Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Putting It All Back Together: Part 1

It has been almost two months since the tornado came though on April 29th 2017 and devastated our homestead in Canton, Texas Since that time our home has been demolished and a new home has been delivered and we moved in about two weeks ago. Our two tier outdoor rabbit hutch that was set in the ground with concrete was lifted up and thrown against the back of our house totally destroying it. While we did have plans to replace it this fall, we were not ready to do so at this time, but it appears a higher power had other ideas. All the outside cages that were in the hutch, twenty in all, were a total loss. So the first thing we had to do in order to get our rabbits back on the homestead was build or purchase new cages.

The new cages will be going under a metal carport that we have ordered that is 18' x 26', but getting them to bring this to your property takes 5 – 6 weeks as they do not start cutting pieces at the factory until you order it, so we had to go with plan 'B'. My friend Steven Coyne from 'Texas Rabbit Barn' and author of the 'I Grow Vegetables' blog has played an instrumental part in helping us put our lives back together. And we finished working on building temporary hutches so that we could get the rabbits back from fellow breeder and owner of 'Bailywick Rabbitry' Bonita Hunt, who has been housing them at her expense for the last two months.

Last week we brought the first group of nine adults back to the homestead including three does that have a total of fifteen kits, for a total of twenty four rabbits. We will be finishing up the second temporary hutch today so that we can go and get the remaining seven adults rabbits from Bonita on Monday July 3rd. While the rabbits were at Bailywick Rabbitry, we donated a litter of eight kits to some 4H kids as the two cages containing the litters had their tags ripped off. We had two American Blue litters that were born one day apart, and we were unable to determine the pedigree of the litter that survived. In addition, we donated a American Blue doe to a special needs child. We also had several white New Zealand's, including a beautiful Basgil-Borden litter that was given away as we were not in a position to make any sales at that time. All of this was organized by Bonita Hunt, who as I have mentioned many times has been a saving grace for our rabbits. As for adult livestock, amazingly we only lost two adult males to the tornado, unfortunately, one was one of our original breeding American Blue males 'Clyde'.

Anyway, back to the new cages. If you have read any of my previous articles, you may note that I have been making my cages either 18x24x24 (bucks) or 18x30x30 (does), with some slightly larger grow out cages 18x30x36. This was done primarily because I based my original hutch design on the suggested cages sizes for the New Zealand and American Blue breeds so that I could have a two tier system. After three years of raising rabbits, I have decided to go with a one tier system for our cages for a couple reasons. First, it is simply easier for my wife who is vertically challenged at 4'10”, and second, because we are going to place them under a large metal carport.

So why does this matter? Well I guess in the overall scheme of things it does not, the previous sizes of cages have served me well, however now I make my cages slightly taller. As we can only get the 1x2 galvanized wire in 24, or 36-inch height, I have decided to make all of my new replacement cages a full 24” tall as opposed to my original 18”. Why? Over the years I have found that buying and cutting the 36-inch cage wire did leave me the ability to build more cages, but some would be 16-inch in height and the others 18-inch in height just due to the way you have to cut the wire. I have come to hate the waste, and if all things are equal, I believe the taller cage that allows to rabbit to stand on it's hnid legs is simply better for the rabbit. I have no scientific evidence to base this on, just my own personal observations. Now I simply purchase the 24-inch 1x2 galvanized cage wire and make all my cages 24-inches tall. The cages go together faster and why waste the wire, and now the rabbits can stand up to 2-feet if the so desire.

I could not have done this on my old hutch, it simply would not support cages taller than 16-inches on the top row or 18-inches on the bottom. In addition, I think we are going to experiment with a few of the larger 24x24x36-inch cages by placing drop down nest boxes in the bottom since we have the additional room below the cage, but we have not made any definite plans regarding this design at this time. If we do decide to try this out, I will be sure and take pictures and let you guys know how they work for us.

As for cage building, I still make most of my own cages, there used to be a guy here in my local area that made or still makes great cages, and you could buy them for about the same price you could build them yourself, and they were of great quality. The problem is, it took several weeks to a month to get your cages, and we simply do not have the time to wait. After all, he is 80+ years of age so it takes him a bit longer to do the job. Unfortunatly, I have heard that he is getting out of the cage building business due to his age and failing health, so I guess we will continue to make our own cages. While I am getting good at it after three years, I just cannot get the wire 100% flat without the tools that the 'Cage Man' has.


BTW, 'Miracle' is doing fine, she should be returning from my Friend Steven Coyne's rabbitry soon and will be going into the new hutch. We have the air conditioned breeding barn back on it blocks and the electricity is back on so that a few of the bucks can keep breeding throughout the hot Texas summer months. And the pregnant does and their kits will not be so stressed from the heat. As soon as we are up and breeding and ready for sales once again we will be sure to let everyone know. Once again, we appreciate all the prayers, kind words and help that have come our way during this devastating event.

Steven Coyne
Breeds: New Zealand, American Blues

Bonita Hunt
Bailywick Rabbitry (903)946-4666
Breeds: New Zealand, Lionhead

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