Colony Pictures (8 pics)

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by Thatch, Jul 8, 2005.

  1. Thatch

    Thatch Well-Known Member

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    I've had a couple requests for pictures of my colony set up and I finally found the time to take the pictures. Mostly I'll let the pictures do the explaining. If you have any specific questions feel free to ask. As a quick side note, there is a smaller gauge fencing wrapped around the bottom quarter of the pen. You just can't see it in these pictures. Hope these are some use to someone.

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    Outside main fencing - colony pen on right of this image

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    Full pen shot

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    Over fence - hutch and one burrow visible

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    Path shot - gate, hutch and food/water station visible

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    East wall - feeding station and one-way bunny door visible

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    Feeding station - lawn mower visible :)

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    Westerly view

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    Looking down from yard


    That's about it. Nothing all too fancy. Big pen, lots of rabbits (though it doesn't look like lots here) I think we're up to about 15 right now. 3 more breeders will go in soon as the young males come out. Like I said, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

    J
     
  2. Xandras_Zoo

    Xandras_Zoo Well-Known Member

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    You've got a beautiful bunny pen and a beautiful place. :) Those are lucky, lucky bunnies!!!
    Not that it really matters, but are the bunnies tame? Also, what do you do about predators? Wouldn't coyotes jump the fence?
     

  3. trixiwick

    trixiwick bunny slave

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    Wow, what a great set-up. Out of curiosity, do your rabbits sleep under- or above-ground? And where do they give birth?
     
  4. Thatch

    Thatch Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the compliments.

    The area works very well for the rabbits. It is in good shade and is just off the main yard area so they get acclimated to people and dogs and such quickly. The fence is 5' - 5.5' high so is a pretty good deterrent as it is. Also the pen is nearly fully contained (west wall is a shared perimeter) within the larger yard and pen courtyard that the dogs roam.

    The older rabbits are relatively tame in that they don't break and run when your around and you can occasionally stroke them while your in doing other things, some initiate contact and come up but none are pet-like. The young ones are pretty skittish but get used to people in the pen after a few minutes and go about their normal business.

    The rabbits give birth under ground. You can tell when the rabbits are getting ready to deliver because the nesting activity picks up quite a bit. New burrows are sometimes dug and you can watch them gathering straw to take down for bedding. Once they deliver you don't see the kits for right at one month then they start popping up usually at dusk, for a few minutes. It's hard to get a good count of the newborns for another couple of weeks after that.

    In general they sleep where they will. Often times if the evening is nice I'll see them laying out in the open. During the heat of the day they usually stay under the old hutch that we cut the legs off of. The young tend more often to sleep in the burrows. As they get older this behavior decreases.

    Hope that answers your questions.

    J
     
  5. okgoatgal2

    okgoatgal2 Well-Known Member

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    do they ever dig out?
     
  6. Thatch

    Thatch Well-Known Member

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    Never dig out... they've taken advantage of holes in the fence (mostly when the young got big enough to be brave but still small enough to fit holes the big ones can't) but they don't dig out. They have 3 full burrows, 1 smaller "dugout" of sorts, 3 of these extend beyond the fence line 2 by quite a bit but they haven't built exits that extend outside the cage.

    Typically when they do get out they are anxious to get back in after a bit.. which is one of the reasons I built the one way rabbit door.

    J
     
  7. mamajohnson

    mamajohnson Knitting Rocks! Supporter

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    Tell me more about that one way rabbit door. I could use one of those on my pen... My little ones love to get out, and then we have to chase them down to get them back in... :eek:
    Do you leave your buck in there, or take the females to him? I found the buck was neutering the young males (had one die, before I figured out what was going on) So, just curious there..
    nice pen, mine is getting a little tired, need to rework it. And mine have dug out, once. had to block that up with rocks... they found a sandy spot with a break in the tree roots! lol!
     
  8. Thatch

    Thatch Well-Known Member

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    MamaJ

    I have a post on the one-way door on the board. You can find it here...

    http://homesteadingtoday.com/showthread.php?t=89538

    If you have any other questions about it I'd be happy to let you tell you what I can.

    I do leave the buck in full time. I harvest the males before the they become sexually mature. I've not had any real problems with the males even when I was running more adult males. There was some chasing but no real confrontations. The main buck is actually quite good with the young. Sadly he is about to be replaced (bringing in a full Californian buck next week) hopefully the new buck will do just as well as the current one. I'm striving to up the size and time to maturity by bringing in the new breeding stock.

    Oh, and my rabbits don't ever find any sandy spots here... .the whole place is sand down as deep as I have ever dug, not a single rock or even the hint of clay. The pen (as you can see) is surounded by trees. You'd think that would keep them in a bit but the two main burrows they have are along the back wall, the most heavily treed part of the pen. Guess they are just too pleased with thier current living conditions to want to leave. I suspect that as the population density in the pen increases the desire to leave the pen may increase though. We shall see.

    J
     
  9. mamajohnson

    mamajohnson Knitting Rocks! Supporter

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    thnx so much! I have been pondering releasing my buck, just because it is a hassle to catch the girls and get them bred. sometimes I dont get it done very often, then we get a gap between bunnies.... not good for the freezer.
    You've probably told this before, but I havent been in this part of homestead for awhile, how long have you had your pen? I have had mine for a couple of years now, and the only problem has been dogs (mine :bash: ) and the male/male conflict. All the does do great together.
    When they do get out I find them grazing on the low sweetgum and sassafrass leaves....
     
  10. farmmaid

    farmmaid Well-Known Member Supporter

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    First, let me say that your rabbit colony is wonderful! GOOD FOR YOU for thinking about their comfort! One more question about leaving your buck in the pen all the time... Do the does get bred back soon after they have their babies or do they naturally "wait"? I would not want to hinder the does health by too many litters a year...Joan ------------ Again...how nice for the bunnies! :clap: :clap:
     
  11. Thatch

    Thatch Well-Known Member

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    I've only had the colony for about 4 months now. Before that I was running them in pens. I don't have much of a problem with the does being bred back too quickly. I keep the mature buck numbers down to one or two for the colony (I'm working a rotating system of one mature and one up and coming herd buck) This alone keeps stress down on the rabbits. immediately after birth the does do attract a lot of attention from the buck but with the pen size that it is they have no problem avoiding the attention. I don't know why but this keeps up for 4-5 days after birth then tapers off quite a bit and everything is calm again, but the doe still avoids the buck for the next month. Breed back seems to happen naturally about weening time. With so many other does in the herd the ones that don't want to play are bypassed. He ends up with a different "girlfriend" that he lies with and helps nest build with every couple of weeks.... it's a sweet system... for the buck. :)

    J
     
  12. DayBird

    DayBird Big Bird

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    What are the dimensions of that pen? It's a wonderful setup and I'd like to try something similar.
     
  13. Thatch

    Thatch Well-Known Member

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    The pen is about 25' x 30'. Glad you like it, they sure seem to. I know I do. Most days I don't have anything to do with it at all. (just a quick glance on the way to do other things to make sure food and water are good). If you try it make sure and share your results.

    J
     
  14. DayBird

    DayBird Big Bird

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    It looks like just 2X4 welded fence wire with 1" hex chicken wire around the bottom. That should be easy enough to duplicate. Do the burrows not flood?
     
  15. mamajohnson

    mamajohnson Knitting Rocks! Supporter

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    Daybird, My burrows have never flooded that I know of. We have had some torrential rains (well, that was last year, before we started getting no rain)
    I think the buns underground are better off then the few I have in cages. (the ones ready to slaughter)

    Thatch,
    I see you have the basic rabbit waterers on the side of the pen, something I have done that works great is get one of those automatice dog waterers. The kind with the 3 gallon bottle sitting on it. (I use them in my chicken pen too, they are just cheap!) The rabbits caught on quick with it, and it lasts well in our heat. The bottles were being emptied so fast we just about couldnt keep up. Even the little ones can reach it without a problem.
     
  16. bill not in oh

    bill not in oh Well-Known Member

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    I'm interested in this system as the 'natural' aspect of it is very attractive. However, I could see how the management might be probematic after a period of time depending on the population per [cubic/square] foot. So for you folks with some experience with outdoor colonies:

    How do you determine the optimum population density

    Are there issues related to water table heights

    How do you repopulate for natural decline in population without purchasing new stock?

    Which brings me to: how do you avoid the colony from becoming inbred

    Does it work better for some breeds than others (I assume I wouldn't want to keep our satin angoras in a natural colony...)
     
  17. mamajohnson

    mamajohnson Knitting Rocks! Supporter

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    How do you determine the optimum population density

    Doesnt seem to be a problem, I have three does that are getting old, so I will leave in a younger doe when the time comes and cull the older one, keep the little ones pulled at butchering time. Some escape the butcher block a little while by not coming out of the hole while I'm around....


    Are there issues related to water table heights

    Nope not here. Our well is 100 feet deep and is usually nearly dry... lots of sand and iron ore, so the drainage is great...

    How do you repopulate for natural decline in population without purchasing new stock? Which brings me to: how do you avoid the colony from becoming inbred


    I just recently got a new buck, traded a doe for him via the local feed store - they are always willing to help - another breeder around here wanted a little freshness in her line and my last good buck had just died.... so now we have a whole new line to go with. Anyway, if your butchering all your little ones you dont have to worry about it for awhile. Around easter is a good time to find new stock cheap... that is when I picked up a new buck that is black. I wanted a little color in my all white babies.... most folks can't sex the bunnies, so it is easy for me to go in and pick what I want and get a good price. After easter you can get them for a song and a dance.


    Does it work better for some breeds than others (I assume I wouldn't want to keep our satin angoras in a natural colony...)
    Dont know how it would work for an angora. I think grooming would become a problem. I had rex in the colony, but she bred with a california and died trying to birth huge babies. Dummy me.....
     
  18. Thatch

    Thatch Well-Known Member

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    MamaJ my plan is to upgrade to a automatic waterer. The feeder I have gets me through 2 weeks but the bottles have to be monitored daily, refilled every other day typically. I use them simply because I"m cheap and had them and haven't gotten round to replacing them. Nor have I yet had need to leave them longer than the refill time. Of course since the wife bought me tickets to a Southern Culture on the Skids show in Charlotte and we're spending the weekend out there I guess I'll need to do that this week. (sometimes you don't get socks for fathers day :clap: )

    As for Bill's questions (as if I'm an expert)

    Population density issues are going to have to be a "this feels right" issue. The more animals in the same space the more input it will require from the grower. More bunnies more feeding, higher density means cleaning out the pen more often, more babies mean a tighter pen will be needed. It will then get to a point when the number will get high enough that fighting will increase, disease might be an issue.... but I can't tell you x number of rabbits per square foot of pen. I suspect that changes according to the climate or even the season as well.

    No water table issues here. I think we're at some 30' give or take, the soil is all sand.

    The only repopulation issue you should have to deal with if you are gleaning the kits always is bringing in a new buck as needed. That is if you are concerned with inbreeding. I know some people that don't bother with the issue at all and they aren't producing three eyed banjo playin' bunnies. I started with some mutts then brought in a New Zealand trio and this next week I will be adding a California trio. This will be my breeding stock for some time. Inbreeding really only gets to be a problem with you are wanting new breeding stock. I'd want to avoid breeding inbreds for breeding stock, but a single line inbreed for freezer filling isn't going to harm anything.

    As for breeds, what works in a cage will work in a colony. I'm replacing my mutts with new Zealand whites and Californians (though I'll keep the current does as they are good mothers till I'm at the production level I need to be at) those work great for me a long haired rabbit would probably do fine with the sandy soil but the heat here would probably do it in.

    Oh, and Daybird, no I don't get any flooding. My property slopes down to a wetland area so runoff is good and the soil is sand so I don't get much standing water ever.

    J
     
  19. Simeys Caregive

    Simeys Caregive Member

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    This is a great thread. A lot of good info here. I had always wanted to try colony breeding, but I just never had the time to make it work. By accident, I found a way that works much better than the cage method, and not near the work. Last summer as I was butchering, on occasion a young rabbit would escape and I would just let it go without trying to catch it. By the end of the summer, I had 6 or 7, maybe more, rabbits free ranging around the barn, sheds, and chicken coops. They had all the natural grasses that they wanted, plus they would eat from the chicken feeders. They also watered from the chickens water pans. The rabbits continued to freerange all thru the winter, and did very well. This spring, I began to see the young peering out from under the chicken coop. So far this is working well for me, as I harvest as I see the bunnies reaching the correct size. I dont have to worry about opening each cage any more..( other than my original trio) to feed and water, they just take care of themselves. I was a little concerned wether the predators would take their toll, but I think they are doing great. I have no clue how many adults there are now, but I dont think there are quite as many as there was. The babies are appearing quite often, and in the late evening you can see white dots appearing in the chicken runs and in the mowed area of the barnlot as the rabbits come out for an evening of play and dining. It works for me.
     
  20. dale anne

    dale anne Well-Known Member

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    Howdy Thatch...Great setup..I have a few questions for ya
    1-have you had any problems with the bunnies digging around tree roots,eating the roots or otherwise killing the trees?
    2- I seen the small barn in the pen have the bunnies dug under this and if so how would you keep them from digging so much that they would make the shed sink or unstable?
    3-do you use live traps to catch the bunnies?
    4-have you seen an increase or decrease of mites,ear infections,wet dewlap,injury to legs,eye infections from rubbing?

    I only ask cause i raise pet rabbits...I have had and will have again soon meat rabbits and am thinking about having a colony like yours in my pine thicket..I have 1 rabbit now that runs with my goats[she is ours] she is free range in the pen but tends to dig under the shed,around trees,and under the goats pen floor boards...now I wont have the problems like this if i do decide to do the colony as they will be a bit away from the goats...ohh and our free range bunny has become aggressive.....I will be using the colony for the meat rabbits not the pets that i seel as they need to be handled from birth every day.....thanks for the advice and answers...dale anne