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Gonna Dive In here ...

Alternative housing for rabbits in groups.
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Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#1  Unread postby cnichols » Sat Mar 27, 2010 8:15 pm


I'm at the beginning stages of planning housing, etc for all of my future animals.

Since I don't plan on breeding for show and only meat I have been contemplating building a colony setting for my future rabbits. I plan on having one buck and two does.

In my initial design of the pole barn, I decided to put aside a 7' 3" x 15' 3" area for the rabbit coloney. In addition, I plan on making a "run" of the same dimensions outside for them.

The coloney will be floored in a few inches of concrete to prevent dig outs. This will be sealed and covered with bedding.

I will use hardware cloth for the "pen walls" inside the barn and I will be adding a pop door for them to access the "run" area.

I'll also be adding some various level tables/shelves in the coloney area as well, to give them additional square footage and to give them a "room with a view" ;) (got that idea from Brody's blog!)

I'm still debating on how to treat the run area. I can either split it in two and give them access to one area at a time, giving the other a chance to recover or I can place wood framed "cages", that are a few inches high, over squares/rectangles of grass in order to let the rabbits nibble on the tips but not destroy it completely. (saw that idea somewhere too but don't remember where!)

Either way it will need to be planted with something that can tolorate alot of shade, since the side I had planned on putting it on is the north side. If that's not possible, I could always "swap" sides with the goats, since they won't be browsing in that area anyway. Not really sure about this, will have to give it more thought!

Anyway, any input on this plan would be more than welcome!
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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#2  Unread postby Brody » Sat Mar 27, 2010 8:51 pm


I like the concept of splitting the run very much - my run is 10 x 10 and i use and x-pen to plit it - my guys aren't out 24/7 on it but I find that helps keep grasses green and growing
the other might work too ..
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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#3  Unread postby cnichols » Sat Mar 27, 2010 9:22 pm


I thought maybe splitting would be the best idea. 1/2 can be planted with clover or sunflower seeds (or both) and given time to grow while the rabbits have daily access to the other 1/2.

They won't have 24/7 access to the run area, regardless. Just a few hours a day.
Last edited by cnichols on Sat Mar 27, 2010 9:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Brody » Sat Mar 27, 2010 9:25 pm


I plant a row of peas along the outside of one fence too- some grow in and get eaten faster and all are eaten eventually
the other fence line has an old wild grape vine on it which they also enjoy :)
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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#5  Unread postby cnichols » Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:00 am


That's a good idea. Having a vine along the fence line would also serve as a nice windbreak.

I've been considering different types of items to "landscape" with around all the runs (chickens as well) and field peas would be an excellent option because all of the critters can eat them.

What type of feeders do you use inside your colony? I've seen the J feeders at TSC and was thinking those would be pretty easy to set up on the interior wire wall. Would make access to them easier as well. One at each end so that there wouldn't be any squabbles over the feed. As well as two wire .... not sure what they are called ... but the wire things that hold the hay.

Speaking of hay, timothy or alfalfa? Or a mixture of both? I remember when I had buns years and years ago that we got these little alfalfa blocks for them to chew on. Helped to keep their teeth trimmed.
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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#6  Unread postby Anntann » Sun Mar 28, 2010 9:41 am


Hay...depends on what you're feeding them as main food. If you feed pellets, they're based on alfalfa, and are a good protein level as they are. (alfalfa is quite high in protein). so..with pellets you will probably want to feed a timothy or grass hay. Roughage. If you feed grains, then you would want to go with alfalfa for the protein boost and roughage.

My colony gets two large pans of feed just sitting on the floor. And a large pile of hay in another corner. Mostly I feed oats/wheat/barley with some pellets thrown in and alfalfa hay. Once a week they get pellets only and then some timothy hay. When we get out to the farm (they're indoor colony at the moment) they'll have grass runs for the angoras. The New Zealands will be in a permanent outdoor colony that will be large, and hopefully enough plant life to make them happy in addition to the grains and hay. If they eat down the plants, I'll add 2 runs that can be rotated for grass.

The outdoor colony has a covered shelter (think short gazebo) for the feeders which are built in.

As for giving them something to gnaw on...sticks. my guys LOVE sticks. Ijust go out with my pruning shears and lop off a few small branches from the apple tree, or the mulberry, or the maples, and throw them into the pens. happy bunnies!

The other thing that they like are 2x4s :) cut off ends. AVDPAS turned me on to that one, I think. Might have been Truckingguy. As long as it's not treated wood.

That's how mine works. and will be changed once I move out to the farm. :) I am going to plant peas along the fence tho..that's a great idea and I just happen to have a whole gazillion seeds from last year :D

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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#7  Unread postby cnichols » Sun Mar 28, 2010 12:28 pm


Not sure what I'll be feeding them, to be honest, since I'm still in the very early learning/planning stages.

Since my ulimate goal is to be as self-sustaining as possible I think they will eventually be on grains/hay.

What type of grasses would be best for the run?
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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#8  Unread postby Brody » Sun Mar 28, 2010 2:05 pm


if it's a small run your grasses won't stay all that grassy unless it gets rested
I just let what grows naturally in my yard grow up a bit I haven't really overplanted much though I did a fall scattering of rye and plantain collected from grasses around the yard ..
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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#9  Unread postby MaggieJ » Sun Mar 28, 2010 2:37 pm


Just a quick comment on natural feeding... hay/grains/greens. It is difficult to do this unless you have a good source of legume hay - alfalfa or clover. Grass hay just does not have enough protein on which to base a rabbit diet. There are ways of upping the protein of the overall diet - using roasted soybean meal for instance - but it is trickier for someone just getting into it. You will want to check into your hay sources or the feasibility of growing your own while you are still in the planning stages. An alternative is to use grass hay but supplement with pure alfalfa pellets or cubes (as opposed to a "complete" rabbit food pellet) and then add your grass hay, grain and greens to that.
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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#10  Unread postby cnichols » Sun Mar 28, 2010 3:59 pm


Thanks for that info MaggieJ! I have been looking into the feasability of growing hay myself on a small scale. It would help reduce costs and reduce my dependance on outside sources.

I guess I was on the right train of thought in my second post where I mentioned growing clover! I did find a really good paper written up about growing red clover hay in Kentucky on the web. And although I live in Arkansas it souldn't be much different. Here's a link for anyone interested.

http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/agr/agr33/agr33.htm :D

I've also been tossing around the idea of seeding with rye grass as well. A website I found states that Ryegrass, when in a vegetative state, will on average have a protein content of 12 – 16%.

We will be clearing a little over a quarter of an acre for the barn and "garden" area. About 1600 sf will be used for the barn, leaving just over 13,000 sf for planting. It wouldn't be too difficult to designate a portion of that to growing clover and/or rye grass. And with the small number of animals we intend to keep I "think" that may be enough for fresh forage during the growing season. Not sure how much I'd have to "put up" for over-wintering. Although the number of animals for over-wintering will be at a minimum anyway.

Sure am glad you posted because it really has my mind going with the posabilities! :D

__________ Sun Mar 28, 2010 3:59 pm __________

and btw Brody, I'd been thinking alot about the run area and was thinking there's absolutely no reason I can't extend the run to 15x15 and split it up the center making two runs at 7.5x15 feet. That way I can seed one side and let it grow out, then switch and do the same with the other side. Do you think 2 - 7.5x15 foot runs will be sufficient for keeping the buns happy with forage? That wouldn't be the only forage the get but a suppliment to what they get in their feed.
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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#11  Unread postby Brody » Sun Mar 28, 2010 7:41 pm


depends a bit on the type of soil and how many rabbits you have but more ground will certainly hold condition better :
“The crafty rabbit has three different entrances to its lair”
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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#12  Unread postby trinityoaks » Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:42 pm


Alfalfa will improve the soil as well as being good for the bunnies. Make sure you DON'T get the "Roundup-Ready" seed, though. Monsanto is VERY jealous of their patent on that, and they WILL go after small-time homesteaders (they've done it before).
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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#13  Unread postby Anntann » Mon Mar 29, 2010 5:47 am


Since you're wanting to grow your own feed stuffs, you might consider just BUYING the hay (or contracting with a neighbor with bartering) and concentrate on growing your grains. Hay takes a LOT of room and work. Grow it, scythe it(cut), dry it, stack it inside somewhere. It's really just easier to buy a few bales of good, dried hay of the type you need. That lets you concentrate on growing the pricier grains and seeds.

seeding with timothy might be an option, too. That stuff is REALLY hard to kill...I've been trying to renovate a hay field for 3 years now...the timothy just keeps coming back all on it's own :)

by the way, just about anything you feed the rabbits will be good for chickens (need to have EGGS you know).

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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#14  Unread postby Marian » Thu Apr 01, 2010 8:26 am


I gave a friend a bunch of raspberry canes to plant on the southside of her rabbit colony. Nice wind break and cuts the sun back. The rabbits love to eat any stray leaf/twig that works its way through the fence (sometimes with a bit of help).

Most rabbits in colonies get along really well (otherwise they wouldn't be in colonies). To cut down on minor skirmishes or to help a new rabbit adjust, place the tables and shelves in the colony so they impede line of sight. You can't fight with someone if you can't seem 'em. If you have any hanging around, half of a plastic dog crate works like a shelf and is a nice little hidy-hole, too.

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Re: Gonna Dive In here ...

Post Number:#15  Unread postby PulpFaction » Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:41 pm


I've been considering different plans to keep grass in a run from dying off too.

I'm considering experimenting with wheat grass. It grows REALLY fast (for my own consumption, I can harvest a first cutting in 7 days from planting...about 6" or so tall,) and is SUPER nutritious, so I'm wondering if a rotation planted in wheat grass might work. I'm also wondering what effect, if any, it would have on the meat as far as nutritional values and taste, and grow out ratios.

Of course, at this point the only way I can run that experiment is by growing the stuff in trays since I don't really have a yard, but...someday.....
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