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Setting up a Rabbitry. Advice and a few questions

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by iPringle, Apr 24, 2017.

  1. iPringle

    iPringle Just Hatched

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    Mar 21, 2017
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    We're getting some New Zealand Whites in the next month or so. I've finished fencing in the side yard where all the animals live (just chickens and dogs at the moment) so it's time to move onto the rabbitry.

    Living in central VA we have mild winters, usually it stays above freezing, there's a few days below 30, and two nights or so a year where it gets below 15. I think a roof is all I'll need for shelter, especially since in the summer we are basically 90s with high humidity. Does that sound right to you guys?

    It seems that a 36"x24"x18" cage is the standard size for meat rabbit cages. I'll obviously need three for the producers (2 does, 1 buck). Then it seems like you need one for the weaned rabbits of each litter. That means I need a minimum of four cages to start out, right? I'm going to expand but maybe not this year since money is tight. The nice thing about doing four would be that that is 8' of cage (I plan on building one large cage which is 3'x8'x1.5' and then dividing that 8' down into four 2' sections to save on materials) and 8' is a standard size for lumber dimensions, plus it's how much room I have on the side of my house for the rabbitry.

    When we expand I plan to add on an additional two does so that I can be producing a litter of meat a month. I think that would be 8 cages.

    Does anyone put their fryers into a rabbit tractor the last few weeks to let them feed on grass? I'm wondering if that is a successful way of getting them fed while keeping feeding costs down. If you have done/do this how much square footage do you find a 8 to 10 week old rabbit eats in a day? I only have a front yard and a backyard with grass so I'm not even sure if I have enough to satisfy their hunger.

    Does anyone have tips for keeping feed down? I'd rather not have to buy alfalfa pellets all the time. They're pretty cheap at the coop I think $15 for a 50# bag of 17% protein alfalfa, and we could definitely accept that hit as we'd probably only eat meat raised on our property once the rabbits start producing and the chickens start laying. How much does a rabbit eat a day? Just talking pellets as that's the only thing that is a cost for me (hay is free because we own horses and the rabbits' hay use won't even put a dent in the horses' hay rations.

    What's a good schedule for a rabbit trio? I see people saying you need two weeks after weaning before mama can breed and others saying six weeks. And some say weaning is at 2 weeks, others say 6 weeks. But it does seem everyone agrees that you butcher at 10 to 12 depending on weight.

    Do I need to worry about inbreeding if I'm butchering everything? The trio is from the same litter I believe (free is free so I'm not complaining). Eventually the next trio will be from different lines and at that point I'll consider keeping stuff from the litters I've got.
     
  2. BantamLover21

    BantamLover21 Overrun With Chickens

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    SunHwaKwon likes this.
  3. Zoomie

    Zoomie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mora, NM USA
    OK, so @BantamLover21 has already given some good advice, here is my take.

    With an open shed like that, predators can get in at your rabbits. I am thinking particularly of raccoons, which can reach in and pull off parts of your rabbit, resulting in you having to put the victim down when you discover it. Having predators around makes some does so nervous, they will eat their litter. (It's the only way they can protect their nest site from drawing predators.) Stray cats coming in can also make them nervous like that. So, you might think about a screen wall in the front, to keep out predators and make the rabbits feel more secure. When they feel secure and happy they are more likely to settle down and breed and kindle for you.

    In my experience it's the heat, more than the cold, so your open plan works that way. Some install fans or misters but boy, that's expensive.

    Your big cage divided up sounds good, but you might want to consider making a single cage for the buck and hanging him where he does not share a cage wall with the does. They can get pretty growly at the buck when they realize they are pregnant, and may spend all day and night trying to drive him away. Also, about hanging: I found hanging the cages worked the best, as the droppings had a better chance to fall out, and it was not too hard to rake out under the cages... although, you are planning for a 3' raking area, you might want to check and be sure you can rake underneath that much space, and check to see how high the cages should be so you can reach all the way back. It can be more challenging that you might think, especially in winter.

    I always raised my kits on pellets so can't help you with the idea of using grass. I do know the protein will not be as high. I suppose the only thing to do is try it, but you may simply slow down your feed to weight gain ratio. That's why people generally butcher at 12 weeks; that feed to weight gain ration starts going south as their rapid growth slows dramatically.
     
  4. iPringle

    iPringle Just Hatched

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    Mar 21, 2017
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    Thanks for the advice guys!

    I'm not too concerned with the predators. I've personally never seen or seen any signs of raccoons, foxes, coyotes, etc.. I live downtown, surrounded by streets and busy roads. There are some very lush and productive areas towards the river where the wild life tends to live. Additionally, we have two hounds that are shaping into fantastic LGDs. They have been keep good care of our chickens so far, and keeping the deer, guinea fowl (someone down the street thought they'd make good pets and now they live in my neighbor's yard), and groundhogs out of the yard and garden area. I might whip up something like a screen wall in front of their cage though, it's cheap and if it goes to easing their minds and producing more litters that's good for me!

    I have ordered enough wire to make an 8' row and two 3' cages, so I will figure out how to put the male in his own cage away from the ladies. I'm hoping to get a lot of product out of these guys so I'm willing to make lives easier.

    Have you ever fed alfalfa pellets? They're 18% protein which I've read is good for pregnant moms and can really grow out the kits quickly. The quicker they grow the less I pay in food! I'd have to supplement with a salt/mineral lick but that's not a big deal. I'm just concerned that they might not eat the pellets at all!

    As for the droppings, I've got a screen I'm running under the cages to collect the droppings and let the pee through to the ground below.
     
  5. balloonflower

    balloonflower Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have used a few alfalfa pellets with my buns, but only as a supplement. Some eat them, some don't. I would be concerned about missing needed nutrition by choosing only cheaper alfalfa pellets over a balanced rabbit pellet. You may save some money up front but have less healthy buns and less meat overall because of it. If they chime in, there are those on here who finish their meat rabbits on pasture, but it takes longer to get up to weight. And yard grass isn't really offering them nutrition--you need something more like clover, timothy, or alfalfa grass.

    I have silver fox, so similar to nz size. My non-breeding buns get a cup of pellets a day, while the lactating does/kits are free fed. She will eat close to dbl that a day, then the kits start on pellets at about 4 weeks, and boy it seems like you go through feed at that stage. The feed I use is a 17% protein, and weighs 5.5 oz per cup, so my adult buns eat about 10 pounds per month each, minimum. I just started in November, and sold my first litter as pets so haven't figured my feed conversion ratios yet, as I haven't harvested. I think we are looking at 12 weeks for that. So far, I've weaned kits at 6 weeks due to circumstances, but would like to give them 8 weeks. I had two does and was alternating, but now am down to one. She is due next week, and I plan to rebreed at 6 weeks until I find another doe--really want a blue.

    I've had a blast building cages--pm if you want help there. I did stacked all wire.
     
  6. iPringle

    iPringle Just Hatched

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    Mar 21, 2017
    Central Virginia
    Thanks for the input. I've actually been able to find a better feed than TSC has or the Alfalfa pellets and for less than either one too through a local feed store. I've actually seeded my front and back yard entirely with clover because if I don't mow it never hits the 12" mark so I won't get yelled at by the town, plus I can take my weed wacker to a chunk of it every day to throw on the compost pile for the chickens and it'll be back in no time to do all over. So they'd have food eats on my lawn!

    My cage material arrived today, and I'll get cracking on it this weekend if it rains. I'll PM you if I hit any snags. Off the top of my head though, is there a way to cut the doors from the wire and reuse it for the door? Everything I see has you cut out the door and then cut a larger section to replace that cut out, but that leaves a 1'x1' section of wire which isn't used.
     
  7. balloonflower

    balloonflower Chillin' With My Peeps

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    In my experience, there's really not a way to use the cut out as the door--you just don't have the overlap. I've used some of my scraps from doors, etc to make hay racks or something like a large suet cage to use for feeding greens/fruit to my chooks.

    1'x1' may be a bit small for a door. Make them as big as you can--it will help. My kindling cage is 48"x24"x18". I put two doors on it, and they really help. Getting kits out from the back of 24" reach is tough enough. Also--make sure your nestbox fits through the door!
     
  8. Zoomie

    Zoomie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mora, NM USA
    For a door, I usually cut a door in the top, due to not being able to reach all the way back from the front and needing to put a next box in and out. I agree, no way to use that piece of wire as a door, but it is handy for other things and I never threw them away.
     

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