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Rabbitry Rehab

I cannot believe the massive quantities of pollen that are currently being spewed into the air by all the plants around here right now.  After a very mild winter (not quite as mild as last winter, but still), everything has just suddenly kicked into high gear.  Even the oaks are pollinating right now, and I’m sure it’s way early for that!

I was convinced I was coming down with a cold.  Allergies will sometimes give me a swollen, blistered throat in the morning, but it subsides during the day.  If I have a swollen, blistered throat that stays around, or begins to creep down into my bronchial tubes, I have a virus.

Or so I thought.

Three of us had the same symptoms, and we thought we were all getting sick.  Mom went to the doctor today.  Nope, not sick.  It’s allergies.  It’s all this pollen!  Ugh!

So in the midst of this pollen dump, it was time to refurbish the rabbitry.

Refurbish?  Already?  Isn’t the thing just over a year and a half old?

Well… yes.  But we had some flaws in our rabbitry that needed fixing.  I will say that I figured we’d get more than a year and a half out of the rabbitry before it would need an overhaul. But we have learned a few things.

1. Don’t use corrugated waste chutes, especially corrugated tin, if you do not have much clearance between the chutes and the bottoms of the cages. If you do, you will not be able to clean them well at all. If you use tin, it will rust quickly anywhere you are unable to clear the bunny berries that get regular doses of urine.

2. Don’t use 16-gauge floors. They bow between J-clips, and the whole floor bows, giving you even less cleaning clearance. We even had one wire break. We didn’t have problems just in growout cages, but even in the buck’s cage. It’s just not strong enough, unless maybe you’re raising dwarf rabbits.

3. Don’t have your top gutter come to the middle to drain. It makes reaching the cage below potentially very unpleasant.

4. Don’t use regular Bass J-clips. We ordered our cages from Bass (oddly, 14 gauge sides and top, 16 gauge floors — still trying to figure that one out), and they came with J-clips, which we used to assemble the cages. These clips are way too weak. They would fail occasionally, and we once had a bun get loose because three of them failed. She could have gotten hurt, or it could have happened with a litter of babies in the cage. The instructions said to put them at 6″ intervals.  Shay put them every 5″.  Still, the floors sagged and the clips failed.  If the clip is weak enough for a 10-year-old with a pair of pliers to yank off in less than ten seconds, you need stronger clips.

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5. Once you have good J-clips, you will suddenly find you want a better J-clip tool, and you will suddenly realize why you need a set of J-clip removal pliers.

So it was time to correct the flaws.

Woody’s Wabbits sells cages with 14 gauge floors for just a couple dollars more.  I just didn’t know that at the time.  The floors began sagging pretty quickly, both overall and at the edges, between the J-clips.

I ordered replacement 14 gauge floor panels, heavy stainless steel J-clips, and floor supports from Klubertanz.  I ordered precut panels, because I can’t seem to make more than 5 cuts on 14 gauge wire before my hands start begging for mercy (I can cut 16 gauge wire all day).  I also didn’t want to ask Shay to do all that cutting.

 

16 gauge 1"x1/2" floor wire at left. The same wire in 14 gauge at right. The 14 gauge is much, much stronger.

I burned the cage floors with Shay’s torch to sterilize them, and then we pulled out all the 16-gauge floors. ILoveBunnies and Bunny-Wan Kenobi were responsible for this. Once ILoveBunnies began putting a new floor on Pinto’s cage with the new, hefty stainless steel J-clips from Klubertanz (very impressive things), all floor removal went to Bunny-Wan Kenobi.

I had heard on RabbitTalk about the nightmare of removing J-clips… that it was nigh unto impossible without the special removal pliers. I wasn’t sure why it should be so hard. Sure enough, I set the kids up with an array of tools to choose from, and within just a few minutes, they had perfected a fast removal technique. What was all the fuss about? Were my kids really putting to shame a forum full of experienced cage-building adults? It sure seemed like it.

ILoveBunnies grasps a J-clip and rotates it to find the end.

With the clip end up, she approaches the clip again.

She grasps the clip end and pulls it back.

She continues to pull back, twisting if needed. You can see the clip is quite open now.

And she's done! Less than 10 seconds have elapsed. Actually, I had her do it extra-slowly so I could take pictures. I ended up taking them over two clips, because she still did them too fast!

Both of the kids could do it in less than 10 seconds. Once Pinto’s cage had the floor off, ILoveBunnies started putting the new one on. Suddenly, it was very clear why all the talk about J-clips being such a pain! These things were strong!!! Now it was abundantly clear that the regular Bass clips were not desirable at all in cage flooring.  It was also clear that if I ever needed to remove these new clips, I was going to need that removal tool!

With the kids working on the cages, Shay began on the waste chutes and gutters.  First, he pulled out all the corrugated metal.  This was a pain, and he finally resorted to hammering them off from below — which, of course, sent all kinds of dried *ahem* stuff into the air.  He probably should have worn a dust mask.  Yuck.

(Over the course of the rest of the day, Shay gashed his hands on leftover slivers of metal from the old chutes.  We would dash inside, clean it, dress it, and dash back out.  We needed to have the rabbits back in the rabbitry before dusk, when the mosquitoes suddenly all come after you at once!)

Once the old chutes and gutters were out, it was time to install the new ones.  For chutes, I had bought 10mm Coroplast 4′x8′ sheets from a local sign company for $26 per sheet, three sheets total.  They cut the sheets in half for me.  We bought some vinyl gutters both for gutters and for diverters.

The diverters keep waste away from the wood frame. Shay cut the front off of a piece of gutter, to make a piece of vinyl flashing. Here is a diverter after it was affixed with the correct angle.

Shay ended up removing them, and reattaching them as he installed the chutes.  Don’t know why, but his usually flawless math failed him somewhat, causing him to cut to fit instead of cutting off a calculated triangle.

Close-up of a diverter.

 

An end diverter.

While Shay wrangled with diverters, Coroplast, triangles, and numbers, I spread pelletized lime under the rabbitry.

I spread 4 20-pound bags of lime with a garden rake. It'll help keep smell down, and hopefully create a hostile environment under there.

 

The new chute material going in. Like I said before, Shay had to take the diverters back out, and install them with the chutes. You can see that the top corner of this diverter has not been pulled all the way up so the ends can be screwed to the post.

A view from the west end of the rabbitry. You can see that the diverter has been pulled up and secured.

After the chutes were on, Shay installed the new vinyl gutter. To get maximum angle, he sliced off some of the top edge of the back of the gutter on the high end, so he could raise it higher.

I came behind and caulked with clear silicone. It's only been, say... almost 20 years since I caulked? It's true that the caulk would not have the proper curing time before we set the rabbits over it, but Shay figured it would be okay anyway. It is.

The opposite end of the gutter. We had to use a joiner to extend it another couple of feet, then a corner to direct it over a bucket. I caulked all around the joiner and everything. We do get some urine that sits there, but it's easy to remove.

Meanwhile, ILoveBunnies cuts the old floors into baby-saver wire strips (then realizes she's cutting 3", instead of 4"). We have had quite a few baby bunny escapes, so we knew we needed to put some closer wire on the does' cages. These strips will be attached to the outside bottom edges of the cages with the old, unused Bass J-clips, since they don't need to bear weight.

Bunny-Wan Kenobi bends over the ends of the baby-saver wire where it crosses under the doorway. This will keep us from cutting ourselves when we reach into a cage.

Keep going, Bunny-Wan Kenobi! You're getting there!

With the baby-saver wire on, it was time to install the floor supports (also called "floor spreaders") I had bought to help ensure that the floors would not sag. Unfortunately, there were no instructions with them or online anywhere, so I emailed them.

First, I took pliers and bent the tab out a bit, to make it easier to wrap around the cage edge.

I slid the tab behind the baby-saver wire, so that it would go around only the edges of the side and the floor. The tabs weren't long enough to go around all three securely. Sometimes, I could reach inside the cage with pliers and help bend it through, but mostly I just pushed on it from outside with the pliers. Some things there just isn't a tool for.

The instructions from Klubertanz told me to "crimp" the tab firmly to the cage floor, but there was no floor wire close enough to clamp it to. Instead, I pulled out my J-clip pliers, and clamped it with that. It bent the tab all the way around, so that it almost met itself. Maybe that's what they meant.

A view of a tab from the inside, after being clamped with the J-clip pliers. That should be secure.

Another view of a tab. The J-clip to the right is supporting the floor, while the one to the left is holding baby-saver wire. I added more J-clips to the floor edge after installing the floor support.

An entire floor support, front to back. I also took the opportunity to use needlenose pliers to further bend the long baby-saver wire ends that curl around the doorway. Don't want any injured bunnies!

Fluffy and Nibbles settle back in after the day's upheaval. We didn't get the baby-saver and floor supports finished that day, so we did them a few days later.

Fluffy eyes me warily... she's had enough excitement today! I'm not taking her out again, am I? No, I'm not. Not today, anyway.

Squeak heads immediately for the farthest corner. She's glad to be back home!

Pinto doesn't care, he's investigating the camera.

East end of the rabbitry. Top is Pinto, bottom is Fluffy and Nibbles.

The middle of the rabbitry. A growout cage is at top, while Squeak is below. No longer does the top gutter split and drain over her cage! The bottom gutter still splits there in the middle, though, and drains into a pan.

The west end of the rabbitry. Thumper is at top left, and another growout cage goes to the right. Below is where the third doe cage goes. It was Pearl's cage before she died.

Pinto checks out another disturbance coming from just outside his cage. What's going on? He's such a curious bun. He must find out what's happening!

Yay! The visqueen is coming down! Winter's over, so it's time to let the breezes in! Pinto is beside himself.

And it’s done!  We bought a couple of heavy-duty squeegee heads, and a long handle.  Shay cut the handle in half, and put the squeegees on the two parts.  Time will tell how well this works, but I think it will be great! :)

 

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12 Responses to “Rabbitry Rehab”

  1. Tiffany says:

    Great post. You guys did a terrific job. The newly renovated rabbitry looks great.

    12 gauge wire is generally recommended for rabbit cages but hopefully the 14 will work out well for you. J clips are fun…but I’m pretty good at destroying anything I put my mind to. :)

    • Miss M says:

      Thank you, Tiffany!

      Most of the folks at RabbitTalk use 14 gauge wire for floors, and don’t have any issues, so I’m hoping I’ll have the same experience. I bought the floor supports for backup. :D

      Those heavier J-clips just about put my hands (and ILoveBunnies’ hands) out of commission, with that basic set of pliers I have! I’ll be getting better pliers, and removal pliers, too.

  2. sterlingsatin says:

    nice job! i’m doing an overhaul this summer, but i have to use trays. otherwise my setup would be much like yours, its very convenient. gonna get all new cages, but i’m not gonna be building them :P

    • Miss M says:

      Hi, Sterlingsatin! :) I wish you good luck on your rabbitry overhaul!

      I had a tray with our original hutch, and I do prefer chutes. There are cases in which trays would be better, though.

      You getting your cages all pre-assembled and everything?

  3. ladysown says:

    looks very good. good pictures with it too.

    to help keep those boards really clean (because coroplast can get nasty after a while) I cover it with vapour barrier. Plastic is REALLY easy to wipe off water. :)

    • Miss M says:

      Thanks, Ladysown! :D

      What about coroplast gets nasty, since it is all plastic already? I’m just a little confused. :)

  4. ladysown says:

    it’s amazing how stuff gets into the grooves. plus the pee will calcify onto the coroplast. I know this since I used coroplast on my racks as well. :)

  5. Debi says:

    Great post with fantastic instructions and super pictures.

  6. Mtn Mom says:

    This is a great set-up and very similar to what we want to do with our rabbitry! Thanks so much for the great description and pictures, it has given me some more ideas for how to do ours. I couldn’t find a post yet about how it’s working out, so I’m guessing you like it and it works good.

    • Miss M says:

      Hi, Mtn Mom! It did work out much better than it did with the corrugated metal. I apologize for not replying sooner. It was very shortly after this that we realized that my uncle’s relationship with his new lady-friend was progressing very quickly, and we were going to need to move!

      We actually have a whole new rabbitry now. I will be posting about it soon. :)