Rabbits - raising in cages or colonies

Monek Marie
Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

When I had rabbits in my teens I raised them in very large pens in a colony style.

Later I went to cages. I am not really sure why, maybe easier moving of pens?

Now I am redoing my rabbit area and am asking , which is best cages or colonies?

The only issue I had way back when was an occasional fight between bucks in a colony setting.

I raise both designer type rabbits to sell and now I want to do more meat rabbits, I am trying to cover all my bases in this hectic world we live in right now. I was thinking of raising meat rabbits more in a colony setting.

My designer rabbits need to be in cages for more control of breeding.

Any suggestions?


  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    Seems like the rabbits are so much happier in the colony setting. I've been thinking about getting rabbits again, and having this same debate with myself. My only experience is keeping two angoras for about nine years. (I am mostly interested in the fur for spinning into yarn, but thinking now about meat rabbits too,)

    The two angoras started out in cages, but seemed so unhappy that I basically gave them the living room of the old house after I built my new house. I built an obstacle course for them to play on, and a ramp up to a window that opened into an outdoor pen so they could go out for some fresh air. They often chose to sleep in their cages, but spent most of their time out playing in their larger space. When I did occasionally have to shut them in their cages for some reason I always felt really guilty about it.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2021

    @MaryRowe My thoughts and feelings. I feel if they give us a lot we should give them as much as possible.

    I raised angoras on and off. I was going to sell them but too many people do not take proper care of them and you take a lot back. I like their personalities and I did not spin yarn but I made paper and felt from the fur.

    I have made up my mind to get meat rabbits but have not decided on the breed yet.

    The wonderful thing abut January and February is it is a time to plan and make changes (at least here in the cold climate region)

  • Tave
    Tave Posts: 952 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I raised rabbits in cages when I was a teenager and they seemed happy. A friend is raising them in a colony. Her biggest problem is them digging and tearing up the property. She doesn't keep them contained and sometimes they get through the garden fence and goodbye garden. I do believe they're happier in a colony but you have to weigh the pros and cons.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,375 admin

    @Marjory Wildcraft Do you have anything to add? I know that you have done both with your meat rabbits.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Those were my concerns too @Tave

    With my predator issue I would have to make sure they could not get out. And they are diggers so any penned edges would have to be prepped for that. Winter would change how they were penned or housed too.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2021

    One link I just read. https://jrpiercefamilyfarm.com/2020/05/14/raising-rabbits-colonies-vs-hutches/

    I may try colonies for the meat rabbits and cages for my "for sale" rabbits.

    I have found though that cages create a better bond with ther rabbits and they are easier to catch or hold when you need to.

  • Marjory Wildcraft
    Marjory Wildcraft Posts: 1,585 admin

    Hi @Denise Grant and everyone - this discussion is a good one. I always recommend raising the rabbits in cages for newbies because you have more control over the situation - and you have a lot to learn! Yes, the rabbits in cages are more friendlier and easier to wrok with. Colony rabbits were often difficult to catch, so taking care of any medial issues, or trying to harvest them was challenging. They definitely do like being in the colony more - and yes, you really should only have one buck because they will fight. If you have them in cages I recommend really big comfy cages. I see so many rabbits in little spaces and that's not the point of raising my own meat at all. We don't want to become the backyard industrial complex...

    For the colony you absolutely have to have the fences buried or they will dig out. If you see in the video I created on colony rabbits, I als had dogs to patrol the perimeter to handle predators (coons will climb right up a fence).

    A really great compromise is putting the rabbits in tractors. I'm just about to start reading "Raising Pasture Rabbits" by Nichki Carangelo and she presents a tractor operation.

    I'm still looking for my home here in Puerto Rico (sigh, finding a home is tough here!) but as soon as I have a yard again I am planning on a combo system where I keep the main breeders (the buck and three does) each in thier own large hutches, and raising out the babies on grass in tractors (they go into the tractors around weaning time). I'll occaisionally put the breeders into the tractors for fun too. But managing breeding, record keeping, etc it's impossible in a colony.

    After I've finished Nichki's book I'll let you know if I change my mind on the system :)

    I will say that I think it is very important to get started raising your own meat in your backyard. I'm going to be doing a community call about how to navigate 2021, and the short sound bite it: get prepared.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Sorry to hear getting a house is such a challenge in Puerto Rico @Marjory Wildcraft. I will have to look up Nichki's book but am looking forward to hearing your opinions and ideas.

    @monica197 If you have a buck in with does you will have more rabbits and often in that situation you are not aware they are going to have kits so you may lose some. As @Marjory Wildcraft said above more than one buck will fight. I know does have an order they have so you have to watch for that too.

    I think the tractor idea sounds good but whatever way I go I have to go the extra yard to make sure they are predator safe,

    I'm also trying to figure out how many rabbits I want for meat. I know I can also sell a few meat kits too but overall it meat prodectuion and independence I am setting my goals for.

    I recently made a deal for fencing for 1/3 of my property. I am getting used chain link for scrap cost minus starter seedlings for spring so it will probably be free. I have to divide that area for rotating pastures and all the different animals. Chain link is round one of keeping predators out. I am thinking of using electric fencing for a few pigs.