Animal Shelters


A couple of years ago, I stumbled on an idea that was so brilliant, it was almost unbelievable.  Here at Red Gate Farm, we try to house and manage our animals as naturally as possible.  That includes our horses.  As is the case with most horse owners, we had the idea in our heads that the most “natural” way to manage our horses was by keeping them out on our beautiful pastures, and rotating the pastures regularly to simulate the way wild herds move.  We were so excited to finally have such a beautiful pasture to keep our horses.

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Within months of weaning them onto the pasture, the problems started.  Fevers, abscesses, sole bruises, laminitis, hoof rings, thrush, and more.  Within a year, my work horses were lame more than they were sound.  We consulted with vets, farriers, draft experts, and draft owners.  I read books, researched, and could not figure out the problem.  At the experts’ advice, we fed expensive supplements and high-quality hay when not on pasture.  We finally resorted to shoeing, just to keep the boys working–we are a horse-powered farm after all.  Mind you, I have owned and/or trained horses for almost 20 years, with a few years off here or there.  In those 20 years, I have housed horses in stalls, dry paddocks, stalls with runs, and almost every option available.  I had never had a single issue of unexplained lameness, never an abscess, and never had to shoe a horse.  For a while, I suspected it was an issue limited to draft genetics, but then, one day, our new mustang came up lame as well.  She was as sound as any mustang I’d ever worked with, so this truly baffled me.  Then, it occurred to me.  In my previous years of owning horses, I had always lived in the desert, on sandy soils, or in the Rocky Mountain areas–none of which had lush, green grass.  Usually, the horses lived in stalls or dirt paddocks, and the few times they had access to fresh pasture, it was thin, short, weedy, overgrazed, low-sugar, rough forages, common to many boarding stables around the country.  I realized the biggest change in our horse management was the new, rich pasture.  Furthermore, it occurred to us that the few places in our nation that do NOT have herds of wild horses include the central midwestern region or states with lush forages.  Even the herds that live along the east coast live on sandy beaches and islands.  We were convinced this was the culprit.  We didn’t want to stall the horses, and I didn’t have a dirt paddock large enough to keep several horses.  Thus, we quickly threw together an electric wire paddock on a portion of our gravel driveway to buy us some time.  The photo shows the horses sporting their ridiculously pricey fly sheets, as one of the downsides of confining was that they could no longer escape the vicious and persistent horse flies here.

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Meanwhile, I continued researching the best option for permanent housing.  I stumbled upon a great study of wild horse herds, and the research resulted in a domestic-horse management concept called ” Paddock Paradise.”  Essentially, it was designed by farrier and wild-horse expert Jamie Jackson to simulate the diet, eating habits, herd dynamics, and movements of the wild horses.  First, the horses are removed from free-choice pasture, and put on a diet of low-sugar, high-roughage hay.  Ideally, the sugar content is less than 10%.  Then, rather than stalls, runs, or small paddocks, the horses are given a track to live on.  Similar to a racetrack, the track is designed in such a way as to encourage movement and stimulation of the horse.  Many build the track around the perimeter of their pasture, while some zig-zag  or meander the track through their terrain.  Most tracks are some form of continuous loop, but others dead end into a wide area and force the horses to turn around.  Either way can work.  Most of the track is narrow–about 10-15 foot wide.  It may get a bit narrower in some areas, and wider in others, but for the most part, that standard width encourages forward movement.

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Our little herd traveling from their water station to one of the hay stations.  This section of track is 15 feet wide–our standard for most of the track.

Then, “stations” are set up along the track.  There is a water station, a hay station, a mineral station, and in the case of long tracks, there may be several of each.  You can also get creative.  There can be “stations” for rolling and lounging, obstacles, water crossings, different surfaces along the track, and more.  The imagination is the limit, but the idea is to keep the horses moving to meet their needs–just like horses in the wild.

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By using a high electric line, it still allows the horses to graze a little, but not enough to cause health troubles. One extra benefit….a nicely grazed strip means I never have to trim around my fence posts!

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One of our”obstacle” sections, where the horses learn to pick up their feet to cross over the logs along this stretch of track.

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This area of track can be closed off to double as a round pen where I can train as desired. Otherwise it stays open with the track passing through, and the horses selected it as their favorite rest and rolling area. Notice there is no manure in this area, even though they have had access to it for over a year (we have NEVER cleaned the manure in that year!).

In our case, we eliminated the expensive supplements, switched to the low-sugar hay, eliminated the sugary grains (oats only for the working horses), and moved the horses into the track.  The mysterious fevers and sudden bouts of lameness stopped immediately.  Within 2 months, the hooves began looking different, and within 4 months, we were able to remove their shoes for standard farm work.  With regular trims, the hoof flares began disappearing, the cracks began growing out, and the thrush and white line issues became almost non-existent.  After a year, the only issue we really dealt with was occasional sole tenderness when we worked the horses on sharp gravel, which made sense considering most of their track was our wet clay soils (too much moisture results in softer soles and hooves).

Other benefits we have seen include a change in herd dynamics.  The “herd” traveled together along the track, established a predictable routine, designated bathroom areas (known as “stud piles” in the wild) for manuring, and our horse who NEVER laid down previously began laying down to rest on occasion.

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Moving as a herd along the track.

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In the lower left corner, you can see one of the herd’s designated “stud piles” for manuring. This photo was taken over a year after putting the horses in this track, and we have NEVER cleaned the manure. Notice, however, that there is no manure anywhere else in the photo. The horses can be seen resting in the shade of the trees at the far end.

I had several concerns when we first opted to try it out.  I was very concerned about one of our horses, Bud, losing condition.  He was atypical of most drafts, in that he was a “high-maintenance” horse or “hard-keeper.”  He required almost twice the grain and hay of the other drafts, and it seemed I was always fighting to get him to gain weight.  When our work season really got busy, we had to increase his feed further, and he still looked a bit thin with ribs showing within a couple months.  I wasn’t confident this new system would work well for him.  Boy, was I wrong!  As it turned out, I was always battling adding a fat layer to him.  The increased movement caused him to muscle up, and improved his metabolism.  That’s about the only way I can explain it.  He has looked awesome every since, despite the fact his work load has more than doubled from that first year!

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Physical condition is excellent to due to the increased movement.  This mustang is a bit on the pudgy side, in fact, but her muscle development has given her a much broader body type compared to most domesticated mustangs.

Our first big “test” of the conditioning came the following spring.  Every spring, we take the horses to an annual “plow day,” where teamsters from several states come together to enjoy plowing fields with their teams of horses.  The downside of spring plowing is the plowing is one of the toughest jobs you can ask a horse to do physically, and this particular event tends to be right at the end of winter, when the horses are in their worst “winter” condition–otherwise known as fat and out of shape!  That spring, however, was different for us.  Due to personal circumstances, we had been unable to work the team at all for over 2 months.  As usual, we saw teams needing breaks after just 1/2 hour, and stopping completely after about 2-3 hours of plowing.  With just quick pauses to catch their breath, however, our team was still going strong after 4 hours, and hadn’t even broken a sweat!  And for those who are familiar with horse-plowing, my team was pulling a 14-inch sulky plow, dropped about 8 inches in!  I truly was surprised and even amazed at their condition.

GPS tracking studies have shown that horses living on tracks situated along the perimeter of averaged sized pastures (roughly 1-5 acres), can move significantly more than when housed on pasture.  Of course, the longer the track, the more that can increase.  Although horses can still be turned out into the pasture for periodic grazing, the time should be limited to no more than 30 minute periods of time, unless your pasture is very sparse or weedy.  Lush pastures should be limited to about 15 minutes.

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A sketch of our current Paddock Paradise track, which is situated along the perimeter of our 6 acre pasture. Since we no longer use the pasture for significant horse grazing, it is now used to produce small amounts of hay and to graze our grass-fed cattle and pasture-based poultry.

A few other benefits of track housing is that horses do not get bored, and thus do not develop boredom-related behavioral issues such as cribbing, pawing, pacing, and general crankiness.  I do not have to “lunge” or “get the spunk out” of my horses before riding, as they are already exercised and ready to go, both mentally and physically.

So, with all the good that comes from a system like this, could there be a negative side to it?  The answer is “Yes,” though I have only found one downside.  When horses are allowed to live in a herd setting, with increased movement and natural environments, injuries are bound to happen.  Scrapes, dings, nicks, lumps, bumps, bite marks, and chewed-on hair have become quite normal for our horses.  Think of it like children….you can keep them confined all day and protect them from injury, or you can let them out to play at the risk of scraped knees and elbows.  Same principle applies here.  It isn’t terribly unsightly, but it is a fact that might not go over well in a show-barn.  However, in our case, the mental and physical benefits we have observed in our horses make every little scar totally worthwhile.

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Some lumps, bumps, and dings one of our team showed up to breakfast with one morning.

Now that we have used our Paddock Paradise for over a year, we hope to never have to return to any other way of managing horses!  I cannot express to you all the incredible benefits we have seen.  Our Amish friends, whose livelihood depends on their horses, have watched as our horses have changed over time, and they are even considering trying it now.  If you have your own property, I highly encourage you to consider using this system.  If, however, you are stuck at a boarding stable, I encourage you to talk to the stable manager.  Show them this post.  I also wrote an article about it that was published in “Rural Heritage” magazine.  Boarding stables around the world have found success with this system.  It just works.  We purchased an “easy-keeping” little mini horse at one point who formerly ate about 1/8 flake of hay a day while house in a dray paddock, and was still roly-poly fat!  We put him on track, and despite having free-choice access to hay 24/7, he lost the weight and muscled up, thanks to the increased movement!  If you have easy-keeping ponies, hard-keeper horses, geriatric horses, rescues needing rehab, you name it…..you may have to modify slightly to begin with, but ultimately, I’d be willing to bet they would thrive on this system!  There are just too many personal testimonies out there to suggest otherwise.

We are actually in the process of building our 2nd Paddock Paradise now.  We are moving the track to our back acreage, so we can increase the length and the things they are exposed to.  Our new track will be longer, have water crossings, steep hills, long stretches for galloping, more hard surfaces (and less clay), and more!  We hope to move the horses in before the end of the year.  It requires a good bit of land clearing, which is taking time, but we are making progress.  There you have it!

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If you read my last post about our new, open-ended, tarp-covered, layer hen hoop house, you may have wondered how we sheltered them for winter.  One option is to move them into another shelter for winter.  We didn’t like that idea, though, so we opted to kill two birds with one stone (but we didn’t kill any hens, don’t worry!).  We chose to recycle some old hay bales someone offered us, and use the natural heat supplied by the sun and by compost to protect our girls through our bitter winters.

When the temps got cold enough and the grass died off enough, we pulled the Hen Hut up to a spot near the barn, and parked it for the winter.  We then brought in around 120 bales of old, moldy, rotting, otherwise useless hay and straw.  Unfortunately, we were so busy building the structure, I totally forgot to take photos, so the “after construction” photos will have to suffice.

First, we jacked the skids of the hoop house about a foot off the ground, to allow us room to build up deep bedding over the course of the winter.  Next, we stacked the bales in a rectangular shape around our hoop house and feeder, and secured them with cattle panel and t-posts to ensure they didn’t fall on any chickens as they decayed over the winter.

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The winter fortress, as viewed from the outside. S is walking towards it, for scale reference. The peak is actually the top of the hoop house inside.

On one end, we left a small gap between two hay bales for a chicken and dog-sized entrance, and then stacked a few more bales around the hole to provide a wind block.

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The chicken entrance, hidden under these bales, allows our hens to still come and go as they please through the winter, while still protecting them from the elements.

Then, we added a man-sized door made of scrap lumber to the other end, so we could easily get in and out to tend the birds and collect eggs.

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The man door, open, with the view to the inside of the winter “solarium.”

Finally, we built a simple rafter system out of scrap lumber, and covered it in plastic sheeting–nothing special, just some scrap stuff we had in the barn.

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The simple plastic roof can be seen here, spanning the distance between bales.

The layers did absolutely awesome with this design!  We added fresh bedding about twice a week, and watered the old bedding down a bit every other week or so to keep it just damp enough to compost.  The combination of composting deep bedding and composting bales, kept the interior of the fort-style structure a very comfortable 60+ degrees F on even the coldest (negative temps) winter nights.  The plastic sheeting provided a small amount of insulation to keep the heat from escaping out the roof, in addition to allowing solar heating during the day.  In fact, on warmer winter days (over 20 degrees F), we had to actually open the man door to ventilate the structure, or it would reach over 85 degrees F in there!  In addition, the large expanse of clear plastic and the white roof of their hoop house allowed them to get as much natural light as possible during the winter months, which is critical for egg laying.  As a result of the heat and insulate qualities of this design–ugly though it may be–the hens layed steadily throughout the winter.  There was about a 3 week period in January and early February where S added a solar-powered light (seen in the photo above) to give them a couple more hours of lighting, as a result of our egg count declining somewhat.  This popped it right back up where we needed it to get us and a few customers through the winter, without going overboard.

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Happy hens (most are outside free-ranging when this photo was taken). Notice the heated waterer hanging from the ceiling–which never froze once, and thus never had to be plugged in! What a waste of $40!

When winter was over, we simply disassembled the structure, recycled the bales once again to build water-retention berms on steep slopes in our pasture, and hauled the coop back out to pasture.  The system worked so great for us, that we are already working out a source for old hay/straw for this winter!

Last year, we increased our number of layer hens to roughly 100, and plan to increase further over the next few years.  We needed a new coop!  Once again, S returned to the drawing board to come up with a design, while I jotted down my thoughts of things I had and had not liked about the previous, smaller designs we had built over the last few years.

We finally had a plan and set it in motion.  We decided to build a hoop-house style coop, with open ends.  Since we have guardian dogs, we don’t need to close our coop up at night.  Since S had oak available from his lumber mill, that’s what the coop foundation and roosts were built with.  Yes, oak is very heavy, but we had our team to move it, so heavy wasn’t a big deal.  Oak is also sturdy, so we didn’t have to worry about the weight of all the chickens piling onto roosts at night.  We used cattle panel to form the hoop shape.  We had some wood scraps and thin plywood pieces we used to build the nest boxes, which were designed to be removable.  We ordered the cover custom made from a company specializing in tarp-type covers for farm buildings.  It was far more secure and sturdier than standard tarp material.

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First, we built a solid, stable foundation on skids, and bolted the cattle panels between wood layers.

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Next, we added end pieces and upright supports to maintain the shape of the panels.

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Next, we added roosts and the removable nest box sections (4 total, though only 1 is pictured here)

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Finally, we painted it all to protect it, and added the custom made cover.

The next step was to build the feed and water station.  We decided to make this a separate structure, which could be attached and towed along behind the hoop house.

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The feeder was built out of scrap lumber and plywood.

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Next, we installed a linoleum-style cover inside to help the feed slide down the sides into the side openings where the hens could eat. We also built the platform for the waterer, which is a 30-gallon drum with a gravity-style water bowl. We painted it all up and added a roof.

Finally, we put it all together, hauled it out to the pasture, and when the weather warmed enough, we moved the hens from their winter quarters to the new Hen Hut.  They totally approved!

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Happy hens!

We now have roost capacity to easily house around 170 hens, and more if they pack in a bit snugly.  When filled, the feeder holds the equivalent of about 2- 50 pound sacks of feed and lasts 100 pastured hens about 4-6 days (depending on bugs and other available feedstuffs).

Stay tuned, and I’ll tell you how we winterize the Hen Hut soon!

Our first meat birds of the year moved out of the brooder and into the chicken tractor this week.  It was a greatly desired move, as meat birds just smell, and short of adding fresh bedding to the brooder more than twice a day, there isn’t much else we can do about it.  They still smell a bit on pasture, but the breeze, the daily moves to fresh grass, and the natural soil decomposition process helps control it much better.

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These chicks are only about 3.5 weeks old, so it is still a bit cool outside for them be able to regulate their body temperatures.  They have more muscle than standard breeds at that age, which helps, but it is still a big risk.  To minimize our risk, I installed heat lamps in the tractor temporarily, and we give them fresh straw or hay under the lamps to give them a dry place to lay in wet weather.  In addition, if it is windy or cool, we have a clear plastic sheet over most of the open front to provide a bit of greenhouse-effect heating and reduce any chilling by wind, while still allowing sunshine to penetrate.  The sides are left partially open to ensure plentiful ventilation.  So far, so good.  The chicks seem very happy, and since this move also means they are being watered via our 5-gallon bucket gravity-drip system, it means I am also very happy to have my twice daily water-container cleaning chores eliminated.

If you are concerned about the crowded look of this tractor, this is actually planned for several reasons.  First, meat birds don’t walk and move around like standard breed chickens.  The eat, sleep, and poop, and not necessarily in that order.  They usually lay down as they eat, and they poop where they lay.  They get up only when they have to.  To encourage some exercise, we position their water, food, and the heat lamp in different areas, so they are forced to move around if they want sunshine, food, water, or warmth.  It’s like trying to get the worst couch potato you know to exercise!! No easy task.  They simply don’t need a whole lot of space to move.  We also supplement that limited space by moving them daily to new ground.  By moving the tractor to fresh ground each day the birds always have fresh air and sunshine, green grass, bugs, and soil to scratch and peck at, as well as clean lounging areas.  These frequent moves mean we don’t have to use any type of preventative antibiotics or “crutches” to keep the birds healthy.  We simply supply them with a well-balanced diet and some grit, and nature provides everything else they need. The fresh bugs and greens also encourages them to walk around a bit more than they might otherwise.  Because there are currently almost 70 chicks in the 36 sq ft tractor, it will become crowded quickly.  Right now, in the cool weather, it is safer to keep them together for increased body heat.  In the next week or two, however, we will be splitting them into 3 groups, with each group getting 36 sq ft.  This will allow their personal space to expand as they grow, further ensuring health and exercise.

 

I have decided I don’t ever want a “rabbit barn.”  Designated barns, sheds, and buildings just seem the way to go for so many rabbitries I have come across.  This summer, circumstances forced us to install our rabbit cages inside our barn temporarily, while new outdoor accommodations were figured out (you can read more in this post).  For the last 7 months, the poor rabbits have seen no fresh air (except what drifts through the little window and barn doors) or direct sunlight.  I watched as the cobwebs collected, shedding hair built up, and manure piled up in the corners.  I hated it.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t THAT bad, and in fact, the barn never even smelled like rabbit (which any rabbit raiser knows can happen VERY easily in confined quarters).  It’s just that it wasn’t up to OUR standards.  Then, one of our junior does came down with snuffles, a highly contagious cold virus that usually turns into pneumonia and often kills a rabbit within a few days.  We had worked hard to breed a line of rabbits that was hardy and resistant to this virus.  However, there was one big problem.  Rabbits use sunlight to synthesize their own Vitamin C, a critical ingredient to a healthy immune system.  Our rabbits were descended from a line of outdoor and colony-housed rabbits, who got all the sunshine they wanted.  Their immune systems were unbeatable.  By putting them into a dark barn, their immunity went down and made it more difficult to fight viruses.  Most barn-rabbitries use preventative antibiotics in the rabbits’ water to account for the decreased immunity.  We refuse to do that, however.  Thus, we wound up losing a rabbit.  The realization pushed me to get them out of the barn though.  While S was here for Thanksgiving, we worked on a new, more permanent, outdoor design.

The tricky thing about our property is that it basically consists of hills.  Every surface has some degree of slope.  It is also very hot in the summer here–like rabbit-killing heat and humidity.  I had to figure out what areas were sufficiently shaded for those hot days, where they would be safe from predators and goats, but the dogs could still have access to guard them, etc.  We really wanted both cages and a rabbit play yard, similar to what we had back in CO, but with a few modifications.  I decided on a slope that ran along a fence line.  It is tucked up nicely between a big silver maple and a couple of shady pine trees, so they get a good bit of morning sun, but well shaded from hot afternoon sun in the summer.  They get more sun for heat in the winter since the deciduous maple loses all its leaves.  It was a location I discovered I really didn’t use for anything, had no foot traffic so it wouldn’t be in the way, but was convenient and easily accessed.  Aesthetics mean a lot to me, too, and frankly, there just isn’t much you can do to make rabbit cages pretty!  In this spot, however, if built low enough, the entire rabbit cage and yard setup was pretty well hidden away from the main entrance behind what will eventually be a rose or vine covered fence.  The only downside was the slope, which drops about 18 inches every 8 feet.  Nonetheless, the decision was made, S agreed, and the work began.

First, S built a simple frame to hold the 30″ deep x 48″ long x 18″tall wire cages I built earlier this year.

A cage, complete with nest box for shelter.

A cage, complete with nest box for shelter.

Due to the slope and the fact we want separate yards for rabbit trios this go around, he had to build 2 separate frames, each holding 3 cages.

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Next, he had to install the frame and cages such that they were low enough to not be seen over the fence, but high enough that we could easily rake under them.  For the most part, this worked, though the upper cages are pretty close to the ground due to the slope.

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The left side shows the high end, where the cage sits roughly 18 inches off the ground. The right side doesn’t have the cage installed yet, but based on the side board (far right) you can see that the cage will sit only about 6 inches off the ground at it’s lowest point.

Because of the fact manure builds up on any solid surface the cages rest on, we decided to forego solid surfaces this time, and try wire as the support system.  I could only find 14 gauge in my area, so we tried that.  I am already seeing some bowing on the bottom of the cages though, so we will be swapping that for a thicker gauge that can be tightened more securely.  The wire runs through support beams which limits bounce and flexion, but the beams themselves are not contacting the rabbit cages, so hopefully the wire will prevent any manure buildup.

Look closely here, and you can see the eye hooks positioned on the side board, with the support wire running through them.

Look closely here, and you can see the eye hooks positioned on the side board, with the support wire running through them.

In addition, to prevent rabbits digging out of the yard once they are able to run in more of a colony situation, we laid 2×4 landscape fence on the ground before installing the cage frames, then cut holes in the wire above the pre-dug holes where the frame posts would go.  This prevented the extra work of cutting the wire to fit around the posts as we laid it–a potentially difficult job at best (you can see this in the above photos). I attached the ground wire to the main 2×4 perimeter fence with hog rings.

The cages are set about 3 feet from the perimeter fence so we can easily walk behind them for any reason.  Although you can't see it due to the bottom board, the ground fence is attached to the vertical perimeter fence with hog rings.

The cages are set about 3 feet from the perimeter fence so we can easily walk behind them for any reason. Although you can’t see it due to the bottom board, the ground fence is attached to the vertical perimeter fence with hog rings.

We will finish the yard area later, but this gives us our start.  To give you an idea, though, we will have a perimeter fence line around the rabbit yard, possibly lay some dirt over the ground fence, and allow grass to grow up to supplement their diet.  We will also have in-ground nest boxes and centrally located feeding stations similar to what we had in CO.   Because we will have multiple yards, though, rabbits can be matched up and separated into groups so all get sufficient exercise.

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I’ll keep you posted as this project progresses.  We only have a temporary roof on now (ran out of time before S left), and a few other tweaks we have mind.  Right now, though, I can’t begin to tell you how great it feels to have those bunnies back outside where they are happier and healthier, AND I get my barn stall back to use for other purposes!

 

Straw has become one of my favorite insulators in winter.  Our neighbor in CO had a straw-bale house covered in stucco, which was surprisingly cozy.  We use loose straw for the rabbits to nestle into in freezing weather and to line the nest boxes prior to kindling in cold weather.  We use loose straw to add traction in areas prone to icing, and we layer it thick in the  more open-air shelters for the larger stock.  It is my favorite material (other than natural pasture grass) for birthing of larger stock.

This season, I took it a step further.  Our pigs were slower growing than we anticipated, so we had to carry them into cold weather.  The only problem was that they were still out on the forest lot (now void of foliage and, thus, shelter), and I had no shelter for them.  So, I ran to the store, bought some rebar pound-in posts, a few bales of straw, and assembled a nice, cozy shelter for them one afternoon.  I had some scrap lumber and some leftover roofing material from other projects, which became a quick roof.  It ain’t purty, but it sure works!!  It could easily be made prettier with some trimming and a little more attention to detail, but I really wasn’t worried about it this year.  I was more concerned with whether the pigs would tear it down by the next day.

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After assembly of the bales with 2 high and about 2 wide (lengthwise), I drove the rebar down into the bales and further into the ground to stabilize the structure a bit.  Finally, I stuffed the inside with lots of thick loose straw for them to bed into, and VOILA!  Perfect hog hut!

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About 3 weeks ago, it finally got cold enough I had to move their drinking water bucket inside the hut.  I was absolutely shocked how warm and cozy it was when I crawled in there.  We have only had the water bucket freeze twice so far–and both times the temperatures were well into the low 20’s before the metal nipple froze up a bit.  The water itself has yet to freeze.

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I will note that I have been surprised the pigs haven’t bothered the bales at all, and they have been using the shelter for almost 2 months now.  They don’t soil in it at all, so it is perfectly clean on the inside even now.  Finally, I put about a full bale worth of loose straw inside the shelter when I assembled it, and they have kept it surprisingly fluffed up as they burrow down and make nests for themselves.

In summary, economically, it wasn’t the cheapest route, as I could have easily used scrap lumber to build a shelter for much cheaper.  However, it was by far a warmer option, and I didn’t have time for actual construction.  I am hoping though, that the investment will pay off in the meat they put on, rather than having to use excess energy just to stay warm.  I was hoping to get a photo of the girls inside for you, but that just isn’t going to happen.  No matter how sneaky I am, they seem to sense me coming and I rarely get within 100 yards before they are at the fenceline hoping I come baring feed.

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