Sunday, April 17, 2011

PVC Rabbit Tractor and We're DONE!

So, in this third rabbit tractor we've designed, it's about as simple and easy as it gets.  We used 1/2" PVC 3' high in 4 panels.  We had these panels from a project last year, but it's 1" hardware cloth tied with zip ties to the 1/2" PVC.  Two panels are 6' and 2 panels are 10', making a total living area of 60 square feet.
Gloria and Joon are enjoying the sunshine in their new spacious pen.
It certainly could be done more easily with the proper fittings and making it into one big frame instead of several panels.

We bought 1" PVC to brace the bottom and are going to get 4 more pieces to do the same to the top.  Rob drilled 2 holes top-bottom in each end of the pipe and we tied these to the frame with wire ties.  These braces are also holding the 2"x4" wire taut on the bottom.

"Haha, sucker, can't get me!!"
 The top was cobbled together using a 6'x6' panel of the same PVC and hardware cloth, plus extra 2"x4" wire to finish the last 4'.  Doing it new I would probably just use 2"x4" wire with the 1" PVC braces to keep it all from sagging.

This is not a suitable winter pen, so we're working on plans to make a tractor the does can be in year round, but for now this is fantastic - look at all that room!

Speaking of room, I estimate it will easily house 4 does with litters.  Gloria, the young NZ doe, was in a pen that had one 2'x2' section with a wire bottom to eat on (she had more room but that was the only place to graze) and I was only having to move her every other day.  I'm surprised at how little they actually seem to need.  She was eating pellets still, which won't be an option once they're settled in.  I will feed free choice hay, a salt block, and water in addition to their constant supply of fresh grass.

Tomorrow we will get a tarp to put over the back half, almost touching the ground at one end and both sides to make a good shelter from the sun.   The sun is so rare this time of year they actually chase it around the pen to get some heat, but it won't be long before we're all sweltering.

Joon is still not too sure of us, but she lets me pick her up without a chase now.
This is the last rabbit tractor I plan to make for awhile.  We can put several does in this one and I'm going to get the 2 bucks moved in together.  That will actually free up one and we'll have an extra.

I have an American Chinchilla doe coming in May, a chocolate Satin pair coming in June, and possibly a Silver Fox pair this fall so our free space won't last long.


  1. Hi got your link from your friend on Rabbittalk. Looking for a safe and secure pen to house a couple does, and litters in. I'd like to set up colony-style after I move, for now want something temporary. I have a couple questions:
    1) why do you put pvc underneath instead of lying the cage wire on the ground, which would be more comfortable for their feet and easier for grazing.
    2) you mention the hardware cloth is zip-tied on to the PVC, are the hardware panels also joined some other way? How secure is the zipties against dogs, coyotes, etc.?
    3) about how much did this pen cost you?

    Efficient little system - good job!

  2. This particular pen didn't work out. In fact, we just took it apart the other day. It would work great with larger diameter PVC, but not with the 1/2" we had.

    In all my tractors, the wire is directly on the ground with either PVC or wood bracing directly above it. Wire ties work great to make sure the wire stays supported by the PVC/wood. You need something to keep the wire from sagging while moving it.

    The panels are joined with wire ties. If we did it all over again, we would use corners and make the frame solid PVC, then tie the wire to the solid frame. The panels are just too floppy when trying to move the tractor. It became a chore to move this one.

    This particular pen would not be very secure against determined predators. For that, I highly recommend using cattle panel frames. This has been our favorite tractor and I don't think anything could get in it. The spacing for the cattle panels is too small to allow weakness. Just make sure to use something solid like hardware cloth for the wire. (This one is chicken wire which is OK, but not really all that sturdy.)

    As for cost, I can't remember how much the PVC was but the 1"x10' sticks were $5, so less than that. We had it leftover from an earlier project. I estimate the 4x10 cattle panel tractor cost $100 and this one would be substantially less. We asked for a discount and bought the entire roll of hardware cloth. I can't remember how long it was, but we got 10% off for buying it all. Try that if you know you can use a bunch.

    One MAJOR change I need to make before I have another litter is to secure the edges of the bottom wire. I lost a few babies because they can crawl through the 2x4 wire on the bottom if there is even the slightest gap under the frame. I plan to run 6" of chicken wire around the perimeter to try to prevent the escapes next time.

    Overall I'm still very happy with tractoring. I run 2 right now with some growout bucks in one and 2 does in the other. I feed them every other day and move them daily to fresh grass. It's more work than caging but infinitely more satisfying in my opinion. :)

    Good luck!

  3. Oh, I'd like to add two more questions ;)

    4) How are you changing this for winter? I'd guess they'd need rain protection - what else?

    5) Did you mention you are co-housing bucks and how is that working out?


  4. Hi thank you for your response - I posted those questions before I saw it. Is your other design suitable for winter, with the tarp and box? Thanks!

  5. I replied on the other post about winter. This pen would not have survived winter without some serious modification.

    My bucks did great. I think I mentioned in my post about Kyle that I got him at a discount because his owner didn't think he was doing too well. We got one litter out of him and had to put him down. :( So right now I'm buckless, haha.

    When they were together though, they got along just fine. I think it depends on personality. We tried to introduce a Lionhead buck and he was too aggressive and couldn't stay in there. Right now I have the buck who was keeping Kyle company in with 3 growing out bucks and everyone is fine.

    Does are apparently harder to keep together, but I've had 4 does at once in one pen. You have to give them time to sort it out, and hair will fly everywhere, but they'll get a pecking order and stay relatively peaceful. Like any animal they'll have occasional squabbles, but my 4 were fine.

    I had 2 does who kindled together and they had no aggression with each other at all. In fact, they moved their nests together and both does fed all the kits. You can't introduce a new doe to a doe with kits though. The mom will be too protective so introductions must be made when both are dry.

  6. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Megan. That's the part I'm a little nervous about, introductions and having them co-habitate peacefully. I'm amazed the bucks got along but am encouraged by that :) Did they pick on each other? That's terrific about the does sharing the nest, although I guess you lose track whose is whose with that set up. I was planning to stagger my does kindling so I could tell them apart but love the co-nesting idea too :)
    Did you introduce all your does as youngsters? What age? Or did you introduce mature does together? Curious as I heard on that its recommended the rabbits be not more than 3 mos. old for introduction to a colony, which really narrows down rabbit selection. Thank you!

  7. One buck was 3 years, the other 3 months. They got along great with little fighting in the beginning. The does went nuts over each other at first, but not the bucks. They didn't seem to care.

    With my nest-sharing does, they were 2 different breeds so it was pretty clear who was who. Now I have 2 of the same breed together and would also stagger them, for the sake of my sanity! :)

    The does when introduced were 1 year, 7 months and 2 younger ones. After the first fighting to determine pecking order they got along wonderfully and would snuggle next to each other.

    I think it depends more on personality than on age but I've only had those few I put together so I could be wrong.

  8. Hi Megan,
    This is so exciting... I will have to try co-housing my young buck with a friend. He is so social, he wants constant attention from people or cats! So maybe that's a good sign he'd like a buddy.
    Also heartening to hear your experience that the does all managed to work it out.
    Thank you,

  9. Just remember they WILL fight at first to determine pecking order. I had to struggle against the urge to pull them out. Unless someone is really hurt I would leave them for a few hours and see how they do. Fur flies everywhere at first, so don't let that alarm you. :)

    Before you put them together you could put them next to each other so they can meet.