by Anthony Purpura
For the longest time, I was toiling with the idea of getting rabbits for my homestead. As we all know they grow fast, the feed to finished meat ratio is the best of almost any animal, they don’t require a lot of space and they are easy to raise and you can do it almost anywhere.
So what was stopping me from starting the adventure? Well, like you guys and gals I didn’t have a lot of money for the initial equipment. Like everyone else on this site, we try to provide for our families with high-quality food for as little money as possible. BUT unlike some of our urban counterparts, we don’t have a problem with raising our own meat and processing it for food.
So one day I finally decided to get off my butt and start making my cages so I can raise rabbits. Below is the finished product. (Fig 1)
After a lot of research on how to raise rabbits, house them and then ultimately breed them I determined what type of cages would fit my needs. I decided this was going to be a two-part adventure for me. The first part was seeing if I could actually make my own commercial type cages a lot cheaper than store bought cages, and secondly, could I raise the rabbits and ultimately breed them successfully in the cages I made.
My plan was to make the cages 24” deep by, 24” tall by 36” across the front. I wanted to make three cages initially because according to my research once the baby rabbits (kits) get bigger the mom needs her own room. Plus it will be easier to wean the Kits off of mom if they were in different cages.
So I went to several stores to get my supplies, I purchased the wire 48” x 50’ (1”x 2” holes), hog rings 3/8” (1/2lb), hog ring pliers and hardware cloth (1/2” x 1/2”) to make my cages. Man was I excited, I was finally doing it, I was going to make cages and raise rabbits.
I quickly learned I should have planned a little better. The wire I bought was “ON SALE” and it turned out to be not such a great deal after all. They had wire that was 24” x 50’ for a couple bucks more, but NO I decided to get the 48” wire that was on sale and save $10. I was figuring I would cut the wire in half to the size I needed, after all, how hard can it possibly be to cut that thin wire?
Well, cutting the wire was easy enough. The problem was I had to cut each and every little square across the wire. I figured I must have cut about 500 squares throughout the project.
After all that cutting of the wire my right hand was like the incredible Hulks hand. I wanted to go around shaking peoples hand just because.
The original plan was to make the cages 24” x 24” x 36”. After flattening my wire I quickly realized my cage was going to be a little smaller than I had planned. My 48” wire cannot be directly cut in half to make two 24” sides and cut half of a square.
So they ended up being about 23” instead. My 36” measurement fell in the middle of a square as well and ended up being 35”. The 1” difference did not affect the overall construction all that much.
It did make the corners not exactly perfect, or as perfect as I would have liked them to be. I used some scrap pieces to make a straw feeder holder on the side. I originally used the hog rings with just the crimping tool I purchased to crimp them together.
I did not like that they did not hold very tight. I had to go back and really crimp them down with a pair of needle nose pliers. I found out that if you crimped them down tight the cage had a more rigid feel to it and in my opinion, it made for a much stronger cage.
A funny side story to show how strong the cages are. My neighbor’s pony escaped in the middle of the night and it decided to come by and visit my rabbits. In the morning I noticed hoof prints on the ground and all the rabbit food was empty from the feeders and one cage was on the ground.
That cage was pretty banged up. I simply took the rabbit out, got a big rubber hammer and banged it back into shape. Not perfect but not bad for a rabbit cage. Other than the rabbit not wanting to watch Mr. Ed with me no harm was done and the cages stood up to the vicious pony attack.
OK now, this is where you really need to pay attention. I was totally bliss to the actual size of the nest box and got into a jam. The door opening is 1” smaller than the size of the nest box. I was able to use another cage with a bigger opening but if you are going to use a nest box make sure you measure it prior to cutting the door and actually building the door.
I wanted to use the leftover pieces from the original 36” cut that’s why I didn’t really measure the nest boxes. I simply said I have a piece this big and therefore this will be my door. Also, notice how I left the cut sides longer. That way I was able to bend the wire back on to itself to make a hinge for the door.
My last step was to make the base, I decided to use wood because I had a lot of it left over from some pallets that I broke up several months ago. I used six 2×4 for the legs and two long 1×4 for the rails and center supports.
I bought some oops paint at Home Depot for $5 and wow it almost looked like a pro built it. I came up with the measurements by lining up the finished cages and measuring them and adding a couple of inches in the event I made a mistake somewhere.
Can you make rabbit cages for a low or near nothing cost? Well, YES. But I will say they are not even close to commercial grade. The cages I made are strong durable, wash easily and I have used them every day since I built them. But they do need a support underneath which adds to the cost. (I was not able to buy commercial grade materials locally.
Buying them online would have been too expensive once shipping was added). The three cages I built ended up costing me about $65. That included the crimping tool and all the materials. The cages cost about $21 each to make. A huge savings compared to commercially purchased cages that run around $80 each.
Can you make commercial grade rabbit cages cheaper than you can buy them? No, or at least I couldn’t. By the time I bought the commercial grade materials and equipment to cut it and put it together the cost would have been $15-$20 more per cage then I can buy it locally.
The company’s buy the materials in such bulk that we as consumers cannot compete. Commercial cages are very strong because they are made using thicker gauge materials, they will hang easily with the rabbits in them and not fall apart or need any extra support. But you do pay for that.
Should you at least try to make your own cages? Absolutely YES. If/when TSHTF there will not be any companies to buy cages from. You either make them or you go without. I chose to try and see if I could make them now while I still have the option of buying them locally if I couldn’t make them.
Kind of practicing what I preach to my friends, learn something now while we have the time so we don’t starve later trying to figure it out.
The best place to buy cages? For me, I looked in Craig’s List and found a guy that was getting out of the rabbit business and sold me two commercial cages for $30 each. The guy was nice and he included two nest boxes and two feeder trays already clipped to the cages.
I looked up the cages online and new they cost $80 each shipped, nest boxes $15 each, feeder trays $15 each, total per cage new $110. So basically I got $220 worth of equipment for $60. Which ironically ended up costing me about the same as the three I built at home.
Before I leave I will say one thing, OUCH, my hands still hurt from all that cutting to make my three cages.
I hope this article gives you a little guidance and insight if you are thinking of getting some rabbits and building your own cages.