I no longer breed rabbits of any breed. However I am leaving this page up for those that may have an interest in the colony system.
I started off raising rabbits like most people do: in cages. I quickly tired of a system I felt did not allow the rabbits to express their natural desires and biological needs such as engaging in social behavior and burrowing.
I now raise my does in a large colony in our barn. The concrete floors keep the rabbits cool in summer and hold heat in the winter. The floor is covered in straw which the rabbits nestle in to keep warm and make burrows. In the winter I employ the “deep bedding” method. What this means is that every week I add another layer of straw on top of the existing straw bedding. I remove any large wet spots under the waterer. The bedding naturally composts along the bottom layer releasing heat which helps keep the bunnies warm. Applying fresh bedding on top keeps the bunnies clean. During the summer deep bedding is not a good option because of flies. During the summer I change bedding frequently, and use fly predators. This year I am going to try using ducks to help control the flies.
The bucks are separated from the does to control pregnancy and for accurate breeding records. The bucks live in traditional cages within the colony system. This allows them to have nose to nose contact with the does, and engage in limited socialization behavior. I am not thrilled with this set up for the bucks. I have tried creating individual stalls for the bucks twice now and each time they have found a way to escape the stalls and attack each other. Bucks will fight to the death, if allowed.
Does give birth to their kits inside the colony.Instead of metal or wooden nestboxes the does give birth under half a plastic dog crate. Even when given the choice between the traditional nestboxes and the dog crates the rabbits always choose the dog crates. I think this is because they feel very safe and secure using them. I like them because they have good ventilation, are easy to clean and the rabbits seem to like using them. The crates stay in the colony all the time. When does are not using them to kindle in they use them to jump up on top of, as a quite place, or a way to get away from a rabbit that is bugging them.Once I did have a first time mom kindle her litter in the same crate, so that is a potential problem. These crates would be quite expensive if bought at the pet store but I have found that you can find them pretty easy at thrift stores, garage sales and on craigslist.
A nest inside a dog kennel.
Two day old babies.
Esperanza keeping an eye on her nest.
Esperanza keeping her eye on me while I check on the kits.
The rabbits eat a grass/alfalfa hay mix which additional pellets, sunflower seeds, calf manna, and oats given as a supplement.The bucks use traditional crocks for water and food dishes. I tried using hay racks for their hay but the does would steal it. Now I just place their hay on top of their homes and they pull it down and eat it as needed. The does have a long hay rack made of garden fence on one side of their pen. For their supplements they use three long chicken feeders. I have found it is very beneficial to have extra space around the feeders at all times to avoid fighting for food. In the summer the does drink from a large metal pan, and in the summer they drink from a heated dog bowl I bought at Farm and Fleet.
I breed for disease resistance/ healthy immune systems, correct body confirmation, color and wool quality.I would rather have healthy animals that have been exposed to common diseases and ailments then “healthy” rabbits that will die like flies when exposed to something new. Only healthy rabbits are allowed to breed.
Fiber is harvested three to four times a year. French angoras shed naturally 4 times a year. The rabbits are shorn with clippers like sheep during the warmer months. Harvesting the wool does not harm the rabbit.