DIY Rabbit Nesting Boxes – Trial and Error


Esther with a moustache of the new bedding we’re trying. I think she approves

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.


Very pregnant Creme d’Argent doe and nest box

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.



Back to the Rabbits


Hybrid meat bunnies

I haven’t posted about rabbits for awhile, especially considering the name of this site. There have been a lot of changes in the past few months.

The biggest and best change is that I finally replaced the roof on my barn. For two years whenever it rained the poor bunnies had to live with the occasional drip which slowly turned into a constant drizzle as the tarp I put up weathered away. I even lost a whole litter once when they were drowned by accident. That was a horrible experience. Now I’ve installed a nice new metal roof that I’m proud to say I built myself and learned a lot in the process. I still have work to do on it yet like fascia boards but at least things are now watertight. You wouldn’t believe the constant anxiety it was causing me knowing the rabbits were living without a proper roof! Summers were fine but spring and fall are very wet here. Soon I will be replacing the old falling-off, flip-up garage door with some nice dutch barn doors. To these I would also like to add a dog/cat door so my team can maintain a constant mouse vigil.

I also went through a paring down process with the rabbits themselves. My first purebred rabbits here were Silver Martens, as that was all I could get at the time. While they were nice rabbits, they just didn’t grow fast enough or large enough for me to be viable as meat rabbits. So I got rid of them.

Now I’m down to four does and two bucks. I have Esther, my reliable Creme d’Argent doe, Samphire, my Californian doe, Tuna, my Black Otter Standard Rex doe and Bluefin, her daughter, a Blue Otter Standard Rex. My bucks are Scorch, the Californian and Timmy the Black Otter Rex. It’s a nice variety and a good number for me right now I think.

As of this moment all of my does are (fingers-crossed) bred. I’m expecting a litter of Cal/Creme meat hybrids, a litter of pure Cals, and hopefully two litters of Standard Rex. Three of those litters are due this Wednesday. Nest boxes go in tomorrow.

I resisted getting Californian rabbits at first. Not sure why, I guess they looked kind of boring to me as predominantly white rabbits. Now I’ve changed my mind, and I really like my Cal pair. They were skittish at first, but have calmed down a lot as adults and seem to enjoy petting. They are never, ever aggressive. I also love Esther, my Creme doe. She’s been with me from the beginning and was a gift from a local rabbit breeder. She’s a big, beautiful, sweet girl who is a fantastic mother, does excellent on forage and has never shown a hint of aggression, ever.

Then there are the Rexes. While Timmy, who is an ex-pet rabbit would never think of being mean (he is also the only rabbit who I can free range in the yard and trust to return to his cage), the girls have had their moments. Both Rex does have stomped, growled, boxed and lunged at me, although I’ve never been bitten. I’m kind of split on the issue because I really like both of them as breeders (not that they’ve proven to be reliable mothers yet at this point), but I also don’t see the point of having aggressive rabbits here at all. It’s possible they act out primarily when hormonal, so I’ll have to be mindful of that. They’ll have a chance to prove themselves as moms in the next few weeks and that will help my decision, I’m sure. At least I hope it does.

They’ve been very good lately, but that may be because spring brings lots of fresh treats. If they continue to be aggressive with me once they have kits, I think I’ll have no choice but to cull once the kits are weaned. I do not want to be bitten by a rabbit.

Check back soon for baby bunnies!