Transition to Colonizing

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by Lynnette, Nov 2, 2006.

  1. Lynnette

    Lynnette Michigan Hobby Farmer

    Feb 9, 2006
    I am completely changing my rabbitry next Spring. I am going from seperate hutches to a colony set up. I realize this has been discussed many times here and there have been some great ideas presented, which I loved and found "inspiring". My question is if anyone has any new ideas, suggestions to make it better, things you would do differently?
  2. turtlehead

    turtlehead Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2005
    Central WV
    I just made a kind of long entry in the thread entitled "Thinking about starting to raise rabbits... help!" and it includes a few things I'd do differently. The two main things I'd change:

    put hardware cloth at the bottom of the fence instead of chicken wire
    provide plenty of straw and hay for nest building

    Everything else seems to be working well for me so far (it's early yet).

  3. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

    Feb 6, 2006
    Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
    I like the idea of colonizing... but I'm leaning toward using rabbit tractors instead. I think the rabbits would get more good greens in tractors and that the sanitation problems would be fewer. It would prevent indiscriminate breeding as well.

    But there is a downside too: in tractors they will inevitably go over some ground where wild cottontails have been grazing. Tractors are more labour-intensive too. And in winter, rabbit tractors would be unworkable in our climate, so it would be back to the cages or pens in a building.

    Lots of ideas to work through before I make any major changes... but the direction I am moving in both rabbit habitat and rabbit feeding is "back to nature".
  4. KSALguy

    KSALguy Lost in the Wiregrass Supporter

    Feb 14, 2006
    rabbit tractors would be great for growing out fryers but not so much for breeding does as the moveing all the time would be a stress to them and their litter,

    are you startine out with your adult does or are you going to start out with a new crop of young does?
    young does would probably better to start the colony as you would probably have a better chance of them getting along with less fighting,
    but adult does would be able to emediatly dig their burrow and kindle under ground if they were put in the colony after being bred.
    how many colony/pens are you planning? how much space? how many rabbits?

    i would get a trencher (like they use to lay water line. it can be rented by the day from a hardware store or something) and dig a trench around the perimityer of the pens down a few feet, and burry eather a real heavy duity fence like chainlink or something that wont rust away in a few months (this also depends on your soil type i think to an extent) or you can back fill with rock and broken cement block stuff, something to prevent them from digging out of the enclosure,

    i would put the enclosure on high ground, with some shade trees or something for shade, i would build what i call "grass protectors" or what ever, basically some wooden frames a few inches deep, like 2x4's put into rectangles about the size of a long rabbit cage and cover one side with rabbit wire or hardware cloth type stuff so that the grass can continue to grow up through the wire and the rabbits can eat it, as well as help stop errosion and cave ins, they can be picked up periodically to be raked out so that droppings dont build up too much.
    i would line the lower portion of the fence with chicken wire so that the holes are small enough to keep the babys in, and still inexpencive.
    i would make a smaller side pen where you feed the rabbits that has a gate, also line the floor of this pen with wire so no digging happens there, that way you can feed the rabbits in the smaller part of the pen and easily close the gate and catch the fryers when its time or catch a sick or hurt rabbit easly rather than chaseing everyone around the pen and haveing them hide underground more often than not.

    i would keep between two and 4 breeding does in each pen depending on the size along with their buck, it would be easy to cycle him in and out too,

    you could start out with one adult bred doe, or two if they get along, in each enclosure, put her/them in the enclosure a week or so before they are due to deliver so she has time to figure out where she wants to dig her burrow, then keep a few of her daughters in that enclosure as new breeders to get along. once she delivers wait a week and put a buck in for a bit that way you know when to expect the next litter, and so on.

    basically you could start out with one buck and one doe in one good sized enclosure and keep a couple of the doelings to fill out the colony breeder list, and when that colony is at a comfortable number of adult breeders you can make a new colony from some of the young raised in the first and the whole set up learning curve will be faster and easyer for these young ones as they will have been born in the colony setting and know right what to do. (at least you would think)
  5. Al. Countryboy

    Al. Countryboy Well-Known Member

    Oct 2, 2004
    I tried keeping a few rabbits on the ground, but I think that there is not alot of benifit doing this. Mine tended to stay dirty if I didn't keep if cleaned out and hay put down. This was inside my barn with wire on the floor to keep them from digging out with alot of mulch on top then hay. I figure if it was outside within a week or so every thing would be eaten up and how would I benifit. Trying to catch a run away bunny is no fun either. What works for me is that my adults (breeders for meat) stay in pins off the ground and as soon as the babies are old enough to wean. The babies then go into a light weight rabbit tractor which is easy to move. The tractor is 4ft. by 8ft. and is moved 8 ft. each day. Rarely is the tractor in the same spot twice during this grow out period. I did this last fall, spring and early summer and it worked great. No sick bunnies and they ate less than half their normal pellets. I plant winter rye and gradually introduce it while they are in the cage with moms. By the time they are ready to leave mom they are adjusted to the rye and so far have had no problems. They seem happy and grow off almost as fast with alot less feed to buy. I have kept up tp 12 in the tractor at a time, but had rather keep about 8.
  6. Everwind

    Everwind Member

    Jul 20, 2006
    KW area, Ontario
    I invite you to join my colony raising group if you like. There are some good pictures and files there and some discussion to go through in the archives. I have been absent myself for a while but just had my first ever 3 litters in the last couple of days in my colony which is 4 does, 1 buck in a 15' x 10' horse stall on rubber mats. I was originally going to put them in our fenced 30' x 30' outdoor pen but we ended up bringing home chickens unexpectedly from the rabbit breeder in July when we got the 6 wk old bunnies and the chickens are in the pen now. I still might get them outside one day, but do like where they are now.

    Andrea Rowbottom, St Agatha Ontario