There are countless ideas out there for helping winterize your animals for the season. Keeping them warmer and/or making sure their water is still in liquid form can be tedious.
Many of these ideas include building well-insulated coops or pens. This can be costly up-front or unrealistic without the right tools or skills. Others suggestions include the use of heating, which usually requires some form of fancy equipment and a fuel source or electricity. This has a lasting cost that can add up to a significant amount of money in the long run.
I ask myself the same question we all do at one point or another over a cold winter—is there another way?
What if I put my rabbits underground… in a walipini?
Why a walipini?
A walipini is a sunken greenhouse that uses ground temperatures to help regulate the temperature of the growing area. It is extremely cost-effective because you don’t need to build walls, and the roof can be built at a fairly low cost.
I have been thinking of building one of these for growing vegetables, but would it work for meat rabbits?
The more I think about this the more compatible this idea seems to be. Rabbits spend much of their lives underground, so the dust or the underground life wouldn’t be an issue.
The rabbits would also be able to provide a healthy base layer of planting medium with all the bunny honey (poop) they drop. When this is mixed in with the extra nitrogen and hay that drops to the ground it is a perfect growing blend when it breaks down. But, unlike chicken compost, it can be used right away!
This decomposition of organic matter, combined with the presence of warm bodies of animals, will also contribute to slightly raised temperatures in a structure that already has better temperature regulation. When the weather gets nice enough in the early spring I can move the rabbits out to the tractors and grow things in the walipini.
Good enough for me! I decide to give it a try. The first step is planning. I had the old roof of a car port I converted into a mini greenhouse. I figured that would work great for a roof.
Time to break out the SketchUp. (This is an unsponsored shout-out to one of my favorite free homestead planning tools.)
Plan done…. 8 Months later….
It’s time to dig a hole and throw the roof on top.
A few points about our walipini warren
- This hole is 8 feet deep (2.4 metres). Why 8 feet? Because that as deep as the little excavator I used would go without making some sort of ramp.
- Our soil here has good drainage. I don’t know what the composition is, but it had a positive impact on the digging process.
- I built up 2 layers of bricks around the edge of the hole to keep out excess water drainage. I had bricks just kicking around that I salvaged for free off someone getting rid of them.
A few days worth of work + a salvaged greenhouse roof + excavator rental + salvaged bricks = a Walipini Warren.
Autumn update on the walipini warren
Winter update on the walipini warren
A few things to note: there was almost a 10 degree Centigrade difference in temperature from outside to inside the walipini warren. I also really enjoy just spending time down there because it’s much more comfortable so I provide better care for them.
Getting ready for a mid-winter vacation
So far this year it is not getting muddy or wet down there, although I anticipate some issues when we get spring melt. Join our email list to receive future updates on our walipini warren.
Who knows where this will go, but I’m enjoying the journey.
If you’re interested in learning more about keeping meat rabbits, see our post on 10 Reasons to Keep Rabbits on the Homestead.