Farm structures ... - Ch10 Animal housing: Sheep and goat housing-Rabbit housing (2023)

Sheepand goat housing

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Sheep and goats are important sources of milk and meat. Bothreadily adapt to a wide range of climates and available feedsupplies. They also have similar housing requirements and willtherefore be treated together.

Management Systems

Depending primarily on the availability and use of land, threesystems of production are practiced:

  • 1 Subsistance, in which a few animals are tethered during the day and put into a protective shelter at night.
  • 2 Extensive, in which the flock/herd grazes over large areas of marginal land unsuited to agriculture. The flock is usually shut into a yard at night. Both these systems are practiced extensively in East Africa.
  • 3 Intensive, in which the animals are confined to yards and shelters and feed is brought to the flock. This system offers the greatest protection for the flock from both predators and parasites. Although it may make the best use of limited land resources, this system also increase labour and the capital investment required for facilities.


Housing in tropical and semi-tropical regions should be keptto a minimum except for the more intensive systems of production.In the arid tropics no protection other than natural shade isrequired. In humid climates a simple thatched shelter willprovide shade and protection from excessive rain. Sheep and goatsdo not tolerate mud well; therefore yards and shelters should bebuilt only on well drained ground.

Figure 10.54 shows a sheep/goat house for 100 animals. Unlesspredators are a serious problem, gum poles can be substituted forthe brick walls. If thatching is difficult to obtain, a lowerpitch roof of galvanized steel is feasible, but some insulationunder the roof is desirable.

Where housing facilities are provided, it will be necessary tohave in addition to water, feed troughs and permanent partitions,provision for temporary panels to help divide and handle theflock when necessary to carry on such operations as diseasetreatment, docking, shearing, milking and lambing.

In temperate climates and at high altitudes a more substantialstructure may be needed. An open-front building facing northprovides wind protection and a maximum of sunshine. A rammedearth floor with a slope of 1:50 toward the open front isrecommended. A concrete apron sloped 1:25 and extending from 1.2minside to 2.4m outside will help maintain clean conditions in thebarn.

Figure 10.54 Sheep/goathouse for 100 animals. In warm climate will gumpole rails insteadof the masonry walls prowide for better ventilation.

Table 10.18 Recommended Floor andTrough Space for Sheep/ Goats in intensive Production Related toLive Weight


Floor Space

Trough Space
Solid Floor

Slatted Floor

Open Yard
kg m²/animal m²/animal m²/animal m/animal
Ewe/ Doe 35 0.8 0.7 2 0.35
Ewe/ Doe 50 1.1 0.9 2.5 0.40
Ewe/ Doe 70 1.4 1.1 3 0.45
Lamb/ Kid 0.4 - 0.5 0.3 - 0.4 - 0.25 - 0.30
Ram/ Buck 3.0 2.5 - 0.5

Slats shall be 70 to 100mm wide, 25 to 30mm thick and laidwith 25mm spaces. Individual lambing pens should be 1.5mdepending on the weight of the ewe and number of lambs expected.

A feed trough should be 0.3 to 0.4m deep front to back andhave a 0.5 to 0.6m high front wall facing the feed alley

In areas of high rainfall it may be desirable to keep theanimals off the ground. Stilted houses with a slatted floor whichis raised 1 to 1.5m above the ground to facilitate cleaning andthe collection of dung and urine are shown in Figures 10.55 and10.56.

Milking can be facilitated by providing a platform along thefeeding fence where the animals can stand while being milked frombehind. Such a platform should be 0.8m deep and elevated 0.35 to0.5m above the floor where the milker stands.

Parasite Control

A dipping tank and crush are essential in the layout for alarge flock or for a community facility for the use of many smallholders. A typical dipping tank is shown in Figure 10.57. Inareas where the Bont tick is a problem, simple walk-through tanksor footbaths may be needed. Figure 10.58 shows plans for afootbath.

Figure 10.55 House for 2 to4 sheep-goats in intensive dairy production.

Figure 10.56 House for 12to 18 sheep-goads in intensive dairy production.

Figure 10.57 Sheep dippingtank.


There are few, if any, countries where domestic rabbits arenot kept for meat and pelts. It is widely recognised that a fewrabbits can be kept for a low cost, but yet produce a fairquantity of wholesome and tasty meat. However, to raise rabbitssuccessfully one must begin with healthy animals, provide a goodhutch, clean and nutritious feed and take good care of therabbits.

Management Systems

Rabbits like other domestic animals, may be bred and reared atvarious intensities. Table 10.19 shows some productioncharacteristics related to this. Rabbits can be mated at almostany time and when mating is successful the doe will kindle 30 to32 days later. The doe should be checked for pregnancy 10 daysafter mating and, if necessary, re-mated. A shortened intervalbetween kindling and mating will obviously result in increasingnumber of litters per doe and year. Commercial producers aim atgetting at least 6 litters per year with 7 kids weaned perlitter, i.e. 42 kids per doe each year. However, with intensiveproduction the breeding doe may have to be replaced every one to1.5 years, while in a semi-intensive system, she may last for 3years. Replacement does can be bred for the first time at 5months of age.

A balanced diet fed in adequate amounts, good sanitation,disease control, appropriate housing and equipment and good careare all important factors when aiming at lower mortality andhigher daily gain.

The mortality in a well managed rabbit unit should be below20% from birth to slaughter among the young and below 20%annually among the adults, but presently many extensive producersin East and South East Africa experience mortality of up to threetimes that.

Figure 10.58 Footbath anddrain crush for sheep/goats.

Table 10.19 Management Practices and ProductionEfficiency Related to the Intensity in the Rabbit Production

Feed Time between kindling and mating

Extensive Greens8 - 10 weeks Semi-intensive Greens/ concentrates 4 - 6 weeks (or remating 1 - 2 days after weaning Intensive Concentrates 1 - 2 weeks
Age of young at weaning 8 - 10 weeks 6 - 8 weeks 4 - 5 weeks
Number of litters per doe, year 3 - 4 5 - 6 8 - 10
Number of young weaned per doe, year 10 - 20 30 - 40 50 - 65
Age of young at slaughter 20 - 30 wks. 12 - 15 wks. 10 - 13 wks.
Daily grain during fattening 10 - 15g. 20 - 30g 25 - 30g
Production of cold dressed meat per doe, year 15 -25 kg 40 - 60 kg 75 - 100 kg

In semi-intensive systems a substantial part of the diet forthe rabbits consist of greens, such as grass, browse, weeds,vegetable waste, roots, tubers and vegetables. This usuallynecessitates longer breeding intervals and results in lower dailygain than intensive systems where the rabbits are fed with onlyrabbit pellets or chicken mash. However, since the feeding costwill be lower equally large profit for the farmer may result.

Hutches While there are a great many types of hutches, thereare certain essential features that any well designed hutchshould provide:

  • 1 Enough space for the size of the rabbit,
  • 2 fresh air and light, but exclusion of direct rays of the sun,
  • 3 protection from wind and rain,
  • 4 sanitary conditions and ease of cleaning,
  • 5 sound but cheap construction; which is free of details that could injure the animals,
  • 6 convenience of handling,
  • 7 a cage for each adult rabbit.

Space Requirement

Each adult rabbit must have its own cage or compartment. Sincedomestic rabbits vary in weight from 2 to 7 kilos, depending onbreed, the size of cage may be determined by allowing 1200 to1500cm² of clear floor space per kilo of adult weight. Thismeans that a cage for a medium breed buck should be minimum 80cmsquare. However, cages for females should allow extra space forthe nestbox and the litter, hence 80 by 115cm should be regardedas minimum for a medium breed doe.

Young rabbits reared for meat can be kept in groups of up to20 to 30 animals until they reach four months of age. The weanedyoung kept in one group should be about the same age and weight.Such colony pens should allow 900 to 1200cm² floor space perkilo of live weight.

The cages should not be deeper than 70 to 80cm for ease ofreaching a rabbit at the back of the cage. The floor to ceilingheight of the cages should be minimum 45 to 60cm and it isdesirable to have the floor of the cages 80 to 100cm off theground to handle the rabbits comfortably.

Hutch Modules

Any size rabbit unit is conveniently made up from two doe orfour doe modules. The number of cages required in each of thesemodules is shown in Table 10.20.

The small scale producer may only have one such module,covered with its own roof, placed directly on the cages as shownin Figure 10.59 and 10.60; while the medium to large scaleproducer may have several modules placed under a separate roof onposts or in a shed, as shown in Figure 10.61.

Construction Details

Proper ventilation of the rabbitry is essential. The walls,roof and door of the hutch can be covered with chicken wirenetting (37mm mesh) or made up of wood or bamboo placed 20mmapart.

In high altitude areas with lower temperatures it may bedesirable to have a solid wall in the direction facing theprevailing wind. Temporary protection for strong winds, lowtemperatures and rain can be provided with curtains of Hessian,reeds, grass, plastics, etc. The roof of the rabbit unit shouldbe leak-proof and can be made of thatch or metal sheets with someinsulation underneath.

Ease of management depends to a great extent on theconstruction of the floor. It may be solid, perforated, orsemi-solid. Each has its advantages and disadvantages:

A solid floor can be made from wood, plywood or differentkinds of boards. It allows bedding to be used, eliminatesdraughts through the floor and causes less trouble from hocksores, but is difficult to clean. The use of a solid floor willpermit the hutches to be stacked in two or three tiers with thebottom row 30cm off the ground, and this may save some buildingspace. However, a solid floor in the hutch frequently lead tooutbreak of coccidiosis, a disease causing diarrhoea, loss ofappetite and often death, because of build-up of manure incorners of the cage and contamination of feed and water.

A perforated floor is self-cleaning as manure and urine passthrough to the ground and this assists in disease control, but ifnot properly constructed it may injure the animals. It can bemade of woven or welded wire of not less than 16 gauge. Suitablemesh sizes are 12mm for small and medium breeds and 18mm forlarge breeds. Chicken wire can be used, but its thin wires maycause sore hocks and the urine can corrode the wire to failurewithin a year. The wire netting is streched over a wooden frame,trimmed flush with the bottom edge, and stapled every 5cm. Whereit is fastened to posts the wire edges should be turned down toavoid injury to the rabbits. Self cleaning floor is usuallyrecommended.

Table 10.20 Number of hutchesRequired in 2 and 4 Doe Modules Depending on the Intensity ofFeeding and Breeding

Cage for Buck Cages for Does Cages for fattening weaners Total number of cages per module
2 doe modules
Extensive production 1 2 (1) 3 (or 4)
Semi-intensive production 1 2 1 4
Intensive production 1 2 2 5
4 doe modules
Semi intensive production 1 4 3 8
Intensive production 1 4 4 (to 5) 9 (or 10)

Note: The cages for fattening weaners allow space for onelitter

Figure 10.59 Rabbit unitfor 2 does, 1 buck and fatteners.

Figure 10.60 Plan view ofrabbit housing module for 4 does, 1 buck and fatteners.

Kindling boxes are permanently installed with access from eachcage for a doe. The kindling boxes have outside doors tofacilitate cleaning. The cross section is similar to the oneshown in Figure 10.59.

Equipment and Store


A doe with litter may require up to 5 litres of water per dayif fed only rabbit pellets or chicken mash. Rabbits receivingfresh greens daily will require less water, but all rabbitsshould have access to clean drinking water at all times.

An automatic waterer can be made from a large bottle and asmall tin can. Figure 10.62a. Fasten the bottle to the inside ofthe hutch so that the lip of the bottle is about 1cm below therim of the can. Fill the can and the bottle with water andreplace the bottle. As the rabbit drinks from the can, the waterwill be replaced from the bottle.

Alternatively a nipple drinker made from a bottle, a piercedrubber cork and a piece of 6 to 8mm steel pipe as shown in Figure10.62b, can be used. This allows the bottle to be placed outsidethe cage for easier refilling and there is less risk ofcontamination of the water as the rabbits drink by licking thenipple.

Figure 10.61 Rabbit housefor 16 to 18 does, 2 to 4 bucks and approximately 100 fatteners.Note that hay racks have been installed between the cages forfatteners.


Heavy earthenware pots, about 8cm deep and 10 to 15cm diametermake good dishes for feeding grain, pellets and mash because theyare not easily tipped over. Tin cans, free of sharp edges, oropen sections of bamboo nailed to a small board can also be used.However, rabbits like to scratch out feed with their feet and toavoid this a feed hopper which is tied to the side of the hutch,can be made from an empty 5 litres oil tin as shown in Figure10.63c. A 6 by 12cm flap is cut 6cm from the bottom andstrengthened with a piece of timber and then bent inwards. Thetop of the tin is removed and the edges bent net against theinside of the tin.

A manger made out of a piece of wire mesh, 40 by 40cm, can befixed to the door of the cage for feeding greens or hay. Thisallows the rabbit to pull forage into the cage as it feeds.Greens should not be put on the cage floor as it increases therisk of disease. The remains of greens left on the floor must beremoved every day.


Does like to kindle in a private place. A nestbox should beplaced in the doe's cage 5 to 7 days before birth. A box formedium sized breeds should be about 30cm wide, 40 to 50cm longand 20 to 30cm high. A lid is sometimes supplied as some doesprefer the nestbox to be dark and in cold weather the lid willconserve some heat for the kids. Straw or grass lining of the boxis generally not necessary but will provide extra protection incold weather. The box can be made of plywood, hardboard, woodenplanks or even bamboo, but whatever is used it must be easilycleaned.

Feed Storage he storage requirement for feed to all categoriesof animals in a rabbit unit can be determined by multiplying thefollowing figures with the number of does in the unit and thenumber of days in the storage period:

  • in intensive production each doe-unit requires 1.3 to 1.8 kg pellets or mash per day.
  • in semi-intensive production each doe-unit requires 0.3 to 0.5 kg pellets or mash per day. No storage is required for greens as they should be fed fresh every day, but if hay is used instead of greens each doe-unit will require 0.1 to 0.15 kg per day.

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