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Wild rabbit tractor?

 
Ben Stallings
Posts: 151
Location: Emporia, KS
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Has anyone tried capturing wild rabbits and keeping them in a movable cage for purposes of trimming grass? Is there a downside to this idea that I'm missing? (I mean for people; clearly there's a downside for the rabbits.)
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Wild rabbits will DIG. Domestic will eventually but wild rabbits will dig almost immediately. You need to put a floor in the tractor--one that the holes are small enough to not let the rabbit out but big enough to let the grass up through it.

 
Ben Stallings
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Location: Emporia, KS
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R Scott wrote:Wild rabbits will DIG. Domestic will eventually but wild rabbits will dig almost immediately. You need to put a floor in the tractor--one that the holes are small enough to not let the rabbit out but big enough to let the grass up through it.


So... chicken wire on all 6 sides?
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Ben Stallings wrote: Is there a downside to this idea that I'm missing? ...clearly there's a downside for the rabbits.)

Are you talking about capturing adult wild rabbits, or raising kits?
as far as I know, rabbits are very susceptible to stress, and I imagine this would be incredibly stressful for a wild rabbit.
 
Luke Townsley
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Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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Unless you intentionally want to domesticate them (then check out your state's wildlife laws), why bother with wild rabbits? Mixed breed meat rabbits are inexpensive and can readily do what you are wanting. I won't vouch as to the evenness of their mowing job, but they do get down the grass and clover.

If you give them a bit of attention, they are usually pretty easy to handle too.

As for digging, yes they dig, but the bottom of the cage can be 2x4 squares of welded wire and they won't dig out. Very small rabbits (up to about six weeks) can get out if the cage area isn't on level ground. The wire will mash a bit of grass depending greatly on how well your grass stands up on its own and how tall it is. We have mostly fescue mixed with clover here and it does well.

I'm raising my rabbits much like you describe and make and sell Rabbit Runs. (Assembling the shipped unit still isn't as easy as I would like for the end user) You can do a search for "Runabout Rabbit Run".

Plans should be available around the first week of July 2012 to build your own.

Luke Townsley
 
Rose Pinder
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Location: Otago, New Zealand
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I'm also curious why you would use wild rabbits instead of domesticated ones. Anything wild put into a cage will experience stress and suffering.

Like domesticated rabbits, Guinea pigs do well as lawnmowers.
 
Ben Stallings
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Location: Emporia, KS
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Sorry, I should have specified why I was interested in wild rabbits. On another thread in this forum, it was established that domesticated rabbits are a different genus and species from wild rabbits and cannot live on grass alone. I'm interested in a species that can live on grass alone without supplemental food, and so domesticated rabbits and guinea pigs are not an option. Goats are also not an option for our area, but wild rabbits are readily available. Thank you all for the feedback! My wife thinks the idea is cruel, so it's unlikely I'll pursue it!
 
chip sanft
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Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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If you're looking for grass eating and fertilizer production, maybe you could adopt baby or young cottontails from a wildlife rescue or rehab? I don't know about your area, but in some places these exist.

The rabbits would then be both the species you want and used to domestication. It seems to me that life on a permie farm -- out eating grass in the fresh air -- would be much better than the life many rescue rabbits get, so may mitigate the perception of cruelty. On the other hand, the rescue people probably wouldn't be likely to let you adopt if you're planning on eating them someday.
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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domestic rabbits can live on a diet of grass alone, and many people raise them this way. This is not to say that they don't appreciate clover and weeds and the occasional surplus from the garden, but they can totally live on grass. They just won't grow as fast as rabbits raised on pellets (alfalfa 75%+grains 25%).

I would not raise wild rabbits, mainly because they are inefficient compared to domestic ones. I can generally average 5:1 feed conversion using weeds and grass as the main inputs for my rabbits. That's pretty darn efficient for homemade feeds. I imagine the wild rabbit will require almost twice the food for the same amount of weight gain.
 
Ben Stallings
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Location: Emporia, KS
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Thank you, Abe, that's very informative. Since my goal is to dispose of grass and produce fertilizer, not meat, the conversion ratio of domestic rabbits is a count against them, even if they can live on grass alone. I like Chip's suggestion of adopting an injured cottontail. I think I would have to name it PETA, don't you?
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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would the injured cottontail be set free once it has healed?

also, don't use chicken wire, use rabbit mesh, which is a lot thicker and won't risk rusting through and hurting the rabbit. Chicken wire is nasty stuff when it starts to rust and break apart.
 
chip sanft
Posts: 331
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Abe Connally wrote:would the injured cottontail be set free once it has healed?


As I understand it, rescued wild animals sometimes can't go back to the wild, for whatever reason (e.g., they were rescued as babies) -- those are what I was thinking of.
 
Thea Olsen
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Location: suburbs of Chicago USDA zone 5b
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No wildlife rescue is going to let you adopt a wild rabbit. That's not what they do. You'd probably need a permit to keep wild animals, even if they can't be released. Wildlife rescues release the animals that can be released. If their injuries make release impossible, they often keep them to use in education programs. Wild rabbits don't generally survive in captivity. My husband (who used to work for a wildlife rehab center) said that where he worked, wild cottontails with irrecoverable injuries are euthanized.
 
chip sanft
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Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Thea Olsen wrote:No wildlife rescue is going to let you adopt a wild rabbit. That's not what they do. You'd probably need a permit to keep wild animals, even if they can't be released. Wildlife rescues release the animals that can be released. If their injuries make release impossible, they often keep them to use in education programs. Wild rabbits don't generally survive in captivity. My husband (who used to work for a wildlife rehab center) said that where he worked, wild cottontails with irrecoverable injuries are euthanized.


Hmm, I think different places may have different policies -- these aren't endangered species we're talking about. At least it might be worth writing to the local folks to see what they say.
 
alex Keenan
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Folks unless I am missing something here “European rabbits dig holes; Eastern Cottontail does not.”
Cottontails are solitary by nature and solitary animals are hard to to domesticate

 
Alex Hamond
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We kind of thought about this sort of thing, we have these big cottontails that sit out in the yard, one even approached to 4 feet away.

It turns out that in the state of Georgia, it is illegal to keep native wildlife, the only exception I can think of is keeping a bird for falconry after a long process of getting licensed. Beyond that, the native rabbits we have here have a diet of something like 60 wild plants. They eat things that they wouldn't be able to get from solid pasture diet, and would probably suffer malnourishment.

Getting them to a point of surviving on a pasture diet would probably be achievable at the cost of a bunch of rabbits being malnourished. And then figuring out how to get the healthiest ones to breed, produce babies that are more suited to the diet. Breed only the healthiest ones after they go to pasture, eat the rest. Selective breeding towards domestication, but it would take a succession of many before you had a rabbit that could thrive in this manner. Again, this sort of thing is probably illegal in your state.

 
Nicholas Mason
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Location: Colton Or
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Here in the northwest people that raise pet rabbits and get sick of them release them into the wild where they... breed like rabbits. They seem very healthy.
We made our first attempt at growing out our meat bunnies in a rabbit tractor. I didn't want to put wire on the bottom. This worked good on the flat areas of the lawn but not so much when we got into the deep grass. We had about eight rabbits in there. They got out. The good news is that they mostly have stuck around our place where they have grown up to be nice and healthy. I just caught a female recently and am going to bred her to up my production. I think that being able to eat things other then just grass is helpful, like leaves and such. With eight young rabbits in the cage they chewed the grass down to mowed in a day, we had to move it twice a day on the tall grass, and couldn't move it fast enough on the short grass.
I would suggest two young domestic rabbits. At one of the local feed stores you can buy a rabbit for seven bucks. I don't think that having a a meat breed would be a bad thing. You don't have to butcher them, they live plenty healthy past butchering time. But I do think they would be easier to work with and would mow your lawn quite well. And By moving the tractor regularly they seem to not have a huge desire to dig, and if they did want to dig they wouldn't get very far.

Rabbits can chew through chicken wire.
 
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