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.
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.
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!
||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
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.
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.
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.
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.