Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Problem Solving-- Part 1

Problems.  Everyone's got them.  I'm not talking personal problems here, but problems with your house and land.  No matter where you live or what you live in, there's going to be something you don't like or need to fix about the place you're in.  When you homestead, you probably have more problems than the average person, and weirder ones, just because it's not just you and your family living on your land, it's you, your family, your chickens, sheep, rabbits, goats, horses, ducks, etc.  Some problems I like when it comes to homesteading.  They're like puzzles that have to be solved.  How do we make this work better?  How do we fix this?  How does this relate to that?  Those are things I can really sink my teeth into.

The latest problem I had to solve had to do with the fiber rabbits.  My hairy little bunnies were living in individual cages in the garage.  It was no problem during the winter and the fall.  Even into the spring, the temps were low, the garage didn't get hot, and my wool covered friends were doing fine.  But then summer hit--really hit--and the garage was no longer a place  anyone should be living in, lest they get cooked.  So the rabbits had to move out.

But what to do with them?  Yes, they all had cages, but I can't just leave cages all over the property.  And building individual hutches was not only a waste of all the nice cages they already had, but really expensive.  Plus, can you imagine 7 little hutches all lined up?  I didn't even know where to put them.

Yeah, no.  No hutches.  So I then considered building a half a house for the cages, and putting them up on shelving.  But that's another building.  And I hate building.  And there are a lot of buildings here already (12!).  So that wasn't a happy idea, but it was the best I had.

Fast forward a few weeks and I've been mulling this problem over and over in my head.  What to do with my homeless rabbits?   If I build ANOTHER building, where does it go?  How much is it going to cost?  Then one night my husband and I were sitting outside in the evening and it hits me--I'm going to put them in the chicken run.  Why?  Because I read The Small Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery last year, and I think he said that he keeps his rabbits in with his chickens.  hmmm...It was either him or Joel Salatin.  Maybe both.  I don't want to give the wrong person credit, so how about this?  Someone once said that keeping rabbits and chickens together works, and I didn't want to build anything else, so I used what I had, and now the rabbits live with the chickens in their run.

And it does, in fact, work.

Take a look.

The original plan was to build shelving all around the run in the part that is 8 feet tall.  When I started it, though, I realized I could build up instead of around, and it would save space, and I wouldn't whack my head as much.  So the rabbits who are in the cages with bottoms are on top.  The rabbits without bottoms on their cages are on the bottom.  My husband, who is brilliant, liked the idea of the shelves in the run, and suggested closet wire shelving for the cages.  You know why?  Because when the rabbits poop, it goes right on through.  And you know who really likes that?  The chickens.  And me.  Because now I have fewer trays to dump and scrub out. 

Pickle and Collette share a cage.  When I tried to separate them, they both looked lost.  If ever I need to move someone out, I have room on the other shelf.

I do rely on the rabbit manure for my gardens.  It's like rocket fuel for the plants.  When I need a shot of rabbit poo, I can put the bottom trays back and collect.  When I don't need it, I don't have to collect it, and I have less cleaning.  I think it will work well.

The only issue I have with this is that there is no ceiling on the run.  Therefore, I have to construct a sunshade/rain shade for the cages.  I'm thinking a tarp of some kind will work.  I will also need to make protection for them for the winter, or I'll have to put them back in the garage.  I'll figure it out as I go, I think. 

The chickens like the "stuff" the rabbits give them, and can still access the run behind them--there is an opening under that shelf that leads to a really nice run in back.
Problem solved!  I'm happy with it, and I am hoping it's going to work out well.  This was a tough problem--one I've mulled over for months.  It's nice to have it off my plate.  Next up?  I've got two that I can see.  One:  the problem with rain collection and the runoff from it and two:  the pond has dried up and isn't coming back.  What to do?

I guess we'll have to wait and see.  Stay tuned!!

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  1. Our rabbits lived with the chickens during the summer, and, in fact, several lived on the ground with the chickens, without cages. We just had to be careful of tunneling. They hopped right on into the henhouse when they wanted to, and they liked the shade of the runs. I hope you get some cover over your runs, the rabbits will need it. (so will the birds!)

  2. Brilliant! I saw a plan once where they put the rabbit hutches over the compost piles. Saved a lot of work but they had less rabbits than you.

    And what you say about problem solving on the homestead is so true. Dan and I find that more time seems to be spent in the thinking part than in the actual implementation of the solution. And since something is always needing solving, we're never bored!


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