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Getting rabbits in winter- bad idea?

 
Will Holland
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Location: CT zone 5b
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I've wanted to get rabbits for a few years now. Is there any reason why I wouldn't want to get them in winter? I'm getting into the part of the year where I have little work to do and I'm already getting antsy.

If i started now(ish), that's one less thing on my plate come spring, plus I'd have that much more manure to work with.
 
Joe Camarena
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Give them a proper shelter and they will be fine. They have the third warmest fur of any animal in North America. Summer is harder on rabbits than any winter.

Joe
 
Will Holland
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Location: CT zone 5b
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tight, thanks. i will start working on some hutches while I keep my eye out for rabbits for sale.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
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Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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I've been keeping rabbits outdoors for just over a year now with no losses from cold except for kits born outside of the nest box. It happens.

Like Joe said, it's the heat that's your enemy with rabbits. I'd say now is a great time to get a pair or a trio and get used to breeding them during the cold months. Fortunately they mate fast so you're not freezing your ass off waiting for them to do the deed.
Once the warmer weather of summer hit I gave them a rest from pregnancy. I aimed for not having any litters being born on July. That seemed to work out just fine and I've had all the rabbit I could want to eat plus some to give away.

I started with a pair in October 2013 and since then I've butchered almost eighty rabbits and expanded my herd to four breeding does.

Good luck
 
Will Holland
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Impressive! Thanks!
 
R Scott
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Keeping access to water is the only real winter issue for most people.
 
David Miller
Posts: 280
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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R Scott wrote:Keeping access to water is the only real winter issue for most people.


Can everyone who's raising rabbits share their waterer preferences. I'm raising on pasture and fight the freezing all winter, I currently use buckets with poly lines and nipples but once they freeze they're shot for days.
 
patrick canidae
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Winter water tricks. When snow is not too deep, keep grazing on the ground and grazing on stockpiled grass/clover and feed green kale, rape, cabbage, rutabagas or other standing stock piled or row covered crops that are full of moisture already.

I only kindle from early spring through fall and have all my growers dead and in the freezer or can by now. I only maintain next years breeders. By doing this, I have virtually no water needs until I have to use dry hay or alfalfa cubes during deep snows or ice storms. In that event, I use large ceramic dinner plates and let them freeze. I place the frozen shallow ice plates in with the rabbits that easily chip up and eat the ice off of the plates. I still feed rutabagas, daikons, cull carrots and apples, and green tops and vegetable waste/peelings to really reduce water needs. My wife gets mad because our large, deep fancy dinner plates make the best ice feeders/waterers!

I also group all of my dry does into one of my large grower ground-hutches. The smart does show the dumb ones how to eat snow and ice, and create competition to eat root vegetables further enhancing natural moisture intake through feed. If I am real concerned, I can give a large crock of warm water to my grouped dry does in the morning and let them have the ice plates ad lib.

Remember, wild buns have no access to liquid water when it is below hard freezing weather, and depend on plant moisture, snow and ice! They are not lactating, and they are not eating un-naturally dried rabbit pellets or dry hay. If you can get wet feeds into them and don't have to kindle in winter, you can save yourself a great deal of work by only having to offer liquid water once a day at worst. The ice eating keeps bored buns from chewing on each other or on my wood framed ground hutches!
 
David Miller
Posts: 280
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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That's awesome man really glad you shared your perspective and approach, thank you.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1254
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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For water, I keep twice as many bottles as I need. I keep one set in the house, thawing out while the other set is being used out with the rabbits.

I fill them with warmish water in the morning so that the rabbits can get a good drink before it freezes. Usually it's good for an hour or so in the depths of winter. I bring in the frozen ones from overnight and set them in a bucket half-filled with water. There, they can thaw out. By the afternoon, they are ready to be swapped again.

The process happens once more before bed. I've read a few places that rabbits will eat snow and ice in a pinch but (like humans) they burn more calories eating ice than drinking water. That being said, I will often place a snowball in the cages with my growers. It's fun and it occupies them. So all in all, it takes an extra few minutes to swap out bottles like this but it does work even when it's -30F.

Also, the typical watering fixture will fit on your standard one or two liter drink bottle. In the summer I'll attach larger bottles so I don't have to fill them as often. In winter I use smaller ones, because they will never drink a whole liter of water in less time than it takes to freeze. I put two bottles on my grower cages to minimize competitiveness.

Good luck

ps.

Heated waterers are way more hassle and expense than they are worth... IMO

 
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