December 24, 2012

Pastured rabbits on snow

Last year, we began raising pasture-fed rabbits in January with a breeding trio. Greg built the pasture pens for them with a goal was to keep the rabbits on pasture year round. The does kindle in the pasture pens; the litter remains with the doe until weaned, then moved to a grow-out pen; the rabbits remain outside, year round, no matter what the weather.

We had a relatively mild winter last year with very little snow. It was pretty cold, but no precipitation really. This past year, we survived a derecho, a hurricane, extreme summer heat and some below freezing temps.  We have learned a LOT about dealing with the weather and how to work with it while keeping the rabbits on grass. But the weather we've been dreading is snow.

Freezing water bottles in the winter are a pain to deal with but we can manage. Trying to move 6' x 4' pens over inches and inches of snow... ugh. We really were not looking forward to dealing with that.  We couldn't leave them in one place and allow waste to accumulate. If not moved, they'd run out of grass in a day, two at the most.  Fresh grass daily is critical to the health and well being of these rabbits. Well, it snowed today. So far we have three inches and it's still coming down in buckets.

We moved the large grow-out pens to new snow-covered grass because they have an actual hutch where the rabbits can get up off the snow. Their body heat keeps them very warm in the hutch area so we're not worried about them resting on the cold snow or eating the snow and lowering their body temps. The smallest kits which are about 5 or 6 weeks old were left on the snow-free ground. We gave them a couple snowballs to chew on for water but not a lot since we don't want to drop their core temperature too much.

One doe has a 10 day old litter. I put extra hay over them for additional warmth but they should be fine. We have three does due to kindle. Double checked that they had plenty of hay.

Now, we wait and see what happens.

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