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raising rabbits the old way --

Advice on purchasing or constructing cages and hutches for your rabbitry.
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#16  Unread postby Rainey » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:56 pm


This is giving me lots to think about. Our feed is more the old fashioned way but we built wire cages when we started and haven't put any rabbits on the ground--fearing coccidiosis. Now I wonder . . . But I can picture the look my son would give me after he's made all those wire cages if I told him now I want wood ;)
Thanks to Michael for the numbers on nutrients from different meats. What we raise ourselves are rabbit and pork and the other meat we eat is venison. But I wonder why pork has a reputation for being unhealthy when it compares so well to beef and chicken.

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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#17  Unread postby MaggieJ » Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:07 pm


Rainey wrote: . . . But I wonder why pork has a reputation for being unhealthy when it compares so well to beef and chicken.


The western world was sold a bill of goods back in the Sixties and Seventies, with all the paranoia about animal fats. Pork got a bad rap in particular because of it's perceived fattiness. As for lard . . . My mother used to make pastry with lard, but in the Sixties switched to corn oil. It was "supposed to be" healthier. Not so, they tell us now, 50 years too late. Sigh.
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#18  Unread postby Ozarkansas » Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:14 pm


I would like to point out 2 things. 1 LOCATION! I've lived in Northern California and Northwest Arkansas. In Northern California we could keep the rabbits on 1 × 1 or even 1 × 2 wire with no resting matts. And no sore hocks. Rabbits could be on the ground without getting Coccidiosis or other parasites. The lowest the temp ever got was 17° that was the very lowest. Highest was around 100°. Also hardly any bugs! Seeing maggots was like a rare ocassion. Moved to NW Arkansas and that changed the humidity and heat of the south uhhgg! Parasites are a big deal! There is no putting rabbits on the ground for more than a few minutes. Good furred rabbits get sore hocks on 1 × 1/2 wire without a resting mat in the summer. Temp is so extreme! From 3-° to 115°! Waste starts to build up at all you get maggots in a day or so. Just saying that changed things a bit. 2. BREED. My meat mutts can take most anything. Cabbage throw it at 'em, sugary foods they can have those too, purebreds are allergic to hay, mutts immune to snuffles. Purebred has 2 dead kits at 40° mutt has 10 live kits at 10°. It just really depends on some certain factors
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#19  Unread postby Zass » Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:30 pm


Ozarkansas wrote:I would like to point out 2 things. 1 LOCATION! I've lived in Northern California and Northwest Arkansas. In Northern California we could keep the rabbits on 1 × 1 or even 1 × 2 wire with no resting matts. And no sore hocks. Rabbits could be on the ground without getting Coccidiosis or other parasites. The lowest the temp ever got was 17° that was the very lowest. Highest was around 100°. Also hardly any bugs! Seeing maggots was like a rare ocassion. Moved to NW Arkansas and that changed the humidity and heat of the south uhhgg! Parasites are a big deal! There is no putting rabbits on the ground for more than a few minutes. Good furred rabbits get sore hocks on 1 × 1/2 wire without a resting mat in the summer. Temp is so extreme! From 3-° to 115°! Waste starts to build up at all you get maggots in a day or so. Just saying that changed things a bit. 2. BREED. My meat mutts can take most anything. Cabbage throw it at 'em, sugary foods they can have those too, purebreds are allergic to hay, mutts immune to snuffles. Purebred has 2 dead kits at 40° mutt has 10 live kits at 10°. It just really depends on some certain factors


Other disease factors can be the presence of wild animals who have or carry the diseases, and resistance to common strains found in different areas. The US is big, and rabbits travel a LOT, which means that buns resistant to what they were exposed to in state might not do as well in another.

There are also some US cottontails that are known carriers of the protozoa that causes hepatic coccidiosis, but I don't know how prominent the disease is overseas, or if the wild rabbits there commonly carry it.
It's along the same lines as how we don't typically worry too much about VHD, as our cottontails are not carriers.

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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#20  Unread postby Ozarkansas » Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:37 pm


Zass wrote:
Ozarkansas wrote:I would like to point out 2 things. 1 LOCATION! I've lived in Northern California and Northwest Arkansas. In Northern California we could keep the rabbits on 1 × 1 or even 1 × 2 wire with no resting matts. And no sore hocks. Rabbits could be on the ground without getting Coccidiosis or other parasites. The lowest the temp ever got was 17° that was the very lowest. Highest was around 100°. Also hardly any bugs! Seeing maggots was like a rare ocassion. Moved to NW Arkansas and that changed the humidity and heat of the south uhhgg! Parasites are a big deal! There is no putting rabbits on the ground for more than a few minutes. Good furred rabbits get sore hocks on 1 × 1/2 wire without a resting mat in the summer. Temp is so extreme! From 3-° to 115°! Waste starts to build up at all you get maggots in a day or so. Just saying that changed things a bit. 2. BREED. My meat mutts can take most anything. Cabbage throw it at 'em, sugary foods they can have those too, purebreds are allergic to hay, mutts immune to snuffles. Purebred has 2 dead kits at 40° mutt has 10 live kits at 10°. It just really depends on some certain factors


Other disease factors can be the presence of wild animals who have or carry the diseases, and resistance to common strains found in different areas. The US is big, and rabbits travel a LOT, which means that buns resistant to what they were exposed to in state might not do as well in another.

There are also some US cottontails that are known carriers of the protozoa that causes hepatic coccidiosis, but I don't know how prominent the disease is overseas, or if the wild rabbits there commonly carry it.
It's along the same lines as how we don't typically worry too much about VHD, as our cottontails are not carriers.


Very true! Thank you for adding that!
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#21  Unread postby akane » Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:46 pm


Mine got cocci in a large building with 4' up solid walls that rats barely find an opening on rubber mats and pine pellets. I would guess birds(also how I think we got e.coniculi)+ humidity. Iowa sees about +10F and -20 or even -40 degrees on to arkansas range of temps with humidity swelling the doors to the point of not shutting in summer and so dry in winter I have 3 whole house humidifiers to not end up with a sore throat this year after last year it went below what our digital humidity monitor would even detect. This winter was almost 60F one week and -15 with snow for 4 days the next week so things here have to survive all extremes including weird middle of the season spikes or drops. There are probably more livestock deaths in spring or fall than the heat or cold by itself. I was reading about a growing issue in texas of more temp spikes in winter causing cattle to overheat because they have their winter coats and are being fed for cold only to generate too much heat if fed before the temp rises on an abnormally warm day. Frostbite is more common when it thaws, raises humidity, and then just barely freezes than dry -20F. I had to cut away dead rooster combs in fall a few times when it did that.

I have fly strips in my house in town in winter and regularly dumping things down the drain to kill gnats is standard even if you own no pets. The maggots are less annoying and troublesome than the ones that go from egg to fly in 24-48hrs including on floating water that has any contamination to use as a food source. They can make 100s with one forgotten item between cleaning. I had animals go into seizures due to buffalo gnats in spring, I'm treating a dog for lyme, and the mosquitos get so thick the dogs have swollen ears and eyes if not treated with the repellent they hate.

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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#22  Unread postby alforddm » Wed Feb 14, 2018 5:35 pm


Ozarkansas wrote:I would like to point out 2 things. 1 LOCATION! I've lived in Northern California and Northwest Arkansas. In Northern California we could keep the rabbits on 1 × 1 or even 1 × 2 wire with no resting matts. And no sore hocks. Rabbits could be on the ground without getting Coccidiosis or other parasites. The lowest the temp ever got was 17° that was the very lowest. Highest was around 100°. Also hardly any bugs! Seeing maggots was like a rare ocassion. Moved to NW Arkansas and that changed the humidity and heat of the south uhhgg! Parasites are a big deal! There is no putting rabbits on the ground for more than a few minutes. Good furred rabbits get sore hocks on 1 × 1/2 wire without a resting mat in the summer. Temp is so extreme! From 3-° to 115°! Waste starts to build up at all you get maggots in a day or so. Just saying that changed things a bit. 2. BREED. My meat mutts can take most anything. Cabbage throw it at 'em, sugary foods they can have those too, purebreds are allergic to hay, mutts immune to snuffles. Purebred has 2 dead kits at 40° mutt has 10 live kits at 10°. It just really depends on some certain factors



I wondered why I had such trouble with my rex and sore hocks. I'm in Southeastern OK so only about 4-5 hrs from NW AR. I "think" I've finally got the hock issue worked out. I kept back the rabbits that had the fewest problems and kept bucks that had had no problems. Culled everyone else and then put either 1x2 pieces of 1" holed plastic lattice or some plastic floor tiles that I got when sears went out of business in all the cages.

I didn't have any problems last summer after this, and things still look good through winter (although it's been a remarkably dry winter). Most of my cages are 1x1/2 16 gauge floors because that is all I can get locally without paying huge shipping costs.


I am thinking of making some 2 ft ceramic rods and seeing how those work for flooring. The problem would be getting them straight.

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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#23  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Wed Feb 14, 2018 5:38 pm


alforddm wrote:[quote=


I wondered why I had such trouble with my rex and sore hocks. I'm in Southeastern OK so only about 4-5 hrs from NW AR. I "think" I've finally got the hock issue worked out.
]






From my understanding..... the Rex was developed by the same man that authored the rabbit raising section of Raising poultry and rabbits on scraps, - these rabbits were developed on "deep litter" type of conditions... and brought "over here" fairly recently.. I theorize, that the Rex hasn't had as much time to develop "tough feet" as some of the other breeds... and "over there" they still raise them mostly on "deep litter" ...
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#24  Unread postby Truckinguy » Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:42 pm


I've posted here a bit about my colony, really a big cage but it's outdoors exposed to the elements. There is a thread about it around here somewhere. Top, sides and rear are plywood or chipboard with a corrugated metal roof and the front is 1x1 cage wire with a door to each compartment. It is built on a pad of 24"x30" patio slabs and in total measures 5'x18' with six compartments.

I initially got a buck and three does in Feb 2008 from a respected breeder near me, Moonkitten, who was on this forum in the early years. They were New Zealands and I built cages and kept them in the garage for a few years. They were very good stock, healthy and they bred well but the multiple cages were a bit of a pain to change all the poo pans out on a regular basis.

A few years ago (5-6, maybe?) I needed to put my old pickup truck in the garage for future restoration so I built the colony in the backyard and moved them there. They seemed to adjust fine and I've been very happy with the setup.

As previously mentioned, they are on concrete patio slabs that I cover with fresh straw and change it out as often as needed. I can get busy at times and be a bit tardy with the cleanout so there can be some buildup in the corners but it never really gets stinky. The patio slabs also help keep their nails worn down so I haven't had to trim any nails since they went out to the colony. In the summer they clear the straw away and lie right on the slab to keep cool.

I've had very few health problems even though they come into regular contact with their own poop due to it being mixed in with the straw. I've never had a spotty liver and haven't had a snotty rabbit since they moved outside. They breed year round through the heat and the cold and does have nursed many litters during the winter when they only get fresh water two or three times a day when I can swap the frozen bottles out. One doe raised two kits on January a few years ago when it was down into the -20's and they did just fine. I was told that two kits wouldn't be able to keep enough heat between them to survive the cold but the doe stuffed so much straw into the next box that I had to reach in up to my elbow to get to them. Once in a while I get one rabbit out of a litter, maybe at about four or five weeks, that develops a rattly breathing but no snot and none of the others gets it. They butcher out just fine. I think that being exposed to the elements has bred a real hardiness into my rabbits. Thy are generally sheltered but are exposed to a wide range of temperatures, any germs, bacteria or viruses that are in the area and occasionally some rain or snow that blows in. They are on a commercial pellet but get grass clippings, including any of the wide variety of weeds that comprise my lawn, and garden and kitchen scraps when available.

I think there was a thread n this forum not too long ago discussing a guy who suggested keeping a herd of rabbits together even if some of them were sick. Others might get sick, some may die but his reasoning was that the ones that came out of it healthy would have built up an immunity to whatever it was and not be as susceptible to getting sick. I think that was the gist of it anyway.

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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#25  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:23 pm


Since I have no intention of raising rabbits commercially again- ... [if I live long enough] I would like to start raising rabbits "the old way" again- i have designs [blueprints] I kept for making all metal "old style" cages.[designed after the pictures in "Raising Poultry and Rabbits on Scraps] https://www.amazon.com/Keeping-Poultry- ... B00358VHQ0 .., i want to go back to a more sustainable way of doing things.-- For Home Meat production- I see no reason it should work less well then it did years ago......
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#26  Unread postby Zass » Fri Feb 16, 2018 3:11 pm


i have designs [blueprints] I kept for making all metal "old style" cages.[designed after the pictures in "Raising Poultry and Rabbits on Scraps] https://www.amazon.com/Keeping-Poultry- ... B00358VHQ0 .., i want to go back to a more sustainable way of doing things.-- For Home Meat production- I see no reason it should work less well then it did years ago......


I imagine it should work as well as it always did. :)

One thing that makes me hesitate about the deep litter method is the constant input model of providing litter. Anytime I've ever had rabbits on the ground it was similar, with a never ending need to provide fresh layers of bedding. I guess it makes more sense if you have a free or cheap local source of material, but could be prohibitive for people in more urban areas. Both for the cost, and increased waste production.

On the plus side, additional high cellulose bedding material makes the rabbit waste absolutely perfect for vermicomposting as-is.

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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#27  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Fri Feb 16, 2018 3:25 pm


Zass wrote:
i have designs [blueprints] I kept for making all metal "old style" cages.[designed after the pictures in "Raising Poultry and Rabbits on Scraps] https://www.amazon.com/Keeping-Poultry- ... B00358VHQ0 .., i want to go back to a more sustainable way of doing things.-- For Home Meat production- I see no reason it should work less well then it did years ago......


I imagine it should work as well as it always did. :)

One thing that makes me hesitate about the deep litter method is the constant input model of providing litter. Anytime I've ever had rabbits on the ground it was similar, with a never ending need to provide fresh layers of bedding. I guess it makes more sense if you have a free or cheap local source of material, but could be prohibitive for people in more urban areas. Both for the cost, and increased waste production.

On the plus side, additional high cellulose bedding material makes the rabbit waste absolutely perfect for vermicomposting as-is.


one thing i miss about the old system, is the extra composting material for mulching my winter crops-- wire cages produce only manure , that is great- but, when it comes to mulching my kale and carrots for winter- the manure is not nearly enough.
Another "factor" i have been "mulling over" is- the rabbits [and chickens] that grow so fast, may not have as much food value as those that grow at a slower rate... When I had a "mostly Asian" market, the customers would not buy the "fast growing" breeds of chickens- because ,they said they did not "give health" Those people would bring their pregnant women to my farm, and pay the extra price for chickens from breeds that grew much more slowly, to feed their pregnant women. -- One man summed up their theory by saying-- soft meat= soft baby-- we need strong baby... fast growing chicken is weak chicken. They loved the rabbits...
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#28  Unread postby MaggieJ » Fri Feb 16, 2018 3:53 pm


About deep litter in my colony . . .

The space was 8 feet square, pallet wood floor. I would put down a bale of wood shavings for starters. Since the rabbits diet was based on free choice alfalfa hay and there was a lot of stemmy waste, material was constantly added by the activities of the rabbits. This meant there was a relatively clean, dry layer on top and the bunny berries and the urine drained to the bottom.

We cleaned it out completely from time to time and started fresh with a bale of shavings. The removed litter made great mulch, but the chickens liked to have a go at it when it first arrived on the ground outside the rabbit house.

Alfalfa hay (about 80% alfalfa/20% grass and weeds) was about $3 a square bale (maybe 40 pounds?) and straw was the same price. So it made sense to allow waste of the stemmy alfalfa for the litter.

My rabbit meat cost about 75 cents a pound, half what it cost when I was feeding pellets (the costs included maintenance of the breeders as well as raising grow-outs.) And both the free-range chickens and the garden benefited as well. In my climate, parasites and diseases like coccidiosis are a relatively small risk, due to our long, cold winters.

I think there is a difference between rabbits being raised directly on the ground in an outdoor pen and rabbits raised in an indoor colony on deep litter. One factor may be that the indoor litter stays a lot dryer. Notice that Truckinguy's outdoor colony has a full roof and three solid walls, so again it likely stays fairly dry. It also has paving stones that provide good drainage.
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#29  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Sun Feb 18, 2018 8:33 am


when I raised rabbits in a wood hutch, on a solid wood floor , clean out was not much of a problem for most of the does, as they would pee in a back corner and the sloped floor would cause it to just run out the back and fall on the ground. The cages stayed mostly dry, so I could ignore cleaning until it was getting too deep , or we needed fertilizer for the garden. However- there were always those does that would want their pee spot in the front of the cage, so I had to watch those hutches carefully , so it did not get to be a fly-blown mess in the summer, or too wet in the winter. [I culled some does just for that reason]
When there was a litter of rabbits in those hutches I had to start cleaning every week the month before I butchered them- so that aspect of solid floor cages was more work than raising them on a wire floor.
I also think successfully raising litters all winter [in Montana] was mostly due to the wood hutch, solid floor, and deep layer of straw. I think the does were able to keep warm easier, and build a deep nest or burrow in the back corner that would protect the kits from wind and the sub-zero outside temperatures.

I have no idea what straw costs nowadays- I was raised on a farm that raised grain, or lived near farms that did , and straw was free or nearly so- I think using shavings might become problematic for some garden crops.. and straw was an important source of the "longstem fiber" missing in diets of greens and root crops.
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#30  Unread postby Rainey » Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:05 am


michaels4gardens wrote:
I have no idea what straw costs nowadays- I was raised on a farm that raised grain, or lived near farms that did , and straw was free or nearly so- I think using shavings might become problematic for some garden crops.. and straw was an important source of the "longstem fiber" missing in diets of greens and root crops.


We don't grow grain or live in an area that does, but we have a sawmill. Our rabbits are in wire cages but we put a thin layer of sawdust in the pans that go under them. It soaks up the urine and makes the pans easier to empty and clean. The trays are emptied into the compost bins or directly onto beds during the growing season. We use shavings from planer and jointer mixed with peat mossas bedding in our worm box for indoor composting. Also use shavings on the floor of the winter chicken coop and sawdust for bedding in the goat shed. If we kept rabbits on solid floor with bedding, I'd think the shavings might be ok but probably sawdust could be too dusty and cause respiratory problems. It's interesting how we each have different givens to work with and how that shapes our ways of raising our animals.
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