Rabbit Pen: 1 yr later

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by Cindy in IL, Mar 29, 2004.

  1. Cindy in IL

    Cindy in IL Well-Known Member

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    Hello to all! I haven't posted in a while, a LONG while, but I thought of you all today when I was out taking pics of the rabbits.

    Well, it was a year ago in January that I decided to put all the rabbits together in my fenced garden area. After much culling and worrying about coccidiosis, we seem to have some wonderfully healthy rabbits. While I DO NOT recommend this for commercial meat rabbits, it has worked nicely for my family, dogs and cats. Oh, and the chickens love the "guts" too! I have a freezer full of rabbit meat and my dogs have the nicest teeth, lol.

    While I know that cages are essential in a commercial rabbitry, I also have the benefit of being able to enjoy watching the rabbits scurry about interacting with each other. A peaceful and fun way to spend the evening.

    Funny how they could dig out and run away if they chose to, Lord knows, their holes are deep enough. But here they stay, happy and healthy, making more bunnies all the time.

    Cindy
     
  2. CJ

    CJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Well that's cool! But... don't they eat all your garden????
     

  3. Cindy in IL

    Cindy in IL Well-Known Member

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    LOL, no, the goats took care of that the previous year. I guess i should have said my "previous" garden area. :haha:
     
  4. CJ

    CJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Can you catch them at all? I'd love to try that. Keeping the little guys caged up kinda bothers me.
     
  5. Cindy in IL

    Cindy in IL Well-Known Member

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    Well...no. :haha: I guess I could if I absolutely HAD to and I had been training for a marathon. There are just too many holes for them to run into everywhere. I have nets and if 3 or 4 of us got in there and were quick, we might be able to catch one. But I doubt it.

    How do I catch them for meat you ask? :eek:
    With a .22 rifle to the head.
     
  6. CJ

    CJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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  7. MelissaW

    MelissaW Well-Known Member

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    It sounds great, Cindy! I am getting a new chicken coop this year, and was thinking about putting some rabbits in my big chicken tractor, but I was concerned about them digging out. How big is your penned in area? Do you think a couple of bunnies would stay in a 3 1/2 x 10 foot chicken tractor? I have two nice hutches, but I think they would be so much happier on grass!
     
  8. Cindy in IL

    Cindy in IL Well-Known Member

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    My pen is, I dunno, I really never measured it, I'd say about 25x40ft. As far as your buns getting out, you'd just have to try it and see. If they are tame you shouldn't have any problem catching them if they get out. Mine are wild as heck! Domestic but certainly not tame!
     
  9. Cindy in IL

    Cindy in IL Well-Known Member

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  10. Ed Norman

    Ed Norman Well-Known Member

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    How do you feed them? I've heard some people toss in a bale of hay. Garden scraps in the summer, of course. We're planning on doing this now that the ground has thawed and we can drive posts again. About how many big rabbits do you have? Do you know how many bucks and does? Thanks for the update, I've been wondering.
     
  11. Cindy in IL

    Cindy in IL Well-Known Member

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    We have 4-5 does and one buck. We will keep one or two occasionally and cull any that fight, which is rare.

    We feed them pellets in an automatic galvanized dog feeder. We throw in a flake of hay until the grass starts growing in there. I give them household greens when I have any. They love oranges and lemons too. For water, we put a Rubbermaid water trough in there and rigged up an automatic dog waterer to it. I put a sheet over it to keep out debris and put a little chlorine bleach a couple times a week to keep out algae. In the winter they don't drink as much and we just use a large heated dog bowl filled with water.

    We didn't have much there for shade so I took the kid's trampoline (they all outgrew it) and it's perfect for them!
     
  12. Hey "purty one" good to hear from you again! I'm glad you posted that picture. I once mentioned growing rabbits that way on this forum and people thought I was crazy. (Well they might be right but not for that reason) I read about people over in Croatia raising rabbits this way and other countries as well. If it works for them then it had ought to work here in the U.S. as well. Of coarse I'm still dreaming of doing it as I was 4 or 5 years ago! :rolleyes:

    Do have a question for you. Do you keep the auto feeder full at all times so they can eat when they want or do you just put in a daily ration amount for the day? Also how do you control parasites such as fleas and ticks?
     
  13. Cindy in IL

    Cindy in IL Well-Known Member

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    Hi r.h.! I've missed this place, so here I am again...

    We keep it full at all times. I seriously do not have an accurate count of the number of babies underground that come up and eat when we aren't looking. I think that rabbits in a cage have nothing to do but eat so they will eat more than my rabbits in the pen. My buns are always digging or chewing on apple tree branches or grooming each other or just sunning. They seem to be "busy" all the time.

    We worried about that even when we had them caged but never have any problems with it. Haven't seen any on any of them.

    The only downside to the "pen" is getting cats to understand that baby bunnies are not there for the taking. Mother rabbits do not defend their young, except by biting us, the hand that feeds them, LOL. A couple of shots fired over their heads cured two of my three cats. The 3rd is in kitty heaven. :eek:
     
  14. gnatgnome

    gnatgnome Well-Known Member

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    MelissaW, I made a smaller version of a chicken tractor for my rabbits. Unfortunately it does not have wheels and is a weight lifting event for me to move/slide it to fresh grass. Wheels will be going on it this year. I learned the hard way one very rainy morning last summer that rabbits do dig out. :( I looked out the window with my morning coffee and thought I saw a rabbit running around by my chicken house. I thought it was too big to be a wild rabbit and went to the window to look closer. There was another and another hopping around in the rain. I yelled for my dd to get up and help. I ran out into the rain and we were able to catch 8 of the 12 naughty bunnies. My mama rabbit had given us a rather large number of babies. Good thing they were use to eating treats out of my hand or I might not have caught any. The problem was solved by putting chicken wire over the bottom of the tractor. The holes in the mesh are 2" and this keeps them from getting out. They still dig but at least they can't escape. I keep expecting some kind of hybrid wild/domestic rabbits to be running around since the 4 that escaped were 3 months old at the time and I never saw any of our cats or our dog with any rabbit carcases.
     
  15. gnatgnome

    gnatgnome Well-Known Member

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    I forgot to add 12 is really too many. I built a second one and each houses 5-6 very comfortably and I move (dh usually) it every morning and evening. This years latest batch of babies are going in their new home this weekend. :) They are getting too crowed in their current cage and the grass is finally getting long enough for bunnie grazing.
     
  16. apirlawz

    apirlawz playing in the dirt

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    Hi all,
    rh, I also read about rabbit raising in Croatia, and I thought they might be on to something! So, I did the same thing for my 3 "retired" NZ Reds this spring. I'm going to be getting new breeding stock this summer, so I thought I do a little experimenting before they got here. Luckily for me, I was able to complete the whole project from materials I scrounged from the old farm we bought this winter!! :D

    The first thing I did, however, was to lay out chicken wire on the ground to form a large footprint of the area that I was going to fence in for the rabbits. Once this was down, I drove my posts in about 6" in from the outer edges of the chicken wire, and fenced it with 4' high 2"x4" wire fencing. After this, I put down about 4" of soil over the chicken wire, tamped it down, and spread straw over the whole thing. I used old cinder blocks to frame the outer perimeter of the pen and hold down the chicken wire that extends outside of the fence. I put down my "nesting boxes", which are comprised of old 1'x 1.5' wooden shipping boxes and disassembled pet carriers. The finished pen is about 7'x15'.

    My rabbits took about 1 day to get to know each other, and by the next day, they were basking in the sun together! As old as they are, it's a lot of fun to see them running around, and playing on the ground rather than laying on wire all day. The do eat much less than they did when they were caged, although they are far more active. The do dig a little in the nest boxes, but the chicken wire keeps them in, so they are limited to just a little "remodeling" to the entrances of the boxes with soil and straw. I go in to the pen every day with fresh greens I've picked for them, so that keeps them pretty tame. They are much larger than the two kittens that came with the farm, so the kittens are learning a healthy respect for them, which I'm hoping will nip any future issues in the bud.

    I do not have a roof or wire over the top of the pen, but I'm hoping that the tree canopy helps to keep the hawks disinterested. That, and the fact that the rabbits are very similar in color to the straw covering the ground has kept them safe so far. I'm not sure how a white rabbit would fare in that situation, but I guess I'll be finding out soon enough!
    April
     
  17. April please keep us posted on how things go for you. It will be interesting to listen to.
     
  18. MelissaW

    MelissaW Well-Known Member

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    Gnatgnome, can the rabbits still graze with the wire on the bottom? I imagine long grass gets a little matted underneath, but shorter grass probably sticks through. I once had 18 dutch rabbits escape from their sun pen! We got all but one of the little ones back. We saw him around the woods for a few months, but then he disappeared. We sold the rabbits three years ago, but I kind of miss them. I'm considering a couple of lops or dwarf rabbits. They're all so sweet, I can't decide!
     
  19. apirlawz

    apirlawz playing in the dirt

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    Well rh, here's my first update! :p Well, actually, not much to report other than after 2 months, everything is going well. But I do have a question for those allowing their rabbits to graze.

    As soon as anything green started peeking through this spring, I would pick it and give it to the buns. I'd start with a few leaves of curly dock, dandilions, or grass, but that increased steadily each day as new growth came in. Now, the three rabbits eat a packed basket (aprox. 6-8 cups!) each day. I've seen no adverse effects - diarrhea, listlessness, etc. The do eat about 1/4 of the pellets they did before they got fresh greens, and drink slightly less water. It looks like the salt/mineral spool is getting a little less attention also...although being out in the weather, it's hard to tell. They have gorgeous coats, and needless to say, they get really happy when they see me coming!! Of course, it takes a little longer to gather everything daily, but I really think it's worth the effort. And heck, if I'm gonna have these weeds on my farm, they better be paying their way!! :haha:

    So, this begs the question...what's the big deal about fresh greens?? :confused: I've heard so many people making it sound like fresh greens are practically a no-no, that they can only be fed in very limited portions. I can see if I gave a cage-raised rabbit a pound of carrots, (or broccoli, cabbage, etc.) suddenly after being raised on pellets only, or making any other drastic diet changes, but is there any other reason that I am totally missing here? I can't understand how wild rabbits thrive off the stuff, but it is supposedly only to be an occasional treat for domesticated cousins! I can see how a "limited" diet of greens...say if I only fed dock, or only grass, etc...could lead to nutritional deficiencies that would be avoided by feeding a more complete pellet. With this in mind, I've been trying to get as much of a variety that I can...and that I can identify!! Would hate to inadvertently poison the little buggers!

    But anyway, I'd love to hear any feedback from anyone doing the same thing, or something similar. This seems to be working really well so far, and barring some bad reactions, I would like try to wean the rabbits I'll be getting later this summer over to fresh food. Of course, I have no idea what effect this will have on breeding does, but I have to imagine that as long as I continue to offer minerals and pellets, I should have my bases covered.

    April
     
  20. Michael Leferink

    Michael Leferink Well-Known Member

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    Just a little food for thought. Domestic rabbits have been bred in captivity for centuries. Their systems might not behave the same way a wild rabbit's does. After all, hundreds of years of selctive breeding is a form of genetic engineering.
    Also, the Domestic rabbit is decended from the European rabbit. Not the North American rabbit. The two are genetically different. And there are probably plants growing here that don't grow there. The domestic rabbit might not have evolved to handle some of these plants.
    I know people raised rabbits on home grow food before modern pelleted feed was invented. I also know they had major problems with growth rates, parisites and poisonous plants growing in their fields. It was also difficult to supply enough food in the winter. I constantly worry that I might get some hay one day that has poisonous plants in it.
    I would suggest anyone thinking about feeding their rabbits fresh greens or cuttings from their yard to do a very good search for harmful plants. I have met aleast three people who lost all of their rabbits because they gave the rabbits too much iceberg lettuce. Gabbage and it's relatives are known to be harmful to domestic rabbits, as well.
    I certainly am not saying that folks should never raise their rabbits in this way. Just suggesting that they do plenty of research. I looked into this for about five years in the 1980's and again over the last 16 mths. The vast majority of the professionals I have been in contact with, feed only high quality pelleted feed and hay. I've decided to stay with their recommendation.
    I'm glad it seems to be working out for you. Please let the board know if you run into any problems.

    Mike