Colony Raised Rabbits

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.


82 responses to “Colony Raised Rabbits

  1. realy do appreciate ur sharing this experience, but u did not when and how u clean the floor. what if straws r not available here can one use the bare cemeted floor and clean twice a week using water and disinfectants? thanks.

    • Rabbits can be taught to use a litter box. It is something I have not had the time nor energy to try with my rabbits. I really think straw is the best way to go. It is cheap, and absorbent. If you use a bare floor the animals are going to be walking in their own urine and feces. I have not tried this before but in my opinion it would make the place they were kept and the rabbits quite stinky. Where do you live that straw is not available?

  2. Great pictures!

  3. I am looking for a way to keep Greenhouses warm in the winter and I have been looking into wabbits. I heard a rough estimate of 8btu’s of thermal energy created per pound and was wanting to experiment in a small Greenhouse. I am not that interested in breeding wabbits much per se, and the community I will be living in has a egg coop so I could over winter some laying hens perhaps. It is good to see that there is a solution other than just keeping wabbit friends in cages all of the time.

  4. I am thinking about buying my first rabbits next spring, once I have time to set up a good enclosure, and I love your colony system! It seems so straight forward and much more humane than those little hutches. I do have a few questions though:

    How do you go about breeding the rabbits? Do the females feel they have enough exposure to the males to just let the males out to do their thing or do you have to pen the girls in with the boys? I have read rabbit breeding is a very complicated process, because of their emotional needs and social structures, so I just wanted to know how it works with your system.

    All my hens are free range; unfortunately the roosters fight too much so the roosters that aren’t culled are kept in tractors which we move around the yard a few times a day. I was thinking it would be wonderful to hook tractors up to the large dog run I intend to use for the colony area with a tunnel from the colony to the tractor. Have you considered that option for your rabbits? If so would you use wire or metal slats to keep the bunnies from digging out? What would you use for the tunnels? I thought chicken wire would work rolled in a long tube and attached at both ends, would they be able to chew through that? I have just been doing a lot of brainstorming for grass ranging possibilities…
    By the way I love your rabbit pictures, so pretty.

    • Hi Lauren, thanks for the comments/questions. I to think this system is more humane. Right now I have done a few breeding styles. I have tried a few different systems indoors with the bucks and they have escaped them all to fight with each other. Rabbits, like chickens are harem animals in the wild where one male lives with a small group of females. It seems hardwired in their brains to get rid of their competitors. So, most my bucks live in the largest standard rabbit cages inside the colony. They have nose to nose contact with other does. It is not perfect, but its the best I have come up with so far.

      Rabbit breeding is one of the easiest things in the world, in my opinion, if you do it on the rabbits terms. Rabbits are induced ovulaters which means having sex makes the female release an egg. So, if you can get them to mate chances are it will result is pregnancy. Because of this rabbits can have babies year round in theory. I have found that rabbits are smarter then we give them credit for. The bucks always want to mate, but the females are more picky. I have found when it is very hot, or very cold females are more likely to refuse to mate. In the spring, when many animals are having their babies I have found my does to be much more willing. Their are some other indicators I use in the colony that would not work in cages. Girls that hang out near the boys often want to be mated. Doe on doe humping can be aggression or it can be a sign of readiness to mate. If i see a normally placid doe humping and she is a doe I want to breed I put her with a buck asap. The last time this happened the doe was mated almost instantly.

      Here are ways I have bred in the past.

      1. The old fashioned way of brininging the doe to the bucks cage. This works if the does although it to. It works best if you have seen the doe show signs. This is an easy method and can be repeated every day /week if you really want the breeding.

      2. Let a buck out in the colony. I was trying the old fashioned way four months ago and not having any success, I let a buck out in the colony for 24 hours and he got five does pregnant. I guess he wined and dined them better than me

      3. I have also tried moving specific does and a specific buck to a new colony just for them. This works to but you need to leave them in for a few days as they spend a lot of time exploring their new digs.

      Obviously these are just my experiences and not any cold hard facts.

      As for pasturing rabbits it is something to think about but I am not sure if it something I will pursue. Angora fiber is very warm, about three to seven times warmer than sheep wool. I clip it off during the summer as their comfort is important to me. My barn is made of concrete and stays about 15a degrees cooler than outside in the summer. I also run fans and put frozen water bottles in the colony for them to cool off. A big concern I have for my angoras is that they will overheat outside. We have already had days in the 80s here and it is not yet June!

      Another concern I have is rain/wetness/dew angoras should not get wet as it can badly matt their fur. This is something I ponder, and might try someday. Dont use chicken wire, it will break rather quickly and could hurt the rabbits. The Dancing Farmer is another wordpress user and she has so awesome tractor pictures/ideas.

      I knew a lady that used electric fence as well. It worked okay. Angoras need to be regularly groomed and I thought to many of the bunnies were hard to catch/escaped for that to be a good system for me. It worked for her meat rabbits, though.

      Let me know if you have more questions. Kudos on wanting to raise more humanly and good luck:)

  5. With the way you feed your does in the colony system, did you have any problems with overfeeding and excessive weight gain in your dominant does. I have Satin Angoras and am thinking of trading out my traditional hutch system for the colony method and revamping a large portion of my shop to accomodate my fuzzy buns. However i worry about my more dominant does pushing out the more timid does from the feeding stations and overeating causing overweight issues and difficulty breeding. Also do you find any loss in wool, or increased incidence of wool block having all your does together and the inevitable mutual grooming. Any hints or tips you may have that would help me get a good setup started would be appreciated, I really find I am very unhappy with the hutch system and I think keeping, and upkeeping the hutches is more expensive than keeping and upkeeping your system. Thank you.

    • I make sure I have a lot of space around the feeders so that everyone has room to eat. I have not really noticed my rabbits fighting over food, although occasionally they do get in tiffs over this or that.

      In two years of rabbit raising I have only ever had one case of wool block and that was in a buck that lived in a cage. I feed small amounts of Heinhold wool formula which is formulated for wool breed rabbits. I also have free choice grass hay available at all times. In fact, grass hay makes up the majority of my rabbits diet and I have found that the abundance of fiber keeps the wool block away. The does do groom each other (which is very cute) but I have never noticed them chewing each other’s hair. My does have a lot of space and hidey holes so there is ample space to avoid each other if desired.

      I think the biggest thing to remember when transitioning is that some does will do better than others. I am sure right now you breed for certain traits. If you start a colony system you will also start breeding and keeping does that do well with the other does. I’ve had some does that just never felt comfortable in the colony. I bred those does, kept their best babies and sold the original doe to pet homes where they would be more comfortable. I have found that the does that were born in the colony get along in it much better than the does that were not. Imagine you lived in a box your whole life and then all the sudden you found yourself in Times Square. It would be a change! You have to be ready to help the does adapt, and be ready for some to not adapt as well.

      Let me know if you have other questions. I love the colony system, and would never go back.

  6. Thanks those are great tips I appreciate all of your input. Hopefully I will be as successfull with it as you are. I will let you know how we all do!

  7. Let me know how you do! There is also a yahoo group for colony raised rabbits you might want to join. Its mostly not angoras but some people have very good ideas and input.

  8. I’ve raised Netherland Dwarfs for 3 years in the traditional cage/drop pan method. But- I am building a new shed/barn (half rabbit, half chicken) and plan on having an open floor system for the rabbits- just like what you are doing. In the cage system, the rabbits get lonely- so I am so looking forward to colony raising. My question: Have you used shavings on the floor instead of straw? I switched to shavings (deep bed) in the chicken coop and have found it much more absorbent than straw- I would think it would work similarly with the rabbits. Do you do anything else to keep the urine smell down?

    • I am so glad you are switching to a colony system! Thats great news. I use shavings with my Silver Fox but not with the angoras because I fear the shavings will get stuck in their wool. I think in your situation shavings would work great. I use the “deep bedding” method of manure management in the winter. This means that I weekly add straw/shavings on top of the old bedding. The bedding on the bottom composts, and releases a bit of heat, the bedding on top keeps the odor down and keeps the rabbits clean and dry. In the summer because flies like to lay eggs in wet bedding I clean more frequently about once a week or two weeks. I know some people that have taught their colony raised rabbits to use a litter box, but I have not done this myself. With that said, I have noticed they tend to poop and pee more in certain areas and I clean those areas the most frequently.

      • I can vouch for the shavings not being a good idea with the angoras actually, as my husband works at a wood mill we can get a great deal of them for free and tried them one time…. Work great with the normal “fur” meat rabbits but were an absolutely horrible idea with the angoras… I didn’t think it through before using them and it cost me many and many hours of extra grooming to get all the wood shavings out of the fiber on the buns, not to mention they were quite aggravated with them being stuck on them and were nibbling at them to get them free themselves so could have turned bad quickly with wool block… Just my opinion but I wouldn’t use shavings for the angoras again. If you want something more absorbent than just the hay try putting down a couple inches of sawdust under the hay every-time you add a new layer… then the dust wont be free flying in the air to cause respiratory or eye problems but is still there to help absorb 🙂

      • I have no intention of using the shavings for anything but my meat rabbits.:) I wish I could get them for free!

  9. Hi, I would like some of your input on a problem I seem to be having… We have chosen to raise our rabbits in a colony setting as well as I feel it unnecessary to cage them and quite cruel to me…All of our does share one big “pen” and the bucks have their own areas so that breeding can be controlled, since we have two herds; one meat and one wool. My problem is that none of my does want to breed… I have tried everything I can think of but they just have no interest. The one doe that is willing to lift for breeding will not produce litters, I have had success with breeding one of my meat does twice and both times she aborted the litters a week early and then made a nest afterwards, this is a proven doe who before the colony had two very nice litters and built great nests for me… Is there something I am overlooking or doing wrong.. Do they need more space? I am just at my wits end as I have had these rabbits for almost a year now and have only raised two litters out of four does…. Any advice is welcome.

    • Hmm. Have you let a buck loose in your colony? I do that sometimes and have found when they can breed on their own time that they breed quite well. When you look at the does vagina does it look pale pink or dark purple? A pale pink doe is likely to not bred, dark purple means she is ready to breed. You might also try removing the buck from his area and putting the doe inside it to get his scent. Then a few days later try to breed them as you normally would. If you’ve exhausted all other ideas you may want to take them to a rabbit savvy vet and make sure their is nothing medically wrong with them. Rabbit syphilis can cause infertility, but I can’t think of any other diseases off hand. How old are they? I have found rabbits over the age of five don’t breed as much.

      I hope you find a solution to your problem! Keep me updated:)

      • So I took your advice and let our buck loose into the colony… He has been in there for two days now so he will be going back into his own area today. My oldest rabbits are right at two years old the others are only around a year and have been bred before I was told (a couple I know have ). I got to see him breed one doe right away but then again she is the one who always lifts but never produces anything… So now we are on countdown again and hopefully will have at least four litters on little wigglers around the second week of May. They do not appear to have any illnesses that I know of and the nearest vet from us that deals with rabbits is over an hours drive (so unless they appear or show signs of a definite illness we are the vet) However, we tend to keep up with checks on everyone here on the homestead and feed natural herbs and plants as needed and have not had to take anyone in yet.. I never thought to check the doe’s vent area color as I was under the impression that rabbits didn’t actually have a “heat” cycle… good to know thanks for the information and will keep you updated further if we get good or bad results in a few weeks. 🙂

      • If he isn’t hurting anyone you might want to leave him in a bit longer just to ensure he gets the job done.

        It is true, that rabbits are induced ovulators which means that the act of sex makes them ovulate. However, they do still have cycles. There are about 5 days out of the month where they can’t get pregnant. I have also noticed that they seem to have seasonal tendencies despite being induced ovulators. For instance I have a harder time getting them to breed in winter, while everyone breeds up a storm in spring. I think they are smarter than we give them credit for…as I would not want to give birth to naked little kits in the middle of winter either!

      • I’m trying the colony style system for the third time. My problem is they are dying for no apparent reason. They are in a 10 x10 pen with a wooden floor. There are two does and I use shavings for bedding. They have free choice feed and water at all times. I don’t see any respiratory or scour problems. I have some rabbits in a raised cage and they are fine. Do you think it could be the shavings?

  10. Can I ask you a question (or two)? We bought a harlequin doe about a month ago and she has had full run of the colony space since. She is just over 5 months old. Today we bought a second doe who is 3 months old and a buck. The bucks we will be keeping in a more traditional cage system (for now) and we are planning on adding a breeding trio of sliver fox in a month or two. Questions: how should we introduce the new harlequin doe? and can we keep both breeds in the same space? we would have 4 does total in a 10 X10 foot yard that is fenced in with lots of little hideaways and nooks for them, plus at least three separate feeders and water bottles. We have the option of splitting the yard down the middle also, and that was our initial plan to just separate the breeds. Anyways, hanks so much for your input, we just couldn’t bear the thought of cages, especially for our silver foxes!

    • When I Introduce new does to the colony I always try to introduce at least three at a time to take the pressure off the new does. In your system since you only have two I think you will just have to put them in together. It sounds like you already have a lot of hidey holes which is great. I would pick a time when you can spend an hour or so with them. If they fight a bit its natural. I only break up fights if I see blood or it seems serious.

      • Thanks for the advice! there was some scuffling and establishing a hierarchy, but about 2 hours later they were fine. Now they both seem totally settled with the idea and quite content =) towards the end of the summer we will be introducing two more does, so that should be fun!

      • I’m glad it worked out:)

      • I have some questions for you as most people on other rabbit groups i’m a part of raise in colonies. We have all our rabbits out together because we are in vegas and the temps haven’t been below 90 in months, so we figured the buck would be sterile. Anyways, I went out to do chores with rabbits this morning and there was fur pulled in a lovely little nest in a sideways 5 gallon bucket. I went out a few hours later and there was a kit on the ground a foot away from the nest. I checked for others (didn’t find any), put the kit back in the nest and left it alone. I went back a few hours later and it had crawled out again. So I put it back. Questions: should I keep putting it back or baracade it so it can’t get out? is it normal for mama to ignore it completely even when she sees me moving it? it seems active and healthy, so at what point to I figure it’s been abandoned and take over feeding? The doe is a first time mom (and I know it’s her because of the color fur that was pulled) and so I have no idea if she will take care of it or just ignore it because of the heat. Help!? and mr. buck will be back in his cage in the run…I wasn’t ready for babies for at least another month or 3 =)

      • You can tell if a kit has been feeding by its skin. If the skin looks loose it is not being fed. If the skin is normal with a round belly and a milk line then if is being fed. Is this rabbit a first time mother? First time mothers are notoriously bad at times. If the kit looks like it is being well fed you may want to leave it. Do you have a nestbox you can slide into the bucket or put in the general area? That could confine them but you want to check often to see if she is feeding it. If she isn’t feeding you may need to catch her and hold her on her back and allow the kit to nurse. I’ve never had this problem before. What might be happening is that mom is feeding the baby and then when she gets done the baby is still latched on and gets drug a ways when mom leaves. When this happens they usually crawl back into the nest but if there is only one it might be getting confused. I would check around the nest and make sure you didn’t miss any dead kits by mistake as one kit is unusual. I’ve also known people to have a rabbit give birth to one kit, have trouble and give birth to dead kits later. This is very rare but worth keeping an eye on them.

        Bucks can bred as young as two months, does can breed at three. Seperate and wean bucks from does before three months and dont ever count of a buck being sterile. They are fecund little buggers.

        I hope the little kit makes it!

      • Unfortunately, I just now got your message. I took the advice of rabbit breeders on a different group (who all raise in cages) when they said to move her and baby into a separate cage because the buck would kill the kit and she might be nervous (and therefore not feeding) because of the other does. [massive forehead slap] The kits belly when I found it was full and skin taut. I moved her and she freaked out being in a cage at one point she pushed the kit out of the cage onto the ground (it fit through the bars) it was downhill from there. I put her back in the morning of the next day and the kit died later that day. Lesson learned! She was a first time mom, but she pulled hair and made a great nest, and I’m pretty sure she nursed it at least once. I never saw any other kits and wonder if the heat made her have such a small litter. Oh well. Like I said, I will be trusting nature a whole lot more from now on. oh and adding nest boxes that kits can’t crawl out of =) Our buck is back in his own cage, but will know in about 15 days if we should be expecting more “oops” babies =) Thanks so much for the advice, it helps having it comes from someone who is actually in a similar situation.

      • No problem! Sorry it took me a few days as I was away from home for a week. I am so sorry the kit didn’t make it. I’ve transitioned mommas into cages for various reasons one of the major ones being my barn cats love of eating three week old kits. Some of them transition well and some don’t. I have one doe whose nest I could move to the moon and she would still accept it. She is a keeper. If had does nest under bucks areas before (gross) so in a colony I do like does that will handle nest movement. Are you on facebook? There are several colony raising groups that are very helpful. One is admined by a girl named Zab and that’s my favorite.

  11. You have French angotas in a colony. How do u keep them matt free. I want to do this. How much space for 4 does and one buckould u reccomend?

    • I raise them on straw, brush them often and select for matt free breeding stock. I suggest as much room as you possibly can give them. The more room, the less likely you will have fighting. Check out the website for some good space requirement ideas.

  12. My colony is down to one and I am adding more angoras now. I am wondering about gender mixing. I planned to get all the new bunnies fixed and having boys and girls. Was suprised to see you keep all girls together, unspayed. I was under the impression this was a cat fight waiting to happen.
    So, in my selecting of new bunny friends, would you recommend all girls? I do not intend to bred. I just want happy pet angora bunnies.

    • I’ve never had a neutered buck in my colony so I can’t speak to how that works. However, I do allow one buck at a time to be in the colony to impregnate my does and everyone alwaus gets along fine. I’d wait a few weeks before introducing several newly neutered bucks to let their hormones settle.

      People do say unspayed does will fight. In my experience after they have settled the heirarchy there is little to no fighting. However all animals are individuals and I can’t tell you for certain how any one animal will choose to act. I do cull for temperments and that helps.

  13. Have you found that your unsprayed females still bond and snuggle with eachother? Or do they just do their own separate thing?

  14. Hello, I am so happy to have found your website. A lot of colonies of rabbits are for meat and you are the first I have seen with angoras. I have 10 angora rabbits – 4 girls and 6 boys. Some are related, eg: 1 mother and 3 of her sons from 2 different litters and the father and then another mother and daughter where the father is one of the above sons. At the moment they are all in separate cages and none are sterilised or castrated. They live in the cages in a horse box and can see and hear each other. They are all use litter trays within their cages, some better than others.

    However I would love to be able to have them in a colony and am prepared to castrate some of the males (older ones and those already used for breeding) as I was told that a castrated male will control the females from fighting with each other. I would like to keep 1 or 2 males for breeding.

    So my questions:
    1. How many females can I put together? – I was told only 2 females plus one castrated male.

    2. Will castrated males (who have previously been used for breeding) be able to live together or will they still fight to the death?

    3. I like the idea of using deep litter in the winter as it can get as cold as -20degrees celsius (-4 fahrenheit) for a week or so and there is deep snow. I live at almost 800m (about 2,600 feet) above sea level.

    4. At the moment they live in another village that I have to go by car and I would like to find a place in my village for them. Do you think that a wooden shed or thick PVC type tunnel with the ends closed (sometimes used here by farmers to store hay and machines through winter) would be adequate?
    Thanks so much for your advice.

    • Hi Marilynn, I’m excited to hear you are considering a colony for your angoras:) Each rabbit is an individual so I don’t think I can give you an absolutes, but I can tell you what works for me. Right now I have 15 female French Angoras together in a 10x 60 ft colony. I often have more but that is what I have now. I’ve never castrated a rabbit before so I don’t know how they would act. I don’t think the presense of a castrated male would have much effect on the way the girls got along. I have heard you should wait a few weeks after the surgery before introducing neutered bucks to each other. It gives them time to get the hormones out of their system.

    • I use and love deep bedding in the winter. In the summer more frequent changes are needed to keep flies down.

      I think a wooden shed could work. I don’t really understand the pipe thing. I think size is important to a colony’s success. Every rabbit should have a hidely hole or a place they can feel safe. If they are to crowded they may fight.

  15. It would be easier if I can get all the girls to be together. I forgot to explain that I am in Switzerland. We have these tunnel “sheds” like a large tunnel greenhouse but not transparent and very strong – enough to withstand storms. It is like a large shed or barn but less permanent. I have seen something similar in this video footage of the Polyface farm –
    I would not use one as big as theirs.

    • Those tunnels sounds neat. If you use one just make sure they can’t dig. Rabbits, especially the females can dig an escape tunnel quite quickly. You can bury wire fence, not chicken wire, under the soil or use a hard floor like concrete or wood. Also remember to make sure the walls and floor are predator proof as many creatures love to eat rabbit.

      I’d love to see picture when you are done:)

      • How much space per rabbit is needed to raise meat rabbits in a colony? I want to build a good healthy colony setting for 5 new zealands but I have only ever raised rabbits in cages and I cannot find anything about what size pens are successful for this type of rabbitry. Thanks

      • I try to always think of how big I can make the space, not how small I can get away with. The bigger the space, the less fights you will have ect. That said, I’m very lucky to have a lot of space and I understand not everyone does. has standards for rabbits in terms of housing requirements. With all our animals we try to meet, or exceed AWA requirements.

  16. When living in a colony how do you keep track of whose been breed? I am just starting and love this idea but wonder how I would keep up with who got breed when?

    • There are a lot of different ways to do this…
      1. Keep all bucks in separate pens and bring the doe to the buck as normal.
      2. “Release” a buck into a colony of just does and write down when he was in there. If in 31 days you have babies they are his. Make sure to write down when you let him in and when you took him out.
      3. Smaller “breeding” colonies for a buck and a few ladies.

      I would never put several bucks in a doe colony at once. It is quite likely they would kill or maim each other.

  17. OMG, a lot of comments, but here is what I have found out with my babies. I did do the greenhouse thing, they kept breaking out of their cages,lol.And I have one momma, that is a bully, took them several days to adjust to each other and stop fighting. Then all was well, til they ate everything in there!! I do still have some greens in there, but then they started digging out. Trying to figure out how to keep them from doing that, as they did heat it up a bit in there. I have taken 2 out and the babies, they are now back in the cages. But I miss their nosey butts in the greenhouse, the ones in there now, do not dig out. I have a large trash can, turned on its side, half filled with dirt and the rest of the way with straw. They dig in that, and I was hoping that the others would do that too, but no. Any suggestions on what I can do to keep them from digging out?? really want to put them back in there.

    • My angoras are on cement so I don’t have issues with digging out. I’ve heard other people have success with a few other ideas to prevent dig outs. 1. Move them once a day and fill in holes before they return. 2. Lay chain link/hardware cloth (not chicken wire it is not strong enough) on the entire floor surface and then cover with dirt. Then when they try to dig they hit the wire. 3. Lay a “moat” of fence along the perimeter, this can be a $ saving way to do #2 but if they dig so biiiig tunnels they could still dig out. 4. Dig a trench along the perimeter and bury fence. Fence should be buried at least a foot deeper than they have ever dug.

      Some “facts” about digging: usually only the does dig as they are the burrow and nest builders in the wild. Providing metal tunnels, hidey holes and straw/hay to dig in MAY encourage them to dig less.

      Hope that helps, and good luck!

  18. Why won’t you tell me the size of your colony? Why are you deleting all but one of my questions and requests for assistance? What are you hiding? Your awa standers are standards for cages. Are you or are you not a colony rabbit breeder? The size question is very simple. No belittling or deleting necessary in the answer if you are honest.

    • I did not purposefully delete any of your comments. I apologise if they are not appearing as you posted. They may have gone to the spam filter. Not sure. I have three colonies. I forget the exact measurements but they are about 50 feet by 15 feet. I don’t have a long enough tape measure to measure accurately.

  19. Hi all,
    I started with cages, but felt guilty only letting me out a few hours a day ~ so I built a 10 X 16 area to use as a colony set up. So… my doe will be having kits inside the new pen (she has a burrow). My other 3 does will be put into the pen in a few weeks (they are in cages with new kits).

    My questions:
    1) will the kits born inside the colony pen be safe with the other does and their kits (will be older obviously)?
    2) or should I pull the kits? if so, at what age? 6 wks, 8 wks?

    • Ive learned with animals that it is impossible to ever say for certain how they will act. Does can become protective of their nests, but Ive never had a doe harm another does kits, so I dont think that should be an issue.

      The kits should be safe but make sure that you have sealed off the colony well as predators like barn kitties and coons will eat the little ones if they can.

      All male rabbits should be removed at 8 weeks as males have been know to breed back their mother at this age.

      Hope that helps!

  20. First of all congratulations on your desicion to use this method of raising rabbits. Reason I am writing is to see if I get some tips. I live close to a lumber mill and I have access to unlimited amount of wood by products. I use it now for my laying hens and I was thinking if I can use fie rabbits. I am in the Dominican republic so hay here is expensive. I am planing on having a 12 doe colony on a long alley next to my house that is protected from the elements here is where I have my hens and so fae this summer no casualties. I am thinking of putting a deep bed of wood shaivings not sawdust so that is does not compact and adding some sand for aeration. I amsol growing so Angola grass and other fodder so to feed then as much homegrown food as possible. Do you have any suggestions. I really don’t want to use cages since I can’t afford the cost of building then. My goal is to get a few hundred does and keep them in 10by10 colonies under a single barn…

    • Wood shavings will work great! Just make sure they are not cedar as cedar can damage their lungs. Wood shavings will be easier to clean then straw but wil need to be cleaned more often than straw. If they are free this should not be an issue.

      I’ve found that if does have less than 10 ft by 10 ft EACH they will fight. Lots of hide holes will help with fightining.

  21. Thanks for an informative piece! We just moved from town, where we had rabbits in cages in our garage, to the country, and I knew I wanted some sort of a rabbit run or something because I always felt bad about the confined spaces the rabbits were in. My husband came across this page and we decided to try it in a small barn we have. (The great thing was he was able to build it from materials we already had on hand!) When we put the does in, they seemed to fight a bit, but now they seem okay. Do they establish a pecking order, so to speak? (Since then we have put in a large plastic tote and a five-gallon bucket for them to use as places to hide, and we hope that will help.) Also, when I have read other information on raising rabbits, many people emphasize keeping precise breeding records. It seems that would be a lot harder if you have multiple does pregnant in a colony. How do you keep records, or do you find that it isn’t that important? We raise meat rabbits and have had them for about two years, but we are still very much novices.

  22. Have you noticed a problem with disease such as coccidiosis ?
    What do you do about it?

    • Coccidia is an issue in any rabbitry. I have plenty of friends that raise in cages that have had issues with it. I have talked to several vets at the UW Madison as well as herbalists. I do not routinely treat with Western medicines. I believe that will encourage parasite resistance. I do use herbal remedies as a preventative and treatment. For coccidia Oregon grape root, cultivated (never wild harvested) Goldenseal, or barberry (powdered in food or as a tincture). For worms black walnut hull, or artemisia (this one has several precautions research before use and never give to pregnant animals).

  23. I have a serious question about rabbit diseases and raising them in a colony..

    So I have like 3 does and their litters are about 2 months old. all delivered around the same time, so all in all I have 33 rabbits including a massive virile buck! his name is also Buck, so it’s Buck the buck.

    I have cages for all of them. and like you I’m starting to feel that this is not the best way to go about it, or the most humane.

    I wanna release them into a colony, I raise ’em for meat, but I have a concern about diseases, I have a hard time catching them and giving them ivermectin shots for scabies and ear mites while in their cages, I can only image how hard that’d be in a colony!

    how prevalent are these diseases for rabbits when raised in a colony set up?
    also, I clean underneath the cages every day and every other month I hose everything down, how would I clean in a colony setting? deep litter method? wouldn’t that promote parasites that cause diseases and stuff?

    If you respond to this, I’ll be forever grateful! my rabbits will love you too!

    • Hi Milo,
      I use deep litter in winter. The fresh bedding on top prevents it from getting gross. In summer I clean much more frequently. It is hard to say how frequently. Every 1-2 weeks or as needed. I have noticed the rabbits mostly poop and pee near their water and food so those areas get cleaned the most frequently.

      I have not had a problem with scabies or ear mites so I can not speak directly to that. I do not give regular Ivermectin shots as I am very concerned with parasite resistance. I try very hard to raise for resistance to illness and parasites. I only keep the biggest, good growers and converters for breeders. Any runts I don’t treat, but eat.

      Most of my rabbits let me catch them when they are eating. For emergencies or stubborn bunnies I have a net (made for pulling in fish). If I need to round everyone up I have one of those wire puppy play pens I use to get everyone in a corner.
      Temperment is not to be over looked. All three of my breeds (Silver Fox, American Chinchillas and French Angoras are all known for being very docile. Rabbits do get a little bit more wild in the colony, as they are able to recover the autonomy they lost living in a cage.

      I hope I answered your questions! Let me know if I can be of more help:)


  24. Samantha Gravelle

    We recently adopted 3 siblings (from the same litter) and I would like to raise them in a colony instead of in cages. At this moment, I don’t know the sexes but am going to assume that I will have at least one of each sex (find it unlikely that I will end up with 3 girls or 3 boys) and know that I will need to get them spayed or neutered once they are old enough in order to raise them in a colony instead of individual cages, but I would love any insight, tips, etc. that you can give me! My sister and I had 2 rabbits A LONG TIME AGO but they were unfortunately attacked and killed by a neighborhood dog so we really only had them for about 9 months. They had a more traditional hutch with a little fenced in yard that we would take them out of their hutch to play in but I would much rather raise the 3 babies we recently adopted together in a puppy pen (large, 48″ tall puppy pen, we have a lab) for their home as opposed to individual cages. Thank you in advance!!

    • Please read through all the materials on this website and our fb page at and let me know if you have specific questions. I am happy to try to help but it’s hard without knowing what specific issues/questions you have.

  25. I have 5 bucks and 4 does. Iv been thinking about colony style raising. My rabbits are mixed breeds I sell kits for pets. I just started this rabbit thing less than a year ago to give me something to do. I used to drive truck now it’s bunnies. I have lionhead/rex mix I have flemish/new Zealand mix. I have a pretty buck that is broken castor rex. Thanks for sharing info.

    • Do not house the bucks together. They will fight to the death.

      • Would it work if both bucks are brothers and neutered? They were doing well being re-bonded for about a week, now fighting again. They were neutered two months ago. I am sad they can’t be together. They love and hate each other. They are in a large area in my barn and I rotate them in and out of a puppy play pen. They have only the wire between them.

      • I only had bucks for breeding, so don’t have any experience with neutered males. Good luck with them!

  26. I’m not sure why everyone says bucks will always fight to the death. I have two colonies a small breed and a large breed. The large colony has 4 does and 3 males. The small colony has 2 bucks and 4 does. They all get along great. The trick was to put lots of places to hide (everyone has their own den) But the biggest thing was to put everyone in the colony at the same time so none of the rabbits got singled out and attacked. They’ve been together for a while now and we have only had 2 issues with fighting which were cleared up quickly. I know it doesn’t happen like this every time but we’ve had very good luck with it =) no cages needed for anyone

  27. Hello, Do you uses a light in your barn to get your does to breed? I keep hearing from people that in order to get your rabbits to breed they need a bright light to extend there daylight hours. Thank you

    • I do not put light on my chickens or rabbits in winter. I only do a few winter litters as I do not sell as much rabbit in winter and don’t love to have winter litters. Some of my rabbits will breed without additional light, some wont.

  28. Is it also true that sunflower seeds help get does in the mood?

  29. I have a perfect space for a community rabbit area. It already has wire on the floor so they would be forced to use nesting boxes, so i suspect it would stop all the females from trying to give birth in the same hole. I’m worried them fighting. Did you ever had problems with them fighting?

    • When I initially added them together, or when someone new is added I have had some fighting. I stay with them to break up fights if they get to intense. in my experience they settle back down In an hour or less. I’ve had two angoras that were fighters and refused to get along and had to be removed. The key to have as little fighting as possible is lots and lots of hiding spaces (at least one per rabbit), more than one feeding station and at least 10 Square feet per doe.

    • My rabbits have sorted things out when first placed together. The key to calm interactions is lots of space (at least 10 square feet per doe) and lots of hidey holes.

  30. How early can one remove the buck babies from the doe in the colony setting without causing the doe to reject or neglect the rest of the kits? I have a new 1 doe 1 buck colony in my nigerian dwarf goat pen and the doe kindled (under the raised platform goat stall) in a burrow. It is her second litter, first in colony setting with lots of fresh grass, hay, and supplements. I don’t want too many bucks in there to get things stirred up. Lots of cover for them as my goats have boardwalks throughout the pen and do not like walking in the grass or eating the grass for that matter. This brings about the second factor in buck removal – how to remove the bucklings once they are really mobile? Mama and Pops are easy to catch because they are somewhat tamed. Not so sure the babies will be as easy to deal with since they will scatter in all directions when approached. The extra males will be meat for the dinner table but I don’t want to work so hard to catch them since they all look alike. Earliest weaning age in a colony setting seems the easiest to cull for males. What would you recommend?

    • I wean everything at 8 weeks. Weaning before that has resulted in poorer growth and health in my experience. The bucks won’t really be big enough to eat until 8-12 weeks. You want to bucks out of there by 8 weeks as at that age they CAN become fertile and you don’t want them to breed back there mother.

  31. I’ve been raising rabbits for many years but this is my first time leaving them in the same run to litter. I had a doe litter 5 days ago and this morning I went out to find another doe had littered in the same box. I’m worried about the size difference and the number of kits in that box. Would you recommend moving the newer kits into another box and rebuilding the nest? The first doe is a first timer, the second doe is experienced and a great mother. Curiosity makes me want to leave them and see how the does work it out, but it’s not like I can watch them all day, lol.

  32. Is it safe to put them on ground with wire bottom cage we were always told they would get worms that way. Have mine in hanging cages now they r New zealand, California and even have some new Zealand Flemish mix. Love the meat texture of Flemish crosses. Just want to be sure how I protect against worms if on the ground. thank u for ur time

  33. Your story has inspired me to take in a section of our barn/shed and begin raising rabbits. Thank you so much for sharing.

  34. We have muscovy ducks, the best fly catchers and chickens break up the poop and stop the cycle on our farm. Excited to read more. We just started rabbits and habe colony style. Though this fall it was pasture raised lol.

  35. Thanks so much for this post. I am the proud new owner of a satin angora buck and have been researching colony style raising in anticipation of acquiring a few does. I am thrilled to see that you successfully raised angoras in a colony. This seems to be frowned upon by most of the angora community, at least in my limited experience and research so far.

    • There are several of us that have raised angoras in colonies but I do agree that people can be very dismissive of it. I loved it. I don’t raise rabbits any more. I miss them, but it was the best choice for the my farm. Enjoy your new rabbits!

  36. Wondering if you noticed a difference in the size of litters your does were producing when switching to a colony? Thanks

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