For this article I will be talking about conditioning in a way that shows how all the different aspects must fit together to obtain the desired results. I am going to call this the “Conditioning Triangle” since I believe all of the different areas of conditioning can be grouped into three areas. These three areas are genetics, feed, and environment. Genetics is probably the toughest part of this whole triangle. We all want to go out and
buy that perfect rabbit and we settle for the rabbit that will help improve our herd the most. But will the new genetic line fit with the lines that we already have and since every breeder has their own unique conditioning triangle will our program let these new lines show their best. I firmly believe that our own genetic lines and our conditioning triangle must match for us to get the most out of our herd. This is one of the reasons that so many times we bring in a nice addition to our herd only to get average results. Part of it may be the genetics didn’t match but part of it may be how we are conditioning does not let the potential of the new line show itself.
The second part of this triangle is feed. We could go on and on about it but in the end we need to buy the best and freshest that we can get. I also believe that we must limit our conditioning mixes and treats. All of
the major rabbit pellets are nutritionally complete and too many extras can throw things out of balance and sometimes cause poor condition. For me, summer feeding is different than winter feeding. In the summer
humid conditions and extreme heat can change the quality of our feed very rapidly. I think it is especially important to feed twice a day. I also dump stale feed often and pay special attention to rabbits that are not eating well. I also like to do the evening chores late at night. Rabbits do not move around much when they are warm so by feeding late, usually after 10 PM, their feed is fresh when they are more likely to eat. Most rabbits are going to go through at least one molt in the summer. Making sure they have a good quality ration and that they are eating it will go a long ways in getting them through that molt as quickly as possible.
Winter feeding is different and depends on which part of the country you live in. It also depends on if your barn is heated or your rabbits live outside. We all know that rabbits can handle cold weather better than hot
but we need to remember that their heavy coat of fur holds in heat and the food they eat creates it. In extreme conditions you may need to double rations or free feed to make sure they are getting everything they need nutritionally. The hardest thing in these very cold conditions is to make sure water is available. Without water rabbits will not eat and they will lose condition very rapidly. If you heat your barn in the winter that takes care of the extreme conditions mentioned above but even at fifty degrees your rabbits will need more feed than in the summer.
The third and final part to this triangle is the environment. There are three main things that can affect how good the environment is we are providing. They are heat or cold, humidity, and odor. In the summer air conditioning can solve the heat and humidity problems but then odor becomes a concern. Fans can help with heat and odor but do little for humidity. However you decide to control your summer environment just make sure to manage all three as any one of them can affect the condition your rabbits will be in.
The winter environment has to be managed a little differently than in summer. We can manage the cold by adding heat or by changing how much we feed. Humidity is usually not a problem, but then there is the odor. The warmer you decide to keep the barn the worse the odor will get. Frequent cleaning will help but the healthiest for your rabbits is constant air exchange. The more fresh air that you bring in the more it will cost to heat the barn. For my barn the winter environment is controlled by low heat, forty to fifty degrees, frequent cleaning, barn lime in the drop pans, and a window open an inch or two for fresh air.
You have just read some of my ideas about how to keep rabbits in good condition. Everybody has their own ideas that work for them. I wish everyone the best of luck in finding that perfect “Conditioning Triangle”.