looking for some free range rabbit tips (rabbit tractor living that is lol)

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by goodolsurvival1, Jun 23, 2016.

  1. goodolsurvival1

    goodolsurvival1 Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 26, 2015
    we are moving out to a 4.9acre property (buying family home from our aunt and uncle)... right now we have just buff orps (2 flocks since we have too roosters that are really good from last hatch but don't tolerate each other any more so had to make two flocks)

    we want to add "meat" rabbits to the setup and have them in our area where we will have our crops etc. at where they graze (so opposite end of property from any of our flocks), but want to free range them using rabbit tractors we will build. I already know we will have to put fencing on the bottom so they can still eat the grass etc. but not dig out. There are just a few other questions i have from anyone else that may do this.

    1. what are their box requirements? (i know they need a nesting box, i use to raise mini lops but that was over 19yrs ago lol)... we plan on building something similar to this: (we wouldn't use chicken fencing though since raccoons can rip into that)

    2. are there things that rabbits shouldn't eat or get access too?

    3. how many breeding does can you keep together? is it better to separate them when they have kits to their own tractor?

    4. can you house more than one male together that you are keeping to use as breeding or is it better to keep them separate so there is no fighting etc. (don't know if they will I can remember when i did mini lops for 4h each rabbit had their own cage)?

    6. right now we feed our chickens= grounded alfalfa, wild bird seed (it has corn, milet, etc. in it), black sunflower seeds with oil, oats, and some D.E. in it (its between 17-20% protein) along with some oyster shells (which we would give to the rabbits other then their mineral block unless they are allowed to have them?). during wintertime we add crack corn to the mix as a treat (separate)... can this feed mix we make something that they can eat also? or do they need something more specific (as in not something in the mix, i just know we've put out this mix for the cotton tail that lives under our porch and it loves it lol)? I'm assuming what we aren't adding they are finding while free ranging and winter time they will just eat more feed and we may have to suppliment a little more.

    any other free range (tractor) rabbit tips for new free range rabbit people is welcomed :) as i always do my research extensively before every adding to our setup to make sure it is something I can manage (i have 3 kids and a hubby who enjoy the animals etc. but seems its 90% me responsible for tending too after the initial excitement of the new addition then all they want to do is pet or feed them and im left to the poop lol)

    we are in n.e. ohio if that matters when it comes to caring for rabbits in the free range tractor method we want to do.... I'm assuming maybe if it gets really cold or a lot of snow we will need to house them in a storage shed or tarp them maybe?

  2. wolfrosie

    wolfrosie Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 22, 2015
    1. That will be based mostly on your preference and how large an enclosure + how many animals you want to house together + how large these animals are. Flemish Giants for example will require much more space than a regular pet bunny. For their nesting box anything they can comfortably turn around in is fine and for their indoor area the rabbits should be able to fully stretch out and lay down, have space for any food + water, and the space for their nest box. Just be careful when choosing a material to build that any holes aren't big enough for the babies/sneaky predators to be able to sneak through or anything that isn't too thin and chewable.
    Rabbits can be very high energy animals and would prefer having the space to do what they do best.

    2. There are actually a lot of things that are poisonous to animals you wouldn't really think of and it would be easier to just do a quick search on everything you are going to let your bunny have access to rather than try to find a complete extensive list of poisons, because there aren't any *complete* lists. Certain types of lettuce are harmful (I believe Iceberg lettuce is one of them), I have a bad memory so I can't be too sure which of the normal things are bad and I don't have my *safe* list with me. So just check and make sure which of your favourite foods are safe always before feeding to your bunny. :)
    That is the best practice versus trying to remember the zillions of plants that are not healthy. In my opinion.

    3. You can keep as many females together as you have the space for, but pregnant does should be separated. It will be very stressful for the mother to worry about protecting her babies from the other bunnies (which may even want to actually kill them) . You also CAN keep males together, but they are usually more accepting of bunnies they were already raised with as babies. It is not true that males can never get a long, just not as easy a thing to accomplish with adults. :)
    Don't keep multiple males with the girls though. They will want to fight over who gets the best girls. There's also a risk that male bunnies around a mother with babies that are not his will eat them also. In nature most animals see the offspring of another as a threat and will eliminate them so that his stronger genes may flourish. It is usually completely fine, however, to keep the two parents together. Only reason to separate the male from his kin is if he is stepping all over them or pushing them out of the nest. I've only seen this happen with two bucks back when my mother used to breed them for pets, out of many others, so unless you get unlucky it should be fine to keep them together.

    4. Oh whoops I already answered this question haha

    5. Eh, I'm a bit iffy on giving oyster shells. There is not enough research done to conclude how exactly rabbits metabolize calcium but, with male rabbits especially, bladder stones and sludge is a risk. I can imagine my big rabbit munching on it like a crunchy candy and having problems down the road so… at least for my bunny, it would be better to stick with wholesome carrot snacks.
    Rabbits in the wild don't normally eat seeds, but black sunflower seeds make a nice treat. Remember that rabbits like gnawing on things and if you don't have anything crunchy for them to keep their mouths busy (and help trim their teeth) they may resort to chewing on undesirable things instead.
    My indoor bunnies love alfalfa cubes, horse cookies, and their special blocks of scrap wood the best as far as when they are looking for something crunchy to eat. Most bunnies don't seem to like mineral blocks, in my experience.
    Good luck and maybe somebody else will chime in here with their own opinions.
  3. goodolsurvival1

    goodolsurvival1 Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 26, 2015
    Thanks for the info.

    With the oysters i didn't think calcium would be a good thing due to their kidneys etc. but wasn't sure if my thinking was correct. I can remember when I had the mini lops as a kid mine loved the brown mineral circle, raisins (as treats), etc.

    we want to try and keep the bunnies as organic as possible and my husband didn't know if we put in an actual piece of wood in their tractors for them to chew on if they would or if it would be better to buy the rabbit wood blocks (he just wants to stay away from the chemicals and stuff we have found in some of those)

    we know pellets will help the meat rabbits grow out faster, but wed rather them grow out more natural thats why we were trying to come up with our own mix of feed rather than buying the pellets... i knew they could eat grains and will eat the alfalfa grounded meal that we get for the chickens since ive been doing some research... the whole wild bird seed I wasn't sure only because the wild bunny we have right now housing under our porch (hopefully it doesnt die when we move cuz of the neighbors cats that kill just for the heck of it and weve been able to keep the cats away from it) loves the wild bird seed that we get for some odd reason and its bunnies every year goes in the garden (it doesn't which is kind of weird) and they nibble on the lettuce and things

    I'll look up the safe food instead of the non safe food with them...

    the other reason why we were trying to come up with our own feed (for cheaper also then the pellets) is we figured they prob wont eat as much of it during the summer since they have access to the grass etc. in the tractor.

    i figured when the does are pregnant should go to their own mini tractor for them and their bunnies... i didn't think of leaving the male in with them as I assumed you didn't let the male with them unless you wanted them to to start producing bunnies lol (its one of those things we want to control so the does don't get over bread if that is possible and keep having back to back litters) I figured like 2 or 3 males kept for breeding at a time and rotate them between the females (so we would produce 1 to 2 maybe 3 litters a year)...

    once i do some more research about the req to sell any extra rabbits as meat/4h rabbits that is our goal also... just have to find out reg to do so in ohio if there are any... the only thing i can remember when i did 4h with my mini lop was that she had to have her ear stamped and stuff i can't remember

    I bouncing back and forth between lionhead rabbits and the rabbits that aren't much bigger than a mini lop that ruralking gets (im assuming they maybe mix breeds they remind you have a cotton tail but with colors usually black and white)... the one time we saw what looked like cotton tail rabbits there, is there a domesticated breed that is identical to them?

    i don't know if you watched the youtube video of that rabbit tractor build but thats pretty much what we would be building and i figured 2 females easily in there at a time, if pregnant doe then she would have one of her own, and we could put 2-3 bucks maybe in one out of a litter that we want to keep as breeding stock....

    here is prob another stupid question lol... i know with cows, chickens, etc. you can breed the same male with your flock even to its own off spring (cows is usually up to 5 yrs then you want to switch out your bull)... is there any rules for how long you can use your buck to breed with before you shouldn't breed him with the heard (dont know what the group of rabbits is called lol) before it may become a genetic issue? or is it better to not let a buck breed with any generations that he is part of the production of?

    when we bred my mini lop it was always with our buck and the bunnies were always sold off so never had to learn that information about breeding with the offspring lol.

    thanks for all your info and help
  4. wolfrosie

    wolfrosie Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 22, 2015
    The rabbit wood blocks in pet stores is really no different than a regular piece of wood, they just add a splash of nontoxic paint, if they are even painted. If the bunny won't eat one chances are the other won't make him any more interested. You'd have to be using wood from trees that are edible of course. The only difference is the price is usually quite expensive for a couple small pieces of wood when you could just chop up your own. So that's why I'd rather just be saving the scrap pieces from other projects, than spend more money on something I already have lying around. But if you're bunny is not interested in eating any wood that's a good thing. Rather him be eating food-food than want to eat the walls!

    I agree I hate manufactured foods. I like to know exactly what my animals are eating, and by mixing the grains myself and knowing where they're coming from or how they're being handled makes me feel much better. On the wild bird seed while I don't think it's particularly harmful as a treat it shouldn't be part of a bunnies whole diet. Seeds are for birds, not bunnies. There are some things that birds can eat that are otherwise not good for other animals, just like how dogs can't eat grapes. A dog may jump at the chance to eat chocolate, but that doesn't mean it's good for them.
    Some types of seeds have hulls that are indigestible to a rabbit and can cause life-threatening intestinal impactions, and there are other types of common bird seeds that have slight toxicity to other animals that doesn't otherwise effect birds. So overall not the best thing for a rabbit to be eating too often.

    Oh yes, only leave the males in if you intend on breeding.
    There are lots of breeds that look like wild rabbits, but most people don't like the wild fur colour. Is that what you were referring to? Mini Rex is one you might be interested in. But like I said, the regular brown-grey colours are usually unpopular.

    I actually have sheep and did have a couple cows at one point. Never heard about the 5 year thing. Inbreeding is a big no-no here, and for me. If you don't want malformations and problems don't inbreed ever. One of our neighbours leave their rabbits to do their own thing and their babies are very unhealthy. They have lots of problems and a high mortality rate, even though they only have 3 (mother, father, and daughter). Even just once can cause problems, my mother did do an experiment on this at one time.
    I just read an article not too long ago of people praising inbreeding and seeing it as a very valuable tool to get strong genes, but I strongly disagree. You can just as easily get strong genes without inbreeding, and without the risks associated with inbreeding, so why inbreed? The only thing you get from it is not buying a new bunny to freshen the gene pool with... which is not much of a bonus if you ask me.
    Inbreeding doesn't just take the good genes but also amplifies the bad and you'll have to do a lot of extra culling if you go the inbred route in order to get the "perfect" genes. But in the end they still aren't perfect, because that bunny will still have that long history of previously discovered problems. It may not affect your "perfect" bunny you pulled out from the bad bunches, but it is still deeply rooted in his genes.
    This is exactly why the risk of health problems occurring is higher in purebred dogs than in mixed breeds. Most purebred dogs originate from a small selection of dogs… and today there are many people who are just irresponsible and only looking for a quick buck. But this is true for all species, to an extent. It's not really possible in nature to go 100% without being inbred unintentionally. But inbreeding, by definition, is the mating of individuals who are closely related and that is where the problem lies. You may want to look up "inbreeding depression" as a starting point if you want to do further research on this. In the end it shouldn't be about your wallet, but about the breed's benefit. :)

    **Important Tip - don't breed females to males that are significantly bigger than them. The babies often have feet that are too large as a result and won't be able to be passed out.
  5. goodolsurvival1

    goodolsurvival1 Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 26, 2015
    Thanks for the tip about the female to male... so pretty close to the rule of thumb that you always want your females of a breeding line bigger than your male (with cows anyways if the bulls head is bigger than our biggest cow the calves will be big and you may have to pull a lot of them).

    I am looking even though for meat purposes to make sure we raising healthy rabbits, minus the small incidents where a rabbit picks up more bad genes then good (chickens do it too where they are biting more and that type of thing we would never want to keep that for breeding line)...

    Here is what I was thinking after reading more what you said and doing some research, even though there is mix info on line breeding and inbreeding, is to get our starting colony where we have 6 does and 2 bucks making sure bucks aren't related to the does and the does not related to each other. Then pair up each buck with 3 does (never breeding with each others does). So then our breeding cycle would look like this:

    Group A: 1 buck 3 does <----when time for does to get replaced 3 are kept from the litter and the buck is also replaced with a new (bought) one so new blood. All bucks are culled from here and most does unless they have good health qualities then they are sent as breeding stock to group B.

    Group B: 1 buck 3 does (starting stock) <--- this buck breeds with any does we decide to keep from Group A. All their litters get cull out, unless we want to get more bucks and then group them with does from here or vice versa (new does to buck) but their litters area always culled out (that would be too much to keep track of who is related to who lol)... Once the buck would need to go we would just replace with fresh blood but keep the setup going with the groups.

    Now something like this would work and keep any chances of inbreeding/linebreeding out/mistake of happening correct?

    Five other questions that ive been reading mix info on so figured id ask you to see and at least get a better general idea.

    1. How long can a female be used for a breeding doe before its isn't good for her (healthy wise)?
    2. How many litters do you let your does produce during the year (i was thinking like 3-4 a yr but then i was reading that most people are rebreeding at 6wks and weening the bunnies at 5-7wks... I cuz to me that seems really hard on a doe and she'd only last you a yr of breeding cuz she be so tired lol)
    3. Is weening the bunnies like weening any other animal where you separate from the mom so they can't nurse?
    4. How long can a buck be used for breeding till maybe it starts making him produce not so good offspring? Is it better just to swap out your breeding buck (cull out) after x years of using for breeding?
    5. Do you from the time they are young make sure they are use to contact with you? Or do you find that it makes it harder to cull them out the tamer and affectionate the are? (for me I don't think I'll have a prob with the litters but the breeding stock maybe a little because you have more time spent with them)

    Along the lines of feed i did some research and found that we can get 50lb of rabbit pellets for like $12 (we maybe able to cheaper once I talk to our one feed place too), this way they are getting what they need and I figured I'd throw in some grains like: oats, grounded alfalfa, and wheat (i think we can get this from the feed store... unless I miss read and they can't have this). Then having sunflower seeds and veggie scraps (what they can have) as once a day treats .... that plus all the grass they can eat from their tractors I think they should be good and healthy then.

    Sorry about so many questions I just want to make sure we get a setup to have healthy meat rabbits rather then mass producing rabbits for sole purpose of meat and not worried about their health. We like knowing where our meet comes from but we also like knowing its coming from well taken care of animals if it isn't wild game.
  6. wolfrosie

    wolfrosie Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 22, 2015
    Yes, that sounds like it would work just fine.
    1. I am not too sure. I would guess that as long as they continue looking healthy, active, and aren't stressed then it would be fine. Health risks start to occur around the half mark in the average lifespan in general, so if you know how long your breed of rabbit lives I would split that number in half as the cut off mark.
    2. When my mother was breeding for pet rabbits she would breed them once or twice and give them a month for a break in between breedings. They have been fine this way. Our first baby Honey has since been retired by personal choice but she is still going strong. But being bred all the time will definitely stress them out.
    3. The babies will wean themselves. As soon as you notice they are no longer suckling and are eating/drinking all of the foods like their mother does then they are ready to be sexed and separated.
    4. I am not sure, we are not breeding for pets anymore though I have my own couple of meat rabbits. All the old pet bunnies save for the special ones and bunny returns were adopted out so I cannot say.
    5. That will depend solely on how well you think you can let go once you stare into their beady little eyes and remember all the good times you had…
    Most people I know don't like to associate with anything they plan to kill, not even give them names (or they name them stuff like Bacon), but I am different in the way that I want to make sure they have the most love filled days possible so I can feel satisfied that I gave them the best possible life. So it will be up to you.

    Oats, alfalfa, and wheat are all fine. Sounds like they'll be pretty happy bunnies and I agree on your last sentences too. :)
  7. goodolsurvival1

    goodolsurvival1 Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 26, 2015
    Thanks again for the info.
  8. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Just a few quick tips, in addition to what has been posted.
    Pellets should not be the predominant diet. Rabbits require grass/hay for healthy digestive systems. That should make up the bulk of their diet, with pellets being just a small portion to ensure they are getting adequate mineral levels.
    Never put the buck into the doe's living space. Always bring the doe to the buck.
    At 12 weeks old, the kits can start breeding, so have the boys separated out, or process them before that age.
    How often you breed is a matter of preference. I prefer to breed 2 weeks after a doe has weaned her kits, to give her body a bit of a rest. This allows each doe to produce about 5 litters a year. Some like to breed as soon as a doe kindles. Also, they can become pregnant with two different litters, and have two different due dates.
    Does can produce healthy litters until they are about 4 to 5 years. There is no time limit on how long bucks remain viable. They can sire healthy litters until the day they die.
    All rabbits should be handled regularly to reduce their overall stress. Rabbits do need to be examined routinely to check for overall health. Nail trimming may be needed, or medication may need to be administered. Regular handling makes all of this much easier on everybody.
    Your breeding stock can be treated as pets. You should maintain some emotional distance from the offspring you plan to eat.
    As far as line breeding goes, it's much safer to keep a few young does, and replace the buck with an unrelated one.
    1 person likes this.

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