A Better Way to Raise Rabbits

Learn the benefits of raising rabbits in a colony rather than in individual cages.

| July/August 1977

  • 046-090h-01-rabbit
    Building rabbit "dorm cages" can help increase breeding, happiness and healthiness in your rabbits. 
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • 046-090h-01-rabbit

Rabbits have always been a welcome part of our homestead. Cottontails are economical to raise, provide us with a steady supply of meat for the table and manure for the garden (my strawberries were always puny until I began to bury rabbit pellets between the plants) ... plus come in handy as bartering material.

We are, in short, mighty fond of our bunnies but I do hate to clean row after row of small cages, and place feed and water in dozens of individual pens. And I certainly don't like to see my animals shivering in their cages on a cold winter's day. (Here in Nebraska, we get a lot of wind during the winter, which makes it even harder to keep our rabbits cozy on a minus-15 degrees Fahrenheit day.)

Several years ago — after losing a number of litters to the cold — I said to myself, "There's got to be a better way to care for rabbits!" And I was right: There is a better way. All it involves is taking the bunnies out of their cages and moving them indoors ... into a rabbit house.

Our rabbit house consists of an 8-by-20 foot outbuilding with a southeastern exposure and storm windows along the east- and south-facing walls. (The building's favorable exposure — and its storm windows — made it a lot less difficult to keep warm than it could've been.) To convert the structure into a dormitory for our rabbits, we spread six inches of coarse gravel over the dirt floor ... then covered the ground completely with sheets of recycled corrugated tin, leaving about 1/4 inch of space around the edges of each 3-by-6 foot sheet for good drainage. (We anchored these sheets to the ground with large spikes.) After this, we covered the whole floor with twelve inches of straw.



Next, I gathered together all the orange crates, ammunition boxes, and other wooden containers I could find, boarded the boxes up (leaving just enough of an entry space to accommodate one doe), and arranged them along two of the building's walls. Over these nest boxes I scattered a couple feet of prairie hay and straw ... then left a large mound of the material in the center of the room. Finally, I put down one long trough for water and another for feed ... and the rabbit house was complete.

Now it was time to move the bunnies into their new home. Frankly, I was a little apprehensive: I worried that my two registered bucks (a New Zealand and a California Giant) might fight and injure one another, or that the does themselves would start quarreling. Also, the nights were already getting pretty cold (it was late fall) and I didn't know if the rabbits could take both the low temperatures and the change of homes.

davesgoats
9/28/2017 7:31:45 AM

Baa, but what if some narcissistic, Dunning Kruger poster boy took this "one step further", and dragged us, I mean of couple of goats, around in a cage in Missouri. This would be horrible and cruel to the us, I mean the goats.


davesgoats
9/28/2017 7:31:43 AM

Baa, but what if some narcissistic, Dunning Kruger poster boy took this "one step further", and dragged us, I mean of couple of goats, around in a cage in Missouri. This would be horrible and cruel to the us, I mean the goats.


Jaime
4/18/2015 12:14:02 AM

I love this article! We've been raising rabbits for nearly a year now and I'm so tired of seeing them all alone in their hutches. I'm planning on putting them together in a community during the spring and this article was very inspiring. I hope my results are as positive as yours.







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