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Why We Don’t Pasture Our Rabbits

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Rabbit Tractor

Our Experience Raising Rabbits in Tractors:

When we started raising the rabbits a little over a year ago we had high hopes of being able to graze them in rabbit “tractors” in our backyard. Our yard is about 1/2 an acre where we could move them around so we were just certain it would work. Turned out it was quite a pain and not very successful.

At first we had a complete open bottom with wire only on the outside 4 inches of edge, which they almost dug out several times with this setup. We then tried a large fencing wire trying to keep them in but not limit their grass consumption. They still dug quite large holes with this although they now couldn’t escape.

Ultimately we decided that the following reasons it just wasn’t the right fit for us at this time:

Reasons Why We Don’t Pasture Our Rabbits

  1. Digging:

    Rabbits are natural diggers and when they run out of grass…or are hot….or scared…or bored…or breathing… they dig big freaking holes.

    We are renters so we are very aware of the fact that we want our work on the house and yard to be improving the property and not tearing it down. Filling in holes everyday and having to reseed the grass there definitely fell into the tearing it down category.

  2. Time:

    The current grass that is planted is just not a fast enough growing variety to keep up with the needs of a confined rabbit. Even with our continual efforts of reseeding the areas the rabbits had been in we were not happy with the condition of our yard when we were grazing them. Had this been our property and we REALLY wanted to have the rabbits graze we would have ripped up the current grass and reseeded with a fast growing pasture grass or a pasture/clover mixture.

    With only two rabbits in the pen we needed to move it at least once a day (twice would have been better) to keep up with their grass needs and in order to discourage digging. With a full litter in the pen we would have to be constantly moving the pen. This proved to be a challenge to keep up with in our busy schedule and they often did not get moved frequently enough.

  3. Manure:

    This setup also proved to make it much more difficult to harvest their manure which we desperately need to improve our garden beds.

  4. Dead Rabbits:

    We live in the south so summers here are a big problem with rabbits, as they do not like hot temperatures. We found that as we moved them through the yard it was inevitable even with our very well shaded backyard that some part of their pen was in direct sunlight during the course of the day. After losing two rabbits to heat stroke, we went back to the drawing board.

Ultimately we decided that we still loved their tractor homes but that they needed to be raised up for ease of maintenance and their health at this point. In the future if we have a large pasture this may change but for the backyard rabbit flock we believe that the cons outweigh the benefits.

Do you pasture raise your rabbits?

By on July 30th, 2013

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About Dani Meyer

Hi, I’m Dani! I’m most importantly mama to 3 wild little dudes. I spend my days cooking, photographing and exploring the Pacific Northwest. I'm a full time food blogger and online business coach.

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14 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Pasture Our Rabbits”

  1. I am not sure why you raise your rabbits, but I have started a little rabbity for meat. I was going to pasture raise them, but have heard from raisers who have been at it for a long time, that if you pasture raise, it can give them worms and parasites, which is not good for the rabbit or the meat. I don’t want to have to give them medications or have to cull them, so I have decided I won’t let them touch the grass. I am trying to now figure out if there is another option for exercise. The other thing is that does are so territorial, they can’t be put together, so I’d have to either switch them out of the space constantly or have a exercise space for every doe.

    Reply
    • Hi Yoko,

      We raised them for meat. Each doe had her own run that was raised up like you see in the post. Once you have a full litter of 6-10 babies growing out the pen gets quite full 🙂 Hope that helps!

      Dani

      Reply
  2. Just Lost 4 rabbits, not sure why. Really heart broken. I had a rabbit tractor, and it was moved every day. Not sure what killed them. They didn’t have enough fat on them, and I should have noticed that sooner.

    I’m thinking of designing a better rabbit tractor. One that fits the life style of those not able to move it every day, and for those that lack rabbit prey other then Arial. PVC pipe, 2×4 inch caged bottom, 70% shaded, and a large feeding area.

    I was raising them to eat because of my heart condition, but my kids adopted them. Now they’ve died at first frost. Everything for nothing.

    Reply
    • Aww I’m so sorry! We have lost a few too and its SO hard. I beat myself up for a long time but my very experienced rabbit friend reassured me that it’s just part of the deal with rabbits sometimes. The biggest culprits are normally heat, fright or intestinal issues. They need ice blocks when it is too warm to help them cool off and plenty of cold water. If you have dogs or anything that scares them badly they can actually die from a heart attack. And intestinal wise they can have trouble with various weeds or new additions to their diet. Any of those possibilities?

      Don’t give up! We had to start over again with our whole herd without even getting a litter! We were so discouraged but are now so glad that we pushed through that time.

      ~Dani

      Reply
  3. I have 2 rabbits who free range along with our poultry. They come back to the safety of the barn at night and sleep alongside the others.

    Reply
    • That’s awesome Jennifer! Sounds like it is working for you and that’s the most important thing! We really wanted it to work for us….maybe on a bigger farm we’ll try it again 🙂

      Reply
  4. We had rabbits as kids and my Dad built a long pen for them up on stilts with a wooden house at one end filled with straw. We would let them out into the grass in a ‘playpen’ when we were going to be outside with them, otherwise they seemed perfectly happy in their pen getting all kinds of cut grass and treats.

    Reply
  5. We do pasture raise ours! We've had great success so far, but I see how different circumstances make a difference as to which method is best. Thanks for remembering I was looking for info on this & linking me up – there are so many ways to do things & I realize that my methods won't suit everyone's situation or needs. This will be great to pass on to my readers that prefer another option. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. When my dad raised rabbits he built a rabbit house on stilts against our garage. It was wire on the bottom with straw, easy to remove. Wood sides and roof it kept them cool. It seem to be a perfect fit and we had lots of rabbits. You may of thought of this but I just thought I would add something.

    Reply
  7. We don’t pasture either. We actually keep ours in a large shed we built specifically for them. We’re able to keep it cool and have it shaded, we have electricity running out there so we can have fans going to cool them down in the summer. They get their feed like normal but then they get unlimited hay and whatever veggies/scraps we have and they are very healthy despite living in cages.

    Reply
  8. Nope, we don’t. We have them in hutches and take them out for a few minutes per day. It’s definitely not ideal at all, but we are constantly thinking about how we can improve the situation. As it stands, a couple of the rabbits really only like to be out of their hutch for a few minutes per day, and since that makes it hard for them to self-medicate on plants in the yard, we are seeking to learn more about natural preventive care for them. At this point, I’m giving them ACV in their water (probably around 1 Tbsp per gallon), fresh veggies, and a sprig of rosemary every day (I’ve read that rosemary helps rabbits with depression, and I’m thinking that it might be helpful since they are in their hutches most of the day, and alone), along with their regular feed and hay. Not perfect, but we are learning!

    Reply

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