Hopalong two: the reconsidering

Between the shorter days, the wet weather, and my crazy work schedule, I haven’t gotten much work done on the rabbit cages. This may have been a good thing. As I neared completion of cage number one, I started to think about the colony setting more. 

We’d pretty much decided that we would eventually do a colony style enclosure, but we’re going to use oversized cages first. And then it occurred to me. Why am I spending time, money, and sweat on cages that we intend to stop using? 

Why not just go straight to the colony and just isolate the buck to control breeding?

So now we have a buck cage and the plans for a rabbit run. Standard wisdom is ten square feet per adult rabbit in a colony setting. So the existing cage will fit inside the run so the buck is near the does, and the pen itself will be 10×15 feet. Gives enough room for nearly a dozen adult rabbits (don’t forget the cage takes up space) so it should be fine for two does and a growing litter, as long as the litters are spaced out a little. 

It’ll go here right next to the house. For cost effectiveness, the run itself will be enclosed by poultry netting. Yes, I’m aware they are capable of chewing through it. To discourage this, there will be lots of things to do (and chew) inside the run. They’ll try to get out only if bored or crowded. Also going to line the perimeter with logs and sticks. It should keep them occupied. 

Rabbits tend to tunnel, so the floor of the enclosure will be welded wire fencing. But they will want to tunnel so I don’t want to completely ignore that. The best boxes and shelters will be connected by drainage pipe so they can feel like they’ve got a warren going. 

But here’s the coolest part. At 6.5’x4′ the one completed cage is roughly 26 sqft, or nearly enough for three adult rabbits. It’s certainly large enough for three juveniles to grow a bit while I construct the permanent run!

So a Rubbermaid tote with a hole in it becomes a shelter, and we can go get some rabbits just as soon as we find a good deal on them!


Happy thanksgiving from Huckleberry Hills!

As is cliche, I mean traditional, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks for the things in my life. 

I am grateful for my family and friends, especially for my wonderful girlfriend, without whom I would not be able to run this place! I am thankful for the real estate agent who found my home, for which I am also very thankful. 

I am thankful for my animals, and for those who provided them to me. 

But while we all gather with family today, I’d like to take a moment and remind everyone that on thanksgiving day, native Americans are being brutally assaulted for wanting to keep their homes and drinking water safe. Please consider a donation to support the standing rock tribe, or take a moment to call your representatives to ask them to take action against this atrocity. 

Above all, let’s try to move forward from what has been a difficult year for this country and work on repairing it. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and work towards a better future. Love you all!

Wrecking the curve

I read up on the topic of livestock guardian dogs in general for a couple months, and Anatolian shepherds for weeks before we finally settled on our Dawg. One thing that has been very consistent in nearly all accounts is when they start acting like livestock guardians, and that is between ten and twelve months old. 

Our Vasi is about three and a half months old. She’s just a puppy. She walks loose leash, and is calm with the birds almost all the time, but she’s still a puppy. That’s what made tonight so astounding. 

I was at work but on the phone with the girlfriend so I heard all this. We got bells for the doorknob because this year Christmas needs to come early. Vasi figured out she could ring it to get us to let her out to tinkle in about five minutes. But a few hours later, she got really restless and was jingling the front door bell for everything she had. 

So I suggested just letting her out and watching her (the fence needs a little work before she can be left out there unattended). She went to the coop and circled it slowly, sniffing the ground, then walked one length of the yard still sniffing. Then she came back in and was chill again. 

So what’s the big deal? Anatolian shepherds patrol the perimeter of their territory periodically to ensure all is well and their animals are safe. But they don’t start doing that until nearly a year old. Talk about wrecking the curve!

It’s pretty clear to us that she comes from a very good line of working dogs and will keep our animals safe. It’s really shocking. She has figured out much of the behavior of an adult dog at a very young age. Now, she still gets puppy excited and forgets things, but having her guardian instincts kick in this early is really unusual from what I’ve read. 

She got an extra special treat for that!

Hop along McFarmFace 

The short days severely limit how much time I have to work outdoors. I really need a shop. Anywho, I did get a couple hours in working on the rabbit cages. 

Conventional wisdom says they need at least four square feet of space. We ain’t about that. Gave them lots of room!

The bottom pieces of wood are painted since they’ll be in contact with the ground. The rest, I think will be fine. Except the plywood top half, of course. 

I took extra care to ensure the ends were fully painted since that would be a prime place for rot to start. 

Once the bottom frame was screwed together, I laid out the floor and started stapling. 

Then came the top. This would have been much easier with an assistant but the gf was out running some pretty important errands. 

And then of course had to turn the whole thing over to do the other side. Which very quickly demonstrated that it wasn’t very stable. 

Triangles are much more geometrically stable than rectangles. 
The hardware cloth is on the inside of the frame, protecting the wood frame from little bunny teeth. But as you can see, the light is gone. But I feel like the next one will be quicker to make. 

We need a minimum of three. Two for the adults and one for growing out the litter. But if we decide to have two does (rabbits are does and bucks like deer) then we will need four total. At that point we may go to a colony style. Time will tell. 

Is there no sun in this cursed country?

But I can point out East!

Seriously though, the constant rain is really slowing things down. I got this weird 70’s style closet rail replaced with a bar, and bought the materials for the rabbit cages, but other than that it’s been pretty slow. 

Lady McFarmFace hasn’t been feeling well today, so mainly I’ve been trying to help out indoors. But the rain should slack up enough for me to get at least stared on the rabbit cages. 

Standard wisdom for breeding meat rabbits says they need a few square feet each and the cages are often hung for easy cleaning. But that’s not how we roll here. Each adult rabbit will have a 6.5′ by 4′ run with a nest box. 

The entire top will be hinged in the middle. One half will be 2×4 fence wire and the other half painted wood for shelter and shade. The sides will be 1/2″ hardware cloth to keep the babies in and protect from raccoons. 

Now, I’m well aware that the top half that is a larger spaced wire will be wide enough for a raccoon to reach in, but at 2 feet tall and with only half the top wire, I figure the bunnies shouldn’t have too much trouble evading them IF they are even willing to brave the yard and dog smell. 

Here’s the best part though. The bottoms will be the same widely spaced wire. These bunnies will be on the next best thing to bare ground. I figure that instead of a lawnmower, I’ll just move the cages every few days as they clip the grass and weeds short. 

We usually very carefully select livestock breeds here, but it seems like a meat rabbit is a meat rabbit. Californian, New Zealand white, Cornish cross, Flemish cross, it seems as though the biggest difference is the coat. 

I’m told the white coats are commercially more useful as they can be died, but the grey and brown ones are prettier and probably more useful to hobbyists. So maybe we will get both and see what works best. Eventually we may switch to a colony setting, but only if we find the meat to be easy to move. 

I am really not looking forward to killing rabbits. Chickens are hard enough for me. But if I’m going to be a McFarmFace, I need to develop the stomach for it. 

Meanwhile, Vasi is coming along really well. I figure some minor repairs and changes to the fence in the front yard and she can be turned loose with the birds soon. We have an aerial run for her and she does really well with them. She’s very gentle. 

A tad lazy, perhaps. I’ll be building her a dog house soon, with a covered spot for her food dish. 

So that’s kind of where we are right now. The ferocious guard dog naps with the birds, and we will have our first four legged livestock as soon as I build the enclosures. Fencing the pasture is next after that. 

If anyone has recommendations for one rabbit breed over another, feel free to share!

Fencing without swords

It’s not nearly as much fun as the other kind. Probably more useful though. 

So, I’ve done quick and dirty fences for the birds but it’s time to do a real farm fence. We’ve plotted out a 1/4 acre plot for the first pasture paddock. Btw, any other city folk planning on making pastures, an acre is bigger than you think. Trust me. 

So we’ve got the corners marked and a line strung to begin clearing the edge. My work schedule isn’t really cooperating so it’s slow going. Fortunately, I do have until about march or April to be finished because that’s when I’m getting goats. We may bring a few trees down in the process of putting the fences up, but mostly we will let the goats clear away the land. 

They’ve got their work cut out for them! 

Some of this area is already partly cleared from the last owner, so there’s that!

Getting through this area will be a bit of a challenge. 

Anyway, I’ve got 4-5 months to get this done. The only part that sucks is that they’re the rainiest months! But I should be getting a truck soon and that’ll help with a lot. Not the least of which will be transporting materials!