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.