Big bunny hutch

Big Modular Bunny Hutch

This is the current incarnation of the bunny hutches here at Hillside Farm Hawaii. They are 'modular' so their parts can be switched out as they need major cleaning or repair. Also the hutches can be put in different configurations depending on what the bunnies' needs are.

The big modular hutches start by dividing the total width of the hutch down into manageable to handle sized floor plates. They are about three and a half feet wide and a bit under three feet deep. As usual, the wire used on the floor of the hutches is the 1/2" x 1" galvanised wire with the side that is spaced 1/2" apart facing up.

framing for floors and doors

Nail Guns are a Really Good Thing!

The basic framing for the floor plates as well as the framing for the doors are untreated pine 2" x 2"s. They are inexpensive and don't have anything toxic added to them. Of course, termites may eat them eventually, but if or rather when the bunnies nibble on them, there won't be anything toxic for bunnies.

The framing is cut using a chop saw to get the exact clean angle and then nailed together with the nail gun. It's so much easier with a chop saw and a nail gun that it's not funny. This is the first hutch built with these tools and they're really worthwhile to have around. So, anyway, matching big floor and door squares are framed up and then the wire is stapled onto them. They're all the same size so they can be interchangeable in the hutch. I had tried to get all the doors the same height, but it would have required changing the roof around, so we have three doors for the lower level and three taller doors for the upper level. So, the doors are in two sizes but the floor plates can be on either level of any of the big modular hutches.

Not all the floor plates are identical, either. We used to use standard nesting boxes and there would be problems if a baby bunny managed to get out of the nest box since it has a lip to keep them in. That same lip also keeps them out if they get out by some chance. Sometimes the nesting material will push up against the lip and make a ramp for them to use to get out, sometimes they will still be drinking when mum bun decides to leave the nest and occasionally a baby would be pulled out. Bunnies can't pick their babies up like cats can, so if a baby bunny is out of the nest, the mom bunny doesn't have any way to get it back into the nest where it can stay warm. So, we have a few floor plates with a dropped nesting area.

dropped nesting area

Dropped nesting area

So far we haven't lost any baby bunnies due to getting out of the nest while they are tiny babies. If they have gotten out of the nest, they've now been able to get themselves back in again afterwards so nobunny has been lost to being chilled out of the nest since we've had these dropped nest areas.

wood nest box over the dropped area

Dropped Nest area with wooden cover

The 'nest box' we use with the dropped floor plates is more of a cover than a box. There's a slot along the bottom that allows really baby bunnies to slide right under it and get back into the nice warm nest.

dropped nest area covered by a tile

A tile covers the dropped nest area when it's not needed

We have some nice big ceramic tiles which can fit over the dropped nest area when we don't need it for a nesting site. So far we haven't used them much since there's only three of the dropped nest areas and the girls don't really mind having the nest box there since they can sit on the box or hang out in the dropped nest area. But, should we want to, the wooden nest covers can come out and the tiles can be put in to make a level floor.

doe nibbling a dandelion next to her nest in the dropped nest area

Lunch time at the Nest

Cheiri has her babies inside the dropped nest area, although you can't see them. The mom bunnies seem pretty happy with the dropped nesting areas. It has a slightly sloped bottom so it may imitate a rabbit dug burrow. The slight sloped bowl shape also encourages the baby bunnies to all be in one spot. We have had instances where baby bunnies got chilled and they'd still been in the nest but they'd scooted off to a corner by themselves. With the scooped bottom of the dropped nest area, they all kinda end up in a nice warm pile automatically.

day old babies

Four or Five Day Old Baby Bunnies

This picture isn't of the babies in the dropped nesting area, they're in a basket so they can be inspected, counted, weighed and photographed. But this is the size of them when they need to be in the nest and how tiny and delicate they are. From the time baby bunnies are born until they're about ten days to two weeks old, they are extremely delicate. Getting out of the nest is almost a death sentence, even in our relatively mild Hawaii climate. They can't maintain body heat unless they're in their nest and preferably with lots of litter mates. Which is why the dropped nesting areas that they can roll back into if they get out is so important.

baby getting back into the nest

Easy to get back into the nest

This little bunny is old enough now that he'd probably survive if he were out of the nest and not able to get back in, but even after they've become mobile, they like being able to easily get back into the warm nest. He probably has to get back to his brothers and sisters with new bunny gossip about the big wide world he's discovered.

baby getting out of the nest

Easy to get out into the world

It's not only easy for baby bunnies to get into the nest, it's also easy for them to pop out of the nest as well. At least, while they're still baby bunnies. Once they are about four weeks old they don't fit underneath anymore and have to walk around like big bunnies. I dunno if mom bun is overly thrilled to have the little ones able to sneak up on her easier, but she can always jump up to the top of the box if they get annoying.

baby bunnies everywhere

Once they get older, they spend more time out of the nest.

A lot of the hutch design is to facilitate baby bunnies being born and growing up. Baby bunnies are really small when they're born, so there can't be any holes wider than about 1" within 6" of the floor of the hutch. If they were to fall through the wire or through a hole in the wall of the hutch, they'd never be able to get back into the nest. If you notice in the back of the picture, there's a gap between the bottom of the 2" x 2" at the back wall junction. That gap is big enough for baby bunnies to squirm through and they were always visiting the bunnies next door. They could also squirm through the big feeders and end either in the middle of the feeder or over visiting the bunnies next door. Usually these antics are from the older baby bunnies, though. The really young ones can't walk, they just kinda wiggle.

Well, we're supposed to be discussing building the hutch, not using it, I suppose? So, back to building the hutch.

doors, nest covers and bunny shelves

Big doors under construction along with nest covers and resting ledges

Seems like when construction is going along, it's just as easy to build the bunny furniture along with the hutch itself. The big green squares are the doors. It's easier to paint them before putting the wire on. I did learn that it's easier to open the doors if a three eigths inch gap is left between the doors. Some of them have the doors tight against each other when they're shut. That probably makes them more secure since both doors have to be opened in order for one door to open, but that means you have to open both doors. So from now on, the doors will be made with a gap big enough between the doors that they can be opened one at a time. The 'locks' for the doors are just a big nail dropped through a hole drilled into the bottom frame of the door going into a hole drilled in the lower frame that supports both doors. Not very elegant, but inexpensive. Considering each hutch has twelve individual doors which are set into pairs to make a 'door plate', that would be twelve latches necessary if one were to be buying latches. Twelve big nails are much less expensive than twelve of any type of latch.

Each big hutch needs six doors, six floor plates and a frame work to hang them all on. Each bunny space needs either a nest box cover or a resting ledge. As well as access to a water nipple from the automatic water system, but I'll put those details in a different post.

hutch halfway under construction

Framework to hold the doors and floors

This framework is 2" x 4" for the vertical posts and 2" x 6" x 10' long for the horizontal rails that hold the floor plates. There's a thin strip of wood on each side of the upper horizontal 'beam'(?) to hold the top of the door plates in place. The door plates are installed by putting the top of the door plate into the slot across the top and then lining them up with the front of the hutch. There's a couple of screws that stick up a bit to hold the inside of the door plates from going too far into the hutch. On the outside of the hutch there's some turn latches that hold the door plates in. Those are just bits of scrap lumber held on with screws. Again, an inexpensive option, but the bunnies don't mind.

The tin roof is used tin, but still in good condition and was free at the dump. Instead of nailing or screwing it down from the top of the hutch, there's wires that go up through the tin roof and either are knotted to a nail or just have a big knot in them on the upper side of the roofing so the wires don't pull through the hole. The wire's tail hanging down on the inside is wrapped around a screw along the inside of the top rail.

Another and one of the major reasons for a 'modular' hutch is so that it can be moved. The big bunny hutches at the other houses weren't able to be moved because they were too big and awkward. The modular hutches have construction techniques which will allow them to be fairly easy to move. The tin roof will come off pretty easy since it's wired on instead of screwed or nailed on. The floor plates and door plates come right off. That pretty much just leaves the sidea and back. It's nice to have a new bunny hutch, but there's enough work to moving house that being able to move the bunny hutch instead of building a new one will hopefully be a good thing. So far we've not had to move the modular hutches yet, but hopefully it will be easy when the time comes.

First of the big hutches still under construction

First of the Big Hutches

So far we've built two of these big modular hutches. The floor and door plates can be switched between the two hutches. At some point a spare floor plate should be made since it's easier to clean the floors when they're not in the hutch at all. If I had a spare set of three floor plates, the a whole floor level could be taken out to be cleaned without having to relocate the bunnies for very long.

Because the hutches are pretty close to the mock orange hedge, the plumbing for the water system was installed before the back walls were complete. So, we had white PVC pipe to put across the back of the hutch while installing the back walls. There's also a temporary 'hutch' off to the left side of the big hutch under construction. That's really too small of a space for the bunnies to be in for very long, it's an old show cage set up on fence posts with a piece of tin roof on top. Not a permanent bunny space solution, but sometimes the buns need somewhere to be while we're making a better space for them.

big hutch without the feeders installed

Not quite complete, but almost there.

It's getting almost complete since the water system is installed and functional. There's also a water faucet at the front corner of the hutch for filling water bottles, washing hands, etc. It's pretty low pressure since the whole system is a low pressure system, but it's better than nothing. It doesn't work for washing down the hutch.

The lower level has the big feeder walls installed, but they aren't installed on the upper level yet.

big hutch with the feeders installed

Feeders top and bottom now.

The big feeders were supposed to hold enough feed for several days in case we wanted to go somewhere for a long weekend without getting a bunny sitter. But, they worked better in theory than in reality. They hold enough feed, that's not the problem, but there's so much humidity around here that the feed mildews before it gets eaten. So the feeder/walls are more wall than feeder. I'll have to think up something else to deal with several days of feed in a high humidity environment.

Other than the feed mildewing, they worked well. The round white knob on the top front of the feeders is for a little door. That opens and feed can be poured down a removeable chute. Easy way to feed lots of bunnies, but the mildew thing was a problem. I also need to figure out how to keep baby bunnies from going from one side to the other of the feeder. The feeder feeds two bunny spaces in the big hutch and the feed area is big enough that fairly old young bunnies can slither through there. Zorro is four months old and he visits Dozer and Dolce next door by going through the feeder whenever he wants. Not that Dozer and Dolce mind, but it'd be better for bunnies to stay where they're supposed to.

big feeder

Big feeder under construction

The big feeders were meant to be a separation between the bunny spaces as well as feeders for both sides. Several different types of internal wire barriers were tried, but none of them worked particularly well. I suspect a short inner wall down the center line of the feeder with a flat wire partion at the top of the wall may work, but we still have to figure out the mildewing feed problem first. Maybe painting the wood would help a bit, it's just bare pine. The top square of wood at the narrow end of the feeder is actually a flap that goes inward.

big feeder with the bit of separation wall

Feeder with Separation Wall installed

The feeder goes about halfway to the back of the hutch so an additional bit of wall needs to be added if the bunny spaces are to be kept separate. Or I can take the bit of wall out and the bunnies can go from one space to the next. If we just had the mildew problem figured out, then I'd work on making the feeders better, but lately they've been used more as walls than as feeders.

big hutch with the doors removed for cleaning

Modular function in use

Sometimes being able to remove the doors is really helpful for cleaning the bunny spaces. For a complete 'spring cleaning' the doors and floors can be removed and then the whole thing pressure sprayed. In this picture, the big feeder is on top of the short aluminum ladder there. I think the door wall behind the feeder is being taken out to make two bunny spaces into one bigger space.

The Evolution of Hillside Farm Hawaii Bunny Spaces:

Hillside Farm Bunny Spaces
The First (and Not-So-Good) Bunny Hutch
The First 'New and Improved' Bunny Hutches
Phase Two of 'New and Improved' Bunny Hutches
Modular Hutches
Assorted Temporary Hutches

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