Rabbit Housing Options: Wire Cages, Hutches, & Tractors

When you decide to start raising meat rabbits, the first thing you’ll have to do is set up some sort of rabbit housing. The main options are wire cages, hutches, colonies, and tractors. Here are some pros and cons of some of these options based on my own experiences.

Stackable Wire Cages

When Ryan and I first started out, we bought stackable wire cages from Bass Equipment. We did a lot of research, and decided that a wire bottom was the way to go. A wire bottom helps keep a clean environment. If your rabbit is always on wood or some other solid flooring, they will hop around in their own pee and poo, and that can lead to sore hocks. Yes, rabbits can be litter box trained, but when you’re raising meat rabbits, you have a lot of rabbits coming and going. Litter box training every one isn’t very realistic (in my honest opinion).

A wire bottom cage can also be hard on a rabbit’s feet, so you need to put a resting pad in there for them. We use ceramic tiles or plastic pads. The pads are nice because they clip onto the cage floor, but the tiles definitely give you more for your money.

This is Natalie, my very sweet rex doe. In this picture you can see her resting pad.

Stackable cages are great for starting out because they save space and are really convenient. Our buns were set up in our garage, and it was nice that they were so close to the house. We could easily go out to take care of the rabbits without even needing to put on shoes.

Our very first rabbit housing setup: Stackable cages with trays in our garage.

We quickly learned that there are some downsides to the garage setup. Rabbits are messy, and they pee EVERYWHERE. You can install urine guards on your cages, but those never worked for us. They just made the pee splash around even more. We constantly had to lay down and replace cardboard so there wasn’t always urine on our garage floor.

When you use stackable cages, you have to use trays to catch the poop and pee. And you need to clean out those trays every couple of days. When you’ve got a doe with a litter, you have to clean it out pretty much every day or the poop will pile up into the cage. You also need to invest in pine shavings or pellets to soak up the urine and help keep the smell under control.

Airflow was a big issue with the garage setup. Rabbits need to have constant airflow to keep them healthy, so we had to install security doors so we could leave the main doors open at all times. We also had a fan going to keep the air moving.

If you want to take your rabbit out of the cage for grooming, breeding, or playtime, it’s definitely more difficult with stacked cages. You need a step ladder to reach the rabbit on the top.

Pros:

  1. Convenient
  2. Saves space

Cons:

  1. Pee gets everywhere, and urine guards don’t always help
  2. Need to lay down cardboard or plastic to protect garage floor
  3. Trays need frequent cleaning
  4. Need to invest in pine shavings or pellets to keep the urine smell down
  5. Need to have a plan for increasing airflow, or rabbits could get sick
  6. Need a step ladder to get the top rabbit out of their cage

Wire Cages in an Outdoor Shed

Eventually we moved our cages outside. We put legs on each cage, and set them next to each other on the dirt so we wouldn’t need to use trays. We did have to buy more legs though, and that’s an additional investment. If you’re handy, you can make legs out of wood or other materials you have on hand. I made one set of legs out of 1 inch PVC pipe, and that actually worked pretty well. Some people hang their cages, but we didn’t like the idea of the cages bouncing around every time the rabbit moves.

We currently have our cages set up outside under a carport shelter. We extended the sides down to keep them out of the elements a bit better. Because they are outside in an open shelter, they get plenty of airflow and we don’t have trays to deal with. The poop and pee drops right onto the ground, and we just shovel it out into a wheelbarrow whenever we need it for the garden.



Now that the rabbits are out in the shed, they’re a bit farther away from the house. To take care of the rabbits in the winter, we have to get fully dressed and make the trek out there. It’s good for us and gets us outside, but it’s definitely less convenient.

The specific cages we bought have a door that opens inward, which is super annoying. We always need to push rabbits out of the way to open the cage door. The opening is also on the small side, so if you have a larger breed, like our silver foxes, it makes it a bit tricky to pull them out of their cage. I recommend buying or making cages with a door that opens outward.

Pros:

  1. No need for trays – poo and pee fall onto the ground to be shoveled up when needed
  2. Keeps rabbits safe from the elements, and allows for plenty of airflow

Cons:

  1. Less convenient
  2. Need to buy or make legs for each cage, or figure out how to hang your cages

Rabbit Hutch

When we got our silver foxes last year, they came with some hutches that their previous owners made. I liked the design, but had to make some modifications in order to make them work for our family. They originally opened from the top, but the lids were made from very thick plywood. It was a pain for me to open, and impossible for the kids. I replaced the lids with lightweight plastic corrugated roofing, and installed doors on the front with materials I had on hand or bought from Lowes.

This is one of the hutches that I modified. The top no longer opens, and the large front doors swing outward.

With the front opening doors, the boys can easily get in to feed or play with the rabbits. It’s also much easier for me to get the rabbits in and out for breeding, nail trims, playtime, etc. However, the rabbits can also easily fall or jump out of the large door opening. If you build your own hutch, you can include a lip at the bottom of the door to help keep the rabbits safely inside.

The door opens nice and wide so it’s pretty easy to get rabbits in and out.

Hutches are nice because they are a single unit, so there’s no need for a shed. They are like a giant sheltered cage. Really the only downside I’ve found is that they’re typically made of wood. Rabbits love to chew, and they will definitely chew on any part of their hutch that they can get to. It’s also much more difficult to clean urine out of wood than metal. Our hutches have a wire bottom, just like our cages.

In this picture you can see some of the urine stains in the back of this guy’s hutch.

Pros:

  1. No need for trays – poo and pee fall onto the ground to be shoveled up when needed
  2. Keeps rabbits safe from the elements, and allows for plenty of airflow
  3. Doors open outward, and large opening makes it easy to get rabbits in and out

Cons:

  1. Harder to clean (urine soaks into the wood)
  2. Rabbits can chew on the wood, which might need replaced at some point

Rabbit Tractors and Colonies

I’ve never actually set my rabbits up in a colony, so I don’t have much information on that type of setup. I do however, use tractors for my growouts. I think they’re essentially the same concept – the rabbits are kept on the ground, in a more natural environment.

One of our DIY rabbit tractors

We built a couple of rabbit tractors and we LOVE them! The growouts get more room to run and play, enjoy fresh grass every day, and they can enjoy each other’s company. We also try to rotate our breeders through them so they can have some grass time.

We’ve found that we can house our growouts in tractors all the way up to processing time. We move the tractor daily to give the rabbits fresh grass to graze on. It’s great for our lawn too.

 


I think a senior buck might do well permanently in a rabbit tractor, but not a doe. When I’ve had senior does in our tractor, their instincts kick in and they start digging burrows. We’ve only had rabbits escape when we moved the tractor onto uneven ground without realizing it. Most of the time, they are happy to stay put.

Pros:

  1. Lots of room for rabbits to run and play
  2. Rabbits enjoy eating fresh grass
  3. Rabbits can socialize
  4. Moving the tractor helps fertilize the lawn

Cons:

  1. Not a good permanent setup for senior does
  2. Rabbits could potentially dig out and escape

The Perfect Rabbit Housing System

The perfect rabbit housing system will be whatever works for you in your situation. I’m happy with our current setup, but there are also things I might change later on. For example, I’m really not a fan of the way our cage doors open. I’ve personally never used KWcages, but I’ve heard great things about them from other breeders, and their doors open outward. I’d also be willing to try stacking cages again, as long as they were still out in my shed, and they were only stacked two high.

One of my silver fox/rex crosses I’m using for my broken silver fox project

I hope this info helps you figure out which rabbit housing setup will work best for you. I’ve only been raising rabbits for two years, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. Whether you’re just starting your own rabbitry, or changing your current setup, I hope sharing my experiences can help save you some time and money! Good luck on your rabbit journey!


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