Setting up your rabbitry can be as easy or as involved as you want.
It can be a simple set up with a few cages, or as involved as setting up an entire colony raising situation where all your rabbits share the same area, and then have bins set up as dens and birthing areas.
When we first got started, we kept it simple. We researched the size of the rabbits we would be raising for full growth weight and length, then went and ordered standard wire cages big enough for them to run around in and yet be protected.
The Handy Hubby created a lumber frame with a lip on both front and back to keep the cages from sliding off, and then we set it up outside, ready for the rabbits to enjoy their new home. We covered it with a solid tarp for protection from the sun and rain, and called it awesome. Sounds good right?
What we didn’t take into account was neighbors who were not quite as particular about where their animals were, or went, or keeping them on the property. Only a few short months after creating our new set up, a neighbor dog scared multiple buns to death, and then we had to cull multiple babies because it ran around attempting to pull them through the wire.
Nothing to this day, even butchering chickens, gives me the chills like remember that heartbreaking cleanup process.
What did we learn?
A couple things.
One: ALWAYS look at the surrounding environment you will be putting your rabbits into. As easy prey, pretty much everything under the sun will want to eat them, and you just set them up as the perfect caged snack for a determined predator. In our case, we immediately moved the entire set up into our garage, and set it up against a long wall, protecting the wall with sheeting, and setting up bins under the cages to catch any droppings. With a few tweaks, we have run with this system for the last 8 years now, and not had any predator issues, and even less trouble than we thought we would have. Clean up is very manageable, and we keep up with it, which keeps down any cleanliness issues.
Second: Build your cages, and your rabbitry set up, to withstand whatever predators might be coming around looking for an easy meal. That means if your animals are outside, build your setup to be strong, weather tight, predator proof, or have animals who know that is their area to protect. For us, we have enforced doors and windows in our garage, and every Fall/Spring walk the property looking for something working diligently to find a way in. We have even had animals break a window trying to get into the rabbits, so it pays to be diligent. We also put baby wire on the bottoms of ALL our doe’s cages, and even the growouts cages. Pulling favorite, just weaned baby bunny bodies out of wire like we had to do with the dog attack is a trauma I never want to have to go through again…and just one of the hard things as a homesteader we had to go through in our journey. Losing an animals you love and care for is hard…losing them in that way is super traumatic. 🙁
Third: Whatever your set up, either build it to be easily cleaned, or to easily clean up after your rabbits. For us we have twice yearly cleanings where everything gets scrubbed and cleaned, and the rest of the time we keep up with the clean daily. Since bunny berries (rabbit poo) works so well in the garden, we literally fill our garden beds early Spring and late Fall with everything we have collected and let it sink in with a good watering The rest of the year when we are growing everything, we either top dress with the berries, or we dump it all into the compost bin for dealing with later down the summer months. We have specifically designated rabbitry tools for scrubbing and cleaning, and all their cages also get a good scrub down during those cleaning times. This allows our rabbits to live in a fresh, clean environment, and also enjoy some outside time when it is warm enough for them. Many people have set ups where their cages actually hang from the ceiling on lightweight chains, and then are easily moveable and cleanable.
Last, but not least, wherever you decide to set up your rabbitry, know rabbits can be killed by direct sunlight with no shade, or where they will get wet, cold or deal with cold drafts. Anytime you set up your rabbitry, keep those things in mind and provide protection from the elements, and plenty of spaces for them to get away from whatever is bothering them. Rabbits overheat easily, and they also can die very quickly from a strong, cold wind they can not get away from. Even worse if they are wet and can’t escape it.
Finally…make sure whatever you start with, or end with, that your does’ cages have the ability to host nesting boxes, or they have an attached place on their cages you can add a nesting box. Rabbits normally give birth in a warm, comfy rabbit warren deep underground, and they thrive when you give them a secluded place to not only give birth, but take care of their kits. For us, we use removeable nesting boxes the Handy Hubby built just for their cages, which get cleaned and sterilized between each litter for each doe. Every doe has her own box, and we are careful not to mix them up. Having those removeable boxes also allows us to check the kits with as little disturbance as possible a few days after birth, as well as throughout their growth cycles.
I hope this helps you! You will find below some links to items we have used for setting up our rabbitry, as well as a link to a great book I personally believe everyone should have on hand when raising rabbits. The author is a personal friend of mine, and was very helpful to us when we were getting started!
Check back tomorrow as we go more into depth on caring for pregnant moms and kits…..
Blessings to you and yours,
Affiliate links of items we use for our rabbits:
Rabbit water bottles 32 oz
Then you will need straw for breeding/bedding…and Alfalfa or Timothy Hay for feeding, along with pellets.