Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Baby Rabbits

I have a lot to mull over on having multiple litters in a single tractor.  Both does chose the same nest box (I provided 2), and the babies all merged.  The Lionhead had 5, the NZ 12, and now, 2 weeks later, we're down to 11.  The strongest were getting fed twice while the weak were not getting fed at all.

Here are the 8 NZ/Amer. Chinchilla crosses.  There's still quite a bit of difference in sizes, but they're all getting full tummies now and look alert and healthy.



 These are the Lionheads.  I think I will keep the one at 12 o'clock in the top photo.  It looks kind of like a Hotot and is the most forward of the bunch.  I really don't *need* a Lionhead and am selling the doe, but gosh that one's cute! :)
And I just couldn't resist putting this one of Lorelai up.  If there's water, she'll play in it.  Doesn't matter how cold it is, this girl LOVES water!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

PVC Rabbit Tractor and We're DONE!

So, in this third rabbit tractor we've designed, it's about as simple and easy as it gets.  We used 1/2" PVC 3' high in 4 panels.  We had these panels from a project last year, but it's 1" hardware cloth tied with zip ties to the 1/2" PVC.  Two panels are 6' and 2 panels are 10', making a total living area of 60 square feet.
Gloria and Joon are enjoying the sunshine in their new spacious pen.
It certainly could be done more easily with the proper fittings and making it into one big frame instead of several panels.

We bought 1" PVC to brace the bottom and are going to get 4 more pieces to do the same to the top.  Rob drilled 2 holes top-bottom in each end of the pipe and we tied these to the frame with wire ties.  These braces are also holding the 2"x4" wire taut on the bottom.

"Haha, sucker, can't get me!!"
 The top was cobbled together using a 6'x6' panel of the same PVC and hardware cloth, plus extra 2"x4" wire to finish the last 4'.  Doing it new I would probably just use 2"x4" wire with the 1" PVC braces to keep it all from sagging.

This is not a suitable winter pen, so we're working on plans to make a tractor the does can be in year round, but for now this is fantastic - look at all that room!

Speaking of room, I estimate it will easily house 4 does with litters.  Gloria, the young NZ doe, was in a pen that had one 2'x2' section with a wire bottom to eat on (she had more room but that was the only place to graze) and I was only having to move her every other day.  I'm surprised at how little they actually seem to need.  She was eating pellets still, which won't be an option once they're settled in.  I will feed free choice hay, a salt block, and water in addition to their constant supply of fresh grass.

Tomorrow we will get a tarp to put over the back half, almost touching the ground at one end and both sides to make a good shelter from the sun.   The sun is so rare this time of year they actually chase it around the pen to get some heat, but it won't be long before we're all sweltering.

Joon is still not too sure of us, but she lets me pick her up without a chase now.
This is the last rabbit tractor I plan to make for awhile.  We can put several does in this one and I'm going to get the 2 bucks moved in together.  That will actually free up one and we'll have an extra.

I have an American Chinchilla doe coming in May, a chocolate Satin pair coming in June, and possibly a Silver Fox pair this fall so our free space won't last long.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gloria, our New Zealand Doe

This is a pen I modified to make into a makeshift tractor while Gloria is in quarantine.  We just bought her along with the buck we had to cull so I'm making extra sure she's clean.

 The pen was a double hutch we got off CL last year.  It's about 8' long by 30" deep.  I took the divider out to make it one big pen for her.
 Since it used to house two rabbits, the center is a piece of plywood for them to sit on and there is wire on either end.  I replaced the hardware cloth on one side with 2x4 wire so she can eat grass through it.   I will eventually do the same to the other side.
Here she is on having her first grazed meal probably ever.  Didn't take her long to figure out what to do! :D  I covered the one end with tarp so she can hide and stay out of the weather.  It's not as dark as I thought it would be in there and she seems to appreciate the hidey-hole.

Rabbit Tractor Version 2 is Finished

We used a PVC/2x2 board base for this one and it is MUCH lighter.  I can pick up one end with one hand, much easier to move. 

This rabbit tractor measures 4'x10' so it's 2' shorter than the other but is so much more manageable I think I'll stick with that length.  The problem is that it uses only part of the third cattle panel so there's scrap to deal with.  Next time maybe I'll cut the PVC pipe down to match the width of two cattle panels, which is 8'4".

Here's Kyle, our American Chinchilla buck, enjoying his new home:


We put a ramp in for him because I'm not sure he knows he can jump yet.  He is 3 years old so kind of set in his ways.  I still haven't seen him jump but he does use the ramp to get up and down.  It rests on the 2x4 wire bottom so it doesn't get in the way of moving.

I don't like those water bottles but they sure do make moving easier.  I think I will switch to crocks...it's not that difficult to pull it out for moving then put it right back in.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thoughts on the Rabbit Tractor

Benny and Joon have been living in the rabbit tractor for a couple of days now, and I'm refining some of my ideas on it.

First off, for shelter, I would like to make the platform into a full shelter instead of having the plastic boxes on it.  If it were enclosed on three sides it would be a snug fit for winter, and for this hellacious wind we're having.  Today I went out to find the bigger box on the other side of the rabbit tractor because the wind caught it and blew it away.  Hopefully no one was inside!  I tied both of them down but think a solid shelter would be better.

Also, I mentioned in my last post that it was awfully heavy.  After trying to move it today with a bum wrist, I HATE the weight of it.  Just the cattle panels and 2x4s come to 150 lbs.  That doesn't count wire, slats, the plywood platform, food, water and nest boxes.  I imagine it comes to about 180 total.  We put wheels on and while that helped a lot, it's still really hard to lift and drag it across our bumpy yard.

Tonight we went to Big R for supplies to start making a second one.  I was trying to decide between 2x2s and PVC pipe, and considering shortening the whole thing to 30".  Turns out PVC pipe is CHEAP!  Call it PVCheap. ;)  We paid $5.69 for 1.5" diameter by 10' sticks.  We're going to drill holes to fit the cattle panels down in, then wire tie the panels to the PVC for extra security.  The PVC will be the two long parallel sides, and braced by 2x2s with screws to make sure it can withstand the pressure of the cattle panels.  I'll write it up when we finish.

Another issue is the shade.  The tarp needs to extend over at least half of the rabbit tractor to make sure there's enough shade - half of the time the open ends will be south facing so there just won't be enough shade the way it's set up now.

I was going to put J feeders in with pellets to supplement their pasture, but I'm leaning toward keeping alfalfa hay available at all times along with a salt lick.  The rabbits will be moved often enough they won't run out of pasture.   I'll experiment with a hay feeder, and then in the winter I'll need to add in pellets I think.

Lastly, for now at least, is the open top of the cattle panels.  I caught Joon hanging from the top of the hardware cloth yesterday.  She didn't make it out and was down before I could get my camera, but I bet she'll figure it out if she gets serious enough.  I'm going to use some leftover 1x3 wire to cover the top and make sure they can't jump out.  It will also take care of any cats who might change their minds about rabbit dinners.

I'll be picking up my NZ breeding pair this week or next so I need to get this finished.  I'll post my progress once there is some.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rabbit Tractor is Finished!

Building the rabbit tractor took a lot longer than I expected...somewhere close to 8 hours altogether I think.  We had to do a lot of figuring with the cattle panels to come up with a height that is both roomy and sturdy - 16' was too wobbly and would have required supports.

 We ended up with 12' cattle panels, because that left us with 4' to use elsewhere.  If  I wasn't worried about wasting some, I would probably go with 14'.  12' makes the total height inside just about 5'.  I'm 5'4" and only have to duck a little bit but it would be nice to stand up straight.

The frame is 4' wide by 12' long and we used 3 cattle panels which are 50" each.  That gave us a little bit of an overhang out the back which I'm hoping will keep the nest area a little less drafty.
 For the nest area in the back we used a cut up piece of cattle panel that ended up being 40" x 50".  It's held on with wire ties on the sides, but in the back we bent the long pieces of the open section of cattle panel down to add strength.  Both my kids can sit on it.

I wanted a nest area off the ground so they could have options in our hot summers.  They can go into their nest box, or lounge on the plywood, or go under the plywood where the tarp doesn't reach so it's shady but has better airflow. 
 This is Benny, our gone wild Lionhead who lost most of his lion head this winter.  We got lucky and caught him while he was eating so he's in a cage inside the rabbit tractor as I write this, being bait to lure Joon in too.
 1" square hardware cloth is wired in with rabbit clips 3' high around the entire tractor, and to the top at the end where the nest box is.   We made sure it was very very secure so no predators can pop through the wire.  We really don't have predator problems here, but if we ever do the rabbits will be safe!

We also laid down 2x4 wire on the bottom to discourage digging.  Hopefully we don't also discourage nibbling but the spaces are large enough I think it will be OK.
 When it was all put together, it turned out to be about 150 lbs.  I wouldn't have thought 150 would be too much to drag but it doesn't want to move.  I'm pretty bummed because I thought it would turn out better that way.  We're going today to see about getting some wheels at the hardware shop.  I'll update with how that turns out.

All in all, I like the design but next time I want to try with PVC pipe and chicken wire.  This thing is too heavy!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rabbit Tractor

It's been a long-time goal of mine to raise meat rabbits on pasture.  Working out the details has taken forever!  There are so many things to consider with pastured rabbits because they're so adept at escape.  After hours and hours of looking at hundreds of chicken tractors, I think we've finally figured out how to make our own rabbit tractor.

I plan to start small with 2 does and a buck and since no one pastures rabbits I have no idea how much space to give them.  I figured a good start would be 4'x12'.  4' wide will fit between our planned raised garden beds.  We're going to move the pen every day or as needed to make sure they have plenty of fresh grass.

We started yesterday with the base.  There are many possibilities for a bottom, but it needs to be something the rabbits can't dig themselves out of, while still providing soft footing and access to the grass.  We used 2x4 wire since we already had some.

The frame is 2x4s with 2 in the middle to keep it straight.  Between the 2x4s are 1x2 slats to help stabilize the wire.  A combination of poultry staples and staple gun staples holds the wire down.

Now that the frame is complete, we're ready to work on the top of the tractor.  I'll post updates when we get that part done. :)