A big welcome to guest author Trish Woolbright! She is sharing with us her whole journey with raising rabbits. She’ll walk you through every part of the process, from the decision to start raising rabbits, to setting up a colony, to the slaughtering process, to delicious ways to bring the meat to your table. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, Trish!
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!
- 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 (aff link) placed 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 mucked out regularly.
Additional Reading: Rabbits in Colonies (affiliate link)
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Additional Reading: Rabbits in Colonies (affiliate link)
What else would you like to know about raising rabbits in colony?
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.
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.
(All the following Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.)
What can you sprout? You can grow sprouts of peas, lentils, some beans, radish, broccoli, alfalfa, wheat, barley, or sunflowers. There are some great salad mixes available, too. You could get started with something like this organic mix assortment.
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.
What other supplies do you need? You’ll need containers 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. You can go cheap and simple by growing your sprouts in mason jars. Or you can go all fancy-schmancy with a cute counter-top system..
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! Check out this page for very complete instructions.
Leave a comment telling me whether you’ve tried sprouts before and what you think you might do with them if you give them a try!
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.
Plus one little nose and paw peeking up out of the nest!