Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rabbit update

We've made quite a few changes with our rabbits.  We sold just about all of the rabbits, with the exception of our pedigreed New Zealand Black doe & buck.  We bought a breeding trio of pedigreed Silver Fox rabbits, to get started.  We raise our rabbits as part of our food, so we started researching feed to meat conversion as well as dressed out weight vs live weight and then also temperament.  Everything kept pointing to the Silver Fox.  Aside from being a beautiful and docile rabbit, they also have a higher dress out weight, around 65-70%.

In the midst of starting over, we also redid all but 2 of our cages.  There are a lot of things that we learned as we went, things I wish we'd thought to ask about ahead of time (I'll do a separate post on that soon).  The cages we'd been given and had purchased along with rabbits were all wood.  The rabbits got much enjoyment chewing on it.  And they were HEAVY, took up a ton of space and were really hard to clean because of the designs.  We decided to suspend the cages that we built, opening up much more space.

(don't mind Oreo next to the hay, he's visiting)

We added foam insulation sheets, 4'x8', behind the cages (there is a 2" gap between the back of the cage and the insulation, so no rabbits are able to get to it to eat it).  During the summer the bottom row is removed and stored.  We're able to open the doors that line the entire outer wall of the room (if you're new here our barn is an old tobacco barn with 1 ft door every 2 ft the entire length of this side of the barn) and with the fans, it keeps the room cool and ventilated.  The heat lamps are removed and stored in the summer.

Our plan to redo the floor is still happening.  We're picking up the wood tomorrow!  You can see some of the gaps in the floor, and some of the wood is really weak, it bends when we walk on it, some of it has broken as we've moved cages in and out and while supporting the weight of the old cages.

We have 4 buck cages, (you can see 2 of them on the far left, with the solid wood doors) that measure 4'x3'x2.5'.  The Silver Fox is a big rabbit and we noticed that when it was breeding time, there wasn't enough room in the buck cages, so we took out the middle wall, opening them up.  Now there is plenty of space to play chase and uh, bunny hop ;-)

Our doe cages are all suspended with an attached oak nesting box.  The reason we picked untreated, from the mill rough cut oak is because it is a REALLY hard wood.  It also doesn't seem to absorb/radiate the air temperatures like the other wood did.  The nest boxes stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  The cages are 2'x2'x2' and the nest box is a couple inches smaller internally due to the thickness of the wood.  The nest box has a wire floor, we put in 1/4" plexiglas when its time for them to kindle.  In the winter we add about an inch of hay underneath the plexiglas.  They all get a bunch of hay to make a nest with along with their hair, year round.

The rabbits have their own website

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