Hey everybody I posted a picture on facebook few days ago of one of our free-range bunnies playing out in the snow. And I was expecting a whole bunch of “Oh isn’t that cute” kind comments and instead got the flip side of free-range rabbits? How do you do that? Tell us more. Keep us up to date. And things like that. And I said well, I guess I need to do video about it. So I just want to give you video and explain to you how we got to this point and what our plans are for the future. If you followed us at all then you probably already know that we have five young children and the purpose for us having this farm has always been to feed our family.
We want to be more self sufficient. We know how much it cost feed our family now and as these kids reach their teenage years we know it’s gonna just grow, and so we want to be able to produce our own food including meat products in order to maintain our family without having to feed the grocery store as well. So we started thinking about what kind of meat products we wanted to have and when rabbits came up we also realized there might be a business venture involved there, because there are some local areas that we could go to, local meaning like two-and-a-half-hour drive away, where we could sell the rabbits and make some money, however it never really just came to fruition on that side because we kept running into problems on trying to expand out and I’ll touch on that a little bit more. So, Jennifer and I’ve never liked the idea of caging the rabbits. It does seem in a way a bit cruel to put an animal in a cage expect it to live, you know, four to six months and then butcher it. You kinda wanna give it a little bit more freedom and ability to enjoy life before it contributes to sustaining your own life.
So with that we did a lot research on ways that people raise rabbits and Jennifer wanted to start by doing colony raising. Now people do that in a lot of different ways you can find people have large structures with concrete floors and very well made pens that they rotate a male through so that the rabbits are on the floor in a large open area they’ve got plenty of room to bounce and jump and nest in material and things like that but they still can’t dig and to us that really mattered. We really wanted the rabbits to be able to express their natural desire to dig and burrow and so that meant we had put them on dirt. Jennifer went well above and beyond and found an area on our property where there was just enough light just enough shade and so forth, and dug about twelve by twelve area, a foot and a half down then we put down tin roofing material, fenced it and back filled.
Now a foot and a half is not very much but we realize that you put some other things in there too to try to help build that up but at least they would be able to dig. They’d have their paws in the dirt and that’s what really made us feel good about still containing the rabbits, but not putting them in cages as small as what we ended up doing because it just didn’t work. Whether it was my poor construction skills poor materials or whatever the case may have been raising them in that location they just kept getting out. Other than putting in some extremely tall fencing and completely enclosing the area, I’m not sure what we would have done to keep them in so it got scrapped and it got scrapped pretty quickly. And instead we decided that maybe everybody was raising rabbits in hanging cages for a reason.
Maybe they had tried it and now hanging the cages was simply the true and tried method of raising rabbits. So thats what we did. We went down to the hardware store, we collected our materials, we built cages, I say we that means Jennifer and we hung them. Right here in this car port. This carport is one of those ones that you might have in your area. They sell them on the street corners and so forth and when we originally bought this we bought it to house equipment and goats. You can probably still see this four foot fence behind me, because this area I’m standing in was for the equipment and the area back there was for the goats to be in during inclement weather.
So when we decided we were gonna go with hanging the rabbits up this was our best place to do that it had plenty of ventillation, it was gonna stay cool when he needed to, warm when it needed to, and all those kind of good things had a place for us to bring water in so on and so forth. It was just for best overall option so we had to do a little bit of finangiling in order to get the cages to hang from the rafters but we were able to do that. What we quickly found out, quickly meaning a couple months down the line, is that the cage material that we were being sold in our local hardware store just wasn’t up to snuff for that kind of use The cages began to bow under the weight of the rabbits and without having to put in a ridiculous amount of supports it just was not going to work.
The cages were breaking down quicker quicker every day. So we needed another solution. These other solutions that we could come up with was either A) Spending several hundred dollars rebuilding the cases we’ve already spent a couple hundred dollars on to a larger or a larger wire a smaller gauge and then when you realize the cost of replacing the cases you’ve already built and imagine having build twice as many cages for when you have kits next, it just really wasn’t feasible to us. It was gonna be more money being put into that unless we wanted to raise all these rabbits for a hobby it just wasn’t something that was economically sustainable. So we took a step back and asked the question “what if we just put them on the ground?” and that’s where they’re naturally at anyway and so you just start doing a plus and minus pros and cons on on why not to do that why it would work. And when I posted a picture on facebook a lot of people started asking those questions.
What about predators, what about their domesticated animals and so forth. Well, lets start with the domesticated animals. We have two cats and two dogs the two cats stay outside ninety percent of the time except in inclement weather, one dog is outside all the time unless its in its own doghouse and the other dog is only outside when we’re outside. The cats have no problems with the rabbits. They dont interact with them, they don’t do anything. I mean you’ll see them near each other but they don’t chase each other, they don’t attack each other or anything like that. It’s just another animal in the yard they could care less. The dog that stays outside is our Great Pyraneese. She is fenced in however there are rabbits that go around her fence and she has not tryed to do anything to get out in order to chase the rabbits. There’s just no interaction there that’s negative in any way. Do we have a concern that if we were to let her out of her fenced in area that she might go after the rabbits? We do, but only in the sense that it’s a dog and she’d be interested in “what’s that hopping around the yard? ooh, let me chase the toy” not that it would be any sort of vicious act.
Which is kinda what we see with our second dog, which is Jennifer’s service dog. She has an interest in it because it’s a toy hopping around the yard not in a predatory sense so all we have to do is tell her no stop and it’s done and we can go about the rest of our time outside. So for us domesticated animals are not even a concern. we didn’t even think about domesticated animal issues before we put them down on the ground.
Predators are something else we do need to keep an eye out for. We know we have hawks in the area ,we know we have a Fox in the area we know we have other animals like coons and things that can be vicious there’s also been plenty reports in our county of bobcat and coyote so while we’ve never seen them on our property the thought of them is still in our mind. However that is the reason why you still see two behind me because this is an experiment to us. These two rabbits we know to be good producers They’ve produced a litter together before. The mom is very good raising her kits and so our backup plan to this experiment are those two.
We didn’t want to put our entire stock on the ground and lose them to a predator due to our foolish planing in the first place so we’re gonna keep these two in a cage while letting the rest on the ground. The ones that are on the ground, there are six. There is two males and four females and they naturally separated themselves, two females going with one male and two females going with the other male. Now something that we kinda took a lesson from, in the past we have always had our animals return to us because they know where they get fed and watered with the exception of those ducks who found food and water less than a thousand feet through the woods over at the neighbors horses.
So unless the rabbits make the same journey we feel that they will stay here and our method for trying to encourage that was in the goat pen we let them out into there first, fed and watered them and decided that whenever they got out is when they got out and let them recognize that as being home and it worked out pretty well. They got out a little sooner than we thought they would. We didn’t expect them to be that comfortable about leaving the area as quickly as they did but sure enough sooner or later, less than a week one male and two females have now set up shop in the backyard and one male two females are up here in front yard. So we’re able to still check on them each day and make sure that, you know, the number is still right but here’s a concerns going into the future we we still need to maintain population control and we also still need to be able to get meat from them. We weren’t here to try to restock the livestock in the area or the wild animal population in the area.
We’re trying to produce meat for our family. So the plan is this, we’re keeping a close eye on them, trying to figure out where they’re going to burrow and house and we already know when they bred when we first put them out we saw take place so we believe that all the females are pregnant. We’ve got that date marked on a calendar their gestation is about thirty days so we’ve got that marked on the calendar and about thirty days after they give birth is when we should expect to see the kits come out of the burrow. Its at that point that we want to collect the kits and then take the kits and unfortunately put them back in cages, grow them out, and then harvest them. This is currently the only way that we can of to keep the population in control and still make sure that we get the meat that we want out of this.
We may learn over time as we go through this experience that there’s another way there’s a better way. We do have live traps so if it were possible for us to put out enough traps to catch a couple each day then that might be another solution so we are thinking of other ways to manage that but it’s gonna be about another forty-five days before that comes up.
So if you did the math right there you know this is a new experiment. We’ve only been doing this for two weeks. So I don’t have all the answers but this is what we’re trying. We think that it’s better for the animals. We think that mother nature knows best. We’ll still care for them. Right now there’s not very much vegetation. They’re still getting fed and watered every single day. As vegetation comes back in spring we’ll bring that down but we will still feed them because we still want that relationship of bringing them back to a central area so that we can account for their health and well-being.
So I hope it gives you a bit of an idea of where we’re going with this what our plans are. I appreciate you guys for being so interested in our happenings here on the farm. be sure to subscribe so that you can easily be notified of new updates to the channel. We appreciate you so much for your support and see you next time.
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