When I started researching meat rabbits, way before I ever had any, I wondered what I would use for nesting boxes. The traditional sheet metal boxes that I see used most often are hard to find where I live and very expensive when located. There’s one on a shelf at the local feed store that I think is around $40 and looks from the thick coat of dust on it like it’s been sitting unsold for many years. I wonder why…
I’ve also seen many wooden nesting boxes used. To me, that seems like a lot of work for a heavy nesting box that will absorb urine and is difficult to disinfect. I know the importance of disinfecting nesting boxes after each use as I had to deal with a couple of cases of mastitis last year. My rabbit recovered both times but it’s not something I’d like to repeat.
A nice solution would be if there was something cheap and plastic I could buy at a hardware store that would fit the bill, sort of like a squat planter box maybe. Something like that may exist, but I haven’t found it yet. I have wondered if a plastic dishpan might work, but I have yet to try this out.
So my solution was to follow guidelines in the Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits and build wire mesh nestboxes. I had already built all my rabbit cages, so I already had the mesh and tools. Despite the popularity of the book, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else ever use a box like this, for whatever reason. I know once I posted a Youtube video which showed the box in use, a local rabbit breeder I know commented to me that she noticed I was using wire boxes and to not be surprised if I lost most of my kits. That scared me a bit. I asked her why, and she said the kits would either get too cold or the mother would flip the lightweight nest over. Well, I wasn’t going to let either of those things happen.
At first I would cut out a fresh cardboard liner for each new litter, then fill the box with woodchips and straw. The cardboard had to be in one single piece or the does would pull out each side and toss them. Well, turns out you actually go through a lot of cardboard that way and measuring out and cutting the liners is tedious. I hated it. I also need my used cardboard to make packaging for my other business and there’s no way I’m going to go and buy new cardboard. Do you know how expensive it is?
I experimented once without the liner and all the woodchips fell out through the mesh in just a few days. Thankfully the kits survived but I needed to add new bedding each day and they were obviously struggling to stay warm in the depleted nest.
Now I think I’ve found a better solution. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but this time I shoved a whole bunch of shredded newspapers into the bottom of the nests and topped them off with the straw. The problem with straw is that my rabbits like to eat it. Generally though enough is left in the nest for it to work. They won’t be eating the paper I bet. So far, it looks like the shreds make a nice soft and yet solid base to the nest, and it doesn’t seem to want to fall out the holes. The rabbits seem happy with it and it’s absorbent, practically free and should insulate well. I keep the does from moving or flipping over their nests by attaching the back to the cage wall with a dog leash clip.
These wire mesh nests are nice and light when removing them to inspect kits, they can be very easily sanitized in a container with some bleach and water, they were cheap and easy to make, and they’ll last a very long time. I worried a bit about the sharp front corners at first, but I smoothed everything off well with a grinder when I made them and the rabbits seem to have no problems. I’ve seen enough wild rabbits deep in bramble bushes to know that they know how to avoid being impaled on sharp objects.
My nestboxes are made of 1/2 inch by 1 inch rabbit cage flooring wire, and measure 18 inches long by 10 inches wide by 8 inches tall with a 5 inch tall front lip. They are held together with hog rings or c-clips.