Author Topic: Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat  (Read 957 times)

Offline OKCPrepper

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Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat
« on: December 30, 2012, 11:53:33 PM »
We started raising out breeding stock, 2 New Zealand white does, 1 NZ white buck and one NZ red buck last summer. We dealt with last summers heat with frozen water bottles, misting and finally moved them into the house to avoid loosing them. We bread them in the fall once it cooled down and we are currently taking care of 26 babies of various ages. We should be ready to harvest the first group in about 30 days.

Looking ahead to this coming summer, I will have moved my 'herd' to my farm. There is no way to deal with the heat out there, especially with a large herd. I plan to increase the size to 50 this coming summer with the ability to double that when the need arises.

I am in the process of building a large rabbit hutch, my wife nicknamed it the bunny condo. It's 6' high and 10' long and will house 3 rows of 5 cages, 15 total. Each row is separated by space for a slanted panel to channel the waste to a collection tray.

This hutch will be housed in a 10x16' loft barn, this will double as my chicken coop. The barn will back up against a dirt embankment. What my plan is at this point is to cut a hole in the back of each cage and attach a piece of 6" diameter PVC pipe. These pipes /tunnels will go through the back wall of the barn and into the embankment. At the end of each PVC tunnel will be a larger PVC tube (12-16" diameter) that is turned on end. These will be the rabbit bunkers. At the bottom of the large tube/ bunker will be rabbit cage wire that is buried under ground a couple inches so they can't dig their way to freedom.  The top of the bunker will be covered. Again 3 rows of bunkers, 5 bunkers in each row.

The idea is to have a place the rabbits can go in the heat, as they do in the wild, go underground. With the dirt floor inside the bunker, the rabbits can lay on the ground and stay cool. This will all be done in a shaded area so the ground can be kept as cool as possible.

Last summer as I started to design these plans in my head, I did some soil temp testing. I took an infra red temp gun and measure the soil surface temp in August, this was a 105 degree day. Surface temp on bare ground was 140+. I took my backhoe and dug down 2 feet and found the temp to be around 95. In the densely shaded areas the surface temp was around 90. I didn't try and dig down there, but seeing how much cooler the ground was under the shade, I am figuring that I should be down to around 80-85 degrees at most.

One of the concerns I have is whether the rabbits are smart enough to come out of their bunker to make their mess. The food and water will be in the cage so they have to come out and eat and drink, hopefully to make their mess there. I had one of my does use her nesting box as a crap box, thus my concern. I guess I could always take a shop vac with a long extension and suck any mess out of the bunker.

I am trying to design a sustainable environment for my rabbits, this along with chickens and an Aquaponics greenhouse will provide the protein for several families. We will bring in other beneficial animals as things progress.

Any information or suggestions as how to improve on this plan would be greatly appreciated. I only want to do this one time.


Offline hedgewitch

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Re: Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2012, 08:39:24 AM »
awesome plan

Offline Sweethearts Mom

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Re: Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2012, 07:32:29 PM »
you should im john gillis

Offline Joe in TN

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Re: Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2013, 09:00:30 AM »
Is the barn already built?  If not, make sure the doors on each end open so that the prevailing winds your area has during the summer will blow through it.  That will help a lot.

Can you build the barn under the shade of some trees?  If not, find the fastest growing, suitable tree, for your zone and plant them to shade your rabbit barn during the heat.  Yes this will take 4-5 years but it will be worth it.

I've heard of your rabbit den idea before and actually seen that person using it.  My thought is this, put something in place so you can block off the entry to the tunnel.  27 days after doe is bred, block off entrance to tunnel and introduce next box.

TN was just as hot as OK last year.  I bred my last doe May 15th and plan on not breeding past the 3rd week of May again next year.  A local breeder here pushed his rabbits through the summer last year trying to establish a more heat resistant herd and lost the majority of kits born and 5 proven does.  He runs a 40 hole rabbitry so these losses were not crippling, but it was a price he had to pay breeding through the heat of the summer.  Just something you will have to figure out for yourself.

On the flip side, I can breed through the entire winter so only taking three months off during a average summer is acceptable to me.

If you can afford it I would install fans, one pushing air, one pulling air.  If no power there then build a small battery bank and charge with solar.  Fans in the summer, lights in the winter and your flock ( and herd) will be producing better all year.  Semper Fi,

Joe

Offline Morning Sunshine

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Re: Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2013, 09:43:19 AM »
I have a cement pad on the east side of my house.  it is overhung by the kitchen deck above it, and direct sun only hits the back wall (my basement) in the earliest morning hours.  It is protected on the north by a rock/earth wall, and from the south by the wrap around porch (here is an ascii art of my porch/deck.)  the cement pad is under the the square, and I marked xxxxxx where I am thinking of putting the rabbitry.  Will that be cool enough in the summer?  Will it be too cold in the winter?  Because it is covered by the deck, very little snow falls there, but it is a wooden deck, so rain and melting snow end up there.  Any thoughts?



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Offline Sweethearts Mom

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Re: Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2013, 11:58:01 PM »
if you have a marble place near by see if you can get some marble scraps to put in the cages for the rabbits to lay on. they are easy to clean and keep cool. again I was not good at rabbits in the summer and that was the reason I got rid of them. I needed animals that were not so sensitive to the environment

Offline microdevil45

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Re: Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2013, 10:06:10 PM »
We raise English lops here in Florida and we use frozen two liter bottles of water.  Gives them something to layon and stay cool.  End of the day put back in deep freezer.  Also, it gives the freezer more cooling mass in the event of a power outage.  I agree with closing off the hole if the doe is about to deliver. 




Offline OKCPrepper

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Re: Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2013, 04:20:39 AM »
Is the barn already built?  If not, make sure the doors on each end open so that the prevailing winds your area has during the summer will blow through it.  That will help a lot.

Can you build the barn under the shade of some trees?  If not, find the fastest growing, suitable tree, for your zone and plant them to shade your rabbit barn during the heat.  Yes this will take 4-5 years but it will be worth it.

I've heard of your rabbit den idea before and actually seen that person using it.  My thought is this, put something in place so you can block off the entry to the tunnel.  27 days after doe is bred, block off entrance to tunnel and introduce next box.

TN was just as hot as OK last year.  I bred my last doe May 15th and plan on not breeding past the 3rd week of May again next year.  A local breeder here pushed his rabbits through the summer last year trying to establish a more heat resistant herd and lost the majority of kits born and 5 proven does.  He runs a 40 hole rabbitry so these losses were not crippling, but it was a price he had to pay breeding through the heat of the summer.  Just something you will have to figure out for yourself.

On the flip side, I can breed through the entire winter so only taking three months off during a average summer is acceptable to me.

If you can afford it I would install fans, one pushing air, one pulling air.  If no power there then build a small battery bank and charge with solar.  Fans in the summer, lights in the winter and your flock ( and herd) will be producing better all year.  Semper Fi,

Joe

The barn is built, being delivered next week. I intentionally didn't order it with windows, I have not decided exactly where it is going yet so holding off on the windows until position is final. We have strong prevailing winds in the summer from the south, can cut in the windows afterwords.

It is definitely going in a shaded area.

The tunnels will have a block off, they will be opened only when the temps are high enough to warrant their use. I don't plan to try and breed them during the hot months. My overall plan is to be able to have a large enough herd to be able to harvest 1-2 rabbits per day. This will of course depend on the number of mouths I have at that time to feed. It will take quite a herd to accomplish that. During those hot summer months, we will utilize the Tilapia more. Having multiply systems is also in the works. Can't let a disease or other problem wipe out all of our protein source, by doing multiple systems, the chances of that goes down a lot.

I have a large solar system so having power for some 12V fans is not an issue. I also have a 1000 liner foot geo thermal field, could pump come of that cool water through some heat exchangers and use the same fans to blow the cool air around in the barn. I had not thought of that until now. That is what I like about these kinds of conversations, it makes us consider things we had not thought of before.

Thanks everyone for the replies, keep em coming.


Offline TheBippy

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Re: Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2014, 11:45:30 PM »
Apparently if you keep the buns in the above ground portion for two weeks, they'll develop a favorite spot to go potty, and won't go MUCH in the underground portions. If you keep the underground section blocked off, you'll make them develop good bunny habbits and won't have as much work.

I'm thinking of doing the semi-underground rabbits as well, so please post pics of your setup once you've got it! I'm thinking retaining wall garden beds with holes in them for rabbit nests, and grow some shallow rooted bunny food on top.
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Re: Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2014, 09:29:53 PM »
Really depends on how much space you have. Space permiting, I'd do a trench with deciduous vines covering it, and the cages would be at least 50% earth contact along the base of the trench.

If that space doesn't exist, whatever combination of radiant barrier cover, deciduous green cover, placement along north sides of buildings, earth contact, high mass cover, copper coil heat transfers, and breed selection for long ears will get you a manageable solution. I use radiant barrier, grape vines along north side of a house and I get by in SoCal with temps up to 115. At the extreme temps, at least a few rabbit dunks a week are needed to get there core temps back down, and litters that are still in the cuddle phase don't do well, but the adults do fine. A little higher in the desert from me, I saw a design built into a berm with 4" concrete covers over the earth contact portion so that they could do maintenance by driving along with a cherry picker. All options...

Offline nelson96

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Re: Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2014, 09:14:23 AM »
We use fan/mister combinations in the cow barn.  They work great.
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Offline The_Seeker

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Re: Dealing with rabbits in the Oklahoma summer heat
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2014, 08:45:18 PM »
The tunnels are a neat idea.  My first thought is that it may be difficult to coax them out of the tunnels if you need to handle them, but in the heat of summer you likely won't be messing with them too much. 

As for your concern about rabbits doing their business in the tunnels, it is a distinct possibility, so you'll want to have a fairly easy way to clean them out.  We raise our rabbits in outdoor hutches, and provide a small wooden box for the rabbits to get out of the rain.  We have found that it simply depends on the rabbit.  Some will never mess in their boxes, while others seem to use it exclusively. 

+1 on the frozen bottles to help with summertime heat.  The seem to enjoy sprawling out next to them to stay cool.