Our Set Up

My rabbit set up is quite different to most breeders and not something that would work for everyone.

I am lucky enough to lease a large paddock for my animals and keep multiple species there. The rabbits form an intrigual part of the system. Mowing and fertilising as their cages are moved across the paddock each day. Seeds from their hay fall through to the ground, adding to the varieties growing in the grass and any excess food or hay that falls though is eaten by the 'security crew'; who diligently follow as the cages are moved forward and find all the scraps.

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Although unusual for a breeder, I mostly use large metal cages. As well as giving good but secure grass access, they have proven to be fully predator proof and can be completely disinfected. I use ceramic bowls, as they are easy to clean and stay cool. The bunnies love to wrap them selves around them on a warml day and you can make them extra cold by adding iceblocks. I also use the ceramic bowls for food, not just cause I like things to match lol, but I also find the never get tipped over. Though I do have a few interior decorators that like to drag them around the cage, and others that believe food is tastier if you are sitting in it. My current project is to add hay racks to those cages that still need them. These reduce wastage and cleaning time, but most importantly keep the hay unsoiled.

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The warning point for metal cages is that not managed correctly they are a death trap in the heat. However a well utilised metal cage can actually be better in the heat due to the extremely good airflow. But they need to be in shade for the whole day as they will heat up incredibly fast in direct sunlight. You would be quite surprised how few spots in a yard are truely in shade all day. If you are not sure how good a spot or set up is, leave a bar of chocolate there for the day and you will quickly find out. My paddock has limited shade but we have successfully over come this problem by placing foam blocks on top of the cages. As well as keeping food and bunnies dry, they provide shade and insulation. Even on a 38 degree day, if you slide your hand under the foam the metal is cool to touch. However I do also have a hot weather set up in a cellar for pregnant does, mums and bubs and any individuals that seem more heat sensitive. I also have some avairies with large spaces for playtime and matings plus a small shed set up for winter breeding.

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My cages stretch across the paddock in a long line and are moved forward everyday onto fresh grass. I also breed guinea pigs, which are alternated with the rabbit cages. They eat more grass in a day and the end effect looks like the grass was mowed in stripes.

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I personally have never used flyscreen as it would not be possible for them to access the grass without the mosquitoes accessing them. I believe a poorly flyscreened cage can do as much damage as good. Trapping in with the rabbit any mosiquito that does make it in. I also think the open air flow of this set up does not encourage mosiquitoes to shelter in them, as tends to happen with box style designs that only have wire on one side. However I am by no means encouraging people to ditch their flywire but to ensure it is done well. As part of this, a real bonus is if they can be removable during warm days so as not to inhibite airflow. There are also extra advantages to our location that probably contribute to this working. The biggest stand out is no local wild rabbit population. No idea why as you can drive 10 mins away and find them. I wonder in the massive local fox population wiped them out a long time ago. We also have a really low mozzie population. I am not sure if it is that the majority of land around us is used by activities for which stagnant water and mosquitoes are not desired, so it is well managed. Or it could be that all the chickens or security animals are around are bigger or more tempting targets. But either way I rarely get bit down paddock during summer sunsets, whilst I would get eaten alive in most suburban backyards.

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The rabbits also have their own 4 part security team to protect them from predators, both the 4 and 2 legged varieties. The geese are like an alarm system, alerting all the other security of trouble. The dogs have different jobs. Max is great with small children and baby animals and makes a safe protector for bunnies in play pens and free ranging chickens. Bundy is not good with loose poultry, smaller animals or strangers but makes formidable guard for when they are locked up. Connie the alpaca loves my dogs, but will not tolerate any other dogs, cats or foxes in her paddock. Things with 4 legs she prefers to stomp and kick, but she reacts differently to things with 2 legs, prefering to spit at humans or the emus. The final security team members are the emus. They have incredibly powerful legs and huge talons that in the wild are used to slash open dingoes and other threats. They don't mind our dogs but are on to any strange canines like a rocket. Ours are very tame with people they got to know well when younger, but have now hit sexual maturity and decided they are not keen on strangers in their paddock, so are now locked up for visitors.

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