The Rabbitry

I've seen quite a few rabbitries, from the commercial buildings with hundreds of does to the garden shed with a dozen rabbits stacked along the walls. There are probably just as many different ways to house rabbits as there are people raising them! And so a common question is always: How are your cages set up? This web page will attempt to describe my current layout, although since rabbit raising is always a work in progress, so is the rabbitry.

History
I originally started with cages hung from the rafters in a single tier where droppings fell through onto a floor covered with shavings. I soon discovered that concrete floors (being porous) are not really a good substrate for under cage fall-through. And, of course, that a single tier didn't give me enough cages! I switched to a double tier of cage racks made from 2x2 pine using cages with trays underneath. I then discovered that tray washing was REALLY tedious and time consuming. Some months after this discovery, I visited a lovely rabbitry that used slanted dropping boards that ran into half-pipes behind the cages and thought I was in heaven! What follows is my attempt to modify this design for my own space.

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Rack Design

A friend of mine recommended using welded metal to build rot-resistant racks, but as I have no welding equipment or access to cheap metal, I decided to stick with the tried-and-true pine. Yes, it will rot in time, but considering how often I redesign the rabbitry, I don't really expect that to be a problem!

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click to see larger image Step1: The rack ends are made from 8' 2x4s cut into two 6' sections and two 2' pieces. The 2' pieces are screwed horizontally into the uprights. The ends are now 6' high and 2' deep. Since I'm rather short, I don't want my cage tops any higher than 6 feet in the air, and even at this height, I need a 2 step ladder to get uncooperative rabbits out of the back corners!

Step 2: Since rabbits tend to urinate out the sides and corners of their cages, I stapled pieces of corrugated plastic to the wooden end sections. This keeps the urine off the wood and hopefully extends the life of the racks for as long as I need them. To make sure that any urine run-off goes onto the dropping boards, the bottom inch of the plastic is cut and angled. My first design didn't have the angle, and urine ran down the plastic and dripped onto the wood. Since adding the angle, I haven't had this problem.

Step 3: Cages are supported on upside down angle braces. I use the 2" size, zinc plated for extra strength and corrosion resistance. By resting the cages on these horizontal tabs, the cages are not attached and can be pulled out of the rack for disinfection and sun-drying with ease. Once the plastic end protectors are in place, I screw the angle braces to the ends at the height that I want the bottom of the cages to be.

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Step 4: Once the ends are complete, it's time to attach them together. This is the trickiest stage if you're working alone! My cages come in both 8' and 6' lengths, so I have 2 sizes of racks. For 6' cages, I attach the end sections with five 2x2s cut to 76 1/2" lengths. This allows for 3/4" of space between the cage and the end sections on both sides. I use two 2x2s on the front, positioned where the top of the dropping boards will be, which is generally about 4" below the cage bottom.

I leave some space to get a whisk broom in there for really stubborn cling-ons. I use three 2x2s on the back; the bottom 2 are positioned so that the dropping board slants as much as possible, and the top one is for support of the upper end pieces. The bottom 2x2s that will support the dropping boards will also have the trough pipe attached. I attach these to the end sections on a slight angle so that the urine will run down the pipe to a bucket.

Step 5: The half-pipes are 6" diameter pvc pipe cut horizontally down their length. The length should stretch past the cage rack on both sides since rabbit waste does tend to spray/bounce a bit. I would use larger diameter pipe if I could afford it, but anything above 6" seemed to jump in price, so that's what I was stuck with. For does with large litters approaching weaning age, I have to be SURE the pipe gets cleared daily, but otherwise, the 6" works fine. click to see larger imageclick to see larger image

Step 6: Now for the dropping boards. The corrugated plastic sheets I get come in 76" lengths. This is great because they are just a little too wide to slide between the end sections. I trim and angle about an inch on either end of the plastic sheet for 26-27" of the depth of the sheet. This creates an angled plastic gutter which meets the angled plastic of the end section and directs all waste down into the pipe. It also leaves a 4-5" tab that butts up against the end section, holding the dropping board in place. The dropping board sits so that it overlaps the pipe by at least a half-inch to make sure all the urine drips directly into the pipe.

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And that's it! I pull out the dropping boards weekly and hose them off to keep the urine calcium from building up too much. I pull at least 1 or 2 cages and give them a quick wash as well. Since nothing is permanently attached to the racks, it makes cleaning and moving the cages very easy.