Category Archives: Rabbit

Meet our animals

While doing some site maintenance we realized we have not updated the “Our Animals” page since last year. Well a lot has changed since then. It became so cluttered we had to break it up into several pages. While the pages are still works in progress, since some animals are not as photogenic as others. We included new videos, new photos, photos of fiber, udders, and a little background or information about each animal. There are also links to the breeds if you wanted to learn more. Click on the links below.

Our Animals – this gives overall names and photos of most animals and groups or species that don’t have their own pages yet.

Goats – This page is dedicated to all goats, bucks, does, wethers. All part of the brush cleaning crew.  We do not have as ambitious goals with the breeding program with the goats….yet.

Breeding Rams – We currently have four rams in our breeding program plus The Wog who won’t be going anywhere. Learn what a Wog is at the link above.

Ewes – Our current ewes in the breeding program. Not as many pictures as they are shy, and like Brandie way more than me.

For Sale – This is our list of animals available. It may change from time to time. We currently have 2 rams, and 2 ewes who are slated to go for processing at the end of July. If you are interested in purchasing live for your own herd, or as meat prior to processing use the Contact Us page. We cannot sell individual cuts of meat at this time. You would be purchasing 1/2 or whole animal and it would be processed at Fender 4 Star processing to your specification.

 

Rabbit keeping evolution

Sr. Farm Boss has been commenting on rabbits and kept asking for pictures and examples to share to the group (Women in Ag so, I am not a member). I thought it may be a good post to show the evolution of our rabbit keeping, why we chose the methods, why we abandoned them, pictures and videos.

We started out as most do, with raised cages. when doing our research this seemed like what most people do. Keeps from having to regularly clean cages, away from predators, and easy to harvest manure for gardens.

The construction phase

We live in central Indiana and have freezing temps in winter. Having several rabbit cages and having to deal with freezing water bottles daily, frozen crocks, or broken water dishes due to ice was a pain.  Jr. Farm Boss had a difficult time reaching dishes at 4/5 yo and putting cages lower made it difficult for adults to reach in. Here is a writeup of a solution with materials, to the freezing water issue I came up with. This is when we lived in suburban Indianapolis. We toyed with tractors at this point but it was more get them out during the day, in a small enclosure on the ground. Not a permanent solution, just fresh grass.

Freezing water solution

or just a link to the video

This solution was nice when it worked. If your power went out, the lines froze and it it was difficult to thaw the lines. If your water level got too low no water would circulate and lines freeze. If a rabbit could get to the tubing it would eat holes. All of these could have been managed, but also meant in any of these situations, none of the rabbits got water. When we moved we didn’t have power at the new rabbit home, so circulating water and heat was not an option.

Rabbit feed was another issue so we tried the rabbits on tractor system. I wanted two goals met. No mowing, and no feed for rabbits. The tractor met this goal, but had a negative of we kept losing rabbits despite having ample cover almost every time we have a med-heavy rain. another Negative is Jr. Farm Boss couldn’t move the tractors as they were too heavy. A solution could have been wheels but I wasn’t really happy with the tractor after a year of use.

Read more on the rabbit tractor here. 

Once we moved, and the number of rabbits increased we found that it was taking way too much time to manage all the rabbits.  Especially if using tractors. Too many cages, too many waterers, feeders, and over 1/2 of chore time (we have over 200 animals) was spent on rabbits. Plus it took 2 people (Jr farm boss did water/food and I did moving them) or one adult. One of our end goals is her to be able to manage and take care of ALL the animals without us. We needed a new solution.We looked into central watering, wheels on tractor, but then still feed, freezing temps, and moving them was an issue.  After some researching I found a woman’s setup I liked in the form of a colony. It solved most if not all of our problems.

Link to her video. Credit where credit is due.

We didn’t quite have the same available space/materials in our situation, but I took her idea and adapted to our own.

Here is our version 2.0 of colony. We have since moved to V 3.1.

V 1.0 just had the “home” area and they ate that in no time. I was having to bring in brush, yard clippings, more often than I liked. But it was fencing we had on hand and didn’t cost much at all to make. Most of our solutions take cost into consideration, or what materials do we have on hand that can be repurposed.

V 2.0 added the running tubes and roundabout with portable dog fencing to get more exposure to fresh grass. Again, my goal of never having to mow, and not buy rabbit food. The video was in the middle of winter. Our feed purchased went from one 40lb bag every two weeks to one bag  every two months. We give pellets as a reserve or backup (rainy days, lazy rabbits, mamas) . They also get hay which we get for free. The don’t dig much and any deep holes we fill.  We believe because we give them hiding spots using the drain pipes, and existing nesting boxes their needs are being met and no need to dig. With one tub for water, it is easier to fill, or change.

V 3.0 expanded the home area to the width of this particular grass area available.  100x what they had in V 2.0. We broke down and bought specific fencing for this project. We did use locust poles for fence posts as they were free and we harvested them. We also moved the water tub under the roofline so it is filled and flushed with each rain. We started getting babies once the temps warmed up. This led to another issue. Our barn cats who keep mice population down, now were able to get into and eat/kill new babies. Hence V3.1. Once a mama kids we take mama and her litter in the box to a contained and protected area.

Here is a video of V 3.1

With V3.1 we have had no losses due to rain. We have had no losses to to predator cats. We do have 3 livestock guardian dogs that keep other predators out. It is open top, and we have not lost any to birds of prey. Our feed is down to about one 40 lb bag every 4 months for 20ish rabbits. We do not have to mow any of this hillside. We supplement with weeds, cuttings from the garden, and around orchards. We went from 30+ minutes of rabbit management, to 1 min (checking on grass, food, water) to maybe 10 at most (move mobile area, clean/fill water, tend to mamas in protected area, move new mamas).  Jr. Farm Boss (now 6yo) can do all of this on her own without assistance. The rabbits seem to be healthier and happier.

We have plans to evolve again to V 3.2 where the internal area in the shop/barn is larger, has climbing/jumping area, large door for easier cleaning, and floor to ceiling wire protection.

 

 

One feed, to feed them all

If you have been following us lately we have been adding numerous animals to our farm. Here is what we have to date. Most we want on pasture eating grass. But we do give them salt blocks and the treats to give additional nutrients not found in grass alone. This treats is a feed mix we make ourselves, but the same basic mix is put together and everyone can eat it. This is our first year doing this, so it is an experiment. After three months everyone seems to be doing well on it. We plan on experimenting with different mixes and combinations and as we learn more and refine the mix we will update everyone.

Why one mix? It lowers costs if animals cannot get out to pasture, or as a supplement to grass. If we didn’t give them the treats, they would me much harder to manage. We make sure, we show them the feed can, and shake it. We can get the llamas to come in from across the pasture, with just the can shaking. This is in no way the bulk of their diets. A coffee can 1/2 full to full for each species once a day if they get out on pasture, and twice a day if they are unable to forage.

It also reduces the risk of someone getting sick because they got the wrong feed mix. Since our youngest feeds animals regularly (5), and we have guests, and family help if they want to there are no accidents of giving an animal the wrong feed. Everyone can eat the base mix, and no additions can hurt anyone. Some species cannot tolerate certain feeds/supplements as easily as others.

What is in our feed mix?

Rather than give you all the nutritional details, I will like to a site which has them all for each component.  Feedipedia is a AWESOME site.

Base which is given to turkeys, ducks, chickens for meat, geese, and chickens for eggs.  It can also be given to the other animals as is, but they like a little extra in the mix. We purposely left soy out of the mix for now.  Yes it is a big source of protein if growing animals for meat, we know. The base also is easily spread using a hand broadcast seeder. This allows the birds space to eat, increases foraging skills, and there is no fighting over the feed bucket/pile.

1 part black oil sunflower seeds.  BOSS    16.6g protein   28.7 MJ/kg energy

2 parts cracked corn      9.4g protein    18.7  MJ/kg energy

2 parts oats   11.0g protein   19.5   MJ/kg energy

Averaging 11.5 g protein and 21.02 MJ/kg energy

Laying birds (ducks, chickens, turkeys, geese) get fee offering (as much as they want) crushed oyster shells.  They are also on open pasture/area daily so bugs, worms, grass, weeds whatever they find.

For the pigs, goats, sheep, and llamas they get

2 parts base mix 11.5 g protein  21.02 MJ/kg energy

1 part alfalfa pellets  18.2 g protein  18.2 MJ/kg energy

They also get salt blocks, llamas are on pasture daily, pigs get regular grass until pig area completed, and goats and sheep get free hay and pasture almost daily.

Rabbits are on pasture daily, and get supplement rabbit pellets. We are experimenting with different combinations for the rabbits.

  • Some things we learned, goats and sheep love rabbit pellets.
  • The pigs prefer grass to feed mix.
  • Rabbits who are raised on pasture from birth, eat far less pellets but take a bit longer to reach butcher weight.
  • Everyone eats mulberry leaves/young branches, all birds love the berries.

Some things we are hoping to experiment in the next year or years.

  • mulberry as an alternative feed
  • using mulberry to feed silkworms, harvest silk, worms are protein source
  • Black soldier fly larvae
  • Comfrey as a mineral replacement
  • locally sourced nuts as feeds
  • Different plant based proteins in the pastures such as cowpea, vetch,
  • rose of sharon
  • willow
  • More experimenting with the Fedipedia information
  • spent brewery grains

Meet the newest members of the farm

We have grown so much in the last 60 days since moving to Greencastle, IN. Many people ask us what all we have on our farm. So why not introduce the more permanent residents?  This page will grow as more long term residents come to stay.  We will be having tours in the near future, or you can schedule one by appointment only. Use the Contact Us page of if you are friends you know how to reach us via-email, phone or text.

Click here for a list of our animals. 

Back after a break!

Well, hello all, we are back after a break. LOTS of new updates and info to share.

1st we recently purchased a 32 acre farm in Greencastle, IN and have been working on it EVERY day since December. Very busy. Between the two properties it has been very time consuming. We also moved during this time.

The Greencastle property will be our main farm and we remodeled almost every room before moving in. Additionally we have been working on farm infrastructure, some things were here already, some needed improvement, some we needed to build.

We will have a tour in April/May sometime. We would like to get additional structures built and in place. We will also be having more workshops here. There will be hands on activities as well.

Our Wingate property will be our example of suburban/urban farming and Tiny house living. It is a 2 bd, 1 ba in 550 sq ft.  Once we finish the inside we will have house tours and tours and talks about how to maximize small space living. We will have no animal onsite due to issues with the previous Town Council and not being onsite to manage them. We will talk on how to incorporate and are leaving much of the infrastructure to show how to set it up. It may be available for rent on short term basis (2 week or less) to evaluate Tiny House living.

We went from 15 chickens and 3 ducks to now 32 chickens, and 15 ducks (more to come). This is our layers. We will also be raising meat chickens (50-200) and turkeys this year and will be selling them. They will be fed NON-GMO grains and on pasture.

We added two lambs currently, and plan to add 10-20 more before June. Lambs will be available in late fall/winter and will be sold live, and can be transported for butcher to your specification. We will also have wool available for sale/trade. All grass fed. No hormones or antibiotics unless life threatening. We are attempting to keep parasites managed as natural as possible (herbs/oils).

2 goats have been added, and 10-15 more planned. These are mowers for pasture maintenance. We MAY (I was TOLD I would be milking) have milk, and fiber from them as well. LEGAL DISCLAIMER Milk will be sold for crafts (soaps/lotions etc.), bottle feeding animals, pet milk. What you actually do with the milk is your business, not ours.

Pigs may be making an appearance this year, or next. Pigs will be available for sale whole or 1/2 sold live and taken to butcher for your custom processing. Non-GMO fed, and pasture raised. Same as other animals no hormones or antibiotics unless life threatening and we would always tell you that before purchasing.

Beef will make an appearance, but we are not sure when at this point. The pastures need some work and fencing added. Same as above, no hormones, antibiotics unless life threatening, and transparency.  Sold in 1/4. 1/2 and whole cow. We take to butcher, and you pay them for how you want processed.

We have increased our rabbit operation from 4 to 14 and will be offering rabbit as well. We will process for you or you can do it yourself.

Geese will also be here, but we are specific to the breed we want and they will be available too for sale.

We have begun tapping trees this year, and will be offering a variety of syrups next year. Maple, Black Walnut, Sassafras, and maybe more.

We have almost 500 fruit, nut, and other beneficial trees coming in April, so massive planting underway.

Our herbs and herb gardens will also increase this year. Other than comfrey no herbs are available currently since we are splitting and growing our gardens.

We will have almost an acre of vegetable production and will be selling the overage.  More information once we begin to harvest.

We may be offering a you pick blackberry option this year, we would like to see how the berries turn out first. These are all wild berries, but almost 6 acres of bushes.  It will be picked and eaten or turned into wine.

We have also begun making a variety of fruit and herb wines, experimenting with recipes and different blends. Currently not for sale, but is something that is on the horizon to look forward to. While we cannot sell we can speak to making your own, or how to get started.

The farm is an open operation and people can see how we raise our animals through tours or by stopping by (by appointment or tour only). Not that we have to hide anything, but we have schedules, and projects as well, so to drop everythign each time someone comes by, we would get nothing done.

We look forward to our new adventure, and much more to offer in the future. I am still available for permaculture consulting, training, and speaking. with all the new additions we have much more to speak about. We (I) will try and be more diligent about posting information.

20160214_151540
New Lambs
New arrival soon (goat)
New arrival soon (goat)
New arrival soon (goat)
New arrival soon (goat)
feeding the lambs (these are pets)
feeding the lambs (these are pets)
1st members of our mowing crew (John Deere, and Blue Holland aka Bluebell).
1st members of our mowing crew (John Deere, and Blue Holland aka Bluebell).

DIY Rabbit tracor

To give our buns more open air time, exposure to fresh greens, we decided to make a rabbit tractor. So far, they have all spent time in it and loved being out in the open. This will eventually be used to house the grow outs until freezer camp day. I took several designs I saw and combined what I liked, and used materials I had available. If you click on the images you can enlarge them for more details.

I had a small section of chain-link fence left over from another project. This looked like a good base, and size for the tractor.

We had some extra tubs laying around. This looked good to make a hiding hole, shade for them.

Using a jigsaw I cut a small opening into one side.

Left over 1×3 lumber from the demo of the office (the inside of our tiny house). I chose an A frame to minimize materials needed, and weight. And I only had 2 rolls of wire and didn’t want to go to store. The frame is screwed together with deck screw we had from another project. The base is made of treated 2x4x8. Left over from building the greenhouse attached to the building.  I happen to have 10 feet of chain link fence, and the 2×4 was 8 feet long. Bonus, no cutting.

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2 rolls of left over 1/2″x1″ welded wire. This was going to be a grow out pen in the coop, but we liked the tractor idea better. The wire is stapled to the frame.

Because I was working alone, and needed to stretch the chain-link tipping the tractor on edge was the easiest thing to do.

This is metal fastening tape, found in the plumbing section.  I use this stuff all over the place. Works great. It is woven between the chain-links and secured to the bottom of the tractor frame. This way I can move rabbits and everythign without ever having to get them out. It also prevents them from digging holes, and protection from predators.

I hinged the whole side of the tractor. This allows easier access to the rabbits inside. If I opened from one end, someone (not me) would have to crawl in there to get rabbits.

The door is kept closed with bungee cords connected to the bottom chain links and the wire mesh on the sides. It is tight enough that the rabbits or predators cannot open it. The pet litter box is actually a waterer.  I drilled the bottom and made a shelf for it to sit on.

20150913_123335

The hole in the bottom is connected to rabbit nipples (tubing, connectors, and nipples available though Amazon)

20150917_094336

I had all the materials on hand, and made do with what was available. If I had to make it again and buying materials it would probably cost around $60-80 and that is a high estimate. You can scrounge materials from various places or buy used materials.

 

Lumber can be from used pallets = free

Cubbie can be made from Rubbermaid containers from goodwill  <$3 Goodwill. You can also find hinges at goodwill, Habitat for Humanity Restore. or asset Recycling.

Instead of watering nipples you can use watering dishes/bowls/tupperware/etc. = free

Wire may need to be purchased, but if not overnighting rabbits can use chicken wire. Check craigslist.

Many places like Habitat, and Asset Recycling will have sections of chain-link. you really don’t need it, but we will be overnighting the rabbits in it, and ease of moving them.

 

Clover as living mulch, rabbit poop, and some lessons learned

Just a couple of topics covered today; Using clover as a living mulch, rabbit poop collection system, automatic watering system, massive rainfall in the Midwest, and some related news.

We have been busy with another site www.townofwingate.org as it is related to our activities we do on our little homestead. Upon moving to this small little rural town of 267 we thought all our practices and livestock would be just fine. After all, our neighbors had chickens, we are miles and miles from urban areas, it is a farming community, there are horses in town, we thought sheep were in town as well. Low and behold the town has an ordinance prohibiting chickens. After offering to help the town write a more updated ordinance, more inclusive (it was written at least 30 years ago), even offering to put together a website, our offers were ignored and the town council seemed to make us public enemy number one. We made it our mission to educate the town’s people who seemed to live in constant fear, who were kept in the dark about ordinances, laws, what was going on in the town, and even what their rights were. We are now publishing town council meetings online, put the ordinances online, put relative information online and made it FREE to the people. Since that wasn’t good enough, we are now also running for town council seats so that the HOA style mentality can be replaced with a more libertarian stance. Not really an excuse for lack of publication here, but does tell you what we have been up to. Try to change the things you can, and if that doesn’t work, be the change you want to happen. We needed to stop complaining and take action. Knowledge is power.

On a more farm note, this year we had some experimental garden beds where we used clover as a cover crop, and living mulch. We used dutch white clover. So far the results have been very positive and I think we are going to expand into larger areas. The clover only grows about 4 inches high, so any plants taller than that have done very well. They are bringing much needed nitrogen into the soil. It appears that the clover has also choked out many of the seeds as it is a thick blanket across the soil. We did till this particular bed as noting had ever been planted in the area and we wanted to break thinks up. This also has been an unusually wet season and normally I would think the think clover would have kept moisture in the soil. I really cannot make that claim as everything has had rain, and cannot really tell a different in the clover bed vs. non clover.

In our current animal enclose we are housing chickens, ducks, and rabbits. The guardian goose seems to think it is a dog or human and refuses to interact with the other birds. She lives inside for the moment. In our rabbit area, our breeders are in cages and are suspended about eye level and are in a U shape. Each rabbit has their own cage, roughly 2 ½’ x 3’. There is 4 foot space between the rabbits and the ground. We have been using deep litter (straw) in their area as well as the duck/chicken area. We are needing grow out pens for a future meat rabbits. The initial idea was to put them under the breeders, but then how to keep the waste off the meat rabbits? I had some old EDPM liner from a pond laying around and fashioned a trough/roof for the meat rabbits. In theory it should have allowed the pellets (poop) to roll off to the back, and same with urine. It didn’t work. Because of the weigh, and I didn’t secure it well enough the poop, urine, un eaten pellets, greens, and hay all dropped into the “diverter” and collected in one pool. That was a stinky nasty mess. Lesson learned, make sure the liner is taught. Once we install the meat rabbit gage, and clean it up a bit I will post a video of how we set everything up.

While still on rabbits, I have a 275 gal auto watering system. It means I do not have to fill bottles every day, they always have a water supply, and I do not have frozen waterers in winter. So I thought. Usually when I go and feed the rabbits I also make sure the water is still flowing by a quick push on one of the rabbit nipples. It has been hot, they have not been eating as much, and my wife fed them for a few days. I never told her about checking the nipples to see if water is still flowing. One day we bring our doe into breed with the buck, and he is just not doing his job. While waiting, and waiting, and waiting I check the nipples, no water! Went to check things out, and started trouble shooting. After about 10 minutes, we figured out the pump that recirculates the water had pulled something into the line and it had become clogged about half way through the 100 ft of tubing. Using the hose we were able to backflow and flush the clog out. Lesson learned, while it may seem intuitive, and repetitive task, always have someone follow you though farm chores. What you say and what you do may be two different things. This lesson was repeated when helping on a friend’s farm. He knows the electric fence is ALWAYS on and well, assumed I did too. NOT the case! Lesson learned there, assume all fences are electrified unless told or tested otherwise.

More on Indy ReZone

Reposting for Sherri

The Indianapolis CIty Council has sent Indy Rezone to committee – specifically the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee. Their next meeting is Monday July 27 at 5:30 in room 260 of the City Council building.  This is where there will be discussion and debate. Here is where the rubber meets the road and where a large presence is needed. This will be a critical meeting. 
 
Monday night (July 13) the “Retail Workers Bill of Rights” had a large group at the City Council meeting.  They expected their Special Resolution for the Bill of Rights to pass, instead it was sent to committee – the same committee and day that will hear comments about Indy rezone.  They were not happy and will have an even larger group at the committee meeting. This is a critical turning point for them, and for Indy rezone. If there are not people there showing opposition to Indy Rezone, the absence of people will speak volumes. 
 
Right now what is needed is twofold: Come to the meeting if at all possible (even if you have to get there late) and contact the councilors on the committee via e-mail and telephone prior to the meeting, so that they know there is opposition/concern from more than just a handful of people. Here is the city webpage with the names of the committee members. Open each councilors page for their contact info: http://www.indy.gov/eGov/Council/Committees/Pages/metro.aspx  
 
We already know that Zach Adamson is not happy with this whole thing.  We are working on talking to all of the committee members and hope you will too.
 
One of the many issues: All there is, is  a draft for the livestock license – too many uncertainties that could be changed after this debacle is passed. 
 
There is so much wrong in Indy rezone, I could write a book (and that is without having read most of this 700+ page document!). There is a lot of confusing, unclear information in it. And in the words of someone working for Indy Rezone,who helped write it “It is Flawed”. (She said this several times at the Metropolitan Development Commision meeting.)
 
scroll down to bottom of page for the livestock license link
 
If you would like a searchable Word document you can access that here: https://copy.com/pAwC1I46qpOItu1F 
You may be surprised at what you find when searching for specific things. 
 
If you are like me, you have a real hard time figuring out how many more restrictions make us more sustainable. I realize there is no way to make everyone happy.  But why in the world would we pass something that we already know is so flawed?
 
Feel free to contact myself or my husband:
 

Animal care-husbandry & Permaculture

Recently it came to my attention that some people believe our animal care and farm practices are dirty and unkept. 1st before making assumptions you might want to get facts straight, learn what you are talking about before opening your mouth, and lastly ask us, we would be glad to tell you all about it.

We will educate the uneducated and ignorant. Grass should not be cut 1/4 inch above the dirt. It is very unhealthy, longer grass survives drought better, and longer grass will hold more water in both roots and green tissue. The ability to hold water has been important lately.

What one person views as weeds is actually medicinal plants we grow for FREE , do not require a prescription, doesn’t have nasty side effects. It is also food for our animals. This is why we do not spray any chemicals on our property.

We let grasses grow longer because it has more nutrients for animals, reducing our dependence on buying processed feed. Ask any rancher using grass fed techniques.

We clean our combined rabbitry and coop every 3 months. We use deep litter bedding inside to absorb and hold wastes. After 3 months it moves out to the compost pile where it is turned into soil for future gardens. Properly managed neither have an odor. I have the training and experience on both. Due to the excess rain and poor stormwater drainage in our area, some of this bedding became wet. we immediately changed and dried it out once we were able.

We house our rabbits and poultry together to harness heat in the winter, and the chickens reduce any worms or parasites, as well as till the litter naturally and help it all break down faster.

We even installed fans this summer to keep both rabbits and poultry cool, and help keep air moving in the coop.

All of our animals have names. When the chicken went past their prime for laying, they remained and are still productive, just not as many eggs a week. We did not butcher them. They still eat bugs, they still turn the compost, they still have a name, and they still process food waste from our kitchen. When old age finally takes them, we will look at replacing them.

For more on chickens read my post on In defense of the back yard flock

We used to give tours, and will do it again soon. We are still working on many things, since moving in March, and because of Avian flu we do not want additional traffic if we can help it. We had to start a great many plants and systems all over, so we would like to showcase more than just concepts, but actual practice.

To make sure our rabbits had access to water all winter long we made a rabbit watering system that does not freeze. Our rabbits (4) have  access to 275 gallons of water 24/7. This is our system from Indy but we rebuilt here in Wingate

We have had Animal control on our property (for a neighbors issue, not ours) and were commended on how well we took care of our animals. We have had a vegans, and staff of animal control and also tell us how well we take care of our animals.

What one person sees as “unsightly” another sees it as a 40% reduction in a grocery bill of all natural all organic food. Some people see it as beautiful and natural. Being ignorant and failing to educate yourself is ignorant in itself. Singling one person or a group of people out because you dislike something is called discrimination. Using position of power to go after that group is called harassment. Both of which can land someone in court. Since some people are ignorant of what I mentioned above I just thought they may also need some education on the latter as well.

Rabbit watering system for freezing climates

This is our first year with rabbits over winter and we were not sure how to handle the freezing temps and water. We did a little research and most people either used heater bottles, or changed the crocks our 2 times a day. We were not going to spend the money for heated bottles (around $40 each) and the reviews of them were questionable. We were doing the crocks 2 times a day but that meant we HAD to be home and could not travel to our small house project on weekends. I needed something to fit my needs. I stumbled upon a video of a guy who had a similar issue on YouTube. I would love to give the guy credit but after 2 days of searching I cannot find the original video that gave me the idea. If someone else comes across it please let me know in the comments so I can give him credit for the inspiration. He did slightly different setup, but this design came from his concept.

I took the original idea of what he had, and modified it to what I had available as to spend little to no money out of pocket. I had submersible pumps from aquaponics builds. If you do not have one you can get them for under 20 bucks, especially at local stores in fall when they go on clearance. (Aquatic Design and Supplies here locally has this exact one) The tank is an old kitty litter box. The tubing and nipples I got from Amazon. They were pretty cheap as well. The nice thing about the nipples and tubing is they came in a pack of 50 and I have enough tubing to make another complete setup at the new location (V2.0). The heat lamp we had for the chickens in winter so no extra cost there. If you do not have one, you can pick them up lamp and fixture for under $20.

Version 2.0 this was the first design to fix a need at the moment. I am designing some improvements into version 2.0 and some improvements are listed below.

  • I will be using a 55 gal drum for the tank for the reservoir
  • The tank will be filled by rainwater from the roof of the rabbit/chicken barn area (filtered before entering tank with homemade sand/charcoal filter)
  • There will be a heater in the tank. Probably a submersible fish heater unless I find a better alternative before then. I want the water to stay above freezing. The water moving helps keep it from freezing.
  • I will add nipples for the chickens as well. Different type of nipples than the rabbits. Rabbits needed all metal nipples at they can damage the plastic housing of chicken nipples.
  • Version 3.0 may switch over to off grid power and use a solar panel. It may be in V2.0 but time, money, and other projects may prevent that.

Some things I learned. The tubing did not fit tightly enough on some nipples. I added zip ties to make a more snug fit. You may want to go with a slightly smaller ID tube, or just use ties like I did. Not all the nipples leaked where the tubing fit.

If your hose comes out from the circulator, you lose circulation (power out, low water), the tubes, and nipples will freeze solid (if temps are below freezing) and the only way to thaw is wait until the entire thing is above freezing temps. adding warm/hot water MAY work if you have a shorter run of tubing. we had about 30 ft, and not enough pressure to melt the ice in the lines.

Before leaving for any period of time, figure how long it takes your rabbits to drain the tank, and take an average. Some days they drink more than others. Plan accordingly.

You may need to leave both watering systems in place for a few days until they figure it out. Alternatively, letting the old source dry up, and showing water is available through the nipple by pushing the tip, can help train them.

If one rabbit gets it, soon others see and catch on.

Rabbit Nipples

Tubing

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