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Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

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Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#1  Unread postby maywinter » Thu Aug 04, 2016 1:57 pm


Can rabbits be caged separately for a few months then live colony style for 9 months, alternating cage/colony every 3/9 months? Or will they forget they are friends?
The area I have for colony is too hot during the summer. I have a nice shaded shelter spot (firewood shed) that always has the coolest temperature on our property but can only use that during summer in cages. So alternating their living areas would work best if they could still get along after being separated.

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#2  Unread postby MaggieJ » Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:24 pm


Possibly it could work. It all depends on the rabbits. How many does are you talking about? If only a couple, having the cages side by side will help--they will still socialize through the wire.

I kept two of three does together in the winter for warmth and to make winter care easier and then returned them to cages in the summer. Did the came thing the next winter too with no problems. But . . . these were laid-back rabbits and were mother and daughters.

Any chance you could do a colony in the shed for the summer months? When I went to colony raising, I had half of a shed to work with, a space 8 feet by 8 feet. It worked fine for up to three does, a buck and the offspring until butchering time.

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#3  Unread postby maywinter » Thu Aug 04, 2016 4:38 pm


I have 1 buck and 2 does that are still babies and together in a tractor pen.

The wood shed we have is dirt floor so i worry about them escaping or digging too deep and hubby stores his lawnmower in there so not great for summer colony setup, except the temperature is great!

When they are older and need separate cages i could put them side by side, then in fall,winter,spring they can go to the colony setup and i will just have to watch and see if they get along.

I was hoping to use rams up to the cage doors left open in the colony but do you think they would go in on their own? If thats where they had food,water,nestbox? I have wire under dirt so they wont be digging and nesting underground.

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#4  Unread postby MaggieJ » Thu Aug 04, 2016 5:33 pm


It certainly helps that they are being raised together. How old are they now? How big is the colony they will be going into after the summer? A little more information would be helpful.

Does can be very territorial as they mature and in a colony setting there can be friction. Raising them together will allow them to work out dominance before it becomes a major issue -- maybe!

There are so many variables with raising rabbits in colonies. You have to be vigilant and catch problems before they become serious. If you haven't done so already, you should read everything you can in this Rabbit Colonies forum. It will help.

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#5  Unread postby maywinter » Thu Aug 04, 2016 5:50 pm


They are 7 weeks old and colony space is 12'x16'.

Thanks! I will keep reading the forum too.

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#6  Unread postby MaggieJ » Thu Aug 04, 2016 6:37 pm


A colony so big for the number of rabbits should make everything a lot easier. House the two does in side by side cages. Perhaps the buck can be placed first by one doe and later by the other. Having them well-acquainted as individuals goes a long way to ensuring harmony.

In your colony, having some "furniture" helps a lot. It gives the rabbits a way to get out of each other's sight and stay out of each other's hair. :lol:

You could try the cages with ramps, but I'm not quite sure what you hope to accomplish by that. I don't know if the does would want to use nest boxes there and there would be a danger of the kits falling when they leave the nest. Covered nest tunnels worked well for me. I'll see if I can find the pictures I posted several years ago.

Her ya go! pictures-of-nest-tunnels-in-colony-t2903.html

While looking for this, I realized just how many of the early posts on colonies are excellent for someone just about to set up. I suggest going to the last page and working forward.

One final thought (for tonight, anyway.) Does your colony have a roof of some kind to keep predators out? Predators can be a real problem with outdoor colonies. Rats, mink and weasels can get through very small openings and owls will clean you out if there is no protection overhead.

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#7  Unread postby maywinter » Thu Aug 04, 2016 7:25 pm


Oh you have some good tips! and seeing pics is always helpful, thanks!

Hmmm, I don't have an enclosed roof over the colony and was just going to use bird netting but that wouldn't keep out climbing predators. I know we have owls and hawks here, fox, coyote and who knows what else.

I guess my hopes were to lock up the buns safely at night like I do my chickens, but also let them roam free within the colony pen. Conflicting ideas I guess, lol, and my brain is just a mishmash of should I do this, or that, or this...
Seems like everyone does it a different way and I can't seem to decide which way to go.

Should I even use the cages as part of the colony or just make some shelters for weather. Would something like your nest tunnel be large enough as a shelter/nest or is a larger shelter better? one for each rabbit? I will have the cages for the non-colony summer setup and thought maybe I could use them somehow in the colony so they could get up off the ground or maybe as a place for the nursing does to be safely locked up for privacy.

Thought I had this all figured out but the more I read the more unsure I am

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#8  Unread postby MaggieJ » Thu Aug 04, 2016 8:46 pm


Never mind . . . you have all summer to figure it out while the rabbits are in cages. I'll post more tomorrow and see if I can help you.

One thing I am wondering is whether you are in Kingston or in the countryside nearby. Dealing with rural predators is sometimes different from urban predators.

I'm about 110 km west of Kingston in Prince Edward County, so I am very familiar with the fauna and flora of your neck of the woods. :)

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#9  Unread postby maywinter » Fri Aug 05, 2016 6:49 am


Oh thanks Maggie!

Wow we are close! I am in Harrowsmith, just north of Kingston, so definitely not urban.

I used to let my chickens roam free but we have a couple loose dogs and I caught one playing with a chicken, but didn't kill it it. Also have had one killed so I was assuming fox or coyote. In winter I really don't see any tracks around the coop which surprises me! I think raccoon once and of course cats.

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#10  Unread postby Truckinguy » Fri Aug 05, 2016 9:05 am


In my humble experience, just changing the dynamic of the colony by only one or two rabbits results in conflict to a certain degree until they sort it out. When I remove a litter of kits to a separate area of the colony to grow out they usually fight a bit for a day or two until they figure out their social ladder. I had one doe force herself through a section of wire between two parts of the colony that wasn't secured well enough and ended up in the next section with another doe and they seemed to get along fine. I think it depends on individual rabbits. Mine are all raised in the colony together even if they're in different areas so they are all more or less familiar with each other.

I'm an hour north of Toronto, just west of Alliston, and my rabbits stay outdoors all year round in the colony with no ill effects. They seem to be handling this heat well and the cold doesn't bother them a bit. There is a slightly higher kit loss in the winter but they have bred in all weather just fine. I just had a litter of nine born last week so the heat doesn't seem to be affecting the buck too much. When it's hot they clear the straw off an area of patio slabs that I have covering the floor and lie on the cool concrete. I've really enjoyed the colony since I switched from cages a few years ago, watching them bounce around in the straw is a fun way to pass the time.

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#11  Unread postby maywinter » Fri Aug 05, 2016 9:30 am


Truckinguy - what king of housing/shelter do you use?
I like the idea f concrete slabs to help stay cool.

Is your outdoor colony in the shade?
The area I have for a colony is in full sun with a roof over part of it for shade but monitoring the temperature this week has shown it to be extremely hot. There is a good breeze usually but I'm worried about the heat.

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#12  Unread postby MaggieJ » Fri Aug 05, 2016 10:06 am


Full sun is not so good. Can you grow rabbit safe vines over the structure to provide cooling? Grapevines or climbing roses come to mind. They'll take some time to get established, but might be a good long-term solution. Fast growing trees like Manitoba maple planted around it will soon provide some shade too. (Here they are a nuisance weed. So many seedlings and they grow so fast.)

In the first couple of years, you would probably need to use shade cloth to keep the rabbits cooler.

Truckinguy's suggestion of using paving stones to floor the colony is a very good one. He has a very nice colony -- there are pictures of it somewhere on this site. They will prevent predators digging their way in and rabbits digging their way out. They are easy to clean by hosing down and certainly will help with cooling if they are shaded.

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#13  Unread postby maywinter » Fri Aug 05, 2016 12:16 pm


I have lots of wild grape here that i could transplant around the rabbit pen, but yes will take a while to grow.

Have some shade from the chicken coop roof and a tattered tarp extending past, but i don't think it is enough, only covering half the area. I don't think a tarp would survive a year of weather but using it now to test shade creation.
Maybe a more permanent roof structure extending past the coop roof, but that might be too much $ for now, but maybe a good future project.
Shade cloth sounds better than a tarp, would i still need bird netting under that?
I could even work with half the colony pen area for now (~12'x8') to make it easier to shade...

Maybe adding scrap wood with gaps to the fencing walls for shade but still let the breeze still go thru.

__________ Fri Aug 05, 2016 12:16 pm __________

Well hubby just found a nice shaded spot under trees on the south end of our property. He has all kinds of junk there that he said he could move (although really that could take years to happen). It looks like the ideal place.
Now I'm just pondering moving my colony location. It would solve all the shade/heat issues but I have already started to set up the fencing and 2"x4" wire under the ground. Now I could just connect that area to the chickens and give them that extra area. I could dig up the wire or leave it incase i decide to keep rabbits there in the winter.

The possible new shade location:
If i let them burrow in the ground for nesting could it get flooded? Would they choose above ground nestboxes?

I could use the shade area for summer (much drier for burrows) and the sun area for winter. So now I have just doubled the amount of fencing,etc in my plans! Lol

Wow, I never had this much trouble deciding what to do with my chicken setup! :shock:

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#14  Unread postby MaggieJ » Fri Aug 05, 2016 4:40 pm


It can get complicated, but serious thought now will save you from costly mistakes.

We are already into August. Surely by September the weather will moderate. Can you park the rabbit tractor in the shade and just let them stay in it for the next month or two? They may run out of grass, but it is easy enough to pick weeds etc. and take them to the rabbits.

You referred to them as babies, but didn't tell us their age. As rabbits approach the three month mark, you will likely want to be careful that the young does do not become pregnant too soon. You may need to separate the buck, preferably to a next-door position so they stay "friends".

The spot in the shade sounds promising, but how far is it from your source of water? Carrying feed is one thing, but carrying water any distance gets old very quickly. Especially in winter, when water has to be changed often enough that they can drink. There are ways to keep the water from freezing but they require electricity . . . so think long and hard about where you should situate your rabbitry.

Some points to consider:
1. The wire you choose for the rabbitry is very important. Mink, weasels and rats can get through anything larger than 1" x 1". Chicken wire is no deterrent to animals getting in or rabbits getting out. It can be chewed through easily.

2. Bird netting will keep out birds, but neither it nor a tarp will prevent climbing predators like raccoons from going over the top and killing the rabbits. Raccoons are also very good about reaching through wire and nabbing a rabbit, eating it through the wire. I had a broody pen once made of sturdy wire shelving sections, 3/4" apart. One hot moonlit night, a raccoon reached through, grabbed a chick and did just that. I heard the broody screaming and ran down but it was too late for the chick. I did a quick fix to contain the broody and remaining chicks until morning, but darned if the raccoon didn't come back to finish pulling the chick through the bars and eating it.

3. Rabbits will dig if you let them. Sometimes they will dig their way right out. I think above-ground nest tunnels or covered boxes are a better bet and I think using paving stones to floor the colony is a good idea.

4. A solid roof is a very good idea. It needn't be fancy (think used materials from the re-store or Kijiji) but it not only gives protection from the weather but also from predators. Last year we were able to get used steel roofing from a closed mink farm at about $8 a sheet. Score!

Give it all some thought and we can discuss it more later one.

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Re: Can colony rabbits still get along if caged for months

Post Number:#15  Unread postby maywinter » Fri Aug 05, 2016 7:19 pm


Thanks so much Maggie for your thoughts and help!

My rabbits are 7 weeks old.
So they will be 12-15 weeks in sept.
You said at 3 months old separate? So 12 weeks?

I have a hutch ready for my buck to sit and wait for the girls to grow when i separate him.
I will keep him and the girls (who will still be in the tractor) in the shade until my colony pen is sorted out.
The tractor is small (2'x4') so not sure how long i can keep the 2 girls together in there.

I would really like to have the rabbit pen beside the chicken coop so i can do watering at the same time. I can also see it from my windows. So i think i will come up with some way of making more shade (roof,breezy walls)

Tsc has some rolls of 1"x1" fence that could make it predator proof.

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