Sheep and goat housing

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Sheep and goats are important sources of milk and meat. Both readily adapt to a wide range of climates and available feed supplies. They also have similar housing requirements and will therefore be treated together.

Management Systems

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


Housing in tropical and semi-tropical regions should be kept to a minimum except for the more intensive systems of production. In the arid tropics no protection other than natural shade is required. In humid climates a simple thatched shelter will provide shade and protection from excessive rain. Sheep and goats do not tolerate mud well; therefore yards and shelters should be built only on well drained ground.

Figure 10.54 shows a sheep/goat house for 100 animals. Unless predators are a serious problem, gum poles can be substituted for the brick walls. If thatching is difficult to obtain, a lower pitch roof of galvanized steel is feasible, but some insulation under the roof is desirable.

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

In temperate climates and at high altitudes a more substantial structure may be needed. An open-front building facing north provides wind protection and a maximum of sunshine. A rammed earth floor with a slope of 1:50 toward the open front is recommended. A concrete apron sloped 1:25 and extending from 1.2m inside to 2.4m outside will help maintain clean conditions in the barn.

Figure 10.54 Sheep/goat house for 100 animals. In warm climate will gumpole rails instead of the masonry walls prowide for better ventilation.

Table 10.18 Recommended Floor and Trough Space for Sheep/ Goats in intensive Production Related to Live Weight


Floor Space

Trough Space
Solid Floor

Slatted Floor

Open Yard
kg m/animal m/animal m/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 laid with 25mm spaces. Individual lambing pens should be 1.5m depending 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 and have a 0.5 to 0.6m high front wall facing the feed alley

In areas of high rainfall it may be desirable to keep the animals off the ground. Stilted houses with a slatted floor which is raised 1 to 1.5m above the ground to facilitate cleaning and the collection of dung and urine are shown in Figures 10.55 and 10.56.

Milking can be facilitated by providing a platform along the feeding fence where the animals can stand while being milked from behind. Such a platform should be 0.8m deep and elevated 0.35 to 0.5m above the floor where the milker stands.

Parasite Control

A dipping tank and crush are essential in the layout for a large flock or for a community facility for the use of many small holders. A typical dipping tank is shown in Figure 10.57. In areas where the Bont tick is a problem, simple walk-through tanks or footbaths may be needed. Figure 10.58 shows plans for a footbath.

Figure 10.55 House for 2 to 4 sheep-goats in intensive dairy production.

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

Figure 10.57 Sheep dipping tank.

Rabbit housing

There are few, if any, countries where domestic rabbits are not kept for meat and pelts. It is widely recognised that a few rabbits can be kept for a low cost, but yet produce a fair quantity of wholesome and tasty meat. However, to raise rabbits successfully one must begin with healthy animals, provide a good hutch, clean and nutritious feed and take good care of the rabbits.

Management Systems

Rabbits like other domestic animals, may be bred and reared at various intensities. Table 10.19 shows some production characteristics related to this. Rabbits can be mated at almost any time and when mating is successful the doe will kindle 30 to 32 days later. The doe should be checked for pregnancy 10 days after mating and, if necessary, re-mated. A shortened interval between kindling and mating will obviously result in increasing number of litters per doe and year. Commercial producers aim at getting at least 6 litters per year with 7 kids weaned per litter, i.e. 42 kids per doe each year. However, with intensive production the breeding doe may have to be replaced every one to 1.5 years, while in a semi-intensive system, she may last for 3 years. Replacement does can be bred for the first time at 5 months of age.

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

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

Figure 10.58 Footbath and drain crush for sheep/goats.

Table 10.19 Management Practices and Production Efficiency 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 for the rabbits consist of greens, such as grass, browse, weeds, vegetable waste, roots, tubers and vegetables. This usually necessitates longer breeding intervals and results in lower daily gain than intensive systems where the rabbits are fed with only rabbit pellets or chicken mash. However, since the feeding cost will be lower equally large profit for the farmer may result.

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

Space Requirement

Each adult rabbit must have its own cage or compartment. Since domestic rabbits vary in weight from 2 to 7 kilos, depending on breed, the size of cage may be determined by allowing 1200 to 1500cm of clear floor space per kilo of adult weight. This means that a cage for a medium breed buck should be minimum 80cm square. However, cages for females should allow extra space for the nestbox and the litter, hence 80 by 115cm should be regarded as minimum for a medium breed doe.

Young rabbits reared for meat can be kept in groups of up to 20 to 30 animals until they reach four months of age. The weaned young kept in one group should be about the same age and weight. Such colony pens should allow 900 to 1200cm floor space per kilo of live weight.

The cages should not be deeper than 70 to 80cm for ease of reaching a rabbit at the back of the cage. The floor to ceiling height of the cages should be minimum 45 to 60cm and it is desirable to have the floor of the cages 80 to 100cm off the ground to handle the rabbits comfortably.

Hutch Modules

Any size rabbit unit is conveniently made up from two doe or four doe modules. The number of cages required in each of these modules 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 shown in Figure 10.59 and 10.60; while the medium to large scale producer may have several modules placed under a separate roof on posts 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 wire netting (37mm mesh) or made up of wood or bamboo placed 20mm apart.

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

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

A solid floor can be made from wood, plywood or different kinds of boards. It allows bedding to be used, eliminates draughts through the floor and causes less trouble from hock sores, but is difficult to clean. The use of a solid floor will permit the hutches to be stacked in two or three tiers with the bottom row 30cm off the ground, and this may save some building space. However, a solid floor in the hutch frequently lead to outbreak of coccidiosis, a disease causing diarrhoea, loss of appetite and often death, because of build-up of manure in corners of the cage and contamination of feed and water.

A perforated floor is self-cleaning as manure and urine pass through to the ground and this assists in disease control, but if not properly constructed it may injure the animals. It can be made of woven or welded wire of not less than 16 gauge. Suitable mesh sizes are 12mm for small and medium breeds and 18mm for large breeds. Chicken wire can be used, but its thin wires may cause sore hocks and the urine can corrode the wire to failure within a year. The wire netting is streched over a wooden frame, trimmed flush with the bottom edge, and stapled every 5cm. Where it is fastened to posts the wire edges should be turned down to avoid injury to the rabbits. Self cleaning floor is usually recommended.

Table 10.20 Number of hutches Required in 2 and 4 Doe Modules Depending on the Intensity of Feeding 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 one litter

Figure 10.59 Rabbit unit for 2 does, 1 buck and fatteners.

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

Kindling boxes are permanently installed with access from each cage for a doe. The kindling boxes have outside doors to facilitate cleaning. The cross section is similar to the one shown in Figure 10.59.

Equipment and Store


A doe with litter may require up to 5 litres of water per day if fed only rabbit pellets or chicken mash. Rabbits receiving fresh greens daily will require less water, but all rabbits should have access to clean drinking water at all times.

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

Alternatively a nipple drinker made from a bottle, a pierced rubber cork and a piece of 6 to 8mm steel pipe as shown in Figure 10.62b, can be used. This allows the bottle to be placed outside the cage for easier refilling and there is less risk of contamination of the water as the rabbits drink by licking the nipple.

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


Heavy earthenware pots, about 8cm deep and 10 to 15cm diameter make good dishes for feeding grain, pellets and mash because they are not easily tipped over. Tin cans, free of sharp edges, or open sections of bamboo nailed to a small board can also be used. However, rabbits like to scratch out feed with their feet and to avoid 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 Figure 10.63c. A 6 by 12cm flap is cut 6cm from the bottom and strengthened with a piece of timber and then bent inwards. The top of the tin is removed and the edges bent net against the inside of the tin.

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


Does like to kindle in a private place. A nestbox should be placed in the doe's cage 5 to 7 days before birth. A box for medium sized breeds should be about 30cm wide, 40 to 50cm long and 20 to 30cm high. A lid is sometimes supplied as some does prefer the nestbox to be dark and in cold weather the lid will conserve some heat for the kids. Straw or grass lining of the box is generally not necessary but will provide extra protection in cold weather. The box can be made of plywood, hardboard, wooden planks or even bamboo, but whatever is used it must be easily cleaned.

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

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