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How To Build a Cheap Rabbit Hutch
Last month I built a 3×8-foot rabbit hutch and naturally sourced most of these materials from our homestead.
I built this hutch to house a breeding doe and her young kits when she kindles. My intention with these rabbits is to help “revive” the American Chinchilla Rabbit population, share these pedigreed rabbits with my community, create another source of protein for our homestead, and a good source of beautiful, sustainable pelts. And, of course, the side-effects of raising these rabbits are a small income stream for the homestead plus nutrient-rich manure for our soil.
The kits (baby rabbits) will live in this hutch temporarily before moving to a different grow-out location. Of course, that will be another post for later.
Why This Rabbit Hutch Was Cheap to Build
I get so frustrated when people aren’t fully transparent with their costs to build; I don’t like looking for hidden loopholes and trying to do the math. That’s why I will do my very best to be transparent with why my hutch costs what it did!
#1 I Used Timber From Our Homestead
All of the wood I used in this build came from our land. We live in a densely forested area (right next to the Kootenai National Forest), so timber is of no shortage here. Wildfires are very common in my area; my community’s risk is 97% higher than all other communities in the United States.
One of the best ways to protect your property is to create a defensible space around your home, preferably a 50 to 100 foot radius around your home and outbuildings. The way to do this is to cut, remove, thin, prune, or burn as much flammable vegetation, like trees, as possible.
Three-fourths of the surrounding circumference of our home was already cleared, but that one-quarter was quite a threat. I used three to eight-inch (in diameter) saplings from this space to build my rabbit hutch. This helped to make our home safer while being productive by means of a rabbit hutch.
When I lopped off the limbs of the saplings so I could build with them, I fed those directly to my goats. Evergreen trees, such as pine, spruce, and fir, have natural compounds with an anthelmintic effect, which means it’s a natural dewormer for goats. This made the process even more productive (which was really satisfying).
#2 I Already Had All of The Tools on Hand
While this was a relatively simple build that didn’t use many tools, I know that not everyone has easy access to these tools. I think they are necessary for larger homesteads, but it can take time to curate a comprehensive toolbox.
Between the tools, their batteries, and accessories, my estimate is that this initially cost us around $200 to $270.
If you want to get really technical, I used four 3-foot boards that my neighbors kindly milled for me from a larger tree. Most portable sawmills run between $1,000 to $5,000. I also have a convenient little chainsaw (or Alaskan) mill. That cost $250, plus $400 for the chainsaw, and then $35 for the ripping chain.
#3 My Husband Has a Great Employee Discount
He has an office job for a building center which also has a few hardware stores in the Flathead Valley. This gives him a nice employee discount on necessary items like hardware cloth, hinges, latches, and screws.
He also has the occasional access to wasted pieces of lumber from job sites or rejected orders. Our 24 square feet of plywood was free because it was waste. When the local homebuilders cut out the windows and doors for a home, they typically burn the plywood sheet cutouts; luckily for us, we were given permission to salvage some of these.
Don’t be afraid to talk to contractors or truss plants about wasted materials; they may be able to cut you a deal or offer you some free discarded materials.
Breaking Down My Costs to Build a Rabbit Hutch
I spent $16 on wire, $3 on hinges, and $2 on latches.
I don’t know how many screws I used for this build, but my best estimate is that it was less than $8.
So my grand total for a 24-square-foot rabbit hutch was a whopping $29.
What is most impressive to me about this was that I was not focused on the cost at all– I was far more concerned with using materials I had on hand and using up some of the smaller trees on our land that had to go anyway. I think this is the lovely part of homesteading. If you do your best to be sustainable and thoughtful with how you go about your day-to-day living, the land will reward you in ways you likely hadn’t planned.
What’s even more amazing is that I bought a $100 pedigree doe for this hutch, and if I sell just one kit from her first litter, I will be able to recoup the entire cost of the hutch AND her forage and feed right away.
Tools Used to Build a Cheap Rabbit Hutch
- Cordless Sawsall / Reciprocating Saw
- Hatchet / Camper’s Axe Hatchet
- Drill (I alternated between a drill and an impact; a hammer is also fine if using nails)
- Measuring tape
- Framing Hammer
Materials Used to Build a Cheap 3×8 (24 Square Feet) Rabbit Hutch
- 9 eight-foot-long wooden poles (or boards)
- 18 three-foot-long wooden poles (or boards)
- 4 eighteen-inch long sticks
- 4 nine-inch-long sticks
- 6 (approximately) fourteen-inch-long wooden poles (or boards)
- 4 three-foot-tall poles (if using boards, use 4×4 or larger, these are the legs)
- 4 three-foot-tall boards
- 6-8 assorted sticks approximately two feet long, used for the braces
- 24 square feet of plywood
- 1 three-foot-wide roll of ½ inch hardware cloth wire, at least twenty-four feet long
Hinges and Latches
Screws or Nails, Staples, Steeples
- I’m sorry but don’t have the faintest idea how many screws I used. I have a massive 2,000-count box of screws and just grabbed from that. It didn’t make much of a dent in the supply. This is the box I have, it’s a Big Timber BTX93#9 (9×3”) external bronze screw for a T-25 star bit. Screws are heavy to ship, so they will almost certainly be cheaper from your local hardware or ranch store. Make sure you get an outdoor variety so it holds up well.
- Here is a good bulk option if you’re using nails.
- I used probably twenty staples. I have a staple gun, but it was on the fritz, so I used a hammer to tap them into place. The back of your hatchet will also work if you don’t have a staple gun or hammer.
- I likely used 20 fence steeples (maximum) as well. I bought these back in 2016, so they were much cheaper than what you’ll find in 2023’s inflation.
- I used one piece of tin, cut into thirds horizontally, to cover the roof of my hutch. I sourced this tin for free from an old, dilapidated house trailer on our property. Old pieces of tin are something that I regularly see for free on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace– keep that in mind for your next project.
How to Build a Cheap Rabbit Hutch
Gather and Prepare Timber or Wooden Boards
I started this build-out by cutting down approximately fifteen saplings that were three to six inches (give or take) in diameter.
After cutting the saplings, I dragged them to my driveway (a flat space) to whack all of the limbs off with a hatchet. Then I measured them to their appropriate sizes and cut them down with my battery-operated reciprocating saw.
If you’re not using your own trees, you can purchase wood. If you come prepared with a cut list, most places will cut your boards to size for you at no additional cost. That can save you time and tools if you don’t already have them.
Make Three Wooden Ladders
Next, I laid down six of my 8-foot poles, and then affixed 3-foot poles to them to basically make three ladders.
My roof “ladder” had the most support pieces (the 3-foot poles), because we get a lot of heavy snow and ice in our area.
The front of the hutch had the next highest number of support pieces because I needed frames to attach my hutch doors. For this hutch, I made two doors. This makes it quick and easy to access the rabbits no matter where they are, plus cleaning is easier this way. I decided to make each hutch door about 18 inches wide, so I could easily fit a leaf rake inside to swipe out manure and straw instantly.
The bottom “ladder” had the fewest supports. Yes, you need good supports to hold up your wire and comfortably support your rabbits, but so long as it doesn’t sag or wobble with some weight on the ½ inch hardware cloth, it’s fine. You may end up using the same amount of supports on the top, sides, and bottom, but I did not on account of the heavy snow load in our area.
The key here is to make sure the short “rungs” are evenly spaced and in-line. It’s okay if your long eight-foot poles are a bit curvy or of differing diameters, the rungs make up for it. Also, pay attention to make sure that you set the rungs on top of the poles and then drill or hammer them down into it. If your nails or screws happen to be a little too long on the floor ladder, the sharp side of the screw will point down, and it will not harm your rabbits.
Make Two Sets of Legs
Next, I made two sets of legs. I laid down two thick 3-foot-long poles, then screwed a board onto the front of these poles (near what would be the bottom of the leg) and one board on top of the two poles.
I chose to make the legs about three feet tall, meaning my hutch sits three and a half to four feet off the ground. I like to have my doors right at my chest height so it’s easy to care for my rabbits and clean the hutch. Because of this, I suggest you play with different heights to see what feels most comfortable.
Stand the Legs Up, Attach The Bottom “Ladder”
This was when I stood my legs upright.
Since I made these in two attached pairs, it was easy for them to stand up without someone else holding them for me. I do most of my projects during the day while my husband is at work (and while I’m also watching my two toddlers), so I have to use a lot of little hacks like this to do it on my own.
Simply lay the bottom ladder (the floor) atop the legs, with the poles on the bottom and the rungs on top. Screw or nail this floor into place.
After the floor was in place, I took some funky-looking sticks and screwed them to the tops of the legs and the bottom of the floor so they could act as additional support braces. This completely eliminated any wobble, and it was so strong that I could put my full body weight on the hutch. If it can handle a grown adult, a few heavy rabbits won’t do it any harm at all.
Roll Out the Floor Hardware Cloth
It is much easier if you attach the hardware cloth for the flooring of your hutch at this point. You do not want to crawl and wiggle around inside your nearly-finished hutch with a big roll of hardware cloth.
I used some old fencing steeples to attach the floor, but staples will work too.
Attach it in the center of the hutch, but leave the edges loose– roughly 3 to 4 inches on the edges unstapled / unsteepled. When you put your walls up, you can easily pull the edges up and then staple the hardware cloth to the walls for an extra secure hutch.
Attach The Hutch’s Front Wall
My next move was to attach hardware cloth to the front wall of the hutch sans the doorways. I put the wire on the inside of the frame rather than the outside.
Then I set the front wall in place. I used a few sticks to prop it up while I put my first screws in place. This hutch sits right beside my henhouse, so I also screwed it into the side of the henhouse.
After it was securely in place, I lifted up the one side of my hutch’s floor’s edge and then stapled it into place on the wall. Since the floor and wall wire overlapped, it made a much more secure rabbit hutch.
I did cut the hardware cloth to run longer than the front wall. This part will remain loose and unattached for now; later it will be used to enclose the side(s) of the hutch.
Make the Back Wall
I chose to make the back wall three logs rather than using hardware cloth. I did this because the back of the hutch is where predators are most likely to approach. Making it solid logs meant that it would be more difficult for predators to see the rabbits in the first place and then harder to get to them if they were spotted. If a predator is going to attach my rabbits, I want them to be out in the open so I can see what’s going on and intervene right away.
Having a solid back wall also blocks out some of the harsh winds we get in the winter.
I attached four short sticks vertically to the back of the hutch’s floor, then stacked (and screwed) my three logs to the front of these sticks. I ended up making the floor’s hardware cloth lift up and wrap around the back of the bottom log. You can probably make it wrap around the front (inside) of the log instead if you want.
These three logs are only about a foot tall in total, so the back of the hutch will be shorter than the front. This makes it easier for the rabbit hutch to shed rain and snow, with the run-off going to the back of the hutch rather than the front.
I will probably add hardware cloth to the inside of these logs later, but I’m curious to see if my rabbits try to eat their way out. These logs are about four inches thick. Consider this my little homestead experiment. It’s been about a month so far, and there are no signs of chewing yet.
Make the Side Wall(s) of the Rabbit Hutch
To make the side walls, I ran one 3-foot log at the bottom and top of the hutch. I then climbed inside my hutch to attach the hardware cloth that I left overhanging and loose from the front wall of the rabbit hutch.
Since this wall is at an angle (rather than being a perfect square), you will need to overlap hardware cloth or use wood pieces to ensure there aren’t any gaps at the tops or bottoms of the wall.
My hutch sits completely flush with the side of the hen house, so I opted not to put wire on that connecting side. If your hutch sits out in the open, you’ll need to repeat the process once more so both sides are finished.
Finish the Rabbit Hutch Roof
Now you’re down to one “ladder” that is still unused.
Make sure that the “rungs” of the ladder are facing upwards, and then screw down a piece (or pieces of) plywood to the top, screwing it down on the rungs.
You can add your roof here, but I think it’s best to put it on the hutch first. You don’t want to accidentally cut yourself with the tin when you’re lifting it into place, and this roof is relatively heavy.
Lift The Roof into Place and Secure It
This is the one part of the project where I needed my husband’s help; the roof is just so long and awkward to pick up, not to mention heavy. Two people made this step incredibly quick and easy.
If I had to do it on my own, I would lift the roof up on one side, set it on top of the hutch, and then repeat the process on the other side. If you have to do this alone, pick it up as much as you can when moving it into place– you don’t want to tear or disfigure the front wall of the hutch.
When you put your metal on, pay attention to the prevailing wind. When you have a windy day, which direction does it usually come from? For most people in the northern hemisphere, the prevailing wind comes from the west, but this can be different for everyone, especially if you have something large that blocks or redirects the wind.
Now that you know which way the wind comes from, put your tin on accordingly. For me, the wind comes from the west. So I started tacking down the tin on the east side and moved west. When a breeze picks up, it will blow across and over each piece of tin. If it does get under the first piece, it should only pull that piece up and not your entire roof.
I also took the time to slightly bend my westernmost piece down on its overhang to prevent the wind from getting beneath it as easily.
Fill in the Gaps
This was by far the most tedious and annoying part of the rabbit hutch build.
When I set my roof in place on the hutch, the “rung” part of the roof left small 2-to-3-inch gaps between the roof and the top of the wall. If I lived in a hotter area, I would fill this gap with some hardware cloth. Alas, my area is usually cold, windy, and snowy for nine months of the year, so I chose to cut down three-inch pieces of wood to fill in each gap.
I simply cut pieces of wood to size, gently tapped them in place with a hammer, and used a few screws to ensure they wouldn’t move at all.
Make the Doors
To make the doors, I simply measured the holes I had left for myself and then cut four pieces of wood to size for each door.
I opted to make the vertical pieces of the door rest in between the horizontal ones for added strength.
Then, I cut out a rectangular piece of hardware cloth for each door, about two inches longer than needed on all four sides. I made sure the hardware cloth was on the inside of the door, with the edges pointing out and away from the rabbits. I did not want any lose wires hurting my rabbits.
Since the wood used to make the door was much slimmer and more petite, I used staples instead of steeples to attach the hardware cloth to the doorframes.
Attach the Doors
Attaching the doors is a quick process. For this, I made sure that my doors were in the place where I wanted, and I shaved off spots where the door didn’t firmly close in place. I shaved off more from the hutch rather than the doors because the doors were much thinner than the hutch logs.
Once the doors were the right size and capable of opening and closing without a hitch, I attached the hinges. I chose to use longer screws that what was provided with the hinges because that is more secure. I made pilot holes using a drill, and then screwed the hutch side of the hinge first, followed by the door side. I did have to bend the hinges a little to accommodate the rounded posts of the hutch doors, but that was quick and easy.
Remember that you want the doors to swing outward, and to make sure the hinge is sitting correctly to have the full swinging range of motion. One side of the hinge may only swing 45 degrees, while the other can have 180 degrees of motion.
Repeat this process for however many doors you have in your rabbit hutch.
Attach the Latches
The hook and eye latches are even easier than the hinges. While you can gently twist them into place by hand, it is quicker and easier to use a drill to make a pilot hole for them. Pay close attention to how far out the doors can be pushed open when latched; you don’t want your rabbits to escape or fall out.
If raccoons are prevalent in your area, you may want to attach two “eye” latches to each side of the door. Place them so they are close together when the door is shut, with one on the door and one on the hutch’s wall. You can then use a padlock to firmly secure the door so raccoons cannot open the doors. If you don’t want to mess with a padlock, you may be able to use a carabiner clip but beware that some raccoons can figure these out. Once a raccoon figures out that he can eat your bunnies, he will return until you’re out of rabbits and his stomach is completely full!
Test Your Hutch Out!
Now is the fun part, testing the rabbit hutch! Open and close the doors, tug and pull on different walls, the floor, and the roof, try to shake the legs a bit, and see how well it fares. Building something mostly out of dense wood should leave you with something that is really sturdy and reliable.
After you’ve thoroughly tested your creation out, it’s time to toss in a small wooden box or two for your rabbit to hide in, a few boards on the floor so they can get a break from the wires, and feed and water containers too.
Lastly, you get to add your new rabbit(s) to the hutch. Watching them explore their new house that you built with your two hands is such a rewarding experience; enjoy it!
Make a Silly Little Sign
I can’t help myself. If there’s an opportunity to make a pun or make you cringe, that’s what I’m gonna do. That’s how I ended up with the crooked Tipsy Goat Saloon, Hennigan Hotel, and Hopper’s Buns + Ammo.
Other Considerations for Building Your Rabbit Hutch
- You may want to consider colony-raising your rabbits rather than raising them in an elevated hutch. We’ll cover this topic in more detail in another post soon, it has quite a few pros and cons for each side.
- Think about visibility and safety for your rabbits too. While you may be tempted to put them far away from your home, it’s much harder to watch and protect them from neighboring dogs and wildlife if you can’t regularly see them. I chose to put my rabbits (along with my goats and chickens) on the south side of my home. From this location, I can see the rabbits from our bedrooms, kitchen, dining area, and most of the living room. I can also keep an eye on them even when I’m by the pond or garden.
- Make sure it’s suitable for your weather. Rabbits are much better suited to take on extreme cold rather than extreme heat. For most of the United States, you’re going to want to pick a cool, breezy, shaded spot that will allow them to stay cool during the hottest parts of the year. If you are in a more unusual area that doesn’t get hot during the summer, you may need to do more to prepare for the cold.
- Consider fencing in the area around your hutch too. I built a jackleg fence and then ran hotwires around it to hopefully stave off bears, wolves, domestic dogs, and other predators. You can also use cameras, sprinkler systems, lights, sirens, or even scarecrows as defensive measures to ward off predators from your rabbits.
- Make sure you have enough space per rabbit. You’ll find a lot of conflicting information here, with strong opinions of each side. For example, the American Rabbit Breeder’s Association suggests at least 1.5 square feet for every small 4-pound rabbit, and at least 5.4 square feet for every large 12-pound rabbit. However, the Rabbit Welfare Association suggests that rabbits must be kept in pairs, and this pair needs a minimum of 20 square feet. They also suggest at least 3 feet of vertical space so the rabbits have space to jump and stretch upwards. I completely understand why some breeders chose smaller spaces to be cost-effective and to encourage rabbits to put on weight. Still, I can’t help but lean towards bigger is better– I don’t mind if my rabbits take a little longer to put on weight because they have more space to play and exercise. This is just my personal preference.
- Consider the purpose of the rabbits when choosing a location too. Of course, their comfort and safety should come first, so prioritize the weather and predator defenses first. After that, though, you may want to think about why you’re raising rabbits. If they are pets, they should be closer to your house. If they are for meat, you may want to keep them closer to your butcher station. If you want to raise rabbits for their manure, you may want them to be near your garden or compost pile. And if you raise rabbits for their pelts, then you may want to build the hutch near your tanning shed. I chose to put my rabbit on the side of the hen houe because I intend on building another run than will go beneath this hutch. Any hay, straw, pellets, or rabbit droppings can get picked through by the chickens, meaning less will be wasted. Don’t worry, my chickens will have plenty of space that isn’t under the hutch too, only part of the run will be covered by rabbit hutch.
- Don’t build your rabbit hutch in a stressful area. Rabbits are highly prone to stress, and it’s possible for too much stress to be fatal to them. Avoid noisy areas as much as possible. Stay away from roadsides, dog kennels, and noisy machinery whenever possible.
Final Thoughts on Building a Cheap Rabbit Hutch
Building a homemade rabbit hutch can be surprisingly affordable and incredibly rewarding, plus it gives you all the power to customize it to suit your needs. I was able to build mine in less than twelve hours in total, and that includes everything from cutting down trees to wrangling my toddlers to getting sidetracked with other random projects like shoveling snow and thinning out some random shrubs by the hutch.
If you were wondering what the total savings for this project are, this is the best comparison I could find.
Little Giant Wire Rabbit Hutches, which are 2 feet by 2 feet, are currently $45 each with free delivery. If I wanted to get 24 square feet, I would need 6 of these, for a total of $270. Of course this isn’t a direct comparison because these are smaller cages that cannot be easily combined to make a larger hutch like mine, but it’s close.
If you were to go for a larger hutch that is all open like mine, this Aivituvin Rabbit Hutch is comprable. It’s 7 feet long, almost 2 feet wide, and 2 feet and 9 inches tall. Right now it’s $169 + $60 shipping.
My best guess is that this build saved around $200 to $241; not a lot, but enough to buy about 10 to 14 small square bales of our local hay.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this project, plus see and hear about the rabbit hutches you’ve built. It’s such a gratifying experience, and I enjoy learning about the different ways that other homesteaders do things!