Feb 13, 2014

Housing and Placement

There are about as many different ways to house rabbits as there are people who own rabbits, and no one way is the absolute best.  Different methods work best for different people in different areas.  When planning your own set-up, there are a few things to consider.  If you have a garage, or insulated shed, that will probably be your best bet for housing.  Not everyone has one available, though.  Even if you do have one available, lack of airflow may be a drawback, and you may prefer to have a hutch or other shelter.  I'm in the latter group.

Three-sided hutch with its back to the south.
When choosing a place for your rabbitry in your yard, you want to consider the predominant weather patterns in your area.  For instance, where I live, we get windstorms occasionally, with wind coming up from the south and/or east.  Fortunately for me, those are also the directions you want to protect the rabbits from summer sun (afternoon sun is much worse than morning sun).  We also get heavy snowfall during some winters, which means that I have to plan for solid roofs with good slope.

If you're doing hutches, I highly recommend protecting from three different directions, especially if you have wind and rain.  In my case, my hutch is protected from south, east, and west.  Also, if you have heavy wind, it is especially important to have the opening facing away from predominant wind, in order to prevent the wind knocking the hutch over.  Having a heavy hutch will also help with that. I was lucky enough that my dad is good with woodwork, and he built a hutch for me.  The top is protected from water damage using leftover shingles and flashing.  The legs are treated wood.  Do not use treated wood for any wood that the rabbits may have contact with.  Some people like to paint their hutches, but I haven't found it necessary.  Also, if you can still smell the paint, it's likely to cause respiratory issues for the rabbits.

Silver-side-out tarps wrapping a dog kennel.
Some people (like me) are less capable with woodwork, so we look at other shelter options.  I made what I call a bunny hut, where I keep stackers for the does and litters.  The hut consists of a 10'x10' chain link dog kennel with a roof, and wrapped in tarps.  Dog kennels have a wide range of prices, but I managed to find one for only $200, with a raised roof bar.  10'x10' is large enough to house two rows of three doe-cage stackers, each, with an aisle down the middle.  The tarps are held in place using a combination of zip ties and chain link wires.

Chain link tie holding tarp to frame.Zip tie holding tarp to chain link.

Sun can be a killer for rabbits, especially in summer.  I made sure to get tarps which have a silver side, which reflects some of the sun's heat by facing out.

The roof tarp that came with the kennel only went to the top edges of the kennel, which caused some issues with rain running into the kennel.  To fix that issue, I added a second tarp over the top which attached to outside of the wall tarps, a few inches below the top of the kennel.

Latticework and plywood adding support to roof.
A tarp roof will sag--and eventually develop holes from sagging--if there is heavy rain or snow.  To fix that issue, I gave the roof some support.  I made a lattice-work of fence planks (we had torn down our old fence, so the scrap wood was readily available).  I wedged the vertical planks between the top bar of the kennel and the roof tarp, and between the roof bar and the tarp.  Sometimes the wind would knock those down, so I gave it extra support by putting some scrap plywood on top of nestboxes, which happened to be about the right angle.

During the summer, I am able to give the rabbits extra airflow by rolling up the tarp on the north side of the hut.  Since the hut is nestled into the corner of our fence, I could probably roll up the tarp on other sides, and still have the hut safe from most rain, but it's a tight squeeze, so I usually just leave it down.

A 10'x10' area can hold 18 doe-and-litter cages.
(Pardon the bad photomerge).