Rabbit Colonies

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by CurtisWilliams, Mar 16, 2005.

  1. CurtisWilliams

    CurtisWilliams Well-Known Member

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    Yesterday I moved my rabbits outside the coop into a 16' x 18' colony yard. It has 6' high fencing that is buried 8-10" deep. I lined the inside of the fence with bricks, rocks, steel pipes, ect... to discourage digging. For shelter, I put out 3 large welded wire cages that are covered with plastic to keep out the rain. There is also a plywood box 4' x 18" x 15" high that is divided into 3 compartnents. I also put in an upside down storage tub with an opening in one end and a small wooden dog house type structure. In the middle of the yard I have 6-7 pieces of concrete about 3-4' x 8" x 12" (old sidewalk and foundation rubble) arranged in a labrynth of tunnels with a couple of caves. (kind of a rabbit jungle gym). At an odd angle to everything else I added a 2" x 8" x 10' board on edge to break up an open area. The bare dirt ground is covered in hay about 4' deep. I have a food and water station in each cage and a two additional water stations on opposite ends of the yard.

    I have 4 Flemish Giants (3 girls and a male, 7 months old), a year old male Rex and year old Californian, gender unknown. I was told that it was a girl, but the the Rex and the Californian took turns on top when I tried to breed them.

    There were a few skirmishes between the Californian and the others when they were first introduced into the colony. I kept a close eye on them for the afternoon, and today they were all getting along beautifully. Today they were chasing each other around, playing tag, hopscotch and other rabbit type games. There was no competition for food and they all relaxed together in the afternoon sun.

    I know that they will muddle bloodlines, but the offspring is for home use and none of the bunnies are papered anyway.

    My Muscovies were fascinated by the rabbits and spent about an hour watching the them frolick, butts wagging the whole time.

    Has anyone else done this? Any comments or suggestions?
     
  2. pjd

    pjd Well-Known Member

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    I am trying it too. I put four does and three bucks in a 12'x20' area. They were fine for about 4-5 days and then the bucks started fighting. I now have one buck and the four does together. It has been about three weeks and the does are busy digging and digging. The buck is the only clean one! They escaped yesterday and my daughter came back and reported she caught 10 rabbits! Seems she fixed one hole and they escaped out of a second hole while was shutting the door and turned around and they were all out playing again! I am waiting for the first litters and how they do before building a permanent colony structure. I like the way yours sounds. Keep us posted on your progress. I searched this forum for colony and found a lot of good info on the past threads about positives and negatives.

    Good luck!

    Phyllis
     

  3. Vera

    Vera Well-Known Member

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    Speaking from experience, I'd put down 2" chickenwire, tie the strips together and tie the edges to the fencing. Rabbits won't be fazed by 10 inches of buried wire :) They dig deeper than that, and the grass WILL be greener on the other side of the fence. Next, if you have any birds of prey in your area, it might be a good idea to put the same 2" chicken wire across the top of the pen. Domestic rabbits aren't too savvy about flying predators and might not dive for shelter fast enough. The other thing to keep in mind is that they'll chew on anything available. Plastic might not be the best material to put in the pen. I'd replace anything plastic with wood (plywood or boards work fine)... you'll have to replace it once they chew too many holes in it, but that's still better than risking their health with indigestibles.

    Generally, I think it's much better for rabbits if they're kept as a group. They're very social animals who really like to interact with each other, as you've noticed. They also seem to keep much cleaner (and healthier?) than if they're in individual wire cages.
     
  4. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

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    There's a county park here that's also a working (sort of) farm. They've got three rabbit colonies set up for those bunnies that have been dropped off by owners. They're not large, about 12x16 each, and there are probably 2-5 bunnies in each.

    I'm not sure how deep the concrete goes underground, but there are burrows all over the place where the buns have been digging. The colony is on the backside of a barn, with a shed roof over the top. Each colony has a couple bales of hay for the bunnies to play on :)

    [​IMG]
     
  5. pjd

    pjd Well-Known Member

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    Vera, where are you putting the strips of wire? What I have planned to build is an enclosed wire pen out of 2x4 wire with hardware cloth at the bottom to keep babies from escaping. I will concrete around the bottom to keep predators from digging in and a top to keep them from flying in. Are you putting the chicken wire on the ground to keep them from digging in the pen? Do you put in nest boxes instead of them being underground? Do they respect each other's nest boxes? I am putting in boxes on Friday just in case. Any other tips would be greatly appreciated.

    One thing I have noticed on this method is my kids are more likely to play with the rabbits and the rabbits are more likely to play with the kids because the kids go in and sit down and the rabbits come over to check them out for treats and one in particular loves to be petted. She would not let us pet her in the cage and got upset when we took her out. These rabbits were auction culls purchased as adults so not hand raised by us.
     
  6. Xandras_Zoo

    Xandras_Zoo Well-Known Member

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    That's a wonderful set up for those bunnies no one wants...
     
  7. rabbitgal

    rabbitgal Ex-homesteader

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    The colony system sounds interesting, but one question that keeps niggling is what do you do about manure and urine buildup? I mean, the rabbits are sitting on the bedding 24/7: do you just go through every once in a while and clean everything out? What about germs and parasites building up?
     
  8. pjd

    pjd Well-Known Member

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    So far mine are spreading the manure all over the area. We covered the bottom of the pen with hay and every other week we rake it up and put down fresh. I too am worried about building a permanent pen and what the urine will do soaking in the ground over time. My husband and I are currently working on designing a multipurpose animal tractor that will be sturdy enough to last for years and hold a variety of animals and possibly be used as a greenhouse too. My thinking is in the winter I can move all the animals closer to the house for easier winter care and then move them away from the house in spring/summer.

    I read about a colony that had the rabbits and chickens mixed and the chickens took care of the manure problem by scattering it. My concern was would the chickens peck at the newborn rabbits in the nests? Rabbits don't defend and chickens eat mice. If I put them in the tractor there will be a wire bottom and the rabbits will have to use a nest box rather than a hole and the babies would be vulnerable. Any one else try this or thinking about it?
     
  9. birdie_poo

    birdie_poo Well-Known Member

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    This may sound gross, but pinkies that don't make it get tossed in the chicken yard. The chickens will eat the pinkies, especially if they are inthe nest and squealing...I would seperating does before they kindle.
     
  10. pjd

    pjd Well-Known Member

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    That is what I thought, thanks!
     
  11. CountryGoalie

    CountryGoalie Well-Known Member

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    I am planning on setting up a colony once all the snow decides to depart. ;)

    We will be using chain link fencing, I believe it's four or five feet in height, over a pretty good-size area. We are planning on putting at least the following out there:

    One chestnut agouti doe, 50%Satin/50%FrenchLop (perhaps two)
    One blue magpie doe, 100% Harlequin
    Two copper does, 100% Satin
    One black doe, 100% Satin
    One chinchilla doe, 50%Satin/50%Harlequin
    One chocolate doe, 50%Satin/50%Harlequin

    And as for the bucks, we were debating between:
    One copper buck, 100% Satin
    One lilac magpie buck, 100% Harlequin

    The copper buck is our first choice, but the harlequin buck I'm considering, while he is one of my favorite rabbits, is no longer really needed in my harlequin lines, and since he matured just under the minimum weight, I can't just keep him in my show string. He has pretty good type, and is very well-built for his size, so introducing him to colony of meat rabbits wouldn't be a problem, since they're clearly only going to be for farm use.

    The question is - how successfully have other folks had more than one buck in a pen together? I'm not sure as to exactly how big the pen will be, but it's going to be larger than the pens listed here, so if they've got that much space - do you think it'll be a problem?

    Also, I've heard of some colonies not having wire buried as a preventative, and yet they don't have rabbits constantly digging out or anything like that. We think this is because they are given a rather large colony area, and it's what we're planning on doing. Does anyone have experience with no having wire down for a large enclosure?
     
  12. Ann Mary

    Ann Mary Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Something from my own trials and errors....If you have a buck in with your does he will pester them NONSTOP and make everyone irritated and hard to deal with. More than one buck means you can add the trouble of the fighting bucks to the pile. When I do it again I will have the does in a large pen and the buck in a pen along- side. I can let him in for a couple of days when I want the does bred and then take him back out.Then he can keep an eye on his "girls" without
    being a royal pain!
     
  13. CurtisWilliams

    CurtisWilliams Well-Known Member

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    If I were doing it again, I would bury chicken wire laid flat and tied together to form a one piese mesh. I would bury this about two feet deep (I know it's a lot of unnecessary work, but it will let the bunnies satify their need to dig, and prevent escape/preditors at the same time.) My rabbits have been digging a few holes here and there, primarily in the middle of the pen, under the concrete rubble as I expected. My bucks have the occasional spat, but it is nothing serious. I feel that the more area that you have the better for reducing territorial disputes. I also think that having lots of boxes, shelters and feed stations is important so they can stay in their own area if they need to. I would recommend putting in a few barriers or dividers of some sort to break up the area. I have the concrete rubble spread over about 10 square feet, a 2 x 8 laid on edge and a tree stump which all help break up the colony and provide distraction to any potential agressor. Spend time with your rabbits every day. This may help reduce wild behavior. When I go into the pen, my buns swarm around me like so many puppies, looking for a treat. If I sit down in there, they like to lay in a pile at my feet. If you have kids who are responsible enough to help with the chores, let them. The rabbits will be used to other people and wont be as shy. I thimk that moving my rabbits into the pen was a good move. They are easier to feed and water. They are friendlier and more social. They get a lot more exercise, fresh air and sunshine.

    BTW, my Rex finally mounted two of my Flemish yesterday. May make Rex fur in giant size pieces.

    Peace and may you never kindle on wire.
    Curtis AKA ChickenChaser