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velacreations

Housing rabbits in warm climates

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Here's some good info on a cage/hutch design that enables folks to have rabbits in hot climates. They averaged more than 40 kits/yr per doe with this system, which is an excellent rate, especially in desert climates.

http://ressources.ciheam.org/om/pdf/c08/95605275.pdf

and more:

http://www.fao.org/ag/aga/agap/frg/afris/espanol/document/lrrd/LRRD8/4/suc84.htm

Here's a very permaculture-looking application of those rabbit houses:

http://www.fao.org/ag/AGAinfo/themes/documents/ibys/click/fig68.htm

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Hi Velacreations,

Great links. Rabbits certainly suffer in extremes of heat and humidity.....but those alternative housing ideas make humane rabbit-keeping a possibility.

Gary

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yeah, I like using the earth for temperature control whenever possible. These little shelters should be easy to make with whatever you have around - bricks, concrete, stone, plastic, metal, etc.

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Hi Abe (VC),

I read in another thread where you, and your family, eat 250 rabbits a year.

Can you tell us more about that aspect of your self-sufficiency achievements? What breed? How do you feed them? How do you house them......particularly given their sensitivity to heat?

The full monty.

Gary

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velacreations

Great post loved reading it very informative. I wish my house wasn't on a flood plain. Trying to figure out a barn for my quail. the floor is planned at 40ft x 20 ft. The floor has to be concrete for cleaning. As sanitation is a huge issue with me. But it would be nice to figure out some kind earth shelter to keep them cool but they still require lots of light to keep them laying.

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Aww the old bleach and water in a plastic coke bottle.. They already use them in the Philippines.. but yeah they are a great idea.

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Hi Abe (VC),

I read in another thread where you, and your family, eat 250 rabbits a year.

Can you tell us more about that aspect of your self-sufficiency achievements? What breed? How do you feed them? How do you house them......particularly given their sensitivity to heat?

The full monty.

Gary

well, we butcher that many a year, but we probably only eat 100-150 a year (that's 100-150 kg of rabbit meat). We sell the surplus in our local village at about $6 USD per kg (several times lower than the going market price for rabbit in a city). That covers our feed costs so we get free meat, and sometimes a bit of a profit. it gives our neighbors a high quality, local meat supply, and serves as a great bargain item in our local area (everyone comes to us for rabbit) Check out our site for some info on rabbits, and watch our blog, as we will be doing some innovative and interesting things with the rabbit colony this year: http://www.velacreations.com/rabbits.html

currently, we raise our rabbits in a colony setup. We have 8-10 producing does, depending on time of year, replacements, etc. We keep 2 bucks separately, in their own little pens. The doe pen is about 7.5 square meters indoors, and at least 30 square meters outdoors. The outdoor pen is galvanized fencing buried about 300 mm into the ground, and about 1.5 meters above ground. They have lots of burrows, toys, tree branches, etc to keep them busy. In their indoor area, we put down about 300mm of straw, and clean it out every 3 months or so for worm food.

The key with rabbits and heat is to give them access to the ground. If temps approach 30C, then the males won't breed, and everyone gets real lethargic (no eating, no growing, no breeding). But, if they have burrows, they can escape those high temps and stay comfortable.

We rotate our breeding so that we try to breed one doe a week, which means we also have one doe kindling a week, and one doe weaning a week, and one litter ready for butcher per week. If everything goes according to plan, this requires 10 does, and you could easily produce over 300 rabbits a year. We have produced beyond 300 a year a few times, but normally we average closer to 250 butchered a year.

When a doe is reading to kindle, we put here in a separate cage with a nest box. There, she can kindling in peace. Once the kits are 10 days old, and are opening their eyes, we move the litter and mom to the doe area, and put the nest in the straw. We wean the kits at 6 weeks, and they each get an ear tattoo that we use to track their growth.

We keep records on everyone, and that helps organize the breedings and timing everything. It also let's us select for certain traits, like size at weaning, productive does (we have a few does that wean 9 kits regularly), weight at 8 weeks, weight at 10 weeks, etc.

Once weaned, the growing bunnies go into their own pen, which is about 2 square meters indoors and around 20 square meters outdoors. They have the same fencing as the does, 300mm in the ground, and 1.5 m above ground. At 10-12 weeks (depending on their weight, we harvest at 2 kg), we butcher them, and fit them in the freezer, or sell the carcasses cleaned. All the butcher waste goes to the pigs and/dogs.

We also use the furs, and my wife tans them and makes handbags, pillows, etc: http://www.velacreations.com/furforsale.html

The rabbit barn is 20 square meters, and also houses their feed and hay store. They have an automatic water system that is gravity feed from a 4000L rain catchment tank. This supplies water for the entire colony year round. The waters are basic nipples on a small plastic line (5mm, I think). We run an electric fence around the entire area to deter predators (we've never had a predator problem, though we lost a weanling to a snake, once)

We don't really have a breed, as we bought our rabbits from several different sources. Some are new zealands, but others are mutts, that were raised previously in a colony setup. We select for things we want, which include fast growth, good mothering abilities, interesting pelts, and feed adaptability. I like the mutts, cause we get nice pelts from them. White is boring.

We feed them a basic ration of pellets (16% protein), with free choice hay (locally cut from apple orchards). Additionally, we give them apple peals and pommace during the season, when we collect windfalls for cider. (there is a 5,000 tree apple orchard about 1.5 km from our house). We also give them fresh cut weeds and alfalfa (lucerne) when in season. They get anything from the garden that is rabbit safe, and during the raining season, we put them the growing rabbits in cages on pasture (only about 3-4 months out of the year, when the grass is beautiful and lush). More on using local resources for feed: http://velacreations.blogspot.com/2011/08/gathering.html

We are experimenting with hydro fodder for a more sustainable supplement (replacing pellets). We use wheat for this, and sprout 500 grams of wheat grain per day in a rotating system, so that we also harvest one tray of fodder a day (about 4 kg, roots and all): http://velacreations.blogspot.com/2011/12/rabbit-fodder.html

We are currently planning an overhaul to the system to incorporate the underground shelters and separate pens for the does. Does are extremely territorial, and we've found that if we let them kindle in the communal area, kits tend to get killed. We also prefer to be able to control each doe's feed intake, as more aggressive does tend to get fat in the communal feeding arrangement, which leads to lower productivity and breeding rates. So, this summer we will be building another rabbit barn that incorporates a different approach, and better integration with earthworms, ducks, and pigs, for a total circular waste stream and reduced feed inputs.

You can find more about how we do things with the rabbits on our site, with plans for a rabbit mower: http://www.velacreations.com/rabbits.html

Also, check out the Rabbit Collection of photos in our Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/velacreations/collections/72157626867307781/

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velacreations

Great post loved reading it very informative. I wish my house wasn't on a flood plain. Trying to figure out a barn for my quail. the floor is planned at 40ft x 20 ft. The floor has to be concrete for cleaning. As sanitation is a huge issue with me. But it would be nice to figure out some kind earth shelter to keep them cool but they still require lots of light to keep them laying.

earth can be good for sanitation, check out the deep bedding method. Quail are ground dwellers (we have lots fo wild ones, here), but they are not burrowers, so I don't know how they would take to buried shelters, but they might end up liking it. You could do some shelters raise off the ground in barrels or something to give them the cooler temps without compromising the concrete floor.

One thing folks ignore is the benefit dirt can be to the health of animals. I have read lots of information about how pig health is directly linked to them having access to and eating dirt. Most pigs are raised on concrete for "sanitation" reasons, but if you give a pig plenty of room on good healthy soil, they'll always be health and happy. I think the same goes for most animals that live on the ground. Eating soil (and the billions of microbes it contains) can be considered as a trace mineral and probiotic supplement. After all, they evolved in soil, it makes sense they would have a biological relationship with it (this has been studied in depth for many species) I try to encourage my animals to contact healthy, living soil as much as possible.

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Hi Abe,

Thanks for that excellent and detailed overview of your rabbit operation.

I'd love to be able to replicate something like that.......but keeping rabbits is illegal in my state.....and, if the government inspectors don't get you, the Myxamatosis or rabbit Calici-virus (introduced diseases to control wild rabbits) will.

I've been contemplating rearing guinea pigs for meat as an alternative.

Gary

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Wow !! Hard to believe that the people of OZ ban rabbits, let alone introducing a disease to control them. Rabbits have always been good eating, stewed or fried. Yummy is the only word I have for them and wild rabbits is like having free food waiting to collected.. That is sad thing to here about..

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Hi Pugo,

Bush rabbits have done enormous environmental damage in some parts.......and caused substantial financial loss to many Australian farmers......and that's what underpins the official attitude toward them......and (in my state) farmed rabbits, too.

The only thing that farmed rabbits have in common with their bush cousins is that they both have big ears.

A farmed rabbit has a life expectancy of about five minutes once it escapes. They lack the survival skills of bush rabbits and become easy prey to dogs, cats, foxes, vehicles, birds of prey and the introduced diseases of rabbits.

You can farm rabbits in just about all other states. While the weather is good in Queensland, it's a little backward in some other respects.

Gary

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in a lot of ways, guinea pigs are easier than rabbits. They don't need high fences, and they do better in warm climates.

For me, though, I like a 1kg carcass. It's a shame they are banned, but I do understand the issue, as the rabbit did a real number on Australia.

I prefer rabbit to chicken, and besides pork, it's my favorite meat. Of course, we're experts on cooking it. Some folks say they don't like rabbit. When they say this, I offer up some of my wife's Italian Braised Rabbit in a wine and cherry tomato sauce. They like rabbit after that.

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Hi Abe,

Do they eat guinea pigs in Mexico......like they do in South America? If so, what do you know about how they are kept, etc?

I thought guinea pigs in those parts came in all sizes......up to the size of small dogs.

Gary

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in southern Mexico, they might, but not around here. I think there were some guinea pigs bred for larger size, but I believe they are in the 1kg range.

I have read lot about how they are kept, and the tradition in Peru is to keep them in the house, cause they help keep away rats and mice. They also make little pens with bricks, only about 200mm high. Look up microlivestock and guinea pigs for food, you'll find a bit of info about them. Supposedly, they are really good to eat, similar to pork.

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