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Rabbits for forest establishment?

 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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I find my self establishing forests in old pastures. One problem is that we struggle with is all the grass competition and vole damage, etc. The common answer is various weed barriers and mowing... lots of costs. So I thought to myself.. maybe the problem isn't too much grass and voles... maybe the problem is not enough rabbits. I have never raised rabbits, let alone in artificial colonies sufficient to keep pasture short, but it sounds like the challenge is the perimeter fencing. They'd only need to be out during the growing season to eat the grass. What would be the absolutely minimum approach that would be fair to the rabbits. Please disabuse me of my wacky notions. We could alternately prepare ground a year in advance with a forage crop.
 
Saybian Morgan
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Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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Nothing wrong with the idea in general but what are you going to do with the rabbits as you put tree's in. Rabbits like your young tree's better than grass.... I suppose you could colar every tree, but also in trying to enclose the area so they can dig but not get out. Your going to have to go down 2 feet and in that open breeding setting your looking at 1 inch mesh 4 feet high. A baby rabbit can squeeze through stuff oh man can they squeeze like rats, and if you havn't seen rabbit jumping competitions you have no idea how determined they can be to get out. I use to have 3 foot high pens and there will always be one guy that run straight at the corner goes from one wall to another then fly's over the top. I think all your saying can be done but the things you don't know about rabbits will have you re-doing your work at extra cost you didn't plan. Honestly compared to mob grazing a few meat goats for a season then putting in your tree's and letting poultry keep it at bay, rabbits colony outdoors with no roof is going to bite you in the butt. I'm not quite sure how you'd catch em at harvest time if there naturally raised n ubber skittish. Rabbit tractoring would be viable but it sounds like you want a self regulating grass management solution?


 
chrissy bauman
Posts: 131
Location: Sunset Zone 27, Florida
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theres a chick in wisconsin who is having success with salatin-style portable electric fencing around her rabbit herd. i havent tried it myself.
 
David Miller
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Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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These folks are using 'rabbit tractors', might be able to adjust that system for forest developments https://www.facebook.com/skyviewacres
 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Thanks for the reality check... sounds like unusually high potential for chaos. Collars are standard issue, but it would be nice to avoid both the cost and the labor. I am thinking poultry might be a better trick, with cross fencing, and a load of meat birds to get from April through June... the timing would be just about right.
 
kadence blevins
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Location: SE Ohio
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dont have a chance right now to read all through but one thing, you NEED to have a thick gauge wire, small hole section wire fence/cagewire for the ground or you wont have the rabbits long at all. rabbits are diggers and can dig 8ft in a single night.
also rabbits eat A LOT more then people think they do. the grass will quickly be eaten to dirt and will not regrow until the rabbits are gone.
perhaps a colony setup with a cement floor would be better? with cutting forage to feed them.
 
Ernie Schmidt
Posts: 81
Location: Olympia, Washington
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Let me just throw this out there Paul- try geese instead of rabbits. Now stick with me on this.
My experience with raising geese over the years is that they never seem to touch trees, but will spend their time eating grass and, here's the best part, what they don't eat they trample down flat, all the while pooping on everything. Trust me, there wouldn't be a vole in that goose pen. Simple fences always kept mine in, way simpler then rabbit fencing, kids wadding pools filled with the garden hose supplied the water, I never lost one to predators after the grew up, they great guards, and hardy-tough animals Just one word of caution, be very, very carful walking around in the goose yard. Those noisy guys are sneaky, when your not looking one will sneak up behind you and nail you in the upper thigh or buttocks, (personal experience there ).
So here's the plan- go into the goose business, get that forest started, then have a going out of the goose business sale.

Ain't farmin' fun
 
Saybian Morgan
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Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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Emile's point of view is astute for your current experience and successional forest management agenda. It's insane to try to contain free range rabbits matting in un-managed living conditions, with no means of animals husbandry other than freedom to roam. Rabbits are territorial and somebody's going to end up presenting themselves on the surface to a hawk everyday. Geese on the other hand replicate slower are larger and more aware, they duo with muscovies who play a more carnivorous component in pest management. I love your idea of free range colonies but your rabbits are going to die, if I had to be on rabbitry v3 before i could say I can hold in 80% of kits in there pen. I spent most of my nights picking up teacup rabbits under the hammer mill and we had triple fenced there walls just to have them walk through a crack in the door made by hay. If you could 1 inch fence rabbits in and predators out you'd only be averting 25% catastrophen. And your tree's well my rabbits eat black berry cane thorns and I feed them sapling trees in the fall, your forest establishment is toast for all woody growth. Rabbits chew up stuff to handle emotions, my ducks love the sound of squeaking styrofoam but they never eat it. You have to factor in destructiveness, and if you want a forest poultry lay down herbaceous growth like gangbusters and roast the remains with manure. They don't come back to a cell grazed area until herbaceous growth turns into wood, the shrub layer does more for my birds than any other layer of a forest than the soil itself.

Best wishes and hope your future forest establishments are a success.



 
alex Keenan
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You may wish to be carefull with rabbits. http://www.nps.gov/sajh/parknews/park-plans-to-control-european-rabbits.htm
I have personnally know several people who did this and lost contol of their rabbit population.
Depending on the breed and local environment the rabbits can become a bane to your efforts.
 
David Miller
Posts: 280
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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I feel like any animal husbandry comes with the responsibility to maintain perimeter for any animals. Any animal released as a breeding population can wreak havoc given the opportunity.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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