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Ornamental co-ed colony

Alternative housing for rabbits in groups.
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Ornamental co-ed colony

Post Number:#1  Unread postby Tiny Buns » Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:27 pm


I have a client who would like to set up a colony of netherland/holland/mini rex in a large space. Initially she was thinking all does, but now they are wondering can you have an altered buck or two in the colony.

Having never had a colony, I don't know how it works. My question would be if the does would be sexually alert to the fact there is a buck in the herd, albeit and altered one?

Any thoughts on combining half a dozen does and a couple of altered bucks in an adequately large space?

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Re: Ornamental co-ed colony

Post Number:#2  Unread postby EnglishSpot » Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:34 pm


I think you're still going to have the male territorial issues with multiple bucks, regardless of hormones.
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Re: Ornamental co-ed colony

Post Number:#3  Unread postby Dood » Tue Mar 08, 2016 11:39 am


:yeahthat:

With intact girls in the pen the boys are still going to fight even though they cannot get anyone pregnant.

I would also worry about the unrelated females fighting - the only colonies I've had work were all sister, or mother daughter groups

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Re: Ornamental co-ed colony

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Tiny Buns » Tue Mar 08, 2016 12:13 pm


Dood wrote::yeahthat:

With intact girls in the pen the boys are still going to fight even though they cannot get anyone pregnant.

I would also worry about the unrelated females fighting - the only colonies I've had work were all sister, or mother daughter groups


Even if they are unrelated does together since they were kits?

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Re: Ornamental co-ed colony

Post Number:#5  Unread postby wamplercathy » Tue Mar 08, 2016 6:05 pm


From my limited experience does get a little cranky and territorial once they become sexually mature. Fighting can happen. With the girls all being from the same litter from start to finish the pecking order is already established. Take the lowest girl on the totem pole out for a month or so and place her back in and a fight could break out. The only time I've ever seen rabbits hanging out together was when my buck and doe decided cuddling was better than mating. Never seen it in wild rabbits. Actually we have a pile of rock in the side yard and when it gets really cold, and only when it's really really cold, do all the wild rabbits seem to gather there. But I've seen a ton of fights when their all living that close. As soon as it gets warm enough and the snow is gone they all split in different directions.

But that being said rabbits, like most living creatures, are individuals and anything is possible. For instance I could have sworn that there was a fuzzy kit in the covers last night. I pulled the covers over me and wiggled my toes. And that's when I felt it. :oops: Threw on the light and flipped the covers around. Freaked out my DH. :x Now he thinks I'm going crazy. :x Again. :P :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: Ornamental co-ed colony

Post Number:#6  Unread postby Zass » Tue Mar 08, 2016 6:40 pm


There is nothing natural about rabbits being confined together.
Wild colonies allow for unlimited space for animals to escape each others presence as needed.
It is not uncommon for dominant animals, even females, to injure or maim one another if kept together.

Even if all animals are spayed and neutered, they may not get along peaceably.
Or...They might be just fine intact.
Rabbits have very individual opinions about who they want to share their space with. Relatives who have always been together are usually a safer bet than unrelated individuals, but...There are some rabbits who just like having other rabbits around.
My Mucky is a good example. She is dominant enough to keep other does in check, but peaceable enough to avoid harming them.
With rabbits, there is no telling what they will do until it's tried. :)

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Re: Ornamental co-ed colony

Post Number:#7  Unread postby AprilW » Tue Mar 08, 2016 7:43 pm


I'll speak on behalf of colonies: I have kept my herd of breeding/show rabbits (does only) together in a colony for most of the last year. My girls are unrelated, different ages, and even two different breeds, AND they've had litters in the colony. I have experienced no issues. The rabbits WILL establish a hierarchy which will include mounting each other, chasing around, and boxing. Once that is established, my rabbits have gotten on splendidly. They cuddle and groom each other, as well as share nests and take turns nursing kits.

Rabbits that actually fight each other aren't suited to colony living and so it will be important for your friend to have individual cages ready in case the rabbits don't work. 1 buck could work but I would not house multiple bucks with does, even neutered. The males will fight for territory. For females to get along, they need space. My pen allows approximately 15 square feet per large breed doe (I'm in the process of reducing my herd so it will be more like 20-25 when I'm finished), although it's rare for me to see a doe by herself.

Some thoughts:

* You didn't mention if the colony would be indoors or out, if outdoors a lot of care must be taken to ensure predators cannot access it. This means a sturdy pen that is fully enclosed. Shade is imperative as is protection from wind and rain. If indoors, the colony needs adequate ventilation to help prevent respiratory disease.
* The breeds you mention are small breeds so I would allow at least 5 square feet of space per rabbit. Space will permit the rabbits to spread out if they want to.
* Provide a lot of distractions - toys, tree stumps & branches from safe trees, boxes, my rabbits had a cat tree that they loved to climb. Rabbits will make use of vertical space and can jump quite high from standstill. Change out the distractions periodically for interest.
* Close observation is necessary when first introducing the rabbits. Younger does will probably get along best, but I have successfully introduced mature does into my colony without any problems.
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Re: Ornamental co-ed colony

Post Number:#8  Unread postby Zass » Tue Mar 08, 2016 11:22 pm


AprilW wrote:I'll speak on behalf of colonies: I have kept my herd of breeding/show rabbits (does only) together in a colony for most of the last year. My girls are unrelated, different ages, and even two different breeds, AND they've had litters in the colony. I have experienced no issues. The rabbits WILL establish a hierarchy which will include mounting each other, chasing around, and boxing. Once that is established, my rabbits have gotten on splendidly. They cuddle and groom each other, as well as share nests and take turns nursing kits.

Rabbits that actually fight each other aren't suited to colony living and so it will be important for your friend to have individual cages ready in case the rabbits don't work.


Your harlequins and mine are nice bunnies, I think, and probably well suited to co-habitation. What was your other breed?

I'm reminded of something that happened today. A first time harli doe got grumpy with me for brushing the floor of her pen right next to her 4 day old popples. She growled a little, and then pretended to bite me. It was the gentlest nibble ever. :oops: Her good nature got the better of her, and she didn't have the will to carry through with a real nip. :lol:

I've had mutts and NZ crosses that would freak out lunging and biting as hard as they could at me and whatever they could reach, including the wooden NESTBOX itself, while I was removing it or returning it. Those kinds of high strung does are probably not the best choice for colony buns.

I dunno. Others have had a hard time with does digging kits out of other doe's nests in colonies, and have expressed that a doe having some desire to protect the nest from other buns is a good thing.
If they did that though, they wouldn't be able to share nests and nursing duties.

I think...It must really depend on the individual rabbits you have,.

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Re: Ornamental co-ed colony

Post Number:#9  Unread postby Dood » Wed Mar 09, 2016 7:58 am


Unfortunately the house rabbit society has really pushed the idea that rabbits must have another rabbit for companionship or to "bond" with but that is simply not true in most cases

Many of the pet breed rabbits I rescued in my youth were the wrong gender or ones that failed to "bond" with a new rabbit in the home :( I wish I could say it was the baby rabbit that got booted out but more often than not it was the older rabbit who was re-homed because they became aggressive not only with the new bunny but often with the owner

You can certainly give it a try but please have a back up plan if things don't work out and be prepared to cage each rabbit individually and/or care for them for the next 10 years

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Re: Ornamental co-ed colony

Post Number:#10  Unread postby wamplercathy » Thu Mar 10, 2016 9:05 pm


From what I'm seeing it might be best to get rabbits that have been breed and raised in a social environment. My rabbits have been bred to breed and tolerate human interaction. So I would advice your client to choose carefully. And like others have said have a Plan B. Animals can be unpredictable everything could go great or it could go horribly bad in a second. I believe back up plans are a must.

Best of luck.

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Re: Ornamental co-ed colony

Post Number:#11  Unread postby GBov » Thu Jun 23, 2016 6:41 pm


I once - before I knew better - put four unrelated rabbits into a 4ft by 4ft space. They all did fine for well over a year. Only problem is the two fertile does only had single kits so eventually I culled the lot.

On the other side, I had a buck doe pair colony that turned on one of their own kits and almost killed it.

So, if you have cages set up as back up, put in lots of things to run through, under, over and into and put them in the colony space. Wear gloves so you can separate fighting buns safely. And dont give up, try them with play time every day, getting longer all the time.

Remember rabbits are VERY active at night so just because its working during the day, night can be another matter entirely.

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