Rabbit cages- on or off the ground?

Vasara

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I had a rabbit duo about 1 1/2 years ago. I bred them and raised the kits and sold them. I ended up getting rid of my duo because I got pregnant and had complications so I didn’t have the time to devote to my rabbits that they needed. (We have them to a friend who has rabbits and experience with them)

anyway...

The cages we had are two level hutch style with the drawers that pull out for cleaning. They worked ok but I want something different.
My two options:
1. A fenced in dog kennel type cage with a small hitch for going in at night to sleep and being in the kennel during the day. This would be directly on the ground
2. A two level hutch, but with the secure area on the top level with the drawer type floor and the bottom level that’s meant to be on the ground and is a large run area. I would build a ‘table’ to keep it off the ground and attach wire for the flooring. The bottom of the table would have a ‘slide’ so the manure could go right into a bucket for easy cleaning and compost.
Now, my worry is that on the ground, mice and insects will get in the cage and cause disease to my rabbits. We definitely have mice in our yard! There are hundreds of holes and I’ve seen them scurry into the holes. I’m afraid the food, hay and straw will be an invitation for the mice and I do not want that!! The other thing I’m thinking is a con with this idea is that I’ll need to put wire down so they don’t burrow out. I won’t be able to take out the manure then. And it will be a large enclosure permanently fixed in the ground so I won’t be able to move it.
My only concern with the other option is that the wire floor might hurt their feet. If I go this route, I’ll have a run so they can get out of the cage for a few hours during the day.

Can you give me your suggestions and experience? And advice is much appreciated! Thanks😊
 

B&B Happy goats

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I had a rabbit duo about 1 1/2 years ago. I bred them and raised the kits and sold them. I ended up getting rid of my duo because I got pregnant and had complications so I didn’t have the time to devote to my rabbits that they needed. (We have them to a friend who has rabbits and experience with them)

anyway...

The cages we had are two level hutch style with the drawers that pull out for cleaning. They worked ok but I want something different.
My two options:
1. A fenced in dog kennel type cage with a small hitch for going in at night to sleep and being in the kennel during the day. This would be directly on the ground
2. A two level hutch, but with the secure area on the top level with the drawer type floor and the bottom level that’s meant to be on the ground and is a large run area. I would build a ‘table’ to keep it off the ground and attach wire for the flooring. The bottom of the table would have a ‘slide’ so the manure could go right into a bucket for easy cleaning and compost.
Now, my worry is that on the ground, mice and insects will get in the cage and cause disease to my rabbits. We definitely have mice in our yard! There are hundreds of holes and I’ve seen them scurry into the holes. I’m afraid the food, hay and straw will be an invitation for the mice and I do not want that!! The other thing I’m thinking is a con with this idea is that I’ll need to put wire down so they don’t burrow out. I won’t be able to take out the manure then. And it will be a large enclosure permanently fixed in the ground so I won’t be able to move it.
My only concern with the other option is that the wire floor might hurt their feet. If I go this route, I’ll have a run so they can get out of the cage for a few hours during the day.

Can you give me your suggestions and experience? And advice is much appreciated! Thanks😊
We keep ours in hutches that are off the ground as to keep all critters away from them,.. they are kept in the same area as our chickens....the chickens scratch underneath the hutch and take care of the droppings and dropped hay..this has been working great for us for the last three years :thumbsup
 

Stephine

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Mice can climb really well and can get into the cages even off the ground, so it looks like you will have to do something to control the mice no matter what. A rabbit in a larger area can easily be trained to a litter box which would eliminate the need for pull out trays. ( ok, a buck might still spray)
I would chose the set up that gives them the most room, plenty of non-wire floor, but will still allow you to keep clean. How big is the “little hutch” in the first set up? They need a nice hiding place during the day, too, not just at night... I wouldn’t cover the ground in wire but you will need to sink any wire fence into the ground to keep them from digging out - best to make an apron.

I know most people here keep rabbits in little hutches on wire but I really think that makes for a very unhappy bunny life. They need space to run and binky and things to climb and jump on. We wouldn’t dream about doing that to our other animals, chickens, goats - not sure why rabbits tend to get the short end of the stick?
 

Vasara

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Mice can climb really well and can get into the cages even off the ground, so it looks like you will have to do something to control the mice no matter what. A rabbit in a larger area can easily be trained to a litter box which would eliminate the need for pull out trays. ( ok, a buck might still spray)
I would chose the set up that gives them the most room, plenty of non-wire floor, but will still allow you to keep clean. How big is the “little hutch” in the first set up? They need a nice hiding place during the day, too, not just at night... I wouldn’t cover the ground in wire but you will need to sink any wire fence into the ground to keep them from digging out - best to make an apron.

I know most people here keep rabbits in little hutches on wire but I really think that makes for a very unhappy bunny life. They need space to run and binky and things to climb and jump on. We wouldn’t dream about doing that to our other animals, chickens, goats - not sure why rabbits tend to get the short end of the stick?
Mice can climb really well and can get into the cages even off the ground, so it looks like you will have to do something to control the mice no matter what. A rabbit in a larger area can easily be trained to a litter box which would eliminate the need for pull out trays. ( ok, a buck might still spray)
I would chose the set up that gives them the most room, plenty of non-wire floor, but will still allow you to keep clean. How big is the “little hutch” in the first set up? They need a nice hiding place during the day, too, not just at night... I wouldn’t cover the ground in wire but you will need to sink any wire fence into the ground to keep them from digging out - best to make an apron.

I know most people here keep rabbits in little hutches on wire but I really think that makes for a very unhappy bunny life. They need space to run and binky and things to climb and jump on. We wouldn’t dream about doing that to our other animals, chickens, goats - not sure why rabbits tend to get the short end of the stick?
Attached is a pic of the hutch I’m considering. The part on top is 27x16x20 and the bottom is 85x24x20 except the height under the upper part is less than 24”. It would be odd the ground with wire for the floor but I’d have a couple tiles in there so they wouldn’t always be on the wire.

we will be getting a run so they can be out for hours during the day when im home to supervise. I’m a stay at home mom so I’m home almost everyday except grocery shopping once a week for a couple hours.

how would you suggest controlling the mice? We live in Germany so we can’t use poison and only live traps. We live next to a large field and I’m pretty sure they’re field mice. We already keep our compost away from the house and it’s fully enclosed and covered. We don’t have a wood pile. We keep our grass and landscaping cut and meat as to not try to attract them. We don’t have other animals where food is left out. The kids don’t eat outside because I’m afraid crumbs might attract them too. We have neighborhood cats who hunt in our yard.
 

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Ridgetop

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I am opposed to on the ground cages mainly because they are harder to clean, breed in, and care for litters. I don't like having to kneel down to do all those chores. It results in backaches no matter how old or young you are. DH and I raised rabbits for both show stock and semi commercially for meat for years. Our current 24’ by 36’ sheep barn was originally built to house DH’s New Zealand White rabbits. We later added Californians.

We used 36” x 30” cages with “babysaver” wire on the bottom 6”. If kits fell out of the box, or a disturbance caused a doe to kindle on the wire, the babies would not be able to fall through the side wires. We used 12” wide “J” feeders with screen bottoms for the fines to fall through in all the cages. The cage doors were “in and up” swing doors with a hold latch on the ceiling of the cage. The “in and up” design meant that if the cage accidently was not locked the cage door fell down against the cage sides preventing an accidental escape. We did not use different cages for the bucks. This way we could rearrange does and bucks without a problem. In order to avoid the rabbit spraying on each other since DH was showing his rabbits, we used “privacy panels” between the cages. These were simply pieces of aluminum attached between the individual cages. We started with 2 liter bottles and drinking tubes which we hung on the cage fronts. If you use 2 liter bottles, you will eventually get algae in the summer, so add 1/8 tsp of bleach to each bottle when rinsing and refilling to keep the water fresh. Later when we had a lot of cages, I switched to an automatic watering system. Each cage had a crd holder which held a 3” x 5” recipe card with the rabbit’s ID info on it and on which I noted the breeding date, birth date of litters and how many she had alive and dead. Important information that was right at hand on the cage front without running back to the house for the records. Each rabbit kept from the litter went into a grower cage and received its tattoo and ID cage card. DH was very active showing his rabbits. Since he did a lot of winning, he sold a lot of breeding stock. We kept only the very best ones as breeders and the rest went for meat.

Our cages were hung from the ceiling of the barn on chains attached to hooks in cross beams. We used Clevis attachments on the corners to attach the cages to the chains. One chain supported the corners of 2 adjoining cages. This made the cages more rigid and less apt to sway. Under the cages I built manure/worm pits with 2” x 12” boards. I would out shavings or sawdust on top ever couple of weeks to maintain the odor (which was minimal) and also because rabbit urine is almost pure nitrogen, the sawdust composted into a complete nitrogen/carbon ratio which I used on my garden and fruit trees. (This was in my old house where the ground was good and I fed my entire family of 6 from the garden all year, as well as making and selling jams, jellies and pickles at Boutiques. At this house it has taken me over 30 years of adding compost to this highly alkaline clay and shale to grow anything. And don’t get me started on the current crop of ground squirrels and wild rabbits that are decimating our garden!)

Anyway, I highly recommend that you do not raise your rabbits on the ground. They can get fleas and coccidiosis that way, especially if they cohabit with chickens. If you hang them, the chickens will help to scratch up and distribute the manure in the pits under the cages. They will also eat any dropped feed which will help to keep down mice and rats. Just don’t let them roost on top of the cages where they will poop on the rabbits. True story. The screams of rage when DH went to put his show rabbit in a traveling cage and discovered green and white poop on a flawless coat was impressive!

By hanging your cages, you can keep the rabbits healthier, allow greater room for poultry to range underneath, and the rabbits will be at eye level for checking on them, their kits, and nest boxes. They will be much easier to work with at that height since you will not be stooping over all the time. Keeping the rabbits in individual cages will also help you to monitor their health, breeding, and pregnancy more easily. If you have multiple does and bucks you will want to know when they are bred and to which buck. An on the ground raising scheme will not let you monitor them as easily as a walk through the barn. This makes the difference between an enjoyable rabbit raising operation and one that is much more work and effort.

The problem with wire cage bottoms can be avoided. First, buy breeding stock with well furred hind feet and legs. I bought the cheapest wallboard (broken pieces are sometimes given away) which I cut into 9” by 14” pieces and out into the cages for the rabbits to sit on. The rabbits would also gnaw on it which did them no harm as long as you don’t use the green or pink treated wall board. The wallboard pads are particularly helpful in winter months. In the summer some people use carpet pads soaked in water but I did not like the idea of our rabbits chewing unidentified materials. Frozen water bottles here in southern California worked with just a few rabbits. Once we had 100 holes in the barn, I installed misters along the outside.

By using misters and fans in 100 degree temps, scheduled breeding, and lights during the winter months, I was able to continue breeding throughout the year. I also made sure to keep December born young bucks for summer breeding since old bucks will go temporarily sterile in the summer heat.

Hope this helps you with setting up your rabbitry. Here is a picture of our old rabbitry.
IMG_5431 (1).jpg
This was about 20 years ago since DS2 is now 35 years old! You can see the suspension chains on the front corners. The cages have urine guards on the fronts, you can see the privacy panels through the cages, and the J feeders on the front, enabling feeding of a doe and litter from the outside of the cage. This type of system kept most predators out of the barn when combined with the lights which ran 24/7. I checked the feeders every day since if rats poop on the leftover feed the rabbits won't eat it. The J feeders hook onto the cages with wires and are simple to unhook and dump into the manure pits.
IMG_5432 (1).jpg DS2 is pointing at the cage cards where the information was recorded in the barn. In the winter if the weather was excessively cold, a simple round construction light with a 100 watt bulb could be hooked to the chains if necessary. You can't see the watering system drinkers since they are attached to the backs of the cages. By then I had modified the system. I used rigid PVC 1/2" pipe with couplers and drinkers. The lines had an open end with a shut off so I could flush the lines when necessary. Other areas of the barn had flexible hoses to drinking nozzles. The important to remember when using an auto watering system is to check the valves every 2 days since if the nozzles clog, the rabbit can't drink. If the rabbits can't drink, they will actually starve themselves to death.



 

Niele da Kine

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I'd go for hutches and not on the ground. Although we have angora rabbits and want the fiber to stay clean so it may be different for your rabbits.

We've started building 'modular' hutches so we can replace parts as necessary or remove them and repair them instead of having problems when the floor wire rotted out. Now, if there's a problem with the floor, we just take the floor plate out and put in a new one. Modular Hutches

The latest one is a nesting hutch and that's been very useful although it's on the small side for larger litters and they have to be shifted to a larger space when they're about four to five weeks old. It has a 'dropped' nest area so if the babies get out of the nest somehow they can fall back in. There's a slightly curved bottom to the nest area so they naturally gravitate towards being in one group and no bunny gets left out in the cold. It's also got a wire bottom in the nest area so as they get a bit older and there's lots of baby bunny pee, they don't end up damp and unhappy.

The nesting hutch was built earlier this year and there have already been several successful litters born there.

Rabbits are pretty versatile in their housing so you'll find a style that works for you and them.
 

Ridgetop

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I have heard of the "nesting hutch" with the depressed area for the kits. It is supposed to be more natural resembling the dirt depressions where rabbits normally make a nest. The ones I saw were in wooden hutches though.
 

Beekissed

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You could try another alternative~rabbits in tractors. That way they are moved to fresh soils all the time, the lawn gets fertilized well and they still have freedom from a cage. The bottom of the tractor can have chicken wire that prevents them from digging out but allows grasses to poke up through for eating.

For winter they can be moved to suspended cages or you could just keep moving them along if you don't have a lot of snow.
 

Niele da Kine

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I have heard of the "nesting hutch" with the depressed area for the kits. It is supposed to be more natural resembling the dirt depressions where rabbits normally make a nest. The ones I saw were in wooden hutches though.

DSCN9747.JPG


The floor plates of these hutches are interchangeable, so nesting does get a floor plate with a lowered area for their nest. The nest box goes over it to give the nest some protection.

DSCN6485.JPG


There's slots along the sides so the babies can roll back in (or escape out of)

We don't lose very many kits with this set up.
 
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