by Elliot Ricci
Many folks might argue that all wire cages are more sanitary than wooden hutches and they’d be right. However, not all breeders have a barn to keep our rabbits protected from the elements. When rabbits are forced to be kept outside they need a good, strong hutch that can stand up to weather and provide insulation. When I first got started in Flemish Giant rabbits I bought my first hutch for my Steel Gray buck. It was a nice wooden hutch with the appropriate sized fourteen gauge wire floor. However, the builder only had two large sized hutches for sale. He offered a 4’LX2’WX2’H and a 6’LX2’WX14’’H hutch. A six foot hutch sounds great but the fourteen inch height was too short for the large ears of a Flemish Giant and the four foot hutch was a bit short for a Flemish doe and her kits. The hutch was also held together with nails instead of screws which would make future repairs a bit more difficult. I finally decided to build my own hutch the way I wanted it.
My first home-made hutch was 5’X2’X2’ for my doe. It was made of pine and plywood. One might ask, “Won’t the rabbits chew through this?” The answer is YES. However, I decided to cover any parts the rabbit might chew with wire. So far this seems to have worked as the rabbits have only chewed on their nestbox partition and nothing else.
The floor of this hutch was made from fourteen gauge wire with braces underneath so the wire would not bow. There is much debate on whether the floor for a Flemish giant should be wire or solid flooring. I decided to use a combination of both. The hutch has a removable floor with wire underneath. This way the wooden panel floor can be removed, bleached, and left to dry in the sun to sterilize. The manure can be raked through the wire floor and fall on the ground for easy clean up with a rake and wheelbarrow. Another option is to use slotted plastic floor panels made specifically for rabbits. These can be removed and washed with bleach.
The front wire and wire door (with wooden frame) was made from 1/2” X 1/2” hardware cloth. Most folks probably use 1”X2” wire but critters (mice) can fit through the large openings and bring disease into the hutch. This size wire has worked well. Of course, it cannot be used for flooring as it is only 19 gauge. Stronger wire may need to be used if you live in an area where coyotes are prevalent.
The hutch was put together with galvanized screws. If a piece needs to be repaired I can simply unscrew the old piece and replace it. My original roof was made of shingles. This was time consuming and added significant weight to the hutch. I decided to try PVC corrugated roofing panels over a stained plywood roof. The PVC panel is screwed down and silicone is applied around the screws to prevent leakage under the panels. This type of roof has worked great and is very easy and inexpensive to replace if necessary. It also looks nice! Be sure to install a drip edge and make sure the roof overhangs the hutch a few inches to keep the rain out.
The Hutch legs are made of 2X4’s and two of them sit on sawhorses with metal brackets. The metal brackets are great because when the wood starts to rot they can easily be replaced with new 2X4’s. As long as the hutch is heavy enough it should stand up to most winds and not blow over. The advantage of having the hutch on sawhorses is that in the event of strong winds the hutches can be taken off the horses and placed lower to the ground on bricks or cinder blocks so they have a lower center of gravity.
Some breeders like to provide longer hours of light for rabbits depending upon the breeding cycle. Since these are outdoor hutches without electricity nearby, I used battery operated LED lights that I attached inside the hutches with heavy-duty Velcro tape. It was easy enough to turn them on and off as necessary.
The hutch is stained (only on the outside) with a semi-transparent waterproof stain. A new coat may need to be applied from year to year. You can also get creative and use colored stains as I did on my “Barn” hutch. I used barn red stain and added some décor with a white X on the door. Sometimes it is nice to change it up and make it fun.
I have had just as much fun building these hutches as I have had raising rabbits. I am a dental hygienist and a professional piano player by trade. I am not a carpenter and the hutches were the first things I have ever built proving that anyone can do this. If you have a profession that requires the use of your hands and fingers then, like me, you can always use a hand saw instead of a power saw. These hutches have survived through two blizzards and many rainy, windy days. I hope I have provided some good ideas to the potential hutch builder and keeper of the mighty Flemish Giant rabbits. Have fun and good luck!