management was difficult.  I am not supposed to have them without pay an extra $$25 per month for each "pet."  That will never happen.
                                        


Joined: May 01, 2010
Posts: 32
We have had a heat wave here in Northern cal for the past week.  Yesterday I visited an establishment with the following setup.  Pond with fish and waterfall and plants growing in it.  This pond was inside a shaded structure which was made out of an old rusty tractor on the south side and a canopy made from one of those Army camo netting drop things.  I don't exactly know what they are called but it is  not a tarp, not a net, sort of in between.  It was at least ten degrees cooler in there. The cammo drop Thing was huge.  if you could find one, and build a pond with a thermal mass (Rocks) to the south you could get the temp down in there and grow food for the rabbits in the pond . Electrical need is pretty small for a pond pump.
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
mr viking, could you tell us possibly what types of plants this est. was growing to feed to their rabbits?  anything in particular?
                                        


Joined: May 01, 2010
Posts: 32
The place was a business which sold old barn stuff.  Like an antique store.  They were not raising rabbits, they had typical koi pond vegetation growing in the pond.  I was assuming that one could find a water plant that would be a good source of food source for rabbits.  My idea was mostly based on keeping the temp down and it seemed like food for the critters would be a good secondary function of the setup.  Just brainstorming here . .  .how about feeding the rabbits with pond plants, feeding the worms with rabbit manure and feeding the fish in the pond with the worms.  Make multiple uses from the system.  Again, I really don't know much abut what I am talking about, just brainstorming. 
T. Pierce


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
sounds like a grand idea to me.  we have a koi pond and never thought about using the plants for something other than looking at.  your brainstorming has me thinking.  i will have to start experimenting.  these type of plants should be slam full of water and moisture.  which in turn would be great for feeding during the heat of the summer.
Bertha Yellowfinch


Joined: Nov 09, 2012
Posts: 1
Raising rabbits in Texas heat IS a huge problem. My rabbits are on the north side of the house, heavily shaded and still I must freeze 1 and 2 liter plastic bottles of water to put in each cage 3 to 4 times a day. I also hose down the cage roofs, tree trunks etc. It's a lot of work in the summer months during Texas heatwaves but of our 40 rabbits, only one buck died and one very young kit died after being stung by a yellow jacket that got in the cage. I also put out double the number of those sticky bug strips under each cage and around the entire cage area, changing them once a week -- yes, they are loaded with mosquitoes, flies and gnats. I get the cheap ones at the dollar store, something like 8 or 10 to a box for $2. Those heatwaves also can bring ear mites, something we never had in all our years of rabbit raising until 2012. I keep a can of ear mite treatment at all times. Usually one treatment is all is needed on each affected rabbit. Another problem (as if heat isn't enough of a problem) is the lack of light affecting breeding. When the weather cools in the Fall, the sun moves to a different area in the sky and the cages don't get much light at all. I do for the rabbits what I do for my chickens to keep them laying -- give them artificial light until 11 or 12pm. I also put ice cubes in the rabbit cages for them to lick on. We are thinking of making a tent to cover that area and putting solar fans in there for next summer. Another thing I noticed during the heatwave was the water in the automatic watering system was getting hot. I bought ceramic bowls for each cage and put water with ice cubes for them to drink. I found heavy soup ceramic bowls at the dollar store for $1 each and they have two handles so the bowls can be wired to the cage. We also discovered if we hang wet fabric tarps around the area -- not on the cages, they will also cool the air as the wind blows them. We got inexpensive fabric tarps at Harbor Freight. We will use the same tarps on the cages during winter storms. I never use metal nesting boxes, only wood. Metal gets too hot in Texas heat. Even the wood gets hot and the does will remove all the hay and most of the pulled fur from the box. Urine gets a really strong smell if the rabbits are given alfalfa hay, so I limit alfalfa. We also only feed Bryant Rabbit Pellets, and Bryant Scratch for the laying hens (they lay year round), and Bryant crumbles for the geese. Bryant just works better all around for Texas animals, they are strong and healthy, the quality is superior and the prices are better than all others -- and no hormones are in the feeds.
chris cromeens


Joined: Apr 26, 2012
Posts: 59
Location: north texas 7b now 8a
Have had these problems, shade on the north side of the building works here in N.E. texas. But the breeding shuts down. Gonna try this rabbit housing


circles, cycles, phases, and stages
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Chris, that's the best plan. Those shelters work in places like Egypt, so they should be fine for you.
Nick Kitchener


Joined: Sep 24, 2012
Posts: 341
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
    
    6
I know someone in Australia who has huskies and they shear them in the summer.

Maybe giving the bunnies a hair cut might help?
Phil Causey


Joined: Feb 18, 2014
Posts: 1
The reply posted about using underground space intrigued me. I have a 40 ft shipping container buried underground as a storm shelter and yes the temperature does stay much cooler in there but there is limited ventilation. Has anyone tried using underground space for rabbits such as this during the hottest times of the year?
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Phil Causey wrote:The reply posted about using underground space intrigued me. I have a 40 ft shipping container buried underground as a storm shelter and yes the temperature does stay much cooler in there but there is limited ventilation. Has anyone tried using underground space for rabbits such as this during the hottest times of the year?


We've gone through several summers with ours in underground shelters. The top access provides ventilation. The rabbits hang out on the bricks when it's over 100F outside. They breed right through the summer without an issue.

I know this method was tested in some of the hottest places around, and these shelters allow your rabbits to deal with the heat very well.
Bryant RedHawk


Joined: May 15, 2014
Posts: 104
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas
    
    7
I would think you could use a buried shipping container for an underground hutch. I've been reading up on the methods used in Italy and Greece where they use underground quarters, made from bricks or clay pipe with top and bottom,along with tunnels to them from standard, above ground hutches. the earth covered spaces are used by does for breeding and then for keeping cool during the hot months. Most of the setups I have seen photos of have a hutch connected to a berm where the underground spaces are, each is separate and the bun can move back and forth as they please.

I have mine on the ground with a house for when they don't want to use their tunnels, which is infrequently even in the winter. I use treats to get them to come into the rabbit house, which makes it easier to catch them when I need to. They free range with a 1/4 acre fenced field, in which I have white, red and crimson clovers growing along with brassicas, alfalfa, barley, rye, oats and there are maypops. My fence is buried in the ground about a foot and a half to discourage them from burrowing out of their safe, penned area. They seem to have a good enough variety of foods, since they will not touch pellets, when I tried to feed those to them they took off like I had tried to poison them.

keeping yor rabbits cool by giving them an underground is a pretty good place to start your investigation.


We love visitors, that's why we live in a secluded cabin deep in the woods.
 
 
subject: Raising Rabbits in Texas Heat
 
cast iron skillet 49er

more from paul wheaton's glorious empire of web junk: cast iron skillet diatomaceous earth sepp holzer raised garden beds raising chickens lawn care flea control missoula electric heaters permaculture videos permaculture books