Today's Quote

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How we keep our Rabbits

I started out keeping our rabbits in wire cages. They were a pain to clean because fur and poo would get stuck in the joints and was hard to scrub. I also got super filthy trying to scrub all that wire. It wasn't too bad when we had them in the old chicken coop that we thought would make a good rabbitry. We found out that it was too small and the mosquitoes really loved that shady spot. Also because of the tree beside the door, it was hard to get the wheelbarrow in to clean out the droppings below the cages, which attracted a multitude of insects. We decided to move the rabbits to the center aisle of the goat barn. In the summer they will get great ventilation and there are fewer bugs. We also have electricity in the goat barn for a fan in the summer time. The issue was the droppings from the wire cages as two of our goats like to rest beneath the cages. Not the healthiest environment and we certainly did not want babies playing under there. We also needed more cages and were wondering where to hang them all. Well, I came across a video from the French Angora industry and how they cared for their rabbits. They used kennels with solid bottoms. Each day they add more hay/straw and the rabbits use what they don't eat for bedding. This method of course costs more than just letting the waste drop through the cage floors. I liked the idea though and we built kennel type cages. They have a solid floor and a solid roof. Three sides of the kennels are wire for summer ventilation and in the winter we have a heavy rubber tarp that covers the wire sides and back of the kennels to preserve body heat and warmth. We are using the deep bedding method and have had wonderful results. This is how we are handling this. When we set up the cage we put down about a 1 inch layer of Dry-Stall (a natural absorbant clay product that we use in the horse stalls to absorb urine and keep the stall floors dry. Then we added another 2 inches of straw. Each day we give the bunnies a generous portion of hay and they eat what they want and spread out the rest. Their activity causes the droppings to fall into the bottom layer of the straw. They tend to use one corner as their bathroom area so we make sure that a layer of straw or hay gets into that corner to keep absorbing moisture. Each day we checked for too strong a smell, dirty bunny feet or any other problems with not changing the bedding daily. We planned to keep the deep bedding system going for a month. It is a success. The bunnies are happy and healthy, there is less smell than there was with the old rabbitry, and fewer insects as well. When we cleaned out all the bedding at the end of October there was very little moisture on the wood floor as the dry stall and straw/hay had absorbed all that was in the potty corner. Our rabbits seem much happier as they jump and leap and zoom around their new digs. They can see more too which I think they like. They stayed clean the whole month. October was a pretty warm month for us so it will give us an idea of what we might expect next summer. The cages were much easier to clean as everything was swept out into the wheelbarrow to head to the compost, and then a mild bleach solution used to scrub out the entire floor of the cage. It was then allowed to air dry and then new bedding added. Summer might present some issues and we will just have to adjust as summer gets here. Cages may have to be cleaned more often in the summer. One of my concerns was that if the bunnies got to warm the straw would present an issue. However, this does not seem to be the case as our buck demonstrated. He simply pushed all of the straw away from one of the sides and plopped his big self right down on the cooler wood floor on a couple of really warm days this past month. My big issue is being as efficient time wise as I can around the farm, this definitely helps in that goal. Of course, we are still in the experimental stage because we have not had to go through an entire year of seasons doing this, so we will see by the end of next summer whether this will work or not. Right now, it is a great way to keep rabbits even if a little more expensive. God bless.

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