Larsen Poultry Ranch - homesteading journey

Baymule

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Hey, I’m being nice about that red light headband! Who would you be advertising for anyway? Squash bugs? :lol:

Humidity here is thick enough that the very air drips........ throw in heat and it is soup. LOL We are having unseasonal cool temperatures and it is affecting gardens. But at least the grass is growing with all the rain we’ve had. Winter grass and clovers are done now, need to mow and let what little summer grass I have come on through. Sheep will be dry lotted, they won’t like it.
 

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Well, I set up ice water bottles in the rabbit cages and have more water crocks on order, should arrive today. Did you know that the little baking ramekins are about the same size but cheaper than the crocks designed for small pets? Food safe and dishwasher safe too.

Set up a box fan, going to add a second one tonight if I can get another power cord. Dunno if I should try to make an impromptu swamp cooler with the fan or just leave as is. I can buy a swamp cooler pad for less than $10, but would have to figure out a way to keep water running onto it. Maybe PVC with holes attached to a 5 gallon bucket with a float to refill as it empties?

Hopefully I don't lose any more rabbits today. I lost 5 yesterday 6/1 and 3 the prior day 5/31. Going to butcher the other grow outs before they can die of the heat. I have about 13 grow outs left as of this morning.
 

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Didn't have any heat dead bunnies today! Also didn't butcher grow outs as planned but hubby has promised he will help tomorrow. I think the fan really helped and the new tarp is blocking a lot of light. The ramekins arrived and they are bigger than I pictured, they will be harder for the rabbits to knock over. I also bought an ice cube tray that makes very large ice cubes, so I'm hoping that will help keep the water in the ramekins cooler a bit longer.

I checked the chinchilla bunnies and of the three remaining, only one is a doe. The two that passed yesterday of course were does. The pretty opal in the Flemish meat mix (3/4 Rex) is a buck. So I think I'm going to only keep the chinchilla doeling and all the other grow outs will be butchered. Unless the one opal from Cinnamon is a doe, might keep that. Otherwise they are all going. Need to redo the name chart and update my records too.
 

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Hey @Ridgetop would 20*40 or 20*30 barn be a good size for a rabbit herd? They would be in single cages or stackers, with a manure collection system over a cement floor.

Hubby is willing to help me start planning out the bunny barn after the terrible week we had with the herd. I am wanting it to be a cement or cinder block building, built into the hillside, possibly metal roof or possibly cement roof with dirt/plants growing over it.
 

Ridgetop

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I love planning barns!!! This post will be long (are there any other length of Ridgetop postings? :gig)!
First, are you raising meat breeds? Dwarfs? Show? Meat sales? How many holes do you want to accommodate?

Is this going to be a pole barn? Better air flow for rabbits with a pole barn, but you will want to shade or close in the western exposure if it will get full sun. Also south side with shade cloth hung in the summer. I would not use stackers since there is too much work involved in cleaning the cage trays. I prefer a hanging system over manure pits. Hang the cages from chain with S hooks or clevises from large screw in hooks in the roof beams. Make the manure pits with 2 x 12 lumber. Cheapest wood possible since it will take 20 years to rot. If wood is too expensive, then you can stack concrete block to make the pits under the cages. Without mortaring the block together they can be removed to completely empty the manure pits. Throw some earthworms into the manure pit when the manure and shavings get about 12" deep. You can also add shredded newspapers, or if you use an office shredder, most of that shredded paper can also go in the pits with earthworms. The worms will turn all that into lovely loose garden loam. Use fine shavings in the pits to cover the manure when it get about 3" deep and rake it around. No odor, and the urine soaks into the shavings making the perfect % blend of carbon (wood shavings) and nitrogen (rabbit urine is almost pure nitrogen) for gardens. You can apply it directly to plants or till it into the garden soil. I suggest dirt floors for the manure pits with raised walkways between the cages. However, concrete floors with drain channels would allow you to hose out the barn after removing the manure and shavings/earthworm pit soil.

What breed of rabbit are you raising? If you are raising meat breeds in even half the cages, I would do all cages 36"w x 30"d x 18"h standard cages with babysaver wire on the bottom 6". Do "in and up" doors with the hook on the top of the cage to catch and hold the door out of the way. Much more convenient and space saving than a side swing door. This 36" wide by 30" deep babysaver cage size is appropriate for does with litters as well as being able to house a couple of growers till 3 months. Bucks are often put in30x30 cages but why bother with that size when the 30x36 are just about the same price. Using all 36x30 cages gives you a lot more flexibility in moving rabbits around since you are not restricted to putting the bucks in specific cages instead of being able to put them anywhere in the cage configuration.

Once you have the cage dimensions, you can decide on the size of the barn you will need for maximum usage. I have drawn up a 20 x 30 and 20 x 40 plan. Actually the same plan just leaving the additional 10' x 20' area empty for storage or future expansion.

The 20' width means that you can have a couple of feet overhang on either side of the outside cages which is good for rains. On wet windy days I attached tarps to the outside of overhang and let them hang down on the outside of the cages. In nice weather I rolled them up and tied them in place with hay ropes. LOL Hay ropes - The Homesteader's Friend.

This barn plan will hold 40 cages. If you only build it 30' long, you will want to omit a couple of the back to back cages in the middle in order to get from side to side to feed in bad weather.
rabbitry plan Larsen.jpg

Hope you can understand this scribble. The trick is to measure the size and number of cages you want to use and build accordingly. Then as I always recommend, add more square footage since you will eventually want to increase your barn or use it for storage space. Yu can never have too much covered barn or storage space. We tend to forget here in California that when the rains do finally come they are torrential tropical storms here in southern CA or or heavy brutal Alaskan storms in northern CA. Also, in the summers it is good to have plenty of work space in the shade too.

When you are building remember to run a water line to the barn and electrical lines as well. You will want to put in automatic waterers, misters, have lights in the barn, and be able to run fans. Having lights in the barn is essential for winter breeding since you can extend the breeding season by the use of lights. In super cold winters a shop light (those ones that look like stainless steel bowls with a light bulb in them) can be laid on top of a cage, or clipped to the hanging chain, shining into the nest box with a simple 100 watt bulb to save litters.

I hope this answers your question about the size of the barn. Remember just because you can fit 40 cages in the barn, at any one time several of them should be empty. Keeping an empty cage next to a doe with litter will enable you to speed up breeding. You can rebreed a doe with a 4-6 week old litter, then just before she is due to kindle remove the kits from the old litter and move them into the adjacent cage. They will continue to gain at a better rate because they will be next to their mother. If you decide to practice this intensive breeding schedule remember to put the brood doe on an 18% pellet instead of the standard 16%. Also add 2 ounces of oats to her diet. Oats puts on hard flesh.

I used to make a grain mix consisting of 1 part sunflower seeds, 3 parts rolled oats, and 1 part sweet feed (we used our goat grain). My intensive breeding does also got a measure of calf manna while nursing. litters.
 

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They are standard Rex and meat mixes. I think the one meat mix doe I weighed last was over 10 lbs, most of the pure Rex are 8-9 ish. I am hoping to build the barn into the hill, so it will stay cooler. If it goes where I'm planning the southern side will be in the hill, the north and east side will have access doors and windows, and the west side would either be in the hill too or have door/windows. I'd like to make bigger cages with attached nest boxes/hidey holes.

We don't get too cold here, rarely down below mid 30s in the winter and we don't get snow. We do definitely get the darn heat in the summer.
 

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You can still use the plan I sent to determine your building measurements. Decide on the cage measurements and then multiply to make sure that your building will hold them. The cages are easy to change configurations and dimensions, the building won't be once it is erected.

A warning about enlarging cage size though. DO NOT make your cages any deeper than 30" since that is about the farthest you will be able to comfortably reach in and lift out 10-12 lb. does for breeding. I decided to make some of my cages 42-48" wide figuring the litters would have more space as they grew and had a lot t trouble catching the fryers since they were able to evade my reach. I ended up dividing those cages in half and adding a second door to make 24" x 30" grower cages for DH's show stock. I also used my original 24x24 dwarf cages for grower cages since we would do an initial culling for the freezer nd meat sales at 8 weeks. Those bunnies thought to be worth saving (and we culled very heavily) were put into the grower cages individually. Then we would do another culling for meat at 3 months. The saved stock was show and breeding stock and at 4 months transferred into standard 36 x 30 cages to reach breeding age.

A lot of people like the attached nesting boxes, but I prefer the standard removable wooden ones. You can easily remove the box to check the kits, remove dead ones, remove bedding in the heat and if the underlying bedding gets really nasty you can completely remove the kits and re-bed the box. I also like to be able to clean the boxes after each litter, scrape them, wash them out, and leave them in the sun to dry and sanitize.

FYI: Once we reached about 60 breeders in our barn, I added the smaller grower cages. Only 15-20% of the litters went into them and 50% of those keepers ended up being kept as show/breeding stock. While we kept the best bunnies to show and breed, we also sold breeding stock and DH would not sell breeding stock that he would not have been proud to put on the judging table himself. We particularly liked selling starter trios to 4-Hers, FFA, and beginning breeders. DH would always go and sort the first few litters and teach the kids and newcomers what to select for. We started with mutt rabbits, added registerable pure stock and worked up to having some of the best in southern CA and had an excellent reputation. DH never kept anything for breeding that was not show type. This meant that our rabbits reached a very standard body type and we had an excellent reputation for our NZWs and Cals.

His reputation in rabbits was (and still is) very important to DH. We don't sell culls in any species as breeders. He is waiting until DGS2 is in 4-H to set up a rabbitry for our grandsons. We will also set up a small rabbitry in TX probably with Cals. He was known for his NZWs but I came to like the Cals better. They were more docile and gained weight faster to fryer size by 2 weeks.

Make sure to send us pics of the rabbit barn as you build it!!! :hugs No imogees of masked huggers but we had our vaccinations. :lol:
 

Baymule

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I used an open top next box with hardware cloth for the bottom-to let the pee pass through and it kept more kits alive. I used the aluminum auto drop clamp on lights, placed on the wire, over the nest box to keep the kits warm. The cubby hole type nest boxes sound like a good idea but are more trouble that they are worth.

I also had a chicken coop attached to my rabbitry. The rabbitry had a dirt floor. The poop and pee hit the dirt, plus dropped feed and the chickens kept it scratched up, fly larva eaten and it didn't smell. The eggs were great! I had a door on the chicken coop so I could block them out if I wanted. No concrete floors, just dirt, no stacked cages to clean, that's just more work. Chickens+dirt=EASY CARE.

The only draw back to chickens in the rabbitry is ear mites. A once a month eye dropper application of mineral oil in each ear took care of that so it was never a problem.
 

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Also the problem of chickens roosting in the barn is that they roost above the wire cages and droppings can fall on the rabbits. :sick Nothing like picking up a doe to be bred and getting a handful of green chicken poop! However, chickens do cut down on the fly population.

Having manure pits under the rabbit cages and adding shavings to them once a week or month, also cuts down on flies. If you raise earthworms in the manure pits, you don't want chickens in there since they will eat your earthworm crop! :lol: Earthworms are crop since you can sell them to organic gardeners, and sell the composted manure in the its to gardeners as well. If you don't use it yourself. Advertise in Craigslist.

What I call manure pits are what you could use as raised garden beds. 2" x 12" lumber nailed together to enclose the area under the cages. This makes a 12" deep "pit" or box in which the manure and urine falls. With the addition of a layer of shavings or sawdust over the top, the manure, urine, and shavings compost into lovely soft fluffy garden loam. There is almost no odor, although some flies but they usually stay low around the manure boxes below the cages.
 

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