Twenty-five days ago, my husband and I took over a hobby farm and are busting our butts to convert it into a permaculture farm venture. They(We) have a meat rabbit operation in a small cabin that hasn't been cleaned out in far too long, with hanging wire cages, and feeding store bought rabbit pellets. I don't feel good about raising animals this way. Not only is it not sustainable, but I want them to be able to graze, excrete where they aren't sleeping, play, run and have a place where they feel safe.
To make their habitat better, we deep cleaned the house the water bottles and all the cages. We scoop poop pebbles and piss syrup out of the cage catch trays daily and put it in the compost pile, near fig trees or blueberry trees.
I'd rather the rabbits spread their manure themselves, and accomplish the other goals I have for their lifestyle.
So we are transitioning the 11 rabbits (1 doe owners daughters pet/ 2 breeder does/ 4 meat does/ 2 meat bucks/ 1 breeder buck/ we ate one) to a new life. The rabbit we ate was much fatter than I would expect for a rabbit. Tuesday we had 3 new young rabbits from the owner, 1 buck and 2 doe chinchillas, they are feisty and shy.
We rebuilt a mobile chicken pen to a rabbit tractor, I have the 4 meat does in it and they have been sleeping there and it has kept them safe, even with the hungry dogs and opossums that the game camera has caught sniffing them out. It has a large wire bottomed box inside the pen with straw, their feed, and water, that I close them in at night. During the day I let them out into the rest of the pen to go in the sun and be on the ground and loose some weight, they are FAT. They are learning to eat grass but have yet to learn to burrow (probably too fat). I have been putting the two breeding does with the meat does outside during the day and back in their cage at night, for safety since I am not watching them at night and they are larger and would take up more space in the sheltered box. Maybe it is just because I am handling them more, but they seem to be less docile. My rabbits do NOT like to be handled, I swear I am sweet to them. Today my largest doe, who is super chill, loving to lay in the sun, bit me through two shirts to break the skin when moving her back into her cage. She would of taken a chunk out of me had I no protection. She tries to bite me anytime I hold her. I've watched videos on how to handle rabbits, but Shelia a large overweight heavy breathing, in furry and rage, want's to kill me.
Today we set up our electric fence to test it out. The first rabbit I put in (a young chinchilla doe) got shocked, backed off... then jumped through the fence. Thankfully she went into the garden shed where I could easily trap her. Since she is feisty and shy I figured I'd give it a shot with the four meat, cage raised rabbits, that we had been tractoring the past two weeks. The first doe shocked herself 8 times, but eventually got it. I put in an old doe that I am culling, it took her too many. The third got a hard bite from the wire, nearly fell over and was stunned for several minutes (it only took her one shock). The last one didn't try the fence as there were friends to play with. In the long run I don't know if electric fence will be feasible for rabbits especially when they get healthy. For tonight everyone is back in their normal sleeping arrangements. 4 in the mobile pen and everyone else in their cage in the cabin.
What I've learned from this experiment is that I want to minimally handle the rabbits. I can ween off daily poop tray cleanings.
I think I will only keep one or two breeding buck(s) in a small mobile pen, have a grow out mobile pen for offspring, and have a breeding doe pen. I still have 11 nice cages, for isolation or grow out bucks (I don't want to butcher pregnant rabbits). I would like to hear what you think. I know it is common to raise meat rabbits in cages, but it's kind of mean and then again, rabbits are kind of mean... but I can do better. They seem happier running and hopping over each other (fighting or playing) I really enjoy watching them outside and I can't say that about watching them in their cage.
Moving the pens daily is less time consuming and more pleasing then cleaning poop trays.
I will note how the body composition changes in the 4 meat does. 1 Rabbit is older. We had 5 does (2 bucks) born 10/2. We harvested one before making the outdoor pen. It was very fatty. I wish I had a picture. We'll soon harvest the other 3 and be able to compare carcasses.
I'll update. Share your ideas.