Rabbit Housing

Rabbit Housing

You will find different advice on the web than what I am going to offer.  Cages available from commercial rabbitry supply places are smaller than those that we use.  Cages for house rabbits are bigger and more elaborate than what we use. We raise larger breeds of rabbit and made our decisions about designing cages as a result of the size of our rabbits.  If you choose to raise a smaller breed, then commercially available cages would be fine.

Let me say here, our rabbits are not pets.  I think rabbits make lovely pets, and we have had pet rabbits in the past.  I am very fond of a couple of our breeding rabbits, and they will be housed and fed long past when it makes economic sense to do so.  Having said that, my advice on rabbit housing is based on the fact that these are not pet animals.  They do not live in condominiums, and they do not have free run of either the house or the yard.  We do sometimes allow male rabbits to free range within the rabbit enclosure when we have more bunnies than we have housing for meat rabbits and we don’t have time to butcher right away.  I understand that the fact that rabbits are kept for meat and that they don’t live in luxury upsets some people.  If you are one of those people, this website is not for you.

Our rabbit cages for a single rabbit are 36 wide” x 30″ deep and 30″inches high.  Most rabbit cages are only 18 inches high, a few are 24″.  However, rabbits like to be able to stand on their back legs and stretch, and, obviously, a cage that is only 18 inches high won’t accommodate that stretching.  Also, for breeding does, a nestbox makes a nice perch, and she can’t hop up there if the cage is short.

Our meat pens are four feet by three feet and there are typically four or five rabbits in the meat pen waiting to be butchered.

Our rabbits are housed outside under a lean-to type shed, in a sheltered corner of the yard.  We are in Tucson, Arizona where our primary temperature challenge is heat.  Rabbits do well in the cold, although they don’t tolerate drafts very well.  We only heat the rabbit area (with a single propane patio heater) when the temperature is below freezing AND we have brand new baby bunnies.  That means we may heat the rabbitry 5 or 6 nights a year. In the summer we use misters, ice bottles, and fans to keep the rabbits cool enough.  We aim to keep the rabbitry below 85 degrees and, except for days that are over 105, we are pretty successful at that with our typical measures.  For days that are over 105 degrees, we drape burlap over the cages and wet the burlap down. We also soak the ground under the cages with water.

Currently the rabbits are in wire bottom cages and the droppings simply fall to the ground where BSF larva and earthworms are housed and the droppings are eaten by the earthworms and BSF larva and then allowed to compost.  The compost is cleaned out periodically and added to the soil garden.  There are those who claim that wire floors are bad for rabbits.  The good folks at Shiny Statins Rabbitry have written an excellent article addressing this issue.

The rabbits all have PVC tubes to lay in and play with – they like to push the tubes around the cages and hop over them. They have wood blocks to chew on, and we try to provide them with olive, apple or willow twigs and branches to chew on.

The keys to good rabbit housing are: free of drafts, easily cleaned, enough room for a doe and her kits, or for playing, enough height for free movement, and easily cooled as needed.

 

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