Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How To Build a Transport Cage for Show Rabbits

When our boys decided they wanted to show rabbits with our local 4-H Livestock program, I knew we needed a carrier to take them back and forth in, but I had no clue where I was going to get one in a matter of days. All I knew was that I had to have one that would hold 2 rabbits,  could be put in the back of the car, and that I could find quick.

So Michael, the boys, and I head to a local Farmers Supply store and Tractor Supply in search of a travel cage. No such luck. We would have to make one ourselves. We went to Lowes and Tractor Supply to purchase the things we thought we would need.

Wire (Approx $13) at Lowes
J-Clips (Approx $5) at Tractor Supply
J-Clip Pliers (Approx $10) at Tractor Supply
Our original tools.
Here we were the night before the coop and rabbit show trying to figure out how on earth to go about building a cage. A few things we figured out real quickly...
  •  Do NOT buy the J-Clip pliers from Tractor Supply that are pictured above. They are pure junk and will break in no more than two minutes. Ours will be taken back ASAP. (Borrow a steel pair from your Dad).
  •  The actual J-Clips from there are pretty flimsy too.. but will work. (Next time buy the good ones at the local farm store). 
  •  Cutting wire with the tool in the middle (I forgot the name) is a lot harder than you'd think. (Borrow an actual steel pair of wire cutters from your Dad while you are at it). 
  •  The rabbit wire at Lowes is a waste too. You don't want the flimsy stuff. (Pay the extra $$$ for the good stuff).
  •  Your wire needs to be smaller than 1x1 inch squares. 1 x 0.5 in is good. (Otherwise your rabbit's foot could fit through the hole). 
Now... gather your REAL supplies.
The real tools.

You will want to have a general idea about what size cage you would like to have. When we made ours we had no idea what size we should make it. So we just went with whatever was easiest. It ended up being 24 inches long, 12 inches wide, 14 inches high, and will hold two rabbits.

If you want to make yours the same size as mine you will need

(2) pieces cut at 24 w x 14 h for front and back.  
(2) pieces cut at 12 w x 14 h  for ends.
(2) pieces cut at 24 w x 12 h for bottom and lid.
(1) piece cut at 12 w x12 h for divider.
Lay your wire out flat, measure it the exact size you want your panel to be (measure 2 or 3x) and cut with the wire cutters as close to the wire as possible. The area that has been cut can be very sharp. So be careful.  We had the bright idea to bend ours in places instead of cutting it. Do not do that. It just makes a huge mess and ends up being a lot harder than just cutting out the pieces and clipping them back together.  Trust me!

Here you can see how the clamps that hold the sides together look up close. Our wires didn't match up perfect as you can tell. But it is still functional. At this point we hadn't figured out that you needed to clip the wires really close to the vertical line. We just folded the piece that was sticking out, back onto itself. This isn't a good idea. Just clip as close as you possibly can and then take a file and smooth down the edges. With actual wire cutters you should be able to get very very close.

Once you have all your pieces cut out it is time to assemble. When we made ours we forgot we needed a raised floor or the rabbits will have to sit in their waste. It looked like this. Obviously this would not work. We had to come up with a solution. We'd either have to take it all apart and raise the floor up a couple inches or add a platform at the bottom.
We forgot to raise the bottom.
We added a platform and I'm not sure that was the best way to go since now we have 2 layers of wire on the bottom. Even though they sit pretty flat against each other I worry that the rabbits would somehow get their foot caught between the two. If we had took it apart and raised the floor there wouldn't have been as much room for them inside. So we will end up making another in the next few days from scratch and will make it taller so we can have a raised floor with the dimensions I gave to you. I'll update with pics when I get it done.
Added a platform bottom.
They didn't have any issues with the floor, but I worry.
Here I edited the photo to kinda show you how your raised floor cage will look when finished.

OK.. back on track.. It is time to assemble. Get your front piece and back piece. Stand the front up as it will be when it is the side of the cage. Clip the floor of the cage to the front piece 2 inches from the bottom. This will allow your rabbits to be up on a platform when the cage is done. Now, clip the floor to the back in the same way. It should look like a very short and long H. I may not stand on it's own, but that is OK.

Now add your divider piece into the middle of the sides. This is what will keep your rabbits from fighting with each other if they are the same sex or from mating if they are opposites. Be sure to connect it to the floor as well.

Next up, you will now take your side pieces and clip them to the ends of your H. Make sure to connect it to the floor 2 inches up like you did with the front and back. You will then have a platform with 4 sides to make it sturdy as well as a divided box that will hold your rabbits. Now it is the home stretch.

Take your lid piece and connect it to the back side. It will work like a hinge and will allow you to take your rabbits out from the top. This makes things a lot easier. It should look something like this... but will probably look better as you will have the proper supplies and won't need to make all the mistakes I did.
A pic of the inside with the lid up.
 Here is what the lid will look like closed.
So how will you latch it so those sneaky bunnies can't escape? While we were at the rabbit show, I saw tons and tons of cages. More than 1000, Id say. Nearly all had the same type of latch. A small s-hook holding a spring to the cage with a large s-hook to close. They had the large s-hooks and springs for sale there. I think we paid around a dollar for all 4 pieces. Michael made the small s-hook for the bottom out of a very stiff clothes hanger. Those flimsy ones won't work.

Here it is latched. We positioned it so that it is very taught when closed.
 Then it can just hang when open.
Now all you need is a couple ID tags. You can see what I am talking about in this photo. The clasps you can buy at Walmart. We picked up the actual tags when at the show, but I am sure you could find them online. It asks for Name, Tattoo, Sex, Date of Birth, Sire, and Dam. We added our name, address and telephone number to the back as well. 
There you go! Now you have yourself a fairly cheap, yet sturdy, show appropriate, travel cage for your rabbits. The only thing I don't have pictures of is the handles.. because mine doesn't have handles yet. We will make them from clothes hangers as well.

This is a photo Jabba and Jango our Mini-Rex's in a commerically made travel cage that the extension office loaned us for the day of the show. As you can see the rabbits have aspen chips under them to absorb the urine, but they are on the elevated platform above the waste. Do not use pine or cedar in a rabbits cage.  They also have cups that attach to the sides of the cages with food and water. We purchased these for $0.75 each at the show. Your rabbits need to be able to eat if you are going to be gone all day.
 This is a side view of another commercially made cage. These are my 2nd cousin's Netherland Dwarfs in the cage. As you can see this cage has a bottom made of metal. You fill the bottom with aspen chips and the cage just sits down on top of them inside the metal box. The box has a hole on the sides and is connected to the wire cage with large s-hooks.
Our cage does not have a metal pan as of yet. We are still looking for a pan that will fit. If all else fails we will sit the cage inside of a Rubbermaid tub that is about 4 inches deep. As long as it catches the urine. It doesn't matter what you use.  A good idea would be to find a tub or pan you would like to use and then build your cage with dimensions that will fit inside rather than doing it our way and trying to find the pan afterwards.

So there you go. Now, you know how to and not how to make a transport cage for your show rabbits! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. Best of luck!!

Edited to add: We finally found something to put under the cage. A shoe mat. We purchased it at Walmart for around $5.00.
We have used this very same cage {mistakes and all} at several 4-H and ARBA rabbit shows. It works perfect. 
I hope your rabbits enjoy their cages. I know Jabba and Jango do.
I shared this post at the Barn Hop and Farm Photo Friday.


Michele said...

Hi! Your husband is so creative, making the latch out of a coat hanger!

Just wondering, why do you recommend against pine and cedar bedding? We are considering rabbits and would love your opinion.

Alana Jo said...

Hi Michele! Thanks for stopping by. My husband is creative. Anything to save a buck if at all possible.

As for the wood chips...

"The use of pine and cedar as litter for house rabbits should be avoided. Other superior litters, such as recycled paper and aspen shavings are available and you should steer potential adopters and those who already have rabbits to these safer alternatives. There are two major concerns with the use of cedar and pineshavings as litter. The first is the documented alterations in the liver's specialized tools, called enzymes, that can alter your rabbit's ability to handle standard drugs that your vet will use in the treatment of your pet. The second is the relatively poorly characterized cancer risk."

There is a lot more info about it here...


I've been putting down a layer of newspaper in the bottom of the dropping pan and then on top of that laying a layer of shredded paper. I just shred whatever junk mail I get and use it. Of course they are up off of it and can't chew on it. But for their actual litter box we use the recycled clumps of paper from Tractor Supply since they tend to chew on it, etc.

Anonymous said...

What a clever way to make a cage. It looks like it works well!

Donita said...

Nice cage carrier article.