Equipment & Housing
It is not within the scope of this
material to provide engineering information on building
construction. A logical approach is to visit existing facilities
in climates similar to your own and gather information on what
works best. Naturally, the type of housing depends on climate.
Before construction, check zoning laws, electricity and water
sources and truck accesses. Site selection is important. Select
a site with good drainage, sufficient space for isolation and
freedom from excessive winds. Remember, the structure must
protect the rabbits against predators and excessive temperature
Modern caging is one of the major breakthroughs in rabbit
Traditional cage sizes for intermediate breeds are 30 inches by
30 inches for does and 24 inches by 30 inches for bucks. Compact
breeds will require cages 1/3 smaller and dwarf breeds about
half the size. Giant breeds require cages to be 24 inches high
rather than the standard 18 inches. These cages are based on
leaving litters with does until eight weeks of age and having
food and water containers inside the cage unlike current
practice. Many breeders wean as young as 28 days and use outside
feeders and water bottles, thereby reducing the cage space
requirement. The all-wire cages should be suspended from the
ceiling with wires or chains, making entry difficult for pests.
For outside cages, wooden frames may be made of 2 by 4's into
which the cages may be placed.
Cages for pet rabbits can be simple affairs, but they must be
sturdy. Rabbits have marvelous teeth. They can rapidly destroy
wood. Also, wood absorbs smells which can quickly become
offensive. A good cage is made of 1 inch by 2 inch galvanized
wire (usually #16) and 1/2 inch by 1 inch floors. Fiberglass or
metal pans are held in place with a wire sub-floor. Wood
shavings, kitty litter or ground corn cobs work nicely for
litter absorption in the bottom pan. A metal shield about 2
inches high around the outside of the cage helps deflect rabbit
"spray." If such shields aren't available, a visit to a sheet
metal shop might help.
Hardware cloth generally isn't sturdy enough for long-term use.
The wire is too light for the stress of a rambunctious rabbit.
Cage arrangements are extremely varied, from single to
multi-decked. Again, it is advisable to visit several operations
with different arrangements before deciding what will work best
for you. Every system has advantages and disadvantages; these
should be carefully considered before making a final choice.
Cages may be purchased commercially or constructed by an
individual. Suggested cage dimensions, for intermediate breeds,
Doe Cages - 30 inches by 30 inches
by 18 inches.
Buck Cages - 24 inches by 30
inches by 18 inches.
Growing Cages - 30 inches by 30
inches by 18 inches - capacity 10 to 15 fryers to market. In
extremely hot weather place only 10 to 12 fryers per cage.
Isolation Cages - 24 inches by 30
inches by 18 inches - Use for isolating sick or newly
purchased animals. Keep separate from main housing.
Nest Boxes - 12 inches by 18
inches by 8 inches - Can be made of plywood, masonite, or wire
with a liner.
Tops and sides - 1 inch by 2 inch welded wire. You may want
to use 1/2 inch by 1 inch "baby-saver" wire on the sides 4 inches
Bottoms - 5/8 inches by 1 inch or 1/2 inch by 1 inch welded
Doors - 16 inches by 13 inches latched over 14 inches by 12
inches opening. Nest boxes come in metal versions with removable
bottoms. These can be purchased from the same places as cages.
Many breeders make their own nest boxes from scrap wood. The front
part should be eight to 12 inches wide, depending on the size of
the doe. Holes should be drilled in the bottom for drainage.
There are many types available. The most important factor is that
they be low enough to allow small bunnies to feed. The feeder lip
should be no higher than three to four inches above the floor.
Outside metal feeders are becoming more common. They fill from the
outside of the cage, saving time and inside space. Two types are
available. The more common "J" style that slips through a hole cut
in the side wire of the cage, and the two-part style that doesn't
require a hole cut in the wire. Rabbits are less able to scratch
food out of such feeders. Water bottles are a good investment as
they save time, effort and cage space. Less water is wasted as
there is no splashing.
Experience indicates that automatic watering systems with nipple
or 'dew-drop' outlets are worthwhile and should be provided in
each cage. Located 6 inches above the floor, bunnies can use them
early. Incorporating a pressure reducing valve will prevent waste
and wet floors. It is advantageous to use an automotive water proportioner which allows you to add medications and waterline
cleaners to the system.
Converted poultry buildings, garages or utility sheds work well
for rabbits. If the breeder wants, droppings can be allowed to
fall to the floor for removal several times a year. If desired,
cages with metal pans can be used and cleaned weekly.
Plywood roofs can be covered with rolled roofing. Tarps or heavy
plastic may be hung for winter protection. Be sure to have the
roof extended far enough over the edge to provide shade from the
sun. Rabbits must be able to get out of the sun!
Good ventilation is critical for the health and productivity of
the rabbits. The ventilating system should provide eight to 10 air
changes per hour, without subjecting the rabbits to undesirable
drafts. This can be accomplished with windows, adjustable panels
and curtains, fans and open-sided buildings. In some areas of the
country, heaters will be necessary during extremely cold weather.
As is the case with many animals, day length influences
reproductive activity in the rabbit. Lighting should be maintained
at a constant level for 10 to 14 hours a day, and be strong enough
to maintain reproductive activity.
It is essential that weights be taken periodically in order to
accurately evaluate performances.