There is so much misinformation about rabbits it is pitiful-especially when it comes to what the rabbit likes for a home, and what makes it the easiest for management. Most of the writers borrow from other writers who borrow data from experimental laboratories that are basically wire cages. If your rabbit is going to live in a wire cage for several years that will create stress, poor development, poor health, and bad behaviors. Consider the information below.
The first consideration is to locate a cool north side of a building where you can make a lean-to roof shed. This ensures that the rabbit housing underneath is protected from the inclement weather, has shade and air flow. Rabbits are not tolerant of heat, but do better in the cold-with nest box shelter as their free choice hiding/berthing/warming place.
Some people convert garages, or barns, to rabbit shelters and this is great as long as they do not get the full blast of summer sun. The North side of building is best, perhaps followed by eastward side, as long as there is a roof overhead.
You will need a close water hydrant (notice yellow hydrant and hose in the picture) as throughout the year rabbits consume vast qualities or water. I currently use a hose to fill 1-gallon water sippers, hung on the doors for doe and buck breeding housing in the summer. In the winter I use heated bowl drinking cups. For the large communal sex separated runs where all the baby (kits) rabbits go after a month of scampering around and eating on their own, I use heated 1 ½ gallon dog watering containers. All of the heated containers are 120VAC and plug into electrical grounded outlets above the housing.
Needless to say is if the rabbit does not have water to process the dry hay and dry commercial food pellets they will choke up.
It is imperative that these water sources be cleaned out daily and refilled with clean fresh water. Rabbits are messy, and soon make the water filthy.
These items may be found at NASCO: www.enasco.com/farmandranch , items # C18132N, and #C24127N for winter use, and C14323N for summer use.
My housing is composed of two sets of housing, i.e.: the breeder does and bucks on one side, and the general large housing on the opposite side.
Along the back wall is the doe housing; each doe has her own quarters roughly 2X2feet with a 6″X2′ nest box. The top of the nest box is the perch. . The entire height from floor to ceiling is 2′. Rabbits love to perch high; males reserve mostly this characteristic. In the wild ancestry males will sit on high ground, logs, or rocks to scan their mating territory and be on the lookout for does and enemies, such as hawks, coyotes, foxes, etc. Males will eat less than does overall, and really do not use a nest box except as a toilet. They are very joyful about storing “Bunny Berries” in the nest box, as from an ancestral point of view this is what they do underground as a food storage enticement for does in the bleak of winter where they all live in what is called a “warren.” Incidental tree and plant roots find these caches of fertilizers and the balance of nature moves on. The male excrement is dry berries, so to speak, and makes an excellent source for scooping up and spreading about the garden beds for the worms to feed on at night.
The male rabbit, Bucks, even in bitter cold will stay on his nest box platform and scan. Since this is his obsessive occupation you have to make sure he has enough to eat. Placing the free choice food dispenser at the platform height, or dumping a dash of pellets/hay where he can eat more often is highly recommended.
Male kits (babies) will scramble up onto a perch when they are with the mother rabbit. They will excrete on this perch and make a mess-as they get older the mess becomes deeper. The male kits love this though as it is a precourse to excreting in the nest box, which they will fill up if you do not sex the kits and move them to their new group quarters.
Sometimes the mother rabbit will excrete on top of the nest box although she is easily trained to go below to the floor grate, while she eats from the feeder, and excretes there. The method is to appeal to her sense of cleanliness and dump a few spoons of commercial feed pellets on the nest box platform so she associates this with a food area. Females by nature are clean, at least from the human perspective.
Mature breeder males, the Bucks, are also easily trained to not excrete on the nest box perch by feeding him there.
If you plan, or forget, about moving the wily little male rabbits they soon grow into big rabbits. You can make easily a second slide in nest box cover and just remove and shake/scrape off each week. Another reason to sex the kits early and move them to separate communal runs is they become sexually active, and that means more rabbits with poor management and overcrowding.
The flooring is critical for the rabbit’s health and is often misunderstood. My first experience with flooring was to install ¾” wire hardware cloth, (as it is known at the hardware store). Since lead is no longer used in galvanizing, only a zinc coating on the wire, the rabbit urine, mostly in corners will cause the wire to rust through and you have to patch. Eventually the rough patches cause sharp wire infections and of course baby rabbits slip through, and they often get their long rear legs caught in the wire holes and that causes improper development and poor growth. Hair and manure bonds into a mat that results in more potential threats to your rabbits. You have to install, if you are serious about rabbit maintenance, and their health, the proper flooring. This will save you many labors in the long run.
The flooring I am recommending is sold in 2′ wide by 4′ long heavy duty perforated plastic sheets. These may be found at www.FarmTek.com , Item # HA2215, Polymax™ flooring.
Email me at: Back2theland@swva.net
COPYRIGHT: 2008, Back2theLand, Mark Steel
Ed. Note: Mr. Steel is undergoing eye surgery over the next two months, and some articles may be delayed.