Rabbits in Colonies 101


The Domestication of Cattle CaitRaising rabbits in colonies is not a new concept, although it may seem new to the modern rabbit breeder. Monks began keeping rabbits in warrens as far back as the early medieval times, and the idea of caging didn’t take hold until the 1800’s. Propagating rabbits in a group setting isn’t for everyone – it is wrong in every way for exhibition rabbitries, and can make fiber production a complete bear – but for those seeking a more comfortable approach to meat production, colony raising is not a bad way to go.

What exactly is a colony, anyways? A colony is simply a group of bonded animals that live together. A colony could be out on pasture or completely indoors in a barn. The term “colony” means nothing about their management or housing other than the fact that they have a different social structure than conventional rabbit raising.

rabbits colony 

There are several factors to consider when deciding if you should start a colony. Keep in mind that any aspirations towards pedigrees are going to become difficult. Using tattoos or other identification methods alongside respectable record keeping can help to an extent, but once those babies come popping out of the nest boxes and mixing all together, the game is pretty well over. Purebred breeding is completely possible, but you won’t be able to have the proof on paper, it’ll mostly be on your word of, “One of these could be Dad, and one of those girls is Mom.”

Another aspect to think about before starting a colony is space and resources. Colonies require a different sort of environment. Raising rabbits in a group setting can work, but they require mental stimulation and infrastructure to hide under. Any species – rabbit, chicken, hog, etc – will become aggressive and fight with each other if they are crammed into tight, confined spaces with no outlet for natural activities. When you keep rabbits in a group setting, you’re reintroducing those natural tendencies, and some of those tendencies need attention. Unfortunately, you can’t throw three rabbits together in a typical wire cage and call it good. They’ll all have chewed off each other’s ears by the end of the week. They need a proper habitat with lots of things to do to keep them entertained.

Where colony raising shines is in a homestead setting for small-time meat production. In a set-up like this, significant attention can be paid to injuries, illnesses, and animal happiness, and pedigrees aren’t as important if most of the offspring are going to end up on the table.

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