Potential Rabbitry Design Tips

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Karaliene

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Hello!

Anyone having seen my post in the Introductions section will be aware that I, one day, aim to be a breeder. I'd definitely like to breed Mini Lops as they're far and away my favourite breed, and it would be - at least to begin with - on a small scale. At present, all I have is a playhouse and I'm reluctant to begin breeding in that as I'm well aware that, (A) the bunnies need space and if I have anything to do with it they're jolly well going to get space and (B) there will have to be multiple spare cages for kits. Now, I really detest the idea of keeping them in tiny wire boxes, and have refused point-blank to my parents that I ever do this. (Just a quick side-note, I pretty much have to breed or I won't be allowed to keep rabbits. My parents are definitely not sure on caring for rabbits which is why it's a good thing I am and certainly won't be humouring some of their ideas on how rabbits should be kept, so don't worry on that.)

Instead of wire boxes, I'd like to house my bunnies in wooden cages inspired by this design I found online:
1590669773410.pngThankfully my Dad is brilliant with wood and is happy to build me whatever I will need. I think it will be modified somewhat from this design - not having legs or a slanted roof as I want them to be stack-able. It will also be bigger than the plans for this as I am a firm believer that if my bunny Mamas and Papas aren't happy and loved and healthy, neither will their babies be. These cages will be located in (at first) the playhouse and then, if I can make a reasonable success of the breeding (to my parents that means covering at least 75% of the costs which I believe I can manage) I will hopefully move to a much larger, more permanent garage-type shed - a proper brick building which is on some land we're buying. It really would be a dream to house the rabbits in there as, to look at it, you would almost think it was designed for a breeder!

Because I am strongly sympathetic with rescue centers and care deeply about rabbit welfare, I've made it my goal to either become an ethical, bunny-not-money-orientated breeder - or stop breeding at all, and take the consequences. By consequences, I mean I mightn't be able to keep them even as pets any more. I just really, really don't want to risk any bunnies I've ever bred going to a bad home or cluttering up rescues.

I intend for the cages to be at least 2ft high, 4ft long and 2ft deep - although of course, bigger is better. I've also requested that we construct several (or one large, with partitions) runs which are at least 4ft tall (to allow for binkies :)) and allow for at least 25 square feet of space for each rabbit (though if I had 8 rabbits that wouldn't be 200 square feet as they'd go in at different times, if you see what I mean). We have a gorgeous, untreated willow tree in our garden and grow herbs, and there is a blackberry bush too, so any bunnies would definitely not go short on entertainment and foraging. I expect my bunnies to live as normal a life as possible.

When it comes to selling, I will insist on having buyers lined up before I breed my rabbits. True bunny lovers won't mind the wait of a few weeks if they want the perfect Mini Lop from me, and I intend all of my kits to have loving homes. I will make sure that I'm satisfied with the potential owner before selling, etc. That way I will never have a 'surplus' of babies - I don't want to cull, ever, unless for health reasons. It won't be because one has helicopter ears when they should be lop, or because it has a few to many dark spots, or because I just have too many rabbits.

Whew. That was long, for sure! So I guess, what I want to know is: (a) does anyone spot anything wrong I'm doing here? Or rather, planning to do? If so, please comment or message and let me know! And, (b), does this seem like an ethical way for me to breed rabbits?

Thank you!
 

zuppa

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Hi, this is a nice manifesto! :)

If your dad can build good hutches for you that will definitely reduce costs but you will need to invest into expensive rabbits to make your idea profitable, since mixed breed rabbits will be more difficult to sell and also expenses of raising rabbits can be higher than what you get for them. Also as I see you are just getting your first rabbits soon so don't have any experience. It is great that you did lots of research prior to getting them but experience is important too. Breeders have standard setups with wire cages for a reason, since they need their business to remain profitable, they also must be able (and have expertise) to do many things themselves to avoid hight vets costs. Keeping rabbits properly and taking good care of them will cost money and you are adopting 3 neutered rabbits soon so you will have many rabbits would you be able to take care of them all, your non commercial neutered rabbits and your breeding rabbits and their babies (up to 8-12 weeks, maybe even longer since you stated you will only sell to very good homes)?
 

Karaliene

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Hi, this is a nice manifesto! :)

If your dad can build good hutches for you that will definitely reduce costs but you will need to invest into expensive rabbits to make your idea profitable, since mixed breed rabbits will be more difficult to sell and also expenses of raising rabbits can be higher than what you get for them. Also as I see you are just getting your first rabbits soon so don't have any experience. It is great that you did lots of research prior to getting them but experience is important too. Breeders have standard setups with wire cages for a reason, since they need their business to remain profitable, they also must be able (and have expertise) to do many things themselves to avoid hight vets costs. Keeping rabbits properly and taking good care of them will cost money and you are adopting 3 neutered rabbits soon so you will have many rabbits would you be able to take care of them all, your non commercial neutered rabbits and your breeding rabbits and their babies (up to 8-12 weeks, maybe even longer since you stated you will only sell to very good homes)?
Hey thanks! And thanks for raising those concerns - actually I don't intend to breed until after I've taken care of the first lot - this plan could be 3 or 4 years away yet, I just need to start the preparations sooner rather than later to suit my parents. So I shan't have very many rabbits at a time yet. That will come later, I think.

And yes, I do see why breeders would prefer the convenience of a wire cage - the fact, however, is that I'm not intending for profit of any kind on this. My parents don't think animals are worthwhile unless they 'pay for their keep', so to speak - so I've been told I have to make some money out of this by breeding. In all honesty, I've a pretty significant income stream already from an online business, so I'm not as stressed about profits as some would be. I'm more concerned about welfare.

Regarding breeders having the expertise to do a lot themselves, this is definitely something I'm working on. I have an experienced breeder as a second-cousin who is willing to help me - I've already asked for a demonstration of how to cut nails and carry out detailed health checks as I don't see the point of going to the vet if I can do it myself. Do you have anything else I should be asking to know how to do?
 

zuppa

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I think you will get your first three neutered rabbits now and you will learn day by day how to take good care of them. 3-4 years as you stated is long enough time so you will learn a lot and will see more and more things to learn about rabbits. When you will get your unneutered rabbits you will need to learn even more things.
So as I understand your plan is keeping both those three neutered rabbits for yourself and more breeding rabbits for your business?
 

Karaliene

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I think you will get your first three neutered rabbits now and you will learn day by day how to take good care of them. 3-4 years as you stated is long enough time so you will learn a lot and will see more and more things to learn about rabbits. When you will get your unneutered rabbits you will need to learn even more things.
So as I understand your plan is keeping both those three neutered rabbits for yourself and more breeding rabbits for your business?
Well yes - I won't be buying my first breeding pair - or, more likely, trio - until after the first three have passed away. I'm sorry if that sounds kind of weird to be saying that, I'm not sure how else to put it. And yes, the first three I'll be getting mainly because, like I said, I sympathize a lot with rescues, and also to gain experience. So you're right, yes.
Do you have any ideas of what I might need to be learning for the unneutered rabbits?
 

Apollo’s Slave

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Well yes - I won't be buying my first breeding pair - or, more likely, trio - until after the first three have passed away. I'm sorry if that sounds kind of weird to be saying that, I'm not sure how else to put it. And yes, the first three I'll be getting mainly because, like I said, I sympathize a lot with rescues, and also to gain experience. So you're right, yes.
Do you have any ideas of what I might need to be learning for the unneutered rabbits?
Rabbits can live as long as 14 years, but are usually about a 7 year commitment (on average) if properly owned, so you might be waiting a while before getting your breeding rabbits.
 

zuppa

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This is true, if you are 13 now and are going to adopt your first 3 young fixed rabbits soon so I understand that they are one young oopsie mother and two her daughters, so if you take a proper care of them as it sounds like you are going to be a very good rabbit owner you will be 25-27 when they will be gone. So I would say it's a bit too early to calculate your business plan yet since lots of things could change over those years. Surely you will learn a lot over those years, day by day.
 
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Karaliene

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Rabbits can live as long as 14 years, but are usually about a 7 year commitment (on average) if properly owned, so you might be waiting a while before getting your breeding rabbits.
This is true, if you are 13 now and are going to adopt your first 3 young fixed rabbits soon so I understand that they are young oopsie mother and two her daughters, so if you take a proper care of them as it sounds like you are going to be a very good rabbit owner you will be 25-27 when they will be gone. So I would say it's a bit too early to calculate your business plan yet since lots of things could change over those years. Surely you will learn a lot over those years, day by day.
Yes- exactly. As of now, my parents really need to know my 'plan'. So I've just given them something basic as I know full well it may need - or rather will need - to be flexible. Thank you very much, both of you, for your help!
 

zuppa

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Yes- exactly. As of now, my parents really need to know my 'plan'. So I've just given them something basic as I know full well it may need - or rather will need - to be flexible. Thank you very much, both of you, for your help!
Happy to help, always :)

Besides, when you will be 25-27 you won't need your parents permission to start a rabbitry.
 

SableSteel

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The way rabbits are kept in the US and UK varies a lot. If you're in the UK you need to make sure they are vaccinated. They also tend to use more wooden cages in the UK, for what reason, I can't understand why. Wooden cages are awful, in my opinion. They soak up urine, are impossible to sanitize (they can trap in pathogens, as wood is porous, unlike wire which can be bleached or burned if needed), they just get chewed on, they don't allow as much air flow, etc. You can always build wooden boxes to put inside wire cages and give them a place to hideaway, if you want, and minimize some of the negatives of using wood. I used to have some wooden hutches when I started; a lot of breeders start off with wooden hutches and quickly switch to wire cages. I don't know a single US breeder who prefers wood over wire and I know hundreds of breeders. Hutches look nicer (at least, at first, until they get chewed up and gross), but the rabbits don't care about the aesthetic of the cage; you can custom make wire cages to be the same size and dimensions, without dealing with the mess that is wood. And the wire cages don't hurt the feet, unless the wire is too thin (12-14 ga preferred for the floor, 14-16 usually used for the sides) and/or your rabbits are already prone to hock problems which is something that shouldn't be bred and isn't usually found in mini lops (which in the UK is closer to what we call holland lops in the US than the US breed mini lop). You're not going to make money breeding, so I don't know how that will work out with your parents, but imo that should never be the goal of breeding anyway. It should be, imo, for the preservation and improvement of the breed. You might want to look into showing, if you haven't already; you're more likely to find homes if you also have the option of selling to show folk, along with pets.

Another thing; you should always ask to take back the rabbits if the owners can no longer keep them, and have a couple spare cages just in case. That's pretty common practice in ethical dog breeding, but for some reason I don't see it as much in some rabbit breeders. Sometimes things happen, and even the best home can no longer keep a rabbit. Even if you really don't have the need for the rabbit back, you have an obligation, in my opinion, to take it back and find it another home. If you bring an animal into this world, you are responsible for its well being throughout its life -a rabbit bred by an ethical breeder should never end up in a shelter. Plus it's probably easier for you to find it another home as you are likely already in contact with people looking for that specific breed. I've only had to take rabbits back a few times, and they always ended up in good homes in the end.
 

Karaliene

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The way rabbits are kept in the US and UK varies a lot. If you're in the UK you need to make sure they are vaccinated. They also tend to use more wooden cages in the UK, for what reason, I can't understand why. Wooden cages are awful, in my opinion. They soak up urine, are impossible to sanitize (they can trap in pathogens, as wood is porous, unlike wire which can be bleached or burned if needed), they just get chewed on, they don't allow as much air flow, etc. You can always build wooden boxes to put inside wire cages and give them a place to hideaway, if you want, and minimize some of the negatives of using wood. I used to have some wooden hutches when I started; a lot of breeders start off with wooden hutches and quickly switch to wire cages. I don't know a single US breeder who prefers wood over wire and I know hundreds of breeders. Hutches look nicer (at least, at first, until they get chewed up and gross), but the rabbits don't care about the aesthetic of the cage; you can custom make wire cages to be the same size and dimensions, without dealing with the mess that is wood. And the wire cages don't hurt the feet, unless the wire is too thin (12-14 ga preferred for the floor, 14-16 usually used for the sides) and/or your rabbits are already prone to hock problems which is something that shouldn't be bred and isn't usually found in mini lops (which in the UK is closer to what we call holland lops in the US than the US breed mini lop). You're not going to make money breeding, so I don't know how that will work out with your parents, but imo that should never be the goal of breeding anyway. It should be, imo, for the preservation and improvement of the breed. You might want to look into showing, if you haven't already; you're more likely to find homes if you also have the option of selling to show folk, along with pets.

Another thing; you should always ask to take back the rabbits if the owners can no longer keep them, and have a couple spare cages just in case. That's pretty common practice in ethical dog breeding, but for some reason I don't see it as much in some rabbit breeders. Sometimes things happen, and even the best home can no longer keep a rabbit. Even if you really don't have the need for the rabbit back, you have an obligation, in my opinion, to take it back and find it another home. If you bring an animal into this world, you are responsible for its well being throughout its life -a rabbit bred by an ethical breeder should never end up in a shelter. Plus it's probably easier for you to find it another home as you are likely already in contact with people looking for that specific breed. I've only had to take rabbits back a few times, and they always ended up in good homes in the end.
Thank you so much for the detailed and thoughtful reply; I really appreciate it. Of course I'd keep up to date on the vaccinations - though I am slightly confused as to how often, because most websites I have researched on have differing information. Some say biannually and others only annually... I suppose my vet is the best one to ask about this.

Anyways, regarding cages, I'd never heard that before. I've read a lot of bad reviews of wire cages and from that, surmised that they weren't the way to go. Although, seeing as you've definitely got much more experience than I have, you're probably right. Do you know if you can get hold of / DIY larger wire cages? All those I have seen are so cramped and tiny, which is a big reason I - so far - dislike them. If Mini Lops aren't likely to have a sore hocks problem (guess I'll have to be sure the breeding stock don't, anyway) then perhaps that is the best idea.
Would something like this work for the cages?
The dimensions are, 37L x 19W x 20H in inches for those in the USA or for those in the UK, 93.98L x 48.26W x 50.8H in centimetres.
1590740376078.png
1590740406349.png







Concerning the financial side; I'm well aware that breeding isn't going to make me money. However, if I can cover at least part of my costs that will make it worthwhile in my parents' eyes. So really, all I want to do is improve the quality of Mini Lops. I see so many up for sale from 'breeders' who fancy making a bit of cash and when looking at them it's clear they're not purebred, or other obvious issues. With showing, I'm not sure if there are any close by... I've had a look at the BRC website with my parents and they think the cost isn't worth it until I'm producing excellent quality bunnies. In fact I don't think they like the idea - they don't see why a rabbit needs a pedigree if its 'only going to be a pet'. They suggested I just breed crossbreeds. You can probably guess my response to that.


Thanks for the advice about taking rabbits back, too. This is something I've seen in some rabbit breeders but not many and I do think it's a good idea. I expect the cages would have to be separate from the main rabbitry - am I right? I'm just thinking, if the rabbit coming back carries diseases I don't want them spreading.
 

SableSteel

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That cage is sort of okay but on the small side. The wire on the floor also looks a bit too narrow. Most of the 1/2" x 1/2" hardware cloth is too sharp and fine to be good flooring. A lot of people buy the wire for the cages and build them to the shape and size they want (if they are indoors, they often build them to fit easy to find pan sizes; for me personally I use a lot of pans that are 18" x 24" but have multiple trays under each cage - I would recommend not making a cage deeper than 24", as if its any deeper its hard to reach in. To add more room to the cage I make it wider, not deeper or taller. Also makes it easy to clean if they only pee in one corner you don't have to clean the whole tray. I buy cages that are meant for multiple dwarf rabbits, and take out the dividers in between compartments to get one large cage instead.). There's probably better information about building them online, I order cages from somebody nearby me who builds them so I haven't personally built any. Floor wire is usually 1/2" x 1" and 12 or 14 ga (NOT hardware cloth, which is too sharp for their feet). The wire on the sides is usually 1" x 2", usually 16 ga but the thickness of those doesn't matter as much. It might be harder to find cage wire in the UK, as making wire cages isn't as common there afaik.

For vaccinations; go on your vet recommendations. It depends on the type of your vaccine. I'm not sure overall; they don't have myxo & rhdv2 vaccines in the US for the most part.

And yes; make sure you quarantine any rabbits coming into your rabbitry, even if they were rabbits you owned originally.
 

Karaliene

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Small? Okay, that does seem reasonable to be fair. I did think it was quite deep, but still, it's only about a metre long. The wire on the floor - in fact, all of the wire, is weld mesh and it has an electro-coat finish apparently. I'm not sure if that makes a difference to the damage to the hocks or not. It's not quite the same as hardware cloth I don't think, but I guess I'd have to ask the manufacturer that.

Would you mind posting a picture of your rabbitry / or a cage in your rabbitry? I think it could be helpful for me to see exactly how you've set it up. I've had a brief look online but haven't seen any tutorials for making my own wire cages yet.

On the subject of larger cages, I didn't realise they could be made, and I'll certainly look into that, but in the meantime would something like the Ferplast Rabbit 120 cage, which has dimensions 51 x 120 x 58cm. The website doesn't state which is height, length and depth/width but I presume it was 51W x 120L x 58H.
1590822273587.png
And here's a picture...

I guess this could still be a bit small, perhaps building my own with pan sizes in mind is a better idea. Where would you get pans?
I have found some bases and trays... but I'm not sure it's the right type of thing. They're supposedly spare parts but I guess that doesn't matter. I'm not sure whether this is the right sort of thing that you meant, so I'll put a link here for if you want to check. Please don't feel obliged, though.

What sort of size, overall, would you recommend? Also (I hope you don't mind my many questions!) do you stack cages? It seems to be a good idea but perhaps it isn't... after all, I thought wooden cages were a good idea!
 

Me and Bun-uccino

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I am (eventually) going to use for my rabbitry these cages:
1590933219589.png
They are a huge 4 foot x 2 foot cage and doesn't have a heavy pan to lug around (I HATE those pans). Since it it so big you can divide it into compartments that fit your needs (you need your own welded wire for that) and you can add the wire floor or you can leave it without it. And guess what? It's only 35 dollars! Since I don't want to spend a ton of money on cages, this is what I picked here is the link:
You can order one with a top but I found a better deal if you want one with a top for 50 dollars.
1590934782258.png
Here's the link:
Also when I run out of space in the shed I will build a huge row of all wire cages with wood to suspend it off the ground. Kinda like this but with a tarp and not shingles:
1590933075290.png
Hope this gives you ideas!
 

BunBun71

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Thank you so much for the detailed and thoughtful reply; I really appreciate it. Of course I'd keep up to date on the vaccinations - though I am slightly confused as to how often, because most websites I have researched on have differing information. Some say biannually and others only annually... I suppose my vet is the best one to ask about this.

Anyways, regarding cages, I'd never heard that before. I've read a lot of bad reviews of wire cages and from that, surmised that they weren't the way to go. Although, seeing as you've definitely got much more experience than I have, you're probably right. Do you know if you can get hold of / DIY larger wire cages? All those I have seen are so cramped and tiny, which is a big reason I - so far - dislike them. If Mini Lops aren't likely to have a sore hocks problem (guess I'll have to be sure the breeding stock don't, anyway) then perhaps that is the best idea.
Would something like this work for the cages?
The dimensions are, 37L x 19W x 20H in inches for those in the USA or for those in the UK, 93.98L x 48.26W x 50.8H in centimetres.
View attachment 48248
View attachment 48249







Concerning the financial side; I'm well aware that breeding isn't going to make me money. However, if I can cover at least part of my costs that will make it worthwhile in my parents' eyes. So really, all I want to do is improve the quality of Mini Lops. I see so many up for sale from 'breeders' who fancy making a bit of cash and when looking at them it's clear they're not purebred, or other obvious issues. With showing, I'm not sure if there are any close by... I've had a look at the BRC website with my parents and they think the cost isn't worth it until I'm producing excellent quality bunnies. In fact I don't think they like the idea - they don't see why a rabbit needs a pedigree if its 'only going to be a pet'. They suggested I just breed crossbreeds. You can probably guess my response to that.


Thanks for the advice about taking rabbits back, too. This is something I've seen in some rabbit breeders but not many and I do think it's a good idea. I expect the cages would have to be separate from the main rabbitry - am I right? I'm just thinking, if the rabbit coming back carries diseases I don't want them spreading.
That is too small. Rabbits need lots of room. They like to run and binky. Just saying. :)
 

Karaliene

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That is too small. Rabbits need lots of room. They like to run and binky. Just saying. :)
Thank you for pointing that out. I'm now looking at something much bigger though I'll also check out what Me and Bun-uccino said. The measurements of this are, 120L x 58W x 51H - in centimetres. That's (approximately) 47L x 23W x 20H in inches. Is this a better size?

Also, just so you know, they'd get daily access to a separate run, too. Unless the weather is too bad - which is pretty rare.
 

Karaliene

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I am (eventually) going to use for my rabbitry these cages:
View attachment 48285
They are a huge 4 foot x 2 foot cage and doesn't have a heavy pan to lug around (I HATE those pans). Since it it so big you can divide it into compartments that fit your needs (you need your own welded wire for that) and you can add the wire floor or you can leave it without it. And guess what? It's only 35 dollars! Since I don't want to spend a ton of money on cages, this is what I picked here is the link:
You can order one with a top but I found a better deal if you want one with a top for 50 dollars.
View attachment 48286
Here's the link:
Also when I run out of space in the shed I will build a huge row of all wire cages with wood to suspend it off the ground. Kinda like this but with a tarp and not shingles:
View attachment 48284
Hope this gives you ideas!
They look great- thanks for sharing!! Actually that's about the same size as the one I mentioned in the comment above - the bigger one - and it's from the UK so I guess it might be a better option. I was looking at some US-made wire cages as I know you use them more over there, but the import charges were in excess of £175 which, considering the cage was £40, seems extortionate. Anyways, maybe this other one will be better? I'll have a look later!
 

Me and Bun-uccino

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They look great- thanks for sharing!! Actually that's about the same size as the one I mentioned in the comment above - the bigger one - and it's from the UK so I guess it might be a better option. I was looking at some US-made wire cages as I know you use them more over there, but the import charges were in excess of £175 which, considering the cage was £40, seems extortionate. Anyways, maybe this other one will be better? I'll have a look later!
Well as long as you are happy with that cage, I say it's completely fine to use that one.
 

Karaliene

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Well as long as you are happy with that cage, I say it's completely fine to use that one.
The size is okay? It's certainly much larger than a lot of breeders I've seen, but I'm not sure that that makes it ideal.... I do feel it's good, considering I'll be giving them a lot of run space and time daily.
 
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