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?
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.
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.
Like domesticated rabbits, Guinea pigs do well as lawnmowers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.