Here on the farm we’ve had some difficulty getting started with our rabbitry, mostly because we had one Californian doe who gave birth to multiple stillborn litters. As she was our only doe at the time we gave her 5 chances to prove her worth. Right now she is hopefully pregnant, and this will be the last chance we give her to produce a large healthy litter before we make rabbit stew. This is the reality of the farm. She did have one healthy litter of five, and two of her girls we kept to see if they would be good mommas as well. This isn’t ideal, because ideally you wouldn’t fool around with a doe who is as skittish as she is or her offspring. But right now we are working with what we got, and sometime you just have to do that.
But meanwhile, we acquired a couple of New Zealand does from an Amish neighbor down the road. This is good because our Buck is NZ as well. We weren’t sure if the reason the momma doe wasn’t successful in her breeding experiences was because of her or him. But the two New Zealand does, Marshmallow and Stargazer, gave birth to litters as soon as they were ready. We lost Marshmallows litter of kits because she didn’t have them in the nest box and it was very cold. We weren’t even sure she was pregnant, but of course she picked a freezing cold morning to kindle. This time we will be very observant with her to make sure the babies are in the nest box and cleaned. The other doe, Stargazer, surprisingly gave birth to a litter of 9, only one of which was dead. Happily they are all doing well as of now, their fur has come in nicely and they cuddle and sleep most of the day away. Stargazer has turned out to be a great mother, adjusting the nest by removing fur in the hot weather and replacing it in the cold, as well as being a great milker apparently.
They have recently left the nest box and are enjoying the freedoms of the wild open.
Now the plan is to put them on pasture in rabbit tractors. I’ve read everything I could about the various rabbit tractors used on the net, but I also do not like to spend very much money or have a large hard to move pen sitting around. After making a pvc chicken tractor last year, I wanted to use wood this year. So for our broiler chickens and rabbits this year I made a simple design using ripped 2x4s. The only difference between rabbit and chicken tractor is I used 1/2″ hardware cloth for the rabbits and 1″ chickenwire for the rabbits. No flooring on the rabbit tractor yet. We’ll see how that goes first.
I kind of hate working with ripped 2x4s. Everytime you put in a screw, they split, unless you drill a pilot. Do you have time for that? Not me.
The whole thing is 4’x8′ by 2′ high. Rip 3 2x4s. Make the top and bottom frame, then attach all 2′ sections to the bottom frame. The trick is you need help getting the top frame attached. After some trial and error, the best solution seems to be to attach a 4′ piece of 2×4 to the middle of the top frame, have somebody stand in their and hold it up, and screw that onto all the uprights. Then staple 2′ mesh around the outer perimeter. A 25′ roll fits just about perfect. For a roof, right now I’m using a 8′ long piece of metal siding and a board, with a bungee up and over. This could be improved. The middle 2×4 acts as bracing for that, and you could hang a waterer from it as well. It’s pretty sturdy, as there are three connections at each corner joint, but light enough for me to drag around.
I’m sure next year I’ll have an entirely different idea, but these should last for the year no problem. We’re figuring on about 16 rabbits per tractor or 25 chickens. With our chickens, we generally let them out of the tractor during the day anyways to forage, so we could put a few more in there. The more we observe our birds, the more we think they really do not mind being close together overnight, as most birds seem to have a flocking instinct, and they also keep eachother warm. We’re still learning about the realities of rabbits, but we think that if we let them out of the rabbit tractor they would most likely cause some havoc in the gardens.
We plan to have all of our tractors surrounded by movable electric fencing this year, because they will be out of our range of sight and hearing.