Knowing that we were unsure of how long we would be renting the property we’re at, I put together a rabbitat that would be able to be moved – not easily (it’s heavy!) – onto a trailer and to our next spot. Within that criteria, I wanted to be able to not have to stoop in order to get inside. Working on other farms with low ceilings on animal shelters was enough to drive that lesson home! I can’t stand up straight in this hutch, but I don’t hit my head on anything either.
The door is divided into two parts. A two-foot high lower part that can keep the rabbits inside if we need to just look in on them, and a four-foot higher part that is wonderfully over sized so two people can look in on the rabbits comfortably.
There are two translucent windows on the front, letting light in whether they are open or shut. I don’t remember the reasoning, but I built them hinged downward – something I avoided in the second version (which became the chicken coop), having them hinge outward.
Either side has a window that closes as solid wood, and opens as half-inch chicken wire. One is a couple of feet off the ground, the other is about a foot from the top. The idea behind that was to help create airflow; I’m not sure of the practicality, especially with the long window on the back end that is always open as well.
The inside has cubby shelves. The lower ones are 12-inches wide, 18-inches deep, and 10-inches tall, except for the left corner, which is about two square feet. The upper cubbies are only on the back wall, and are 12-inches wide, 14-inches deep, and 16-inches tall, with a shelf on top. These are all so that rabbits can find their own space when they want it.
We started out with one run, twelve-feet wide and just over twenty-feet long. Notice the ground is covered in the stucco fencing. At first, it looked like rabbits would get caught in the wire, but now, almost a year later, it isn’t an issue. It didn’t take long for it to become bare earth (maybe two weeks?).
Because of the bare earth, we started growing a seedling flat of wheat and barley into a grass mat. This was a two week process. The first week was in the house, in buckets in the kitchen. The first day of the second week is the lowest tray in the picture. Every tray represents a different day’s growth. Unfortunately, it took the rabbits only an hour or two to finish off the grass mat, and it was too labour intensive for it to be feasible in the long run.
At first we tried moving the run on an angle, but the fencing no longer covered the whole ground. Before long the rabbits were digging, which, needless to say, made closing up at night difficult!
So we built a second run. This involved rotating the rabbitat to an almost 45 degree angle, so both the runs could access the door easily – which was quite the process! Now, from spring until fall, we can close one run off while sprouting a mix of wheat, barley, sunflower, and sometimes buckwheat, while the rabbits are eating what’s sprouted in the second run. It takes them between 4 days and a week to eat the grass to bare earth, depending on how many rabbits, so an ideal system would have at least four runs.
The two runs meet at the sides of the rabbitat, and at a point where they meet each other. This point is the closing part of gates for access to either run – which are only used for cleaning out the coop (we hop over the fence for daily access, to prevent any escapes) – and a pivot point for a gate that closes off one run or the other. (See the diagrams above if that doesn’t quite make sense)
And that’s our main structure! Click here to see what sort of maintenance is involved.