Permaculture Gardening With Rabbits

Reader Contribution by Michelle Martin
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We first got two rabbits about 18 months ago. We named them Stew and Dumpling. We built standard hutches for them to live in and also a portable run that we could move around the garden. We found that this worked relatively well, but rabbits don’t really like to be picked up and it was time consuming catching them to put them in the run. Also, we felt, that this was not how nature intended rabbits to live and so started to look to the wild to give us ideas.

About a year ago, we constructed two rabbit runs. First, we had to ensure they couldn’t dig their way out, so fencing was laid on the ground and joined to the bottom of the fences placed around the edge of the runs. The internal fence could be removed easily for when we wanted to mate them or clean out Stews run. The doors of the cages were removed and they could move freely around the run. Obviously the fencing on the floor is not natural so we moved soil and covered it over, hoping that nature would intervene and plants would appear. We placed massive logs and tree roots into the runs, allowing the rabbits to feel like they had a little burrow they could hide in. The rabbits loved it, obviously better than a cage but we still were not happy with it.

Stew and Dumpling had babies last August. This meant we needed another run for the kits to go in when they were weaned. We wanted to develop the idea of a burrow for them and then we had a brain wave (well my husband did!)

First we put up the fencing to keep them in, and then placed the fencing on the floor, just like the other runs. All of the fencing was joined using strong wire.

We then got an old container (25 litre container) that we used to keep water in and cut out a hole. The hole was just big enough for a piece of large piping.

Rocks were placed around the outside to stop it from moving and then soil was moved into the run to cover the floor fencing and the bucket.

We placed logs and old root stumps in the run too. Straight away the young rabbits were investigating their new home. The next morning as we went down to feed we saw both of them coming out of the pipe. I haven’t been able to get photos of them using it as they always come running to greet us before we even get off of the terrace.

So 6 months on, no rain here at all and so nothing has grown in the runs. We are in the process of digging up wild grasses and growing wild herbs to plant up in the run to allow the rabbits to have some choice of food other than what we feed them.

We love this run and have now developed the idea of possibly taking down the middle fences and adding more little burrows all linked with piping. Our idea is eventually to have about 8 burrows so that the females can give birth away from all of the other rabbits, but they can live as natural a life as we can give them and still be contained so that we can monitor their welfare.