Personal Note from Mary-Frances at RRR&WF

This site first made its debut in 1997.  The breeders list appeared three years later.  I have gotten a lot of positive comments about the content and how it has helped people get started with rabbits.  Since that is the reason for this site, I am glad to see it fulfilling its goal.  You may have noticed that all the information and services, including the breeders list and classified ads, are completely free of charge and mostly free of outside advertising (the guestbook and classified ads on Bravenet have some ads).  Since this site started, many others like it have sprung up with only "teaser" information to try to entice visitors to buy an ebook or two.  Though this site remains free for you to use, it is not free for me to maintain.  One way you can help support this site, at least while Amazon allows Ohio residents to have affiliates, is to access it through this site.  Better yet, just click on Amazon here and bookmark it.    Every time you shop using that bookmarked link, you help keep RudolphsRabbitRanch "on the air" so to speak.  Another way you can help is to consider using Watkins' natural home care, gourmet food, personal care, medicinal, and other products using my representative number #092389.

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What About Pasturing?

Pasturing chickens has become popular, but does it work for rabbits? 

Pasturing is not the same as colony raising.  Let's look at the difference between the two.  In colony raising, also known as "colonizing the herd," the entire herd, or most of it, is housed in a common area.  This method is more common in Europe, where it has enjoyed some success, than North America. Disease can easily spread and wipe out a colonized herd faster than one where the members are housed in separate cages.  Colony rearing has other problems such as cannibalism, fighting, and escape.   For these and other reasons RRR does not recommend this practice.

Whereas colony raising entails having most or all of the herd in one fairly large space permanently, pasturing entails having a subset of the herd in a smaller enclosure that is moved periodically, usually daily, but can be done more frequently.  Though pasturing has become in vogue in recent years it is actually a very old idea, previously called the Morant system of raising rabbits, named after George Morant who detailed it in Rabbits as a Food Supply & How to Fold Them on to Our Poor Pastures published in 1883 and available as a free ebook.

RRR has pastured rabbits on a very limited basis.  The enclosures are similar to large wire cages on wheels very close to the ground, half protected from the weather.  Only half of the cage is protected from the weather to allow for an indoor-outdoor type environment.  The bottom wire spacing is 1" x 1" instead of the standard 1" x .5" to better allow the grass to come through.  (Rabbits must have some sort of bottom on their pasture enclosures or else they will dig out.)  Usually this large of a spacing is not recommended for rabbits because it can be hard on their feet.  However since only fryers are pastured (smaller than adults), and for a short period of time, perhaps six weeks, this is not much of an issue.  Polyface farms has a different approach to pasture cages.  Others might use chicken wire, though this can easily rust, so is not recommended.

Some of the pros of pasturing are that rabbits are given access to more natural feeds and some believe that translates to more nutritious meat.  Some drawbacks of pasturing is that because the rabbits are basically on the ground both predators and diseases have better access to the rabbits.  RRR has seen an increase in the incidence of liver coccidiosis in pastured rabbits.  Though the rabbits may be eating grass, this has not been sufficient to fulfill all their dietary needs, so the grower may still need to feed pellets.  The breeder can also expect slower growth on pasture, possibly because of low-grade disease or insufficiency of the ability of grass to fulfill all the rabbits' nutritional needs for quick growth.

Because of the drawbacks, RRR recommends pasturing only with caution.  Any breeder that wants to try it is welcomed to, but should try it on a small scale first to see how it works in his area, make adjustments, and only then decide if it is right for his situation.

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Comments, corrections, or suggestions may be directed to the page author, Mary-Frances Bartels

Page last modified January 31, 2012.