So I had all these idealistic ideas about how my rabbit colony was going to work. I would have my does loose, to play together and groom and be social, and the buck would be kept separate unless breeding, but close enough that he could still be part of the family. I read all the advice I could find on the subject, including the extensive (and very well written) guidelines issued by Whole Foods to their meat producers. I felt confident that I would have the happiest, most well-adjusted meat producing bunnies on the planet.
What I had was a bunny riot.
Desite four foot high walls, wire on the floor and everything a bunny could ever desire for a happy life INSIDE the colony, there was absolutely no way to keep those suckers contained. I mean, I own goats. Little ones. I know aaaalllllll about things that are hard to contain. These rabbits took all I knew and stomped their fuzzy feets on it.
They dug. They jumped. The laughed in the face of my feeble attempts to block their various escape routes. They ran amok in my back yard, brazenly munching grass in the wide open, but scurrying for cover under the container barn every time I tried to catch them. I resorted to a fishing net, with moderate success. Finally, I managed to catch all eight of them, and I called it a success. I blocked their hole, and declared myself the winner.
The next morning, the back lawn was scattered with white rabbits, happily eating grass. Expletives flowed freely.
This time, they were wise to me. And my net. I got my arms scratched to pieces by the ones I did manage to catch, and managed to slice open my hand on a piece of rusty tin lunging for a running rabbit. War was declared.
Rinse and repeat this process, over and over. I couldn't plant my garden until the rabbits were contained, so I had to get serious.
Finally, I managed to catch them all again (AGAIN!) and got them put up. I split the buck off from the does because I figured they'd probably been having themselves a rabbit party while they were loose, and sure enough, two days later four of them kindled with a total of 29 babies. I was ecstatic. A week later, all 29 babies disappeared. Overnight. Either a rat or a snake had managed to find its way into the colony area - despite my having several cats and LGDs - and snatched my babies. Here ended the colony experiment. And, as I asked around, many people reported their efforts of colony raising had ended the same. The buns made their way back into cages (but within the colony so they can still have ample floor time) and the buck re-made his visits.
I'm disappointed that the colony didn't work, but I simply cannot absorb that kind of loss of life, financially or emotionally. It's a beautiful ideal, and I loved spending time in the colony with the buns, but I just couldn't find a way to make it predator proof. I would like to try again in the future, so back to the internet I go for more ideas!