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raising rabbits the old way --

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

Post Number:#1  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Sun Feb 11, 2018 8:16 am


Just a little history,
- when I first started raising rabbits I did not have access to "suitable"wire mesh cage flooring , [and was told "son, chicken wire will cripple a rabbit"].
But i did have access to old barn lumber and straw , The floor was made from one inch lumber pushed tight together, and coated with tar.- the floor sloped toward the back and there was a one inch gap between the floor and the back cage wall, the urine just ran out the back and dropped on the ground. [designed after the pictures I saw in the book "Raising poultry and rabbits on scraps"] - I was a good carpenter for a child.. but,- my doors were constantly failing, and sagging [i used old inner tubes for hinges].I nailed tin cans over the holes the rabbits were chewing, - I used a few inches of straw in the hutches, and no nest boxes-the does just made a nest in a back corner.... I cleaned the cages out "about" once a week when there was a litter of rabbits in them, other than that I was pretty lax about cleaning, and only cleaned them out when they began to get soggy, or stinky.
I fed grass, garden weeds, excess produce, vegetable trimmings, spent garden plants,cornstalks,J artichoke tops , root crops, kitchen scraps, and some hay in winter . -they had salt lick spools on a nail in the wall... I used tuna cans for water dishes .
I kept a family with 9 children in meat -[i also raised chickens] as a child that was my job, as i was the oldest ....
In the conditions i just described ,those checkered giant meat mut rabbits, produced just fine and consistently raised large litters [some as large as 15] - all summer, and all winter....
I think the old style cage was actually better for rabbits in the winter ,as it provided much more protection from cold and wind.
Point is-- rabbits are more hardy than a lot of people think they are... and there are a lot of ways to raise rabbits successfully ...
meat-mutt rabbits, a few laying hens.

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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#2  Unread postby akane » Sun Feb 11, 2018 3:54 pm


It's surprising though how fast the characteristics of animals can be changed when people stop selecting for various situations. I can't say you could do that with just anything you come across today. There is a reason to buy animals already being raised to similar conditions or why it's often said to just feed what you can get and breed what does well when you can't get the same brand they were raised on. Within generations they can have an entirely different immune system and digestive response depending what you add to the herd and what you keep to breed.
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#3  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:53 pm


akane wrote:It's surprising though how fast the characteristics of animals can be changed when people stop selecting for various situations. I can't say you could do that with just anything you come across today. There is a reason to buy animals already being raised to similar conditions or why it's often said to just feed what you can get and breed what does well when you can't get the same brand they were raised on. Within generations they can have an entirely different immune system and digestive response depending what you add to the herd and what you keep to breed.


and, the immune system starts with mom, exposing rabbits to germs they have never encountered, often results in a sick rabbits --- at first.. but in a while {if they survive] they develop immunity ... that's why bringing new rabbits into your rabbitry is always a risk.

One thing I have experienced , that still baffles me, - is-- I didn't have coccidiosis troubles , weaning enteritis , post weaning deaths , or noticable disease of any kind--until i had a commercial rabbitry and started using commercial feed, and nice clean metal cages.. - that, makes no sense to me... When I look back on the way i did things, and the conditions the rabbits lived in-- i marvel at their productivity and disease resistance.. . I wonder what part of that equation I am missing...

-- Sun Feb 11, 2018 3:53 pm --

another issue I have thought about- is-- in the old style solid side wood cages, there was no "nose to nose" contact between cages-- so diseases could not easily be passed from cage to cage until everyone in the rabbitry was exposed...
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#4  Unread postby akane » Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:16 am


Sometimes the common answers people give to guinea pig durability and reproduction are nothing like they were 10 years ago. It's near impossible to find the same reproduction, hardiness, and growth rates I saw from one of my first pets to my early 20s. After 2-3 litters we'd start to see 5 offspring consistently and older sows would frequently start to produce 7-8 with only the occasional runt. They also were full size by the end of summer while spending early spring through temps over 100F until the first snow storm outside with no difficulties. Now people are struggling to return those traits for using them as easier colony meat animals that also require less protein than rabbits. A handful of people have worked generations to get the same thing I had with every single guinea pig I bought from anywhere up until I quit keeping them around 2005 and started again a few years ago. Most have given up and just imported the strains that were maintained as outdoor meat animals all along because the traits are so lost there is no stock that can be brought in to selectively breed for them in the same way as those traits were quickly bred out to produce litters of 3, the odd 4, at 60-70F year round. They don't even have the durability to go to spring shows in Iowa. Don't get me started on what kind of fragile subspecies of chinchilla everyone on the forums seems to be breeding that they need sterile, bare cages causing neurotic temperaments from boredom in order to not get sick or injured with constant monitoring of kit weight so they can save any in trouble. I have 6' long, 5' high cages full of shelves, houses, and sometimes even wheels I just leave them to give birth in with solid floors and weekly cleaning that sees actual disinfectant monthly now instead of every 6months because the pans started to rust under the liners. I quit weighing the kits when we more than doubled our growth rates and last time we had an injury we gave 2 doses of antibiotics and stopped because once the source of stress was removed the infected wound started healing so rapidly it wasn't worth the negatives of medicating.

I think rabbits just haven't gone as extreme because they continue to have other functions besides looks on the show table but it's probably far more difficult than it used to be to pick up hardy, high production, low maintenance rabbits out of what is out there. A lot more of them would be the ones that don't survive and if not enough survive you don't have a basis to quickly establish that same level of immunity and successful litters. If your gene pool was more limited and you had no past experience or anyone to talk to it's easy to see how you might find a species that can survive a lot to be more fragile than glass, not worth the effort to raise for a purpose that is common elsewhere, or terrible animals to work with at all.
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#5  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Mon Feb 12, 2018 8:41 am


I posted this on the Natural feed for chickens thread- but i think it may be appropriate to repost it here..

I wonder... if a new market for eggs, chicken, or Rabbit could be developed, based on "glyphosate free" and "pesticide free", eggs and meat-
People are beginning to see the "real info" on just how high the glyphosate levels are in our food, and in human mothers milk , and how glyphosate in our food affects our health, and the health of our young [failure to thrive, etc:] . Reports have now been made public [sort of] that show glyphosate levels are often over one hundred times more than even the "new modified"[greatly increased] Government established "safe limits"...
Raising chickens [and rabbits] on "home grown -non grain and alfalfa feeds, is certainly feasible...
meat-mutt rabbits, a few laying hens.

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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#6  Unread postby Rosalaun » Mon Feb 12, 2018 2:06 pm


I have to agree with the above comments - I just don't think rabbits these days are quite bred to be as hardy as they once were. Over here rabbits are kept on solid floor wooden hutches, most cleaned out once a week. I still know a small number of people that deep litter and only clean fully once a month (it's actually advised by a well-respected rex keeper in his books to not clean them weekly unless they're show rabbits)... But there's a divide between a few groups in management - those that get a pet rabbit and put it in a hutch in the bottom of the garden and basically just run out to feed it over winter and that's about it, in-betweeners like me who consider rabbits as livestock (show/breeding, not so much meat over here), and just clean once a week with a few greens left from the fridge every now and again, and then there's an increasing number of people joining the 'rabbits are my best friends and are so cute and my lovely chocolate split fluffy lop babies that I bred are not going to be sold to breeding homes and must be fed exactly one cup of greens a day!!11!' group, who I believe would be far more obsessed with keeping things tidy and germ-free. I think based on these rough groups, you'd get three very different 'hardiness' levels if bred in those conditions for a few generations.

I work in a pet shop with a good turnover of rabbits. Everybody just wants to buy small pure bred rabbits - meaning we mostly get in Netherland Dwarves and mini/dwarf lops, with the odd Mini Rex. I've never known rabbits as prone to stress and bloat as these show-bred 'high quality' nethies are. Out of every 20 Netherlands, we may have 1 or 2 that comes down with bloat within the first day or two. These are kept very well, I clean their corners daily, fully clean and disinfect twice a week, but they just struggle with having left their quiet rabbitry for the busy environment and gradual feed change. Mini Rex and a good percentage of the Lops in comparison seem to have absolute iron wills (and stomachs!), we can transition them to new feed almost immediately and they settle in very quickly. Personally I also consciously try to stay away from buying/keeping any rabbits that seem to be stressy or delicate, having seen just how much damage such breeding has done for Nethies.

So it's likely unintentional, but I've grown to believe that these generations of pet/show rabbits being pampered and not treated as a food source has made them far more delicate than they used to be.

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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#7  Unread postby akane » Mon Feb 12, 2018 2:30 pm


I had chickens that didn't eat any commercial feed 3-4months of the year by choice. It's a little more difficult in winter to feed easily without buying something and far too expensive for anything that would truly be glyphosate free. Cases of the contamination being found multiple properties away is common so you might be organic but surrounded by sprayed farm fields and roundup ready crops you aren't in a bubble. It's standard use here too. I lived minutes from a Monsanto plant and right now smack between all 3 of them. We used to get the straight, undiluted stuff that requires an extra thick bottle to not eat through it for killing trees. Drill a hole and fill it up. Only way to not have black locust and black walnut grow back without cutting them 3 times a year for 5 or 6 years or piling up a bonfire to get the stumps too burned and dried out to grow back. I was really pissed though when I was renting from my aunt and she just took a truck and sprayer and went down the partially gravel covered path from road to the back field and around all the outbuildings to kill weeds to avoid manual effort. I was free ranging my chickens out there and collecting from the herb garden downhill toward the stream with only about 100-200' between her spraying and the water.

I got a whole bunch of Netherlands from the top show sources around here..... They were insane.... Every one of them was a freaking vampire that drew blood on me for no reason except my arm was in the way of the direction they wanted to hop and one doe had to be quickly scruffed from one surface to another and then transported in a carrier if you wanted to go far because she threw such a fit there was no way to hold her. I could restrain checkered giants fine but not that little ND. I culled every last one for some from a state away that were half bred just for fun and most were her unrecognized colors even if they could compete against local stock for type. I also only got all those ND deformed genes like peanuts and max factor from those local top show rabbits and never even from my 1lb buck being bred back to his dwarf daughters and granddaughters that someone brought back from a show 2 states south of here. From what I've seen even peanuts don't need to be a common part of breeding to get nice, little competitive show rabbits. It's just easy and so common it's come to be thought of as a required defect to end up with peanuts or even max factor in order to end up with the correct type and small size with no one caring they are too neurotic to do more than shuffle them on and off a table before they put holes in the judge's hand.

I think stress is the big reason our chinchillas do so much better with far less hands on than most. We sold everything that showed difficulty with our 4 dog, 2 cat, bird, various rodent species, and now reptile filled house. If they care the dogs are wrestling a few times a day, the malamute puppy is bouncing up to look in the cages beyond a verbal "keck" at her to not touch their babies, and the cats are having hyper moments of climbing up the cages and jumping on the tops they don't stay. I have a female waiting to be picked up right now after 1 litter because of how nervous she kept getting. The lack of stress in such a high strung, active, and intelligent small animal makes a huge difference in illness, recovery from injury, and raising kits.
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#8  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:56 pm


Glyphosate, --
even if you lived close to a farm that sprayed with airplanes and got a little drift from that- the "non GMO" crops you raised would die if they got even one tenth of what is "normally" sprayed on "roundup ready" corn, soy, grain, and alfalfa crops.
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#9  Unread postby Zass » Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:29 pm


I almost had myself talked into letting go of the last of my harli line, but you just gave me a great reminder as to why it would be good to hold onto at least a couple of them. :)
I remember going through several breeds and local mutt crosses before I found what I wanted in a rabbit. Which was a disease resistant line hardy enough to thrive on scraps and garden trimmings. I honestly do think they would do fine with the way you describe raising as a kid. It's no 5 lbs by 8 weeks on scraps, they do take longer, and reach senior weight more slowly, BUT I've never had to be the slightest bit careful about anything I feed, or the age, and I've still never actually lost one single harli kit to cocci or enteritis.
I guess what I'm saying is just that those kinds of hardy lines are definitely out there still, and that I have to remember to not get spoiled and start thinking all rabbits can be treated the same way. :lol:

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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#10  Unread postby MaggieJ » Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:52 pm


My start-up rabbits were yard sale meat mutts costing $5 apiece and raised in a communal outdoor pen. This was NOT the way I intended to start, but my partner Brian "surprised" me with them just before our cages were quite finished. This was july, 2005.

We gave them a try and they were very resilient, good breeders and over the next couple of years we selected the best of the offspring and "bred up". One of the does was excellent as she was, so she stayed with us for years.

We housed them in individual wire cages and fed pellets and handfuls of the half-dozen rabbit-safe weeds I knew already. (MidnightCoder had a pet rabbit when he was a kid, so we weren't entirely clueless.)

Over time, I became unhappy with the ingredients in the commercial feeds available. We had an established patch of alfalfa, red clover and timothy that we had planted to improve the soil in one area of the yard. I began to feed more and more greens and hay and eventually the rabbits lost interest in pellets altogether. The last bag took ages to use up. The rabbits seemed to need something more to satisfy them, so I started feeding them small quantities of the chickens' scratch grains. They never ate the corn and I tossed it to the birds who soon learned to follow me to the rabbitry. We were now at about summer, 2007.

I took a lot of criticism on another forum initially about natural feeding. It's become kind of cool now, but back then very little information was readily available. But my rabbits were doing well, so I persevered.

I got very tired of cages. The rabbits were bored, it sometimes took several tries to get the does bred (I hate standing around) and seeing the does with their kits I began to think I'd be happier if the rabbits were in a colony. We tried a modified colony over a couple of winters, does only, no breeding because of the cold. They got along fine, so eventually we set up half the goose house as a permanent colony. This was after we started RT, so it was likely 2010 or 2011. The rabbits were on natural feed on deep litter and although there were some management issues, they did very well. I loved seeing how happy they were, hanging out on top of the nest tunnels together. My rabbits have always been livestock to me, but I like happy livestock. I'd have them still, but as my arthritis became worse, it became too difficult gathering the greens and so we decided enough was enough.

I never had weaning enteritis, ear mites, and almost no coccidiosis when the rabbits were in the colony on natural feed. I attribute this to two things: it was a closed rabbitry, and many of the greens I fed are thought to fight coccidiosis. Kits exposed to greens and other natural feed from the beginning do not get weaning enteritis. The abundant fibre means that GI stasis is pretty much unheard of.

I'm not saying this is for everyone. It seems to work best in a small backyard rabbitry. I can't imagine a commercial rabbitry being run this way. But if I were able to keep rabbits again, this is the way I would do it.
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Sojourning in 1894 . . .

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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#11  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:29 pm


Zass wrote:I almost had myself talked into letting go of the last of my harli line, but you just gave me a great reminder as to why it would be good to hold onto at least a couple of them. :)
I remember going through several breeds and local mutt crosses before I found what I wanted in a rabbit. Which was a disease resistant line hardy enough to thrive on scraps and garden trimmings. I honestly do think they would do fine with the way you describe raising as a kid. It's no 5 lbs by 8 weeks on scraps, they do take longer, and reach senior weight more slowly, BUT I've never had to be the slightest bit careful about anything I feed, or the age, and I've still never actually lost one single harli kit to cocci or enteritis.
I guess what I'm saying is just that those kinds of hardy lines are definitely out there still, and that I have to remember to not get spoiled and start thinking all rabbits can be treated the same way. :lol:


I have not been able to achieve 5 lbs in 8 weeks either, an isolated litter now and again, but definitely not with any consistency ,... on pellets, or "natural feed".
If you have hardy stock, they are a real treasure ...
I long for the "old stock" i used to have, even though I freely admit they were substandard "meat body type" compared to the New Zealand, x Calli I raised commercially... I wish I could have realized how wonderful they were, and bred some NZ/Cali traits into my old Checkered Giant x muts...
I like to study history, because I hope to learn from it- -"human history" has a way of repeating itself , - and there is a reason those old hardy breeds existed,. a reason we will probably see again...
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#12  Unread postby MaggieJ » Mon Feb 12, 2018 7:55 pm


Just a reminder, particularly for new members, that we have an assortment of rabbit-related ebooks. You can "buy" them with those BunnyBucks that you've been wondering what to do with.

We offer a selection of vintage books about rabbit breeds and husbandry dating from the 1850's to modern times. These books are in the public domain and offer information on older ways of raising rabbits. Click on the DOWNLOADS button in the menu under the RabbitTalk banner.
Sojourning in 1894 . . .

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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#13  Unread postby akane » Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:34 am


1/100th of the concentration they spray is probably enough to argue for negative health impacts. It's just that "glyphosate free" sounds like you are attempting absolutely none instead of simply avoiding the amounts used on modified crops. The levels of various compounds in ag run off are not an infrequent discussion by fishermen and hunters that use what they catch and sometimes even posted as officially unsafe. Until the river flooded the whole area Department of Natural Resources warned not to eat fish out of several nearby small lakes for that reason. By the time plants actually die you've gone beyond having to discuss if it's harmful at all to eat anything off the plants but people likely don't realize the amount going on their crops will kill absolutely everything else and that these things don't generally have much of a cleaning process before they become animal feed or sometimes bedding products.
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#14  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:36 am


akane wrote:1/100th of the concentration they spray is probably enough to argue for negative health impacts. It's just that "glyphosate free" sounds like you are attempting absolutely none instead of simply avoiding the amounts used on modified crops. The levels of various compounds in ag run off are not an infrequent discussion by fishermen and hunters that use what they catch and sometimes even posted as officially unsafe. Until the river flooded the whole area Department of Natural Resources warned not to eat fish out of several nearby small lakes for that reason. By the time plants actually die you've gone beyond having to discuss if it's harmful at all to eat anything off the plants but people likely don't realize the amount going on their crops will kill absolutely everything else and that these things don't generally have much of a cleaning process before they become animal feed or sometimes bedding products.


That is a valid point, I probably could find a more suitable description than "Glyphosate free" .[as technically speaking.. it isn't likely we could exclude the toxin completely ]
The situation I am referring to cannot be remedied at all by cleaning, washing it off is impossible, - glyphosate is a systemic toxin. it is absorbed by plants and carried to every part of the plant, - thus corn, soy, alfalfa, wheat, [or anything else that has been in contact with this stuff], is literally loaded with it inside and out. Animals that eat this toxic substance in their feed, consume 3 to 10 lbs of these toxic feeds to make a pound of meat, - so - the meat , milk, cheese, etc: produced ,can have several times as much glyphosate in it as the feed the animal ate to produce it. The "human mother" eating these products, can produce milk for her baby, that is more toxic than the food she ate to produce it. So, the more products we eat that contain this,-and the further up the food chain we go, the more concentrated this toxin becomes in the host organism.[animal] - [sort of like DDT ,and the destruction of the eagle/ bird of prey population, experienced by this past generation ]...

-- Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:09 am --

MaggieJ wrote:Just a reminder, particularly for new members, that we have an assortment of rabbit-related ebooks. You can "buy" them with those BunnyBucks that you've been wondering what to do with.

We offer a selection of vintage books about rabbit breeds and husbandry dating from the 1850's to modern times. These books are in the public domain and offer information on older ways of raising rabbits. Click on the DOWNLOADS button in the menu under the RabbitTalk banner.


I could learn a lot by reading these, [thank you]
The following quote from one of the above mentioned E-Books ..... sums up how i feel about why we as a nation are in this dependant state, where the US and other countries are heading, and why ... although this quote is in reference to meat production, it is also perfect when referring to production of all food, and all "vital" supplies .

Boies' Utility Rabbits For Meat and Fur By H. A. BOIES Price, 25 Cents Copyright, 1917, by H. A Boies, Millbrook, NY.


Meat is the most expensive item of our food supply, principally because there are thousands of us consuming it to one producing. We are all too dependent. The greatness of our country, the independence of our country, depends upon the people who inhabit it. If we keep on being dependent it will not be long before this great country will be dependent upon other countries, while on the other hand, if we do all we can to supply all our needs, that it is possible for us to supply, our country will become more and more independent, assuring us and generations to follow, real and lasting prosperity.

DIGESTIBLE NUTRIMENT.
The United States Department of Agriculture makes the following report on the digestible nutriment of various meats. Domestic Rabbit 83 percent,. Chicken 50, Beef 55, Mutton 65, Pork 75.
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Re: raising rabbits the old way --

Post Number:#15  Unread postby Preitler » Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:57 pm


Sorry, have not read all resposes (will do that later).

Here, wire cages are unheard of among small farm breeders. Wooden hutches, with monthly clean out are more the standard. All my stock comes from conditions like that, or even worse. Everything that doesn't thrive under this conditions was weeded out many generations ago.

Coccidosis, for example - completly unheard of. No one here has an idea what that is. Grumpy told me that my rabbits will die of it if I let them dig - he sure knows more about raising rabbits commercially, and what he said would apply to his stock, but mine seems to be immune. No sign of cocci whatsoever in 6 year.

Some generations of more sterile conditions sure will show effects. Although it might make things easier first, in the long run there might be drawbacks.

Last year I've found a supplier of cheap pellets my rabbits liked, only to discover that they are loaded with antibiotics :shock: , which really aren't effective anyway because the bugs can develop resistence to this stuff within a year - but it promotes growth. Gosh, I can buy such crap meat in any super market.
"Sometimes I stand by the door and look into the darkness, then I am reminded how dearly I cherish my boredom, and what a precious commodity is so much misery"

The following user would like to thank Preitler for this post
michaels4gardens, Rainey

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