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I need the pros and cons between a cage set up and a colony setup. I was 100% going for a colony and then free breeding and fighting has me questioning that. Give me all the good and bad of both please!!
 

MuddyFarms

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That's a hot one! Here are some things I like about cages for my situation:


I like seeing my rabbits content in their cages, happy to have their own area and unconcerned about the possibility of intruders. That said, I have had a few squabbles in cages with grow outs as they got up to 5-6lbs. My rabbits (Rex) do not seem like they would do especially well in a colony. They can be opinionated and energetic, and I could foresee too much fighting. (Side note: have you seen a domestic turkey hen fight with wild turkey hens?! They slap each other with their wings, make threatening sounds at each other and all kinds of stuff! Our hen did not want to allow any others in her area. :oops: )

I like not having my rabbits exposed to whatever I bring in on my boots from other animals, like could happen in a colony. This is a big one for me.

Although cages can cost a lot (I spent a ton on them this year), I personally need to make better use of my building's space by using cages, rather than only having a few breeders on the floor.

I like being able to monitor individual rabbits and catch them easily without stressing them much. There are ways to deal with that in colonies, though.

I use a deep-bedding method for chickens using pine wood shavings (have also used straw at times). I don't think I could stand using that method for as many rabbits as I need to raise, although, if I only had a couple in an oversized area, I think I could be fine with it.

Since the manure is going to be used in my garden, I don't like having wood shavings in it. I read somewhere that wood shavings pull nitrogen out of the soil around them as they decompose, thus making less nitrogen available to the plants. I want to be able to put the manure straight into the garden and not have to compost it like other manures.

Parasites can be a difficult issue in colonies, obviously depending on the way it it set up and how they are fed, etc. It can be very difficult to get rid of them once they are in the soil/area. The same can be true for wooden hutches, though.

For me, it is just simpler to not have to monitor and fine-tune a colony.

Now that I put all that out there- I know others have awesome perspectives and experience with both methods, too. There are some pretty ingenious ways to do things out there!
 
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That's a hot one! Here are some things I like about cages for my situation:


I like seeing my rabbits content in their cages, happy to have their own area and unconcerned about the possibility of intruders. That said, I have had a few squabbles in cages with grow outs as they got up to 5-6lbs. My rabbits (Rex) do not seem like they would do especially well in a colony. They can be opinionated and energetic, and I could foresee too much fighting. (Side note: have you seen a domestic turkey hen fight with wild turkey hens?! They slap each other with their wings, make threatening sounds at each other and all kinds of stuff! Our hen did not want to allow any others in her area. :oops: )

I like not having my rabbits exposed to whatever I bring in on my boots from other animals, like could happen in a colony. This is a big one for me.

Although cages can cost a lot (I spent a ton on them this year), I personally need to make better use of my building's space by using cages, rather than only having a few breeders on the floor.

I like being able to monitor individual rabbits and catch them easily without stressing them much. There are ways to deal with that in colonies, though.

I use a deep-bedding method for chickens using pine wood shavings (have also used straw at times). I don't think I could stand using that method for as many rabbits as I need to raise, although, if I only had a couple in an oversized area, I think I could be fine with it.

Since the manure is going to be used in my garden, I don't like having wood shavings in it. I read somewhere that wood shavings pull nitrogen out of the soil around them as they decompose, thus making less nitrogen available to the plants. I want to be able to put the manure straight into the garden and not have to compost it like other manures.

Parasites can be a difficult issue in colonies, obviously depending on the way it it set up and how they are fed, etc. It can be very difficult to get rid of them once they are in the soil/area. The same can be true for wooden hutches, though.

For me, it is just simpler to not have to monitor and fine-tune a colony.

Now that I put all that out there- I know others have awesome perspectives and experience with both methods, too. There are some pretty ingenious ways to do things out there!
Thank you so much for the insight!

If I do a colony they will be inside the barn away from predators and other wild animals. I feel like colonies will take more upkeep and there will be a lot more questioning if my girls are pregnant or not if I don't separate them somehow from the bucks.

How do you give your bunnies play areas when they are in cages? Right now mine are all in cages but nothing permanent. They love when they get out and hope around on stuff. I just worry about them being sad or something in cages. Maybe that's silly 🤷‍♀️

Hopefully a few more people will weigh in. Thanks again!
 

RabbitsOfTheCreek

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In my set up, all of our rabbits have their own cage because they are Netherland Dwarfs and can get very 'opinionated'. They all have something to chew on and toys like jingly balls (Which are cat toys, but our rabbits love to play with them)
here's an example (It talks about my litter set up but still shows of the cages):
You can look at some of my other videos to see glimpses of the cages: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnTNMoy5GSXpB6l-ZiG9jbQ
 

MuddyFarms

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Thank you so much for the insight!

If I do a colony they will be inside the barn away from predators and other wild animals. I feel like colonies will take more upkeep and there will be a lot more questioning if my girls are pregnant or not if I don't separate them somehow from the bucks.

How do you give your bunnies play areas when they are in cages? Right now mine are all in cages but nothing permanent. They love when they get out and hope around on stuff. I just worry about them being sad or something in cages. Maybe that's silly 🤷‍♀️

Hopefully a few more people will weigh in. Thanks again!

Right now, I don't have a suitable place for them to play outside their cages. I give them toys, certain tree branches, and other items to stimulate them. They enjoy tossing the items around and chewing and playing with them. Plastic baby toys are great for them. I have two, hard plastic cage-type balls that have a bell inside of them. One of my bucks likes to pick it up and carry it around in his cage, and the others love tossing it up in the air. I also have a plastic play tunnel I put in their cages when I am around. They like climbing though it and playing. I also like to make sure they have some hay or hay cubes or branches to chew at all times so they have something to do.

The cages in my set up are close together , so they do have interaction through the walls. They get to watch the neighbors and sniff each other, which the kits especially like to do when they get a new neighbor!

EDITED TO ADD: you can see a picture of them in this post: Heated, Circulating Water System (with pictures)
 
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northernnevadahollandlops

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I started with a colony and am moving towards cages/larger pens. I never got to the point that I hear about colonies being more selective about breeding...for my herd I had two does that got pregnant every 30 days two weeks apart, and I was up to my ears in baby bunnies. It stressed me out. I prefer a more controlled situation. Though I'm finding it's harder to get my does to be receptive now that we aren't letting nature do its thing. I also don't see how a colony would work with more than one buck. Would love to hear people's experience with that!

If your bunnies will be in a barn, can you keep your does together and your bucks separate? Or maybe have a 2-3 does with a buck and then separate the buck when you don't want uncontrolled breeding. I loved the times when both of my does were pregnant and the buck was calm and not trying to mount them all the time. He was very respectful when they were pregnant and he was a sweet daddy to the babies too.
 

LatchawBriarPatch

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I just watched this last night. However, I am to a point I'm having a hard time excepting the naritive of "Bunnies raised in a cage are content and happier in a cage." The reason being, I let my rabbits out one at a time into our 100ft long yard the other day when making cage modifications. All three started doing binkys. One ran the length of the yard quite a few times. So, I'm considering braving the dangers of potential parasites and poison plants, and escapees to give them some play time a few times a week. The trouble is they don't want to be caught. So I'm reading up about training them, desensitizing them to being picked up and not being scared of my hand. My rabbits are to a point they will take a treat from my hand but they won't let me really pet them.



Watching this video was really helpful as well.
 
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I just watched this last night. However, I am to a point I'm having a hard time excepting the naritive of "Bunnies raised in a cage are content and happier in a cage." The reason being, I let my rabbits out one at a time into our 100ft long yard the other day when making cage modifications. All three started doing binkys. One ran the length of the yard quite a few times. So, I'm considering braving the dangers of potential parasites and poison plants, and escapees to give them some play time a few times a week. The trouble is they don't want to be caught. So I'm reading up about training them, desensitizing them to being picked up and not being scared of my hand. My rabbits are to a point they will take a treat from my hand but they won't let me really pet them.



Watching this video was really helpful as well.

Thank you for the videos! My bunnies love being handled and come to me if they are out running around. I'm thinking of doing a modified colony/cage thing and putting them in cages most of the time but also having a play area set up to rotate them through. That way I can control breeding and keep the cranky guys away from everyone else. I just love watching them play so I don't want to miss that part of raising them either.
 
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I started with a colony and am moving towards cages/larger pens. I never got to the point that I hear about colonies being more selective about breeding...for my herd I had two does that got pregnant every 30 days two weeks apart, and I was up to my ears in baby bunnies. It stressed me out. I prefer a more controlled situation. Though I'm finding it's harder to get my does to be receptive now that we aren't letting nature do its thing. I also don't see how a colony would work with more than one buck. Would love to hear people's experience with that!

If your bunnies will be in a barn, can you keep your does together and your bucks separate? Or maybe have a 2-3 does with a buck and then separate the buck when you don't want uncontrolled breeding. I loved the times when both of my does were pregnant and the buck was calm and not trying to mount them all the time. He was very respectful when they were pregnant and he was a sweet daddy to the babies too.
Yeah there is plenty of room to separate them like that. I don't want to be 100% in control because I do like the idea of natural breeding being in my herd also.
 

northernnevadahollandlops

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I just watched this last night. However, I am to a point I'm having a hard time excepting the naritive of "Bunnies raised in a cage are content and happier in a cage." The reason being, I let my rabbits out one at a time into our 100ft long yard the other day when making cage modifications. All three started doing binkys. One ran the length of the yard quite a few times. So, I'm considering braving the dangers of potential parasites and poison plants, and escapees to give them some play time a few times a week. The trouble is they don't want to be caught. So I'm reading up about training them, desensitizing them to being picked up and not being scared of my hand. My rabbits are to a point they will take a treat from my hand but they won't let me really pet them
My husband and I often commented when watching the bunnies (at one point we had 29 with adults and their young roaming our backyard) that these must be the happiest bunnies in the world. They loved it. They came when called for the promise of food or a treat. Some were definitely harder to catch than others. I definitely don't see binkies or zoomies in their pens (which are large). I have one doe who was very reluctant to be touched or held, who after being in our garage seems to have calmed down quiet a bit and tolerates being held when we need to move her, but it's almost sad. She feels safer, but she's lost her spunk.

If I had the money and space, my ideal set up would be an enclosed barn with a solid floor (dig resistant), and stalls for the option to separate, and a large, attached, enclosed run with wire mesh sunk all around the perimeter and under several feet, with berms so they dig and build a warren.
 
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My husband and I often commented when watching the bunnies (at one point we had 29 with adults and their young roaming our backyard) that these must be the happiest bunnies in the world. They loved it. They came when called for the promise of food or a treat. Some were definitely harder to catch than others. I definitely don't see binkies or zoomies in their pens (which are large). I have one doe who was very reluctant to be touched or held, who after being in our garage seems to have calmed down quiet a bit and tolerates being held when we need to move her, but it's almost sad. She feels safer, but she's lost her spunk.

If I had the money and space, my ideal set up would be an enclosed barn with a solid floor (dig resistant), and stalls for the option to separate, and a large, attached, enclosed run with wire mesh sunk all around the perimeter and under several feet, with berms so they dig and build a warren.
That was my original plan and then my husband told me how much that would cost and well that's not realistic, unfortunately.
 

RabbitsOfTheCreek

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I would want you to know that by free roaming rabbits can get into fights and might injure each other. And with free breeding, there could be a lot of in-breeding and rabbits attacking other's Kits

But if you think you have everything under control, then go with your gut
 
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I need the pros and cons between a cage set up and a colony setup. I was 100% going for a colony and then free breeding and fighting has me questioning that. Give me all the good and bad of both please!!
I have a really successful outdoor colony setup, but I also have commercial and 6-class rabbits, so they're big. What kind of rabbits are yours?

I keep my bucks in cages and when I want to breed, I net does out of the colony and take them to the buck. For winter litters, I have a 4x8 foot enclosure in the barn with a heat lamp in it, but any other time, I just let the does dig underground nests.
 

eco2pia

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I like my large cages. I have limited space (less than 0.1ac), and need population control. I like knowing who is eating and drinking more or less, and I like being able to easily grab rabbits without any fuss. I turn out certian rabbits to roam the yard when I know that they are going to be supervised against depredation, and when I have verified that they will all get along. My cages are arranged so that each cage is sharing a wall with 2 others, so some social interaction is possible through the wire. I credit this with keeping the does receptive.
 

White's family farm

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Our experience is much like everyone else's. We tried a colony set up (which was initially unproductive), and really enjoyed the more 'natural' interaction with our rabbits. And the food/litter station (a plastic tote lined with raised cage wire floor) made waste removal a breeze!

Some of our rabbits liked it better than others. Our cinnamon doe only tolerated being pet in the colony set up, but some of our does really didn't like all the interaction and space.

Ultimately, the breeding control, monitoring, lower apparent stress, and ease of catching/handling won out. We really like our cage set up. We built our own with cage wire and 1-1/2" PVC, which helped keep the costs down.

If you do go with colony, lining the floor with block (4x8x16) worked well for us. It allowed small amounts of water (urine, tarp ceiling leaks) to drain well and kept their nails filed. Breeding can be inconsistent, but it can be pretty hands off overall.
 
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Thank you for all the input and ideas! I think I've decided on going with a cage set up with a play area. All the cages will have gates that can be opened when I want to leave specific rabbits or groups out. Like I said our area is in our barn with a concrete floor underneath so I won't have to worry about digging out (which was one of my main concerns). My boys are going to be tasked with growing them fodder and making them their play area. I'm excited to finally have a plan and ready to start our herd!
 
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I have a really successful outdoor colony setup, but I also have commercial and 6-class rabbits, so they're big. What kind of rabbits are yours?

I keep my bucks in cages and when I want to breed, I net does out of the colony and take them to the buck. For winter litters, I have a 4x8 foot enclosure in the barn with a heat lamp in it, but any other time, I just let the does dig underground nests.
What kind of rabbits are those? I've never heard of them before.

I have NZ, Silver fox, and lion head. I'll be getting angora in the spring.
 

MaggieJ

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I would want you to know that by free roaming rabbits can get into fights and might injure each other. And with free breeding, there could be a lot of in-breeding and rabbits attacking other's Kits

But if you think you have everything under control, then go with your gut
I can't quite agree with this, RabbitsOfTheCreek. I understand that it was your experience, but it's not necessarily true of all colonies.

If you have only one buck in the colony it is no more inbreeding than having one buck in a cage and bringing the does to him for breeding.

It's true that you have less control of when the rabbits breed, but most are prolific in a colony setting. This is a plus for people raising rabbits for meat.

Rabbit personalities come more into play in a colony. My suggestion is to start with one mature doe and a couple of her young daughters. Put the buck in first -- that way the does are on his turf and are less likely to get aggressive with him. Make sure there is plenty of "furniture" so the rabbits can seek out a quiet place at time. Nest tunnels, shelves, boxes and so forth help to reduce tensions. I never had rabbits fighting and they were sweet to each other's kits.

As far as the rabbits getting along, the only problem I had was with one overeager buck who in his haste to rebreed the does was interrupting the kindling process. I divided the colony and made sure that the buck was not with the does who were about to kindle. He spent three weeks on one side and then the next three weeks on the other. As soon as possible, I replaced that buck with his son, who was much more of a gentleman with the does.

A colony requires an observant eye and the ability to think on your feet when a problem crops up. It's not for everyone. But I've never regretted switching from cages to colony. The rabbits had exercise and company and overall seemed happier. For me, that more than made up for less control over them.
 
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