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Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Advice on purchasing or constructing cages and hutches for your rabbitry.
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Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#1  Unread postby averydeadbird » Tue May 07, 2019 9:31 pm


I'm hopefully purchasing my own property this year, and I'm thinking ahead to how I want to house my rabbits. I just have a few meat mutts right now, but I want the ability to have a larger rabbitry if my goals change. I don't want to use typical cages because of heat and space concerns, and I like keeping does in a colony. (Bucks separate so I can control breeding.) I really like the ideas for underground hutches shown here:
http://ressources.ciheam.org/om/pdf/c08/95605275.pdf

I could have the external cages just all be connected as a way for does to mingle and decide which underground area they go in, but I wonder if I'm missing an obvious easier set up. What's the simplest way to have an enclosure that:
- is safe from predators and escape proof
- provides temperature control without additional inputs like sprinklers
- allows access to kits soon after birth
- allows the rabbits to exhibit as much natural behavior as possible, given the above limitations

Any ideas?

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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#2  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Wed May 08, 2019 6:03 am


be sure to have a budget for lots of bedding material, and time for cleaning... although these "systems" work well, the labor and bedding material is a lot more than wire bottom cages...... be sure there is good drainage away from the rabbits so they don't ever get wet...
meat-mutt rabbits, a few laying hens.

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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#3  Unread postby alforddm » Wed May 08, 2019 8:31 am


Cement "bunkers" that like would be pretty expensive. It might, and I say might because I haven't looked into it, be cheaper to use large ceramic flower pots or something similar.

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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#4  Unread postby averydeadbird » Wed May 08, 2019 4:59 pm


Good point to remember about drainage. Straw is cheap and you can encourage the rabbits to pee/poop in the front wire cage to reduce clean up.

I don't think cement would be expensive if you DIY it, but I may just use thick plastic totes, as they they would be easy to sanitize or replace.

I'm just wondering if there's a brilliant overall layout someone can think of. Maybe instead of having the wire cages in front, each connected to its own underground nesting area, you could have a large communal area with free access to multiple nesting spots? Downside is not knowing whose litter is whose if you breed more than one at a time.

It would be easy to build a large walk-in cage (think chicken run) with dirt mounded up on one side (especially if built on an existing slope). But you can't sanitize dirt if something comes ripping through the colony. That's my biggest anxiety about housing buns together. So long enough entry pipes that the mound of dirt is beyond the wall of the communal area, which is on a concrete slab that can be power-washed/sanitized? Those pipes and the plastic totes (or whatever is used for the underground nesting area) could also be washed.

Or stick with wire cage in front for the communal area? Essentially multiple classic rabbit cages, strung together? Easy maintenance and cleaning. May not be as secure if a racoon or coyote comes prowling.

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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#5  Unread postby GBov » Fri May 17, 2019 4:04 pm


I have always moved too often to built anything bunker like but have been working on bigger cages that I can retrofit single doe, cinder block nest bunkers to when/if I ever am in one place long enough to do it.

Cinder blocks show up on Craigslist for free if you keep an eye out, saves money if the price tag says free. :lol:

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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#6  Unread postby averydeadbird » Fri May 17, 2019 4:53 pm


Cinder blocks are a great idea for building the nesting area. Thanks. :)

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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#7  Unread postby GBov » Fri May 17, 2019 8:06 pm


averydeadbird wrote:Cinder blocks are a great idea for building the nesting area. Thanks. :)


And you can play with Lego bricks to get your placement right BEFORE making your bunker. Says the one who tried with real blocks one day, in the heat, before giving up after I realized I didnt have enough blocks lol. :lol:

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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#8  Unread postby Ghost » Sat May 18, 2019 2:09 pm


First I admit that I haven't read the whole PDF file but the first thing that struck me right-off-the-bat was the first diagram, the one labeled "first prototype under ground cell housing". I am somewhat puzzled why the cell is sort of pyramid shaped with the base wider than the top.

I would think it smarter to make a wooden enclosure square shape. have bottoms and sides brick or cement. If you have the wooden enclosure shaped in the right way you could simply lift it out of the hole between nesting "sessions". It seems that cleaning would be easier that way.

I'm not sure how long wood would last in a location with moisture and such. I would be tempted to use plastic milk crates. The milk crates would be lined on the inside with some sort of rigid polymer material. Not sure which polymer, cost and availability would be a high consideration. By polymer I'm talking about plexiglas or rigid sheets of fiberglass (technically not a polymer) or some other 'artificial' substance that is resistant to water.

PS. What climate zone to you plain on your property to be in? Also with these systems you will be need to pick the size of your rabbits first. As if you move to a different size it would be labor intensive to re-size your setup. I'm assuming you are looking at New Zealand/California "sized" rabbits.
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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#9  Unread postby Preitler » Sun May 19, 2019 7:16 am


I see two reasons for the cone shape, first is that the less surface area the less heat in the room beneath. The second is that if you make the cover of something heavy so it doesn't heat up fast a big cover might get really heavy. Both issues could be countered if you use something like that sheet metal lined foam used in construction, I use those as hutch cielings.

For the sides, I would use those concrete slabs that are used in gardening for lawn borders, about 1ftx3ft, cheap, durable. Actually, there might be different shapes available that would be useful. For the floor, well, I don't think they would soil much in there, but a grate that could be lifted out would be quite easy to clean.

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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#10  Unread postby Ghost » Sun May 19, 2019 11:33 am


Thinking back to my education on heat flow and such really makes me want to "nerd-out" on the subject. However unless someone here was going to build things for real, I'm not sure how much into detail I would want to get. I find it challenging, because I don't have lots of rabbit experience, so I would have to talk with "rabbit people" to come-up with a compromise design that would be "rabbit compatible" and be a good thermodynamic design.

I would also suggest the the first step before getting too involved in such a setup is to measure the temperature underground. I found temperature probes for 1$-3$ on eBay. If you don't mind long delivery time you can get quite a deal by ordering a bunch. The cheep ones are Celsius only, but you can get a converter app on your phone. You would need to bury a PVC pipe for the probe. Or I suppose you could just make a hole with a t-post and use that hole for the probe.
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Preitler wrote:I see two reasons for the cone shape, first is that the less surface area the less heat in the room beneath. The second is that if you make the cover of something heavy so it doesn't heat up fast a big cover might get really heavy. Both issues could be countered if you use something like that sheet metal lined foam used in construction, I use those as hutch cielings.


Err, I might be a person who is pedantic, In saying that I agree with your first statements. However you worded in in a way that makes me cringe. (please don't take this as an insult).

warning: NERD TALK/ENGINEERING SLANG

Warm blooded creatures need to loose heat to live. If a mammal can't loose it will die. If heat loose is not fast enough, the creature will defiantly feel uncomfortable. The ground acts as sort of a way to average temperature out. The ground is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter (generality speaking). So in the summer, the ground acts as a sort of "heat sink" that the rabbits can dump heat into. In the pyramid design there is greater surface area in contact with the soil, so that could increase the effectiveness of the cooling. I'm just not sure that the increase is great enough to make a real world difference.

I agree with Preitler, I would definitely make the covers white/reflective and possible use insulating material.


From the thread

dfr1973 wrote:Also, I live in south Florida, so heat will play a large factor in breeding.<snip>not all shade is equal. Have your bunnies under trees if at all possible, as trees' "breathing"/transpiration does actually make a difference.


This is a good reason to grow plants on the embankment. I might even suggest growing (rabbit edible) weeds that cast shade on the cover. Although the underground structure might get in the way of plants getting enough water. So you might need to water the plants during the hottest summer months.

My dislike of the shape is purely a "how to I clean this thing?" point of view. I just imagine having to bend over to clean out "rabbit gunk" Where as removable boxes to me means "pull it out and dump it". Possibly use a ship vac to remove bits that get outside the box. Again since I don't have lots of rabbit experience I would defer to someone with more experience cleaning up after rabbits.

If someone here is seriously wanting to build one of these I would be glad to add my thermodynamic expertise. If no one is planning on building it, the whole discussion is sort of a thought experiment.
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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#11  Unread postby GBov » Sun May 19, 2019 11:45 am


I will one day have one of these but not yet. Still a rolling stone, me.

The slanted inwards shape is probably to make fitting a door easier. The smaller the door, the easier it is to make it secure.

We set up a pool in the deep shade here in the Ocala national forest and I kid you not, despite temps being well into the high 90s and a heat index of over 100, the water never got warmer than 82. That is why Tilapia now live there instead of kids swimming, it was too bloody COLD!!! :lol:

We also dug a huge pit in the yard - my eldest sons attempt to have a ground level trampoline - and until we hit the glass layer it was lovely to just sit in the hole, nice and cool. The bottomless layer of broken glass put paid to that experiment and it was the only suitable place to try. :(

On CL right now there are heavy clay roof tiles for free and I have nowhere to put them. They would be great for the inner walls.

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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#12  Unread postby averydeadbird » Sun May 19, 2019 11:19 pm


Thanks for all the ideas, everyone! I don't think the pyramid shape is important; a cube or rectangle would be easier to construct. Having it lift out would be easier for cleaning, but that shouldn't be necessary very often anyway. If the food and water are placed outside the underground nesting area, they will primarily potty out there. So I could use bricks, cinder blocks, roofing tiles, etc to construct it. Large PVC pipe leading from the nesting area to the outside.

Leaning toward having "outside" be a row connected cages. That would involve minimal cleaning, and I can put bins underneath to catch the droppings for use as fertilizer. But they're not predator-proof on their own, so that would need to be inside a shed or barn of some sort. I could construct an enclosure from wood and cattle panels or hardware cloth. The alternative would be having "outside" be straight into the enclosure, which would be most comfortable for the bunnies and still secure, BUT cleaning would be a bitch and make harvesting the poop more difficult.

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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#13  Unread postby Preitler » Mon May 20, 2019 1:12 pm


Ghost wrote:
Err, I might be a person who is pedantic, In saying that I agree with your first statements. However you worded in in a way that makes me cringe. (please don't take this as an insult).

warning: NERD TALK/ENGINEERING SLANG

Warm blooded creatures need to loose heat to live. If a mammal can't loose it will die. If heat loose is not fast enough, the creature will defiantly feel uncomfortable. The ground acts as sort of a way to average temperature out. The ground is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter (generality speaking). So in the summer, the ground acts as a sort of "heat sink" that the rabbits can dump heat into. In the pyramid design there is greater surface area in contact with the soil, so that could increase the effectiveness of the cooling. I'm just not sure that the increase is great enough to make a real world difference.


Ah well, would have been easier to express in german, with surface area I ment the size of the cover that will get relativly warm, compared to the walls surrunded by soil. The warmer it gets and the bigger it is the more heat gets radiated down. Also, if it doesn't seal properly there will be some warm airflow if the exit tunnel comes out lower than the cover.




This is a good reason to grow plants on the embankment. I might even suggest growing (rabbit edible) weeds that cast shade on the cover. Although the underground structure might get in the way of plants getting enough water. So you might need to water the plants during the hottest summer months.


I'm quite happy with Topinambur, it grows 3-4m tall, they love the greens (but don't harvest themself once they are about 2ft high), and there are the tubers as winter food. I grow it around my hutches, it does create a nice micro climate. If it gets hot early in the year something permanent would be better though.

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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#14  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Mon May 20, 2019 4:22 pm


"jerusalem Artichoke" [Topinambur,] is one of my favorite foods for rabbits and myself...
I also like to grow sweet potatoes for both of us...
meat-mutt rabbits, a few laying hens.

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Re: Brainstorming underground hutches plus colony living

Post Number:#15  Unread postby GBov » Mon May 20, 2019 4:29 pm


Sweet potato leaves are great in a stirfry. :D

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