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Nesting question

 
Samantha White Feather
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I'm relatively new to raising rabbits. I first tried raising my rabbits in cages. They were each provided with a 2x2 wood enclosed living space and a 2x2 wired space. I hated it. Despite providing nest boxes to my does they had their litters on the wire. I live in a colder climate (Canada) and none of them survived despite warming them up and pulling fur from her. They were quite obviously bored in their wire cages and tractoring them everyday was becoming tiresome as I would have bring them in with rain and we had a very cold/wet summer. I decided to try the colony approach this month. I have a patch of land that is 10 by 12 feet wide that is full of stone. When they built our house found stones were put in this space and our area is stony to start with. I cannot grow plants here the soil over top the stoned is garbage but it makes it a flatter surface. I built my rabbit pen here. I would have sunk the chicken wire further than an inch but the stone made it challenging. We have layed lots of straw and hay here to hopefully make a compostable floor. I provided my rabbits with a shed that is 6 ft x 4ft and it 2 and a bit feet tall. Inside the shed I have provided 5 boxes with a small hole for nesting. The shed has been filled with straw, hay, paper and wood shavings. I watch them go into it regularly to relax and they lay in the boxes provided (Just slightly bigger than my largest doe). I have 4 does and a buck.

So here's the problem I have a doe I know is due to kindle next week and she is digging like crazy on the opposite side of the area. Even when she hits the stone I watch her dig and bite at it attempting to remove the small boulders. She does eventually give up and I go fill her partial hole back up with dirt only to come out a few hours later to see she has started digging in the same spot or a foot over. I'm concerned that she's not making a nest in the shed and I don't want to her to have her kits outside. I would appreciate any suggestions as I'm new to all this
 
Joe Camarena
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This is a reason most do not continue with colony type raising of breeding does. She will nest where she wants to. A nest box is not as appealing to a doe as a hole she digs.

My suggestion is to keep your does in a well built (I can go into the definition of well built more if needed) cage with a nest box up until the kits are weaning age. (About 4-5 weeks).

At this point transfer your doe and kits back to the colony. IMO since rabbits are burrowing/den animals they do not mind a well built hutch when it is time to kindle. It is a snug and safe space for them.

The buck will rebreed the doe within 1-2 days of her kindling if he is left with her. This will be a big stress on a lactating doe and will have negative consequences. If there is another doe in the colony you risk the chance of them fighting for the "best" nesting spot. Does have been known to kill another does litter in a colony setting.

I am not aginst colony rearing of rabbits, but am against leaving bred does in the colony. Just my opinion though. Your results may be different.

Now...if she is the only doe and the buck is removed until you want your does bred again, you could be totally successful if your doe is very broody. Give a lot of loose hay in one area that she can "burrow" into. Sometimes creating a box like nest and burying it in hay works as well to encourage the doe to go where you want her to kindle.

Please post what route you took and how it worked for you. Pictures would be awesome. I am not against learning so whatever works for you will definitely teach me something too as well. Thanks,

Joe
 
Samantha White Feather
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The grey doe that was doing all the digging is set to kindle on Thursday. I decided to take some time and sit in on the colony to see if I was missing anything. I had a brown doe that was not allowing any of the other does into the colony nesting area. I have since removed her and the digging from the grey bunny set to kindle Thursday has stopped. However, I've looked into all the areas where they have been provided with nests and I can't spot anything particular that I feel is definitely her nest (looking for her pulled fur as she is the only gray bunny in there now). I know the other two does with her are very docile. I'm trying to decide that if she has stopped digging has she finally found a place in my "Nesting area". What do you think?
 
Joe Camarena
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I hope she finds a safe place to kindle and rears nice bunnies for you. I know she will be rebred within a couple days if you leave the buck in with her. This will be tough on your doe's body and she will not lactate as well for her current litter.

Joe
 
Samantha White Feather
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She had her kits a day early
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Joe Camarena
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How is mom and her kits? How many did she have? What are you feeding her right now? Hope all is well,

Joe
 
Samantha White Feather
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I am more than willing to share my pics of my pen...but please bear in mind that we are very poor and everything we use is either free or found in nature with the exception of a few things that we purchased used or new.
I didn't have the money for fencing so I used tree limbs we cut down. I found chain link fencing a family member was getting rid of and that's the outside of my pen. We put chicken wire along the bottom to keep the wee ones from escaping. We used a rock wall to allow climbing and here is a picture of the inside before it's finished.

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Samantha White Feather
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as I was building bunnies got impatient... tee hee.
In the next picture I managed to scavenge scrap wood for a nice front cover to the housing area to help keep the rain from blowing in. there is a picture of them all snuggled up inside.
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Samantha White Feather
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We took one of the kids old play units inside to provide them with outdoor shade and to provide more climbing areas. you can make it out behind the squirrel desperately attempting to get at my sunflowers in the pic
There is a feeding and watering station, as well as security to keep them safe (Deer netting and Dog)
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Samantha White Feather
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We have 2 litters so far Big Red and Rapunzels. Rapunzel and her kits were not bonded to the other does and fighting did start. We Removed Her and her kits. Not sure if I will try to reintroduce them into the colony for growing out. any suggestions on this? The two bonded does did start fighting and now they have separate units in the pen and things have settled down again. Big Red had 4 and Rapunzle had 7
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Samantha White Feather
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We are also trying to create dirt in the pen as well. Since everything is stone and a little mud. we are hoping overtime all the straw and manure will break down creating a nice soil area for when we hopefully move north next year. We'll be able to plant grass here and increase property value.
 
rosemary schmidt
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Samantha, I love that you used what you had on hand. If it works, do it I say! You have encouraged me to no end!
 
Morgan Barker
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The way you built, with scavenged, salvaged and repurposed materials, is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of...In fact, you should be proud. You have my respect and admiration for sure. Your pen is actually quite beautiful, and I am certain that I am not the only person here that feels that way.
I feel an immense sense of accomplishment when I can finish a project without purchased materials, something that often requires modifying your original plans and using lots of creativity and ingenuity.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hau, Samantha White Feather, wonderful looking rabbit colony. Permaculture ideals encourage exactly what you did to build, repurposing and using what is on hand or found items is definitely Permaculture. I applaud you and your ingenuity made the habitat look great. I am following this thread with eagerness to see how well it works over time. It seems like something similar to what I would love to do for my rabbits.
 
Kitty Khimeros
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May I make a suggestion?

I was a bred and showed rabbits for 5+ years. I actually tried to use totes as nesting boxes at one point, but discovered that because plastic cannot breathe, it tends to become very damp and close inside, even if you pierce some holes to let condensation escape.

Rabbits tend to find this uncomfortable and it also promotes the growth of mold and mildew, which can be very dangerous especially to young kits.

If you can find something that is more breathable to construct your dens/nesting boxes from, you might have even greater success ^^
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Thanks Kitty for that nesting box information.

I will most likely be using plywood for my own nesting boxes. In my case, I don't think I can do a colony to start out with. I am going to be breeding American Blues and will most likely start out with large cages since we are still developing Buzzard's Roost Farm and I am not certain where the rabbits space will end up. I am thinking that some cages around 5' long and 30"to 36" wide might work for us in the beginning stages.
 
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