For a few years I've been curious about raising rabbits in a colony situation versus keeping them in cages. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, but the biggest advantage of a colony situation is that it mimics nature and this is what interests me the most. I want my animals to be the happiest they can be, and while I give each rabbit time to exercise and frolic in a run, I imagine they would be happier to be able to do that 24/7 without my moving them back and forth from an exercise run to their cage.
About a year ago, we finished what I call the barn. It's a four stall building and I reserved the first three stalls for rabbit grow-outs. When I didn't have any litters in them they sat empty, and I wondered what sense did that make? Why not let my does live in the stalls and give birth to their litters there? Their litters are going to end up there anyway. The does will naturally wean them when the time is right. Plus, if I decide to keep a doe from a litter, it already gets along with its mother and they could live together as a colony would. Since I only have three stalls at the moment, two of my rabbits are still in cages and I move them back and forth to the run as usual. Ultimately I would love a series of stalls along the back privacy fence seen in the top left of the photo. Most people who raise colonies keep their bucks separate so they can control breeding, and this is what I've decided to do as well. So in the three stalls, I have a doe, a buck and a doe. The buck can socialize through the wire with both does but he can't mate with them unless I let him.
This is Jack in the middle stall. He's such a sweet and handsome boy!
Mimi is on one side of him. She is due to kindle any day now so I've given her a large dog crate stuffed with hay so she can make a nest when the time comes.
And Bunny is on the other side of Jack. You can see her peaking out of her burrow. I am pretty stoked because I was able to re-use the door of our chicken tractor to create this burrow. It still had the hinges on it and the latch so all Nate had to do is screw it to the wall. Now I can lift the top and latch it to the wall when I need to check her litter. Plus the burrow will give her an extra shady place to relax during the summer. I would love to do this to all of the stalls eventually but for now Bunny gets to test it for me. She has already moved some dirt around in there but she can't go too deep because I have chicken wire lining the ground to keep the rabbits in and predators out.
They all look pretty happy, don't you thing?
Dan's Workshop: Making the Bents
2 days ago