So today I got very excited. I got an e-mail from my breeder of New Zealand Reds and thought the litter I was getting my girls from had kindled… But I was sorely mistaken. Turns out the litter had miscarried (probably weeks earlier) and there were no babies for me to buy. This is just the final nail in my ambitious coffin for beautiful rabbits. They will simply have to wait until spring. I did speak with the significant other on this and he’s in agreeance with me; white rabbits may the the ultimate in boring bunnies but they produce. Baby bunnies do not. And there is one other option… There are some castor bunnies (as in cross-color New Zealnds that look a little like wild rabbits) that she has that are older already, but pretty much worthless for anything but personal use. I may consider those if she wants to talk the price down in regards to them.
In the meantime I am rapidly seeking out anyone in the northeast ohio reigion with New Zealand Whites and Californians for sale at or near breeding age (but not too old mind you…!) so I can get started sooner rather than later. Having just two does and a buck at breeding age will let me see serious production in 3-4 months rather than in nine, practically cutting my wait time in half. Which is good, but not having my beautiful NWR’s does make me pretty bummed out.
On the good news side of things, however, I found a man selling OSB sheathing on Craigslist. I have found Craigslist to be an amazing resource and spend far too much time on it for my own good, really. OSB sheathing is this crazy mix of plywood and paricle board made by pressing large numbers of woodchips that are interlocking into boards. It has almost the strength of plywood and is far cheaper than it. For example, a 4X8 sheet of (about) 1/3″ plywood runs over $20 at home depot, new. This sheathing is being sold in 4X8 sheets at 7/16″ for $5. What this means specifically is that I have the lee-way to buy more than I need… For example, in case I want to build a second rabbit hutch or if I want to build, say, a chicken coop come spring. So while my building plan only requires four sheets I will be picking up eight.
I have also decided to share my scribbled designs for my hutch. (Pardon the wrinkley paper, I just sort of jot these drawings on whatever is lying around!) So for the next few paragraphs I’m going to be discussing the structure and how it fits together, what it’s made out of and how it will be built. So read on if you don’t mind my vauge terminology.
This hutch is a big hunk of wood that can be fenagled with a litte dimensions-wise. The biggest I’d reccomend is a total of 12 feet wide by three feet deep giving each rabbit a total of 18 square feet. This is only for enthusiats with a lot of money, however I’d say. To put it in contrast most production cages are around six square feet, and some are as small as four. To get closer to that a 2 foot deep hutch by 8 feet wide will provide 8 square feet per rabbit which is still above average. Mine will be a nice median at 8X3. This will give each rabbit 12 square feet which is substantial but not crazy. You’ll notice the first image of the cage is actually the dimensions for 10 feet wide. This became strongly impracitcal with the realization that most plywood is 8X4 (derp) so there are some much lighter lines denoting where 8 feet is on that too.
The height on the hutch is the same no matter width or depth though you could probably change that too. Currently the total structure stands at six feet tall and not one inch higher. The hutch is supported off the ground by six 4″X4″X8′ posts sunk two feet into the earth with several pounds of concrete around each. In warmer weather you might need less depth but here you want to be below the frost line. This gives one foot to raise it off the ground, and it gives around 2’4″ tall for the front of each individual coop. The roof slopes gently (anywhere from 4-6 inches) giving the top two rabbits a little less height in the back but it’s maintained in the front so they’ll still be able to stretch out to thier full height in these cages. The back is plywood, and the “shelves” (being the floors of each cage and the roof) are pallets with plywood on top. The pallets are free from local businesses and add a massive amount of structural integrity to the whole thing.
There are 2X2’s being used both for the framing of the doors (which are 1 foot tall by 2 feet wide) and supporting the pallets… Actually they are also being used to level the posts and keep them upright while the concrete sets. In the second set of pictures you can see how they get tacked on (although only the roof and lower level ones are shown) to the 4X4’s and the pallets just drop on top of them. Then those get screwed in to both the posts and the 2X2’s and plywood gets layed over top of that. Solid floors are healthier for rabbits than wire mesh. If you’re making the 10 foot or 12 foot hutch use something sturdier that 2X2’s.
The front and sides of the cage are a light-gauge hardware cloth with a maximum of 1/2 inch holes. This makes it hard for bunny teeth to get a grip on them and most small predetors will have their work cut out for them getting in. Harware cloth is a welded wire mesh that you can buy rolls of at most home and garden stores. If it’s not welded wire mesh don’t use it.
In the front is a small panel across the middle to help reduce wind. In these corners are where the nesting and hiding boxes go, free from drafts and further insulated. This also cuts out the 26th foot of wire I would need that would hinder me when I am purchasing a 25 foot roll of hardware cloth. It also leaves a good spot for tacking the hardware cloth onto.
There will be roll roofing over the top and the whole thing will get stained with a waterproofing deck stain or the like. Finally, there is a tarp running the outside of the cage. It is permanently anchored on one side and at any time can quicly be attached along the top by using small eyelets that you slip the grommets over and then place a large ring on the end of. This will help in driving wind, rain and snow to keep the rabbits warm and dry. It will take only a couple of minutes to slap this effective barrier up in inclimate weather.
Some last minute details worth noting; I plan on a slight overhang on the front and sides of the roof to help keep out rain. I would love to put a laminate roll flooring on the insides of these cages to aid in cleaning. Each of the cages will have individual padlocks to protect from certain two-legged predetors. And the inside barrier between cages will be solid… Otherwise rabbits tend to pee on eachother.
I think that about covers it. The entire building process should go VERY quickly. If i need extra wood anywhere, disassembling pallets is as free as it comes. I have been reconsidering replacing the mesh sides with solid ones, especially now that there will be extra sheathing. Here’s hoping it works the way I hope! I’ve had some help with my design too… It would have been much harder (probably impossible) to create without the help of my good friend Chuck who is a handyman and works for a housing department. He’s an awesome friend and I can’t thank him enough for constantly listening to my babble on about these projects.