Raising Rabbits in Colony

Raising rabbits in colony
While many people raise rabbits individually in cages, I’ve decided to raise my rabbits in colony. This means that my rabbits all live together – male, female, and kits – in a single, large habitat. I call it the rabbitat, because awesome.

This post is an overview of the how-to of raising rabbits in colony. Plus tons of cute pics of my bunnies, so stay for that!

The Basics

  • Rabbits in colony need about 10 square feet per adult rabbit. I have 240 square feet for my two does, one buck, and a variable number of kits moving through.
  • They need protection from escaping, predators, and the weather. My rabbitat is made from wire cube shelving pieces places high enough to keep them in, and they have plenty of places to hide and get out of the weather.
  • Rabbits need both places to hide under/in and places to jump on top of. In a colony this is especially important so they can all get away from one another if they like.
  • Multiple feeding and watering spots to prevent fighting over food/water.
  • Use multiple litter boxes, deep bedding, or regular bedding mucking to keep.

Introducing Rabbits

When you first set up your colony, you’ll need to take some care in how you introduce the rabbits to it. Rabbits can be territorial before they learn to be a family. You should only have one buck in your colony. Males younger than 12 weeks are fine but not multiple adult bucks.

Raising rabbits in colony

Raising rabbits in colony

If your rabbits are currently in individual cages, move the cages right next to one another. Feed your rabbits at adjacent spots of their cages so that they get used to being close and eating together.

If you have a buck, you may want to add him to the colony first since he is less likely to be territorial than does. Give him a day to make himself at home.

Raising rabbits in colony

You can add all your does at once. If you have one doe that you know is more aggressive than others, add her last. Watch for any fighting, which you might notice only by seeing the injuries later. Most fighting will sort itself out in a day, as long as you have adequate climbing and hiding places for your rabbits.

Raising rabbits in colony


When living in colony, the rabbits take care of their breeding cycles on their own. You can keep the buck in his own cage if you want more control, but I leave my buck in the colony. The does will find their own spots to have their litters. If you have trouble telling whose litter belongs to who, you can feel for the doe whose milk is in.

Raising rabbits in colonyThe Drawbacks

  • Some people consider unrestrained breeding a drawback. I, however, love having different ages of kits at all times. You can always separate your buck into his own space if you want more control of the timing.
  • A rabbitat can be a big, complicated space. It’s not portable like smaller cages or easy to move around your land if you decide you want to do that.
  • The rabbits can be a little wilder if you’re not handling them all at feeding time like you might be able to do by feeding them one by one in individual cages.

Raising rabbits in colonyThe Benefits

  • The rabbits are not isolated.
  • They can have more space. Colony living typically gives a rabbit much more freedom of movement than if they were in a single cage.
  • They obviously love it. My rabbits sleep together in a pile and groom each other. They behave very much like a small family. My buck is very gentle and playful with new kits, which is a delight to see.
  • You get to offer your rabbits a more rabbit-y life. I get a lot of satisfaction from that.

What else would you like to know about raising rabbits in colony?

Raising rabbits in colony

Where Are All the Fat Zombies?

How many people in the US are fat? Since I talk about how fat people are oppressed, you might think I’m talking about a numerical minority.

It turns out that 35% of Americas are classified as obese. 34% are classified as overweight. Take your weight in pounds, divide by your height in inches squared, then multiply by 703. If the resulting number is greater than 24, you are overweight or obese. You are one of the 67%.

67% is a lot of people. It’s a majority. It’s most.

I mean, yes, you hear about the obeeesity epidemic, and epidemic ususally means OMG too many people. But on the other hand fat people are talked about like we’re some kind of freakish anomaly. 67% is not an anomaly. It’s just the way things are.

When I think about disability and the ways that social and institutional systems shape our perception of disability, I always come back to glasses. 75% of the US population uses corrective lenses of some kind.

But we don’t think of needing glasses as a very big deal.

Why is that?

Needing glasses is seen as pretty normal. Everyone gets tested now and then, there are optometrists and eyeglass stores everywhere you look. Even gas stations sell reading glasses sometimes. It’s perfectly commonplace and perfectly simple to manage this disability.

I am not trying to say that being fat is a disability – it’s not, although it frequently intersects with disability. But being fat is certainly unaccommodated.

What if every single room with chairs had sturdy, wide, and/or armless options? What if seatbelt extenders were sold at Walmart? What if the most common clothing size was US 16 (the average women’s size) and the availability averages spread out from there? What if for every store that only sold straight sizes there was a store that only sold plus sizes?


Let’s keep coming back to that number.

What if 67% of retail products were made with fat people in mind?

Have you heard the idea that in America, middle class people believe themselves to be temporarily embarrassed millionaires? This idea is presented as an explanation for why middle class America isn’t more up in arms about economic equliaty.

The same idea holds for fat people, too. Many fat people believe that they are juuuuuust on the verge of being skinny people. Any minute now they are going to join the hallowed ranks. This belief holds even though science tells us that there’s no known way to turn a fat person into a skinny person. This belief holds even for fat people who are not trying to become not-fat.

When 67% of the population believes that they should not exist, and that the market certainly should not cater to them, it’s no surprise that the market doesn’t.

Now, what does all this have to do with fat zombies?

One of the things that affects our perception about ourselves as “normal” is the portrayal of people like us in the media. Or lack of portrayal.

Any time you see a crowd scene in a movie, a third of them should be portrayed as fat, and another third as at least fat-ish. This isn’t usually what we see, though. When you see a crowd scene, you see mostly skinny people. This contributes to our impression of fat people as an unusual anomaly.

The first time I had this thought I was watching a zombie movie. Zombie movies always show hordes of zombies closing in on the place where the heroes are ensconced. If these zombies are a month into the horror and are all literally wasting away from starvation, then sure, I expect them to be thin. But if it’s the crowd of zombies in the initial horrible rush of zombies taking over the world… well, 67% of them should be fat.

Where are all the fat zombies? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single one.

Obeeeeeesity epidemic people want to have it both ways. They want to be afraid of our growing numbers, while pretending that we’re a freak occurrence.

We’re actually neither.

The percent of our population diagnosed as overweight or obese is stable – that number isn’t going up and hasn’t been for over a decade.

And guess what? We’re not an errant phenomena. We’re just normal. We’re 67% of the population.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were treated like what we are? People. Most people.

Announcing Love’s Backyard

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for Sprouting Seeds!

Do you know where I’m spending my blogging time these days? I’ve got a whole new project I’m excited to tell you about!

It’s called Love’s Backyard.

I imagine the relationship between parents and kids as a connected, cooperative, authentic, nourishing, respectful, and delightful space. Love’s Backyard is blog and community for supporting parents in creating these types of relationships.

I would love it if you joined me over there as a reader and commenter.
Or you can join the social media fun on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Or you can become a writer for Love’s Backyard! I want to feature voices from other parents – whether it’s straight-up advice or something from your personal family story. If you don’t think of yourself as a writer, there are some other non-writing jobs available, like putting together fun playlists and hunting down great pins on a given theme. Although by jobs, I mean working for free. I will offer a pageview-based revenue share in the future, but in the present it’s all a non-revenue-making labor of love.

What’s going on in the meantime?

LoveLiveGrow is still trucking along. My archives get a lot of traffic, and you’ll see an occasional new post here as well when I have something to share about fat acceptance, farming, or my other topics that aren’t parenting.

Want to know the most read LoveLiveGrow topics of all time?

In the lead by differences of hundreds of thousands, my posts with the top hits are:

45 Things to Do With A Six Month Old Baby

21 Things to Stop Saying Unless You Hate Fat People

How Much Meat From a Pig

Over on my sidebar you can see what’s been popular in just the last 7 days.

I’ve written at LoveLiveGrow for over 5 years now, and I love all of you, all my readers, and all my commenters. Special shout out to Jo who I have never met in person but who has been reading me since 3 blogs ago. You’re the best thing about blogging. :-)

I hope that those of you who like my writing about parenting will join me over on Love’s Backyard.

See you around!

Sprouting Seeds in Your Kitchen – A 101 and GIVEAWAY

Have you heard about sprouting? It’s a way to garden without having to leave your kitchen. How cool is that?

I have been experimenting with growing fresh greens in my kitchen for me and my bunnies. It’s called fodder when you do it for livestock and sprouts when you do it for yourself. Either way, you’re making fresh, delicious greens right in your kitchen.

I received some sprouting supplies from Mercola.com to try out so I could do a review and giveaway for you. I haven’t received any monetary compensation for this post, and all opinions are mine. This post may contain affiliate links. Check out this page to learn more about Mercola’s seed sprouting supplies and more information about sprouting.
Daikon spouts. // Flickr

Daikon spouts. // Flickr

Keep reading to learn more about sprouting plus win some sprouting supplies yourself! (The giveaway has closed!)

What are sprouts? Sprouts are the stage of a plant between seeds and full-blown plants. The seeds have just shot up into little stalks of greens but haven’t developed true leaves yet. You may have seen bean sprouts on a salad bar. This is that! Although there are lots of different plants you can try.

Why sprout? Because it’s fun and adorable to have little baby plants popping up in your kitchen. Then, it’s convenient to have fresh greens on hand when you want to add a little flavor, nutrition, or crunch to a dish.

What can you sprout? You can grow sprouts of peas, lentils, some beans, radish, broccoli, alfalfa, wheat, barley, or sunflowers. If you win this giveaway from LoveLiveGrow and Mercola, you will get two bags of broccoli seeds and two bags of pea seeds to get you started.

My sunflower sprouts. They're on their way!

My sunflower sprouts. They’re on their way!

What can you do with sprouts? You can add them to any meal that needs an extra bit of flavor, crunch, or freshness. I tried adding my sunflower sprouts to my salads and in place of lettuce on a sandwich. They were a perfect addition in both cases! You can also add them into your smoothies! Another idea I haven’t tried yet is to use an herb spread on crackers with sprouts on top.

Do they grow in soil? It is possible to grow sprouts without soil, which is what I’ve been doing. However, there are many benefits to using a sprouting soil. You’ll need to use less water and your sprouts will be more robust and tasty. If you win this giveaway, you’ll receive 1 package of Sprout Doctor Soil Enhancement.

Two sets of sprouts. I'm trying out growing them on this shower caddy tray. I start sets at different times so I can always have some getting close to ready.

Two sets of sprouts. I’m trying out growing them on this shower caddy tray. I start sets at different times so I can always have some getting close to ready.

What other supplies do you need? If you are going to use soil, you’ll need s container with drainage holes and a water collecting tray underneath. I’ve been using simple seed starter six packs, which are available online, or at any hardware, garden, or home improvement store. Once you find out you love sprouting, you can use something bigger like this tray available from Mercola. You can go cheap and simple by growing your sprouts in mason jars. Or you can go all fancy-schmancy.

Broccoli sprouts on day 5. // Flickr

Broccoli sprouts on day 5. // Flickr

What do you actually do to sprout things? The simple answer? You soak your seeds for 12 hours, put them in your chosen container, then regularly give them water. A few days later you’ll have a little crop of fresh greens! The winner of this giveaway will get an instruction sheet along with your seeds and your soil enhancement. You can also check out this page for very complete instructions.

This giveaway is closed! Thank you to all the participants and the winner Carla S.

The Giveaway!

One winner of this giveaway will receive:

  • 2 bags of Broccoli Sprouts
  • 2 bags Pea Shoots
  • 1 Sprout Doctor Soil Enhancement
Check out this page to learn more about Mercola’s seed sprouting supplies and more information about sprouting.
Sprouted mung beans on day 2. // Flickr

Sprouted mung beans on day 2. // Flickr

I’ve been using Mercola’s sunflower seeds. They are quality seeds! They are organic, non-GMO, and handled with the intention of being used for human consumption. I have previously used regular sunflower seeds from a feed store. The biggest difference I noticed was that the Mercola seeds germinated MUCH faster!

Each of your seed bags contains several ounces of seeds. This isn’t like the little packets you get for planting outside! You’ll have enough seeds to start several sets of sprouts in succession and be able to enjoy the sprouts day after day after day.

To Enter!

This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only.

To enter, simply leave a comment here telling me whether you’ve tried sprouts before and what you think you might do with them if you give them a try!

This giveaway closes on Tuesday, January 27th at 8:00pm. The winner will be chosen by a random drawing and announced that evening. Be sure to leave a valid email address so I can contact you!

Thanks! Good luck!

This giveaway is closed! Thank you to all the participants and the winner Carla S.

5 Acres & A Dream {Book Recommendation}

5 Acres & A Dream is one family’s tale of starting their homestead, from the dream phase to making it happen.

You won’t find a how-to here. Rather, it’s a personal account of the ups and downs and lessons learned along the way. Storytelling like this can be really valuable if you’re dreaming of your own homestead. You can find a lot of the bare how-to online, but getting into the mind of someone who’s been there helps you really understand the process.

5 Acres & A Dream covers lots of topics, including:

  • Food self-sufficiency, gardening, food preservation, and foraging
  • Raising goats, chickens, and guineas
  • Cheese making
  • Permaculture
  • Spinning, weaving, and knitting
  • Sewing and quilting
  • Soapmaking
  • Farmhouse renovation
  • Water self-sufficiency
  • Energy self-sufficiency

From a family who’s been there, you will learn a lot about the homesteading journey. 5 Acres & A Dream is 262 pages of inspirational words, along with 156 photos and diagrams.


Welcome Baby Bunnies!

My mama bunny, Barley, has a new pile of babies! They’re hard to photograph because they’re so tiny and still so fragile right now. There are about 10 of them, which means I need more bunny housing ASAP!

I snuck one out of the nest for a photoshoot. Here’s a 3 day old Flemish Giant baby.

newborn bunny 4 newborn bunny 3 newborn bunny 2 newborn bunny

Plus one little nose and paw peeking up out of the nest!

newborn bunny nose in nest

Getting Started Raising A Pig

So you’ve decided to raise a pig! You can do it! Just five years ago I made the same choice. I was a suburbanite, but that didn’t stop me from moving to the country and buying some pigs!

I learned almost everything I needed to know from books and the Internet. How to Raise Pigs and Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs are two excellent choices for comprehensive books. (Those are affiliate links. If you buy through them, it doesn’t cost you a thing to support another small pig farmer.)

I have had several seasons of successful pig-raising. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by how to get started, let me break it down for you.

How to Raise Pigs #hogs #homesteading #farming

Reasons to Raise a Pig

Some people use pigs to clear an area of land or till in preparation for gardening, but the primary reason to raise them is the delicious meat they turn out. If the idea of hams, bacon, sausage, roasts, ribs, and pork chops gets you going, you don’t need ME to tell you the benefits of raising pigs!

They’re great composters. Our pigs will eat almost anything out of the garden, the kitchen, and the rest of the barnyard. Pigs are a machine that turns food waste into bacon. Hard to go wrong there!

Pig personality is another reason. They are friendly, social, fun to get to know, fun to watch, and are as cute as can be. Because of their social nature, when you decide to raise one pig, you’re deciding to raise two or more. Unless you are devoted to spending hours a day with your pig, you need more than one.

Storey's Guide to Raising Pigs #hogs #homesteading #farmerTypes of Pig Raising Operations

There are three basic types of pig raising operations, and you need to decide early on which one you are.

Farrow-to-finish – Farrowing is a sow birthing a litter of piglets. In this type of operation you are in for the whole process – breeding sows, farrowing sows, and raising piglets to market weight. This takes the longest time commitment, largest amount of upfront investment, and biggest space and equipment needs.

Farrow-to-feeder – Breeding sows and selling the weaned piglets is called a farrow-to-feeder operation. This type of operation requires the most labor and rises and falls with piglet demand.

Feeder-to-finish – This is the most common type of operation for a new pig farmer. You’ll buy feeder pigs at 30-60 pounds and raise them to finished size, around 225 pounds. You don’t have the extra complications of dealing with adult pigs and breeding. You will have fewer costs and space needs since you don’t need to maintain multiple sows. Your time commitment is less since you can finish your pigs in 6-7 months.

Space Needs for Pigs

Pigs need space to sleep that is protected from the weather if you will have rain or cold. They need space for eating and drinking. They need space for defecating – pigs will create a “bathroom” area of their pen. They need extra space for frolicking about. Yes, pigs frolic.

100 square feet is a good starting amount per pig. More pigs will need less space per pig because they will mostly be together. Pigs tend to sleep all in one pile, for example, especially if it’s cold.

If your pigs will be in an enclosed space like a barn stall, you’ll want to muck out their waste. If you’re housing them outside and have some extra space, you might want to rotate them through different areas to limit their exposure to their waste.

Pig feederFood for Pigs

Commercial pig feed is available from feed stores, or you may have a local farmers co-op that will have pig feed. Pigs can be supplemented with kitchen scraps, garden scraps, and pasture. However, especially as a first time pig farmer, you should provide your pigs with a commercial feed. This feed will have the proper nutrients to help your pigs grow at a good rate and give you a baseline for pig growth if you choose to alter your feed choice in the future.

You can feed your pigs at set mealtimes, or you can free feed. Free feeding produces more feed waste and requires more equipment, but it requires less labor.

For free-feeding, you will want to build or buy a feeder.

Water for Pigs

Pigs need access to clean drinking water at all times. You may want to build or invest in a nipple waterer to prevent pigs from constantly tipping their water over. If you provide open water, you will need to check on it frequently to insure that the pigs haven’t knocked it all onto the ground.

Pigs appreciate open water and mud to keep themselves cool and clean. Especially in the summer they will enjoy and open bin of water, a mud puddle, or even sprays from a hose. My pigs have always loved running in and out of the spray on a hot day.#homestead #hogs // LoveLiveGrow

Pig Health

There are a variety of health concerns that could arise in your pigs, from skin conditions and parasites, to serious diseases and injuries. The supplies you need to treat health issues are probably available at your local farm store or co-op, including dewormer and antibiotics.

Identifying health needs early is important, so that you can treat problems early and cull if you need to. Most pig raising books will have a section on common pig health problems.

Don’t be shy about talking to local pig farmers or consulting an online farming or homesteading community. Other people who are experienced with pigs can help you troubleshoot a concern before it becomes a crisis. The Pig Site has an excellent section on pig health.

Pig Processing

Finish weight for pigs is approximately 225 pounds. This is around the size where a pig starts to put on more fat, so your feed to meat ratio becomes less than ideal. You can approximate your pigs’ weight by measuring their length and heart girth. Length is from between their ears to the base of their tails. Heart girth is measured around the whole body right behind the front legs. Heart girth times heart girth times length will give you a reasonable approximation.

Unless you are processing your pig at home, you will need to find a local processor well in advance. I have to drive two hours for my processing, because small processors are hard to find these days. Check with any of your local places that take deer and other game. Ask other farmers in your area who they recommend. Check out your farmers markets and ask anyone selling meat where they take theirs.

Check out my article How Much Meat From A Pig to understand how much and what kind of meat you’ll be looking at.

Jumping in Head First

There’s a lot of information you need to get started raising pigs, but there are a lot of resources out there to help you. You’ll find the experience rewarding and the meat the best you’ve ever tasted.

Check out How to Raise Pigs and Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs for more information, and let me know what other questions you have as you start out in your pig raising adventure!