October 25, 2016

rabbit-care-400When incorporating livestock into compact hobby farms or urban homesteads, consumers often look for smaller animals, such as rabbits. Rabbits can be used for meat; their pelts or shed fur can be used in a variety of wearable products; they can be bred and offspring sold; and their droppings make an excellent source of fertilizer without the need for composting that other animal waste must go through.

There are quite a few items consumers will need when starting out, plus a number of consumable products needed on a continual basis. Some of these items include:

Cages and Hutches: Small livestock such as rabbits do well in smaller enclosures like cages and hutches. These enclosures provide protection from predators such as foxes, feral cats and various birds of prey, as well as protection from inclement weather or the hot sun. Hanging wire cages are one of the preferred housings for larger commercial operations, as cleaning droppings from underneath is unencumbered. For hobby farms and urban homesteads, more eye-catching hutches may be in demand, such as those by Advantek, Boomer & George, Trixie Natura or Klubertanz Equipment Company, Inc. Have staff ask customers if their rabbits will be bred; bucks and does (with or without kits) require separate living quarters to prevent fighting and injury to the animals.

Food and Water: Unlike large livestock that can be turned out into the pasture, rabbits will generally spend most of their time in their hutches. Because of this, consumers will need to obtain feeders and watering systems, as well as consumable products such as pelletized food and timothy hay.  Miller Manufacturing Company and Kaytee  are two companies that offer feeding and watering stations for small animals like rabbits, and companies like Burgess Pet Care  and Supreme have a variety of foods and treats to meet the nutritional needs of both pet and livestock rabbits. Additionally, for consumers who wish to grow food to add to their rabbits’ diet, timothy grass seeds (like those through LaCrosse Seed) can be sown for cover crop and harvest, or to allow enclosed grazing opportunities either in open pens, or with the use of a rabbit tractor.

Breeding Items: If a consumer is planning to breed rabbits, some additional equipment will be necessary. Nesting boxes are a critical piece; they mimic the burrows that rabbits would naturally nest in and keep kits safe and warm during their first weeks. Boxes come in several materials, including wire, wood or metal, like nest boxes by KW Cages.

Fencing: While many rabbit owners would prefer to keep their livestock in cages or hutches, some do like the ability to allow their rabbits some free range, especially if the consumer has planted specialty forage grasses such as timothy and clover. In this case, fencing is critical to not only protect rabbits from outside predators like coyotes and foxes, but to also keep them from wandering away from designated spaces. Consumers will be looking for fencing that has a tighter weave (like chicken wire), as well as materials to complete the enclosure. There are several kit options for those looking to have complete setup in one box. Some kit brands include: Fine Mesh Electric Nets by Fast Fence and Critterfence.

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