Securing Colony Perimeter & dealing with Winter

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Cindy in SD

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I'm a fairly new rabbit keeper and somewhat uncomfortable with the cages. I have two does and a buck in the barn, up on an unused manger in my two ewes' "bedroom". I feel sorry for them, all cooped up like that. I can't build them a new building, but I'd like to give them more space. I'm leaning toward a fenced-in, partially covered pen.

I'm wondering how deep I'd need to bury hardware cloth along the edges to keep them from burrowing out? Or would a skirt, lying flat under the soil and extending a couple feet into the enclosure work as well?

I don't see myself adding more than a couple of additional does and maybe one more buck, plus current litters, which I see myself growing out in tractors. I'm thinking a roomy cage for each buck, along an outside fence wall, to control breeding frequency.

I'm also wondering about winters which are long and cold more often than not. We can get several feet of snow (3-5') some years. Not every year, but usually without warning. Would it be best to bring them into the barn in winter, or can they manage better with cozy burrows?

I'm thinking maybe a cattle panel or two, covered with a billboard tarp I have, over-top (and maybe on the westward side in winter) would give them sufficient shelter from raptors and precipitation?

Any advice, comments, speculations & W.A. guesses very much appreciated. Thanks!
 
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MnCanary

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It might be a lot easier to just lay wire on the ground to prevent escapes. They can't dig burrows but you could put boxes in their pen to give them some protection from weather.

Keep predators in mind. In my mind, giving rabbits protection from rain / snow and wind is easier than protecting them from predators. If you use cattle panels (they are so useful!) you should think about covering them with 1/2" hardware cloth so predators can't get through. You will get predators eventually, guaranteed. Dogs, cats, weasels, birds of prey, raccoons, snakes, rats and mice.....they'll find you.
 

Cindy in SD

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It might be a lot easier to just lay wire on the ground to prevent escapes. They can't dig burrows but you could put boxes in their pen to give them some protection from weather.

Keep predators in mind. In my mind, giving rabbits protection from rain / snow and wind is easier than protecting them from predators. If you use cattle panels (they are so useful!) you should think about covering them with 1/2" hardware cloth so predators can't get through. You will get predators eventually, guaranteed. Dogs, cats, weasels, birds of prey, raccoons, snakes, rats and mice.....they'll find you.
Thanks! I'm embarrassed that I didn't think of just covering the ground with wire. Duh! We have a big pile of dirt we could haul over and dump into the center for burrows. Digging into the ground might be tough for them in the location I have in mind, anyway.

I've had poultry for several years, so I've had the chance to get acquainted with our local predators and collect a decent stockpile of hardware cloth. Absolutely a requirement. The birds are good at scooting for cover when they see shadows from overhead. Are domestic rabbits aware enough to hide from raptors, too?
 
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BuffBrahmaBantam

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When it comes to digging and escaping, breed matters. We got Rex and American chinchilla rabbits. A pair of Rex and a chinchilla doe. The Rex were frequently getting out - it was almost comical - and digging up everything. The Rex would dig almost every day. The America chinchilla almost never digs, and has never gotten out on her own. We’ve let her out a time or two and she is peaceable and hangs around the outside of the house with us when we are doing yard work.

Needless to say, we don’t have Rex anymore.

Our rabbits live on the ground. Cages are expensive and limiting, so my husband built 2 small sheds from wood neighbors were throwing away. Both sheds have about a 15*15 ft yard with a 1/2 hardware cloth fence, which is necessary to keep rattlesnakes out in summer. We did not bury the wire. We also let them out in the larger part of our yard at times in temporary dog kennels, totalling about 15*15. Those foldable kennels just rest on the grass.

The adult rabbits (just the chinchilla doe now, but previously the 2 adult Rex too) seem completely unconcerned about birds flying overhead. However they have some natural cover at our place - shrubs, trees, and a small 30’ cliff that keeps a lot of overhead predators from seeing them (eagles and ravens here). If your yard is very open, yes, you could build simple covers of shade cloth over bent cattle panels, which we did (neighbors were throwing out some cattle panel pieces and we bent them to a hoop and a-frame shape. One is a cucumber trellis in summer and yard cover for the buns right now in winter.)

The kits are much more cautious than mom and run back to the covers a lot. We also pile vegetation in their yard (garden plants Ive pulled, or shrub clippings) and the kits burrow and play in that and have a grand time.

Our chinchilla and her litter of 10 kits clearly appreciate having access to the outside during daylight hours regardless of weather. Our winters are more mild than yours, but we get to negative digits occasionally. Right now we have 1 foot of powdery snow in the yard and it is 10 degrees fahrenheit. The whole family comes out every day. There is no doubt they prefer summer weather and green grass, but they nevertheless would rather have access to the outdoors than be cooped up. Frankly, we can’t believe people keep their rabbits in cages all the time, especially a doe and her litter. Our rabbits enjoy their freedom and choice. I wish we could offer them more. The key to success with us is keeping the number of rabbits manageable. It is similar to chickens. By exercising discipline and not getting caught up in impulsive buys and new colors/breeds, we have a simple system that provides us plenty of meat, a managable workload, and animals that are more balanced to the acreage we have and the housing we can offer.

I just realized how long my post is. Sorry! I can share pics of our set up if it would be easier.
 

BuffBrahmaBantam

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Here is a picture. The photo shows our American Chinchillas - a doe (far right hand corner) and litter of kits, with 2 kits in the foreground of the photo. If these were Rex rabbits, the portable kennel fence would not contain them I'm sure. The Rex were escape artists.

It looks like a mess because I put some old fence panels inside the fenced enclosure for the kits to hide under. In summer, there is none of that stuff because the shrubs leaf out and provide natural cover. In summer there is just the house with the fence around it.

20221203_145606.jpg
 

BuffBrahmaBantam

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Here is a picture of the inside of the rabbit house. My husband is awesome and constructed this entirely out of materials that were going to the landfill. Except the stall mat, which was worth it. The rabbits use a litter box and clean up is easy. I had just cleaned and that is why the litter pan has no poops in it. The rabbits come and go into their fenced yard during the day, and at night are locked up in this house, which is predator proof.

20221204_122154.jpg
 

Rabbit Warren Man

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I'm a fairly new rabbit keeper and somewhat uncomfortable with the cages. I have two does and a buck in the barn, up on an unused manger in my two ewes' "bedroom". I feel sorry for them, all cooped up like that. I can't build them a new building, but I'd like to give them more space. I'm leaning toward a fenced-in, partially covered pen.

I'm wondering how deep I'd need to bury hardware cloth along the edges to keep them from burrowing out? Or would a skirt, lying flat under the soil and extending a couple feet into the enclosure work as well?

I don't see myself adding more than a couple of additional does and maybe one more buck, plus current litters, which I see myself growing out in tractors. I'm thinking a roomy cage for each buck, along an outside fence wall, to control breeding frequency.

I'm also wondering about winters which are long and cold more often than not. We can get several feet of snow (3-5') some years. Not every year, but usually without warning. Would it be best to bring them into the barn in winter, or can they manage better with cozy burrows?

I'm thinking maybe a cattle panel or two, covered with a billboard tarp I have, over-top (and maybe on the westward side in winter) would give them sufficient shelter from raptors and precipitation?

Any advice, comments, speculations & W.A. guesses very much appreciated. Thanks!
 

Rabbit Warren Man

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I'm a fairly new rabbit keeper and somewhat uncomfortable with the cages. I have two does and a buck in the barn, up on an unused manger in my two ewes' "bedroom". I feel sorry for them, all cooped up like that. I can't build them a new building, but I'd like to give them more space. I'm leaning toward a fenced-in, partially covered pen.

I'm wondering how deep I'd need to bury hardware cloth along the edges to keep them from burrowing out? Or would a skirt, lying flat under the soil and extending a couple feet into the enclosure work as well?

I don't see myself adding more than a couple of additional does and maybe one more buck, plus current litters, which I see myself growing out in tractors. I'm thinking a roomy cage for each buck, along an outside fence wall, to control breeding frequency.

I'm also wondering about winters which are long and cold more often than not. We can get several feet of snow (3-5') some years. Not every year, but usually without warning. Would it be best to bring them into the barn in winter, or can they manage better with cozy burrows?

I'm thinking maybe a cattle panel or two, covered with a billboard tarp I have, over-top (and maybe on the westward side in winter) would give them sufficient shelter from raptors and precipitation?

Any advice, comments, speculations & W.A. guesses very much appreciated. Thanks!
 

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Rabbit Warren Man

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This is how I laid the hard wear cloth and fabric/plastic then put rock on top. I have never had a rabbit escape.
 

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Rabbit Warren Man

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I'm a fairly new rabbit keeper and somewhat uncomfortable with the cages. I have two does and a buck in the barn, up on an unused manger in my two ewes' "bedroom". I feel sorry for them, all cooped up like that. I can't build them a new building, but I'd like to give them more space. I'm leaning toward a fenced-in, partially covered pen.

I'm wondering how deep I'd need to bury hardware cloth along the edges to keep them from burrowing out? Or would a skirt, lying flat under the soil and extending a couple feet into the enclosure work as well?

I don't see myself adding more than a couple of additional does and maybe one more buck, plus current litters, which I see myself growing out in tractors. I'm thinking a roomy cage for each buck, along an outside fence wall, to control breeding frequency.

I'm also wondering about winters which are long and cold more often than not. We can get several feet of snow (3-5') some years. Not every year, but usually without warning. Would it be best to bring them into the barn in winter, or can they manage better with cozy burrows?

I'm thinking maybe a cattle panel or two, covered with a billboard tarp I have, over-top (and maybe on the westward side in winter) would give them sufficient shelter from raptors and precipitation?

Any advice, comments, speculations & W.A. guesses very much appreciated. Thanks!
 

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Preitler

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Mine are outside in daytime all year too,. They do dig, but never to get out of the fence. Which is kind of just symbolic anyway, one side of my property is a crook that keeps them in. At least normally, now the crook is dry due to construction works upstream or frozen over, and my two younger does are out on the meadow and around the house every day *sigh*), but they listen when told to go home.

Compared to other reagions I have very few issues with predators here.
 

Scooter1A

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Good topic for me right now since I was debating putting 2 cages in my basement since a storm is coming. Very cold and windy plus snow. They are up 4 feet high in hutches, all sides wrapped in heavy heavy plastic, both bunnies have a wood box with hay. I was considering putting wood down on their cage floor since the wind is gonn'a howl with bitter temps. Or should I just cover the floors with hay and go inside? I have to carry water to them and the chickens so I can keep an eye on them. ?
 

BuffBrahmaBantam

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Rabbit Warren Man, I love your pictures! Do your rabbits have access to a building, or do they have to rely on their dug holes for protection? In our area, the soil is rocky with large rocks in a mountainside and rabbits are unable to dig complete burrows - therefore the shelter of a shed is important for us for predator protection.

Like you, I can see our rabbits have no issue with the cold. Our current litter is 6 weeks and the cold doesn’t phase them at all. They are out bopping around in the snow and wind every day. But importantly they have the option of going inside their shed. It is unheated, though snow-free and out of the wind. The choice is theirs.
 

Scooter1A

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I'm a fairly new rabbit keeper and somewhat uncomfortable with the cages. I have two does and a buck in the barn, up on an unused manger in my two ewes' "bedroom". I feel sorry for them, all cooped up like that. I can't build them a new building, but I'd like to give them more space. I'm leaning toward a fenced-in, partially covered pen.

I'm wondering how deep I'd need to bury hardware cloth along the edges to keep them from burrowing out? Or would a skirt, lying flat under the soil and extending a couple feet into the enclosure work as well?

I don't see myself adding more than a couple of additional does and maybe one more buck, plus current litters, which I see myself growing out in tractors. I'm thinking a roomy cage for each buck, along an outside fence wall, to control breeding frequency.

I'm also wondering about winters which are long and cold more often than not. We can get several feet of snow (3-5') some years. Not every year, but usually without warning. Would it be best to bring them into the barn in winter, or can they manage better with cozy burrows?

I'm thinking maybe a cattle panel or two, covered with a billboard tarp I have, over-top (and maybe on the westward side in winter) would give them sufficient shelter from raptors and precipitation?

Any advice, comments, speculations & W.A. guesses very much appreciated. Thanks!
I like the fact that you care enough to give them a freer life. I also have a hard time seeing things caged. I had a panic attack the last time I went to a zoo.
 

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