I started thinking quite some time before I first bought rabbits about raising them for food for both us and the dogs. Since that time we’ve come to realize that we should be keeping the Old Testament dietary laws which forbid eating rabbit, but we still decided to raise them as an inexpensive raw meat source for Tank and Dee-Oh-Jee.
None of the commercially produced rabbit cages quite fit my needs, and most seemed overpriced so I ended up building my own. I bought J clips, J clip pliers, wire, feeders, and an automatic watering system. They can all be bought at Tractor Supply, most feed stores, and online. Once I had everything at home and added the costs, I realized it cost me almost as much as buying ready-made cages. But by building my own I was able to build a higher quality cage to my own specifications.
Each cage is 24 inches square and 18 inches tall with 1 x 2 inch welded wire on the top and sides and 1/2 x 1 on the bottom. This allows the byproducts (more about that later) to drop through so the cages only have to be cleaned occasionally. The doors are hinged at the top and swing in. It’s a little inconvenient, but keeps rabbits from escaping if you forget to latch the door, or if you have a savant that opens it himself like one of our old rabbits did.
Hanging the cages off the ground helps prevent problems with internal and external parasites. Plastic corrugated roofing panels protect the bottom cages from being bombed by the top cages. In the future I will make the overhangs bigger because they don’t quite protect the edges of the cages.
The watering bucket sits on a shelf above the cages and feeds a spring valve in each cage.
I keep a sheet of plastic in a wood frame under the rabbits to catch their droppings. It’s a big hassle to carry it to the compost pile without tearing the plastic. I’d definitely recommend heavy duty plastic tubs or just keeping the cages outside where the droppings can be shoveled up.
It was a few weeks after I finished the cages that I finally found the rabbits. I was looking for New Zealand or Californian rabbits but most breeders in the area produce mutts. The occasional breeder with purebred stock wanted double what I was willing to pay. Finally, I found some New Zealands for sale at a decent price right down the road. I emailed and told them I wanted three does and a buck and got the response you never want to hear from a breeder. They had no idea how to tell the difference. I had no idea, either, so I hurried to Google and looked it up. That first rabbit I checked probably needed therapy afterward, but once I figured out what I was doing things went pretty smoothly.
A few weeks later, I got an email from the breeder telling me they were going out of town and didn’t want the three rabbits they had left from that litter and that I could have them if I wanted to come get them. Two of the rabbits were bucks, but since they were free I couldn’t complain.
When the rabbits are old enough to breed, we’ll stagger the breeding so we have a steady supply of kits. The young rabbits will be raised on pasture in tractors to produce better meat than a caged rabbit and save on feed costs. They’ll have a short enough life span that we won’t have to worry about parasite infestations from ground contact.