Introduction: Rabbit Hutch
This serves to give an example for building an elevated rabbit hutch for use over a vermi-composter or by itself. I designed and organized its construction for an Environmental Anthropology class, and it cost around $40 and half a day in labor.
I chose to use 2"x 2" beams for the basic structure and had to us a number of half lap joints to allow for the use of a single screw even when three beams were involved in the joint. The hutch is designed to house two rabbits with as little cleaning as possible, and needs a straw bedding to ensure their comfort. In the picture above, the hutch is being used for plants rather than rabbits as the intended occupants are still too cute to keep outside.
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Step 1: Materials
The plans are drawn above, and should give a clear indication of the parts and the overall structure to keep in mind as we cut all the parts. There will be a roof added to shed water as well as chicken wire to confine the rabbits to the upper rectangle. The hutch section is roughly 2' x 2' x 4', while the whole structure is 4' tall.
2"x 2" x 8' beams (7)
4' x 2' roof appropriate material such as chipboard (1)
Shingles, enough to cover 4' x 2'
2' x 2' chicken mesh
3" screws (20)
Drill Bit - appropriate for pre-drilling the screws
Hammer and Chisel
Vice (if possible)
All of the joints are lap joints and will need to be cut to fit into each other. This is due to the fact that the 2"x 2"s allow for a lighter object but are too weak to take multiple screws in one location. Thus, the lap joints allow for only one screw while retaining the lightweight advantage of the 2"x 2"s. The front of the hutch is 4 inches higher than the back to allow water to drain off. We will proceed in the order the materials were listed.
2"x 2" x 8' beams (7) :
These beams form almost all of the hutches shape and need to be cut correctly in order to create an even final object. I will refer to them by the letters by which they are labeled in the plans above.
A (2) - See below
B (2) - It is best to cut the section A and B beams together, forming one A and one B from each beam. This is because the A beams need to be 4'2" while the B beams need to be 3'10" long, which is conveniently the overall length of the 8' beams. They will form the legs of the structure with the A beams being the front legs and the B beams being the back legs. Due to the fact that we are attempting to slope the roof, the cut will also need to be about 1/4" sharper than a right angle. Sections A will need a lap joint cut into them (1.5" long, 3/4" deep) exactly 2' from the flat ground end, but on the side that will face the back of the hutch. Sections B will need the same lap joint cut made but on the side that will face the front of the hutch. Using a hacksaw or chisel along with a regular saw will be necessary. Make both cuts into the wood first before cutting or chiseling out the section between them as indicated in the images.
C (2) - Section C forms the outer lower horizontal side joints, and must be cut to 1'9" to allow the final dimensions to remain at 2' from the front to the back. Section E is exactly the same. There are no lap joints or odd cuts on these beams.
D (3) - These form the lower front and back lengthwise beams. They need to be 4" long, with a lap joint cut into the same side on each end. A lap joint must also be cut in the middle, on the same side as the other two joint cuts, and with the same dimensions. The dimensions are 1.5" in length and 3/4" in depth, and this will be true of all the lap joints. The end lap joints will fit nicely into the lap joints cut into sections A and B, while the middle lap joints will accommodate the lap jointed ends of I and E
E (1) - See sections C for lower E, and sections G for upper E.
F (2) - These form the upper front and back lengthwise beams and nearly match sections D. Lap joints must be cut on the same side of both ends of each piece, and a middle lap joint is required also.
G (2) - These will need to be 2' long with lap joints on the same side of each end. They will fit into all three of the lap joints in sections F. The upper section E will be the middle lap joint connector.
H (1) - This should be cut after assembling the rest of the device if you are not sure of its exact dimensions. In an ideal world it would be 1'9" long, with and angled end to match section B, and a lap joint to fit into the rear section D. These cuts must be made on the correct side (the angle will slope towards the side that has the lap tongue) in order to work correctly.
I (1) - Section I is very similar to section H, but must be 2'2" tall and have a tongue on the tall side of the slope instead of on the shorter side, in that the slope will go down towards the side which has no tongue on the other end.
4' x 2' roof appropriate material such as chipboard (1)
This will serve as the roof, and will hinge onto the rear F beam. The shingles will be stapled onto it after it has been attached.
20' x 2' chicken mesh
The chicken wire will cover the bottom in two layers, the sides and the front and rear faces. Only cut the wire when you have stapled each section on to ensure that it ends up in the right dimensions as it tends to stretch and distort its shape as it is stapled into place.
These will go on to the roof board and section F, being widely and evenly spread, but no closer than 3" to the ends.
3" screws and washers
Pre-drill and apply a washer to every screw, as there are not many screws and they will need to be strong.
Note, to make lap joints, first draw out what section needs to be removed, then cut with a saw across the grain. Finally, use a chisel and hammer to carefully remove and clean the section by splitting it from the end. Use a vice if possible. Look to the images provided for guidance.
Step 3: Assemble
To assemble, first remember that every screw must be pre-drilled, have a washer, and will go through three boards. I pre-cut these for my class to assemble, and thus they are featured in the pictures also.
Then join sections A, C and D, such that the screw passes first through A, then into the lap joint tongue on D, and then into the flat end of C, do this for both A sections and C sections. This will look somewhat like the first image plus the two C sections, and without the center vertical piece. That will come later. There are images provided of the final joints appearance.
Join the two B sections and the remaining D section in the same way to the other ends of the C sections. Image 2 in the top left hand corner of the plans indicates how both of these steps should be done. Remember that all of the sloping cuts at the tops of sections A and B ought to be sloping down in the same direction. The screw will pass first through sections B, then through section D before hitting the end of sections C.
Attach sections G and F to the tops of sections A and B. The screws should go through sections F, into sections G and then into beam A or B, depending on the joint. This will form a rectangular prism on stilts. The screw will pass through the tongues of F and G, and into the sloping ends of A and B leaving the whole roof tilted at a rate of 4" every 2', or two inches a foot.
Staple chicken wire onto the bottom of the cage, using two layers and keeping it as tight as possible. The double layering will help the rabbit's feet remain comfortable, yet let excrement pass through easily. Don't chicken wire the sides yet.
Now pass a screw through sections D, H and E in that order. Follow this by Passing a screw through A, I and E, such that this cross beam matches the other two C sections. You may need snips to cut the chicken wire away so that these go in easily. Make sure that you use the correct, lower E section, and that it goes in underneath the chicken wire. Now pass a screw through F, into the tongue of the upper E and then into the slanted end of the rear H. Do the same for the forward H. Remember to pre-drill and washer all joints. The structure is now complete and the remainder of the chicken wire can be applied to the sides with the staple gun. The reasoning behind this order is that it is easier to cut the chicken wire to fit the H and I beams after it has been attached rather than before. It would also be difficult to insert the wire with the upper section E in place.
Lastly, screw the hinges onto the roof board and into the rear Section F, so that the roof swings back away from the higher end. Staple shingles or appropriately waterproof cover into place (water proof paint would suffice). There is no need for a catch as the roof will be too heavy for the rabbits to lift.
Step 4: Finish
Apply straw to the base in order to protect the rabbit's feet, add food and water and insert rabbits. Depending on your purposes, enjoy their cuteness of their flavor. A middle chicken wire divider may be erected if you have multiple rabbits. Worm bins can be slid underneath to take advantage of the raining black gold, or the structure can be moved periodically to provide fertilizer. Using angle braces may be necessary if the hutch doesn't hold itself at right angles.