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wellington womble

Rabbit heated greenhouse

I have been promised a greenhouse in my new garden, and I want a rabbit to 'heat' it over the winter - has anyone tried this, and A) does it actually work? and B) can someone reccommend a resource for rabbit keeping? I've never kept small animals in cages, but this will be a working rabbit. I also intend it to have a summer job keeping the lawns in trim, and an all year round weekend job of kitchen waste removal and compost material supply (I'm a slave driver)

Am I completely mad, or considered not responsible enough for rabbit keeping? Do you need more than one (seems a bit mean to keep it on its own?) can you get them spayed, or do they come reliably sexed? (I do not want to have to find homes for future generations of small rabbits!)

I envisage bunny having the whole greenhouse ground floor to flopsy around in all winter, with salads and other tender bits and pieces on the staging, and spending the summer in a spacious run on the lawn. It'll be a cosseted rabbit - I hate shutting even small animals up in small cages - but I think it'll earn it's keep!
2steps

not sure about the greenhouse bit but rabbits are best not kept alone and can be spayed/neutered.
RichardW

Its very very easy to find a home for excess rabbits. Most people call it a freezer.

Justme
Tavascarow

I'm curious to know how your rabbit/s is/are going to heat your greenhouse you going to make them run round a treadmill chasing an elusive carrot deviously connected to a generator?
@Calli

Big hamster wheel with female bunny in front?

They burrow a bit too so they could turn over the soil?
Females burrow males dig scrapes Confused Ours live out with chickens very happily....all female - allegedly
dougal

Re: Rabbit heated greenhouse

wellington womble wrote:
...
I envisage bunny having the whole greenhouse ground floor to flopsy around in all winter, with salads and other tender bits and pieces on the staging...

That should work - just as long as the staging is more than about 4 or 5 feet high... Very Happy
And as long as you have foundations, or wire mesh, that go down a couple of feet or so, then bunny shouldn't be able to burrow out of the greenhouse before you notice the tunnel...

I don't think you'll get much heat out of a rabbit.
However, if you have a large *black* water butt, *inside* the greenhouse, where it catches the sun - that will help to prevent the overnight temperature falling so quickly.
Greenhouses tend to be not really air sealed, single glazed with a very heat conductive aluminium framework - they lose heat rapidly.
That means that almost any insulation is going to be a great improvement - bubble wrap and horticultural fleece are popular.

Don't let me put you off keeping one or more rabbits - but do realise that free-range rabbits and horticulture tend to be incompatible. As Beatrix Potter (and Mr McGregor) well knew...
Rowanlady

I see the theory - but will even several rabbits (suitable fixed Wink ) generate that much heat?

Having kept rabbits loose in a shed many years ago I would suggest that your tender bits will never reach your plates - rabbits can and will climb Laughing
nettie

I can't vouch for the bunnies, but i can vouch for the bubble wrap. I grew salad leaves all last winter in the greenhouse, although they did slow down a bit when it was really cold.
Jonnyboy

What about keeping chickens in it?
Sarah D

I have overwintered a rabbit in one of my greenhouses for the past few years; it has been just enough to keep the frost off, but bear in mind I'm in mild Dorset.
You will have to make sure it/they can't dig out, no plants are in their way which they will eat (lost my bougainvillea), and keep it clean or it will smell.
I didn't keep mine in the greenhosues where I had edible in, eg lettuces, etc, but the one i used has very high staging at head height where I kept overwintering ornamentals. Rabbits and edibles just don't mix.

I have kept chickens in one of the other ones too, last year; they did a great job of working the side beds and manuring, and also manured the staging where they roosted at night. Absolutely nothing green left in there at all!
Bodger

Why not put the kids out for the winter? You'd still have to clean them out though Very Happy
Rosa

We put one of those cheap plastic greenhouses up inside the greenhouse, that worked quite well. We keep our rabbit with 2 guinea pigs for company and warmth - but not in the greenhouse.
wellington womble

Bugger - I'm only just five feet high! Sounds like a no go, then! I'd anticpated a frost free greenhouse with concrete base, and salads on the staging, and expected to clean out once a week or so. I didn't know rabbits could climb!

I'm not sure there's room for chickens, and it'd take 9 months or so to rustle up some kids, so I make have to go back to the solar heated propagator idea (to keep a small area frost free/warmish)

I still might have a couple of bunnies for the compost and lawn mowing duties though.
Nick

wellington womble wrote:

I still might have a couple of bunnies for the compost and lawn mowing duties though.


Does it take long for them to rot down?
Cathryn

We used to never mow our lawn but it was kept neat and low by a collection of guinea pigs (notoriously difficult to sex until you've had the first three or four. It did tend to have a very modernistic checkerboard look about it though (the lawn Rolling Eyes ) Prefer guinea pigs to rabbits though as being the nurse to all creatures living under our roof the rabbits used to resent it and hated me - they have very big teeth.
wellington womble

Ah - now if guinea pigs don't dig and can't climb, that might be a better solution - not sure how much heat there is in a guinea pig (and I must find out how to spell it!) but that's no reason to abandon a perfectly sensible idea, is it!?

Think Nick's interpretation of things might be a bit pongy!
Silas

Using the body heat from rabbits as a heating source probably wont work as the fur on the rabbit is too thick and too insulating.

May work if you shave the rabbits first though......... worth a try.
Tay

Just to point out that not all rabbits dig or climb... I've kept a few (as pets) and some really are too lazy to do either. I haven't yet seen a rabbit jump over 3 feet in height, but they will climb high if possible. If you have tall shelving racks that they can't climb, you should be fine. Most are efficient lawnmowers.

Although they have insulating hair, they do kick out quite a bit of heat, so it should make a bit of a difference to your greenhouse, so no need to shave them Wink . Depending on the breed, some like company, others don't. Males, even when neutered tend to fight, same as two neutered females. A male and a neutered female would be best as they typically do not fight. It is imperative to neuter the girl as female rabbits have an 85% risk of getting uterine cancer.

Aside from this, their urine and droppings really do help compost heaps, so they can be very useful animals.
wellington womble

No chances here - I'd neuter them both! What kinds make the best lawnmowers, then?

Shaving them? - imagine the ring round the bath!
Sally Too

Do be aware that bunnies and ginnies are very suseptible to cold themselves and can easily freeze to death overnight if not in a suitably insulated hutch with plenty of bedding. Surprised

I used to park large containers of water beside the hutches in the stable on nights it was likely to freeze. Water has a very high thermal heat capacity which means that it changes temperature very slowly.

It takes a lot of energy to heat water by 1degreeC. In reverse, as it cools, a lot of energy is released. Thus keeping the local environment above freezing.

So a water barrel in a greenhouse will help to buffer extremes in temperature both summer and winter.
Tay

wellington womble wrote:
No chances here - I'd neuter them both! What kinds make the best lawnmowers, then?


Not a dwarf variety; especially not Netherland dwarfs as they tend to be picky eaters. Lop-eared rabbits (no particular breed) are typically eating machines; mine are and have always been.

With regard to keeping them warm during winter, they will need a nice hutch/box full of hay to keep them warm. I don't know about guinea pigs, but rabbits tolerate cold weather far better than hot weather. My rabbits have stayed outside (in a hutch with large run) over winter, and it drops below -15 deg C here. They stay in the house over summer as it can and does reach 45 deg C and they cannot survive in such heat. We have difficulty.Shocked

The water containers by hutches seem like an excellent idea and perfect for the greenhouse too. I will try it myself this year, thanks.
Chez

I was just about to start a new thread on this very topic and was doing a bit of a google for some links so I didn't get laughed at ... and this popped up. Has anyone else tried it in the interim? I first came across it on the Solviva website years ago and I'd forgotten all about it; but I'm now thinking about what I can plant in the greenhouse to overwinter and I remembered.

I was thinking that I could wire in underneath the staging so that there was no unauthorised eating of salads. And it gives the rabbits protection from the weather as well.
dpack

fresh manure activated with a bit of mixture(or whatever)will put out a fair bit of heat,does not freeze to death,need feeding,or breed unexpectedly.

it was one of the traditional ways of warming a glasshouse before coal; became relatively cheap and plentiful,tudor pineapples etc.

i have used the manure trick in plastic closhes for winter salads,early beans etc etc .
Chez

I already have the rabbits, though, dpack. I need to overwinter my two remaining does regardless.

The more I think about it, the more I think that rabbits close the permaculture circle - you feed your weeds to them and they produce manure, they'll keep your greenhouse above freezing and you them use them as meat.

My main issue is keeping the flipping things in ...
chickenlady

I'd choose guinea pigs over rabbits anyway. Guineas are cute and friendly and chatty (I bred and showed them for 20 years).

Rabbits are grumpy, and bite and will do their best to disembowel you if they feel like it Shocked (speaking from experience).
Chez

That makes it easier to eat them, though Smile
chickenlady

Very true.
VM

I had loads of guinea pigs as pets as a child and I would doubt that they are as well suited as rabbits for this - assuming the rabbit thing does work. They are less hardy than rabbits - particularly don't like damp - and think they would need quite a lot of shelter even inside a greenhouse. They come from Peru where they live in nice dry caves with people, who then eat them. So perhaps can stand a bit of cold, but not the damp English sort necessarily. From what I can remember they are also a bit agoraphobic so might not like the wide open space of the greenhouse.

It is true that they don't climb or jump... Confused

Unneutered female rabbits certainly burrow and in spring obsessively make nests, from what I can remember anyway.
VM

Basically guinea pigs want to be kept warm rather than giving off much heat.
dpack

our g'pigs have included climbers and jumpers Laughing but they dont dig or try to kick you to death like bunnies

they can be quite hardy but most are not and they are one of the few species i would not eat
NorthernMonkeyGirl

For the best heat transfer, you'd want lots of small, naked rabbits or "skinny pigs" rather than one or two big fluffy ones.

I'll just leave that image to fester in your mind. Happy nightmares!
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