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Rabbit tractor plans

 
Posts: 132
Location: Joplin, MO Zone 6b
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I'm releasing my plans to build the Runabout Rabbit Run as a free pdf download under a liberal Creative Commons license. My hope is that it will help more people who are interested in pasturing meat and fiber rabbits.

It isn't required, but I suggest people sign up to my blog mailing list to get the latest posts since I like for people to read my stuff and the Runabout Rabbit Run is an ongoing project I plan to write about from time to time.

The Runabout Rabbit Run is something I personally created based loosely on a design the person I bought my does from used. I have been using this design through all seasons here in Dugger, Indiana for about a year and really love it.

It is available for free download at my website, http://www.saltmakers.com/runabout-rabbit-run-plans/.


Thanks,
Luke Townsley
SaltMakers, LLC
8956 E State Rd 54
Dugger, IN 47848
812-269-8581
 
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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Thank you for sharing your design!

We had a similar one but it had horizontal 2X2's the length of it to make it stronger. One night some animal used a lot of force to rip off the wire where it was stapled to the wood. The neighbor said there's a black bear behind their house so maybe it was a bear but I think a coyote (this was back when my farm dog was a cowardly puppy and would hide in the garage from things in the night - not that I blame him if there were bears about).

I'm wondering how they hold up - like does the wire hold its shape over time or does it get bent?

We put our rabbit on the weakest growing grass so it could benefit from the rabbit manure. Of course we had to move her more often but she was increasing the quality of the soil over time. Between the rabbit and the chick tractor we don't have many weak spots left any more, and when we get a whole week of rain (like this week) the grass is so tall and thick you can barely mow it. Maybe now we need a sheep tractor too.
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 132
Location: Joplin, MO Zone 6b
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Renate,

As for the strength, the triangle shape makes it very strong and lightweight without framing the run section. Granted we don't have bears here, but mine have held up well through a vicious two dog attack.

Because of the self-reinforcing triangle shape and the fact that the ends are relatively rigid, it isn't indestructible, but mine have been through quite a bit between my kids and dog attacks. With a determined bear or mountain lion, all bets are off though.

One thing I describe in the plans is stapling the ends to the plywood. I have had some staples pull out with time and movement, and it is awkward to staple the wire in the bottom of the hutch. In my next one, I am going to cut the wire so I can turn loops in the ends with needle-nosed pliers and either bolt or screw the wire to the hutch for both the run and the hutch bottom. I already do a similar thing with the hutches I sell. That also eliminates the need for a stapler which a lot of people don't have. I also plan to change the runners and use PVC conduit for the runners instead of wood (the units I sell are already that way too). That will be made possible by the fact that the hutch bottom wire is bolted/screwed to the hutch directly instead of to the runners and will take off a bit of weight and simplify cutting the runners which is fairly challenging.
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
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Location: zone 6b
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Love it! Great idea using screws on loops of the wire! Like the PVC idea too but it does break down really fast in sunlight to become brittle.
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 132
Location: Joplin, MO Zone 6b
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You're right about PVC degrading in sunlight, but the gray PVC conduit is UV resistant and can also be painted to further protect it. I'm not suggesting it is environmentally friendly though.
 
Posts: 296
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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Personally if I wanted to tractor I'd use a setup like these folks. http://skyviewacres.blogspot.com/

I'm doing colony myself on deep bedding and really looking forward to harvesting the bedding! I've got 1.5 ft thick by 8ft sq of manure, urea +bedding awesomeness! The rabbits should taste good too
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 132
Location: Joplin, MO Zone 6b
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Here is a direct link to an article about the Skyview Acres rabbit tractor:
http://skyviewacres.blogspot.com/2013/03/rabbit-tractors.html

I think it is a good design for a twin rabbit tractor and offers a lot of potential for development/morphing into a colony or multiple rabbit unit. That style would be heavier and hotter than my rabbit tractor for a single breeding doe as well as more expensive to build, but with a bit of planning, most or all of those things could be mitigated.

What is exciting is that it offers potential to be worked into a design that houses multiple rabbits and possibly an entire colony. While it might not be of interest to casual home rabbit growers with one or two does, that is a direction I would like to take the Skyview acres type design. If a rabbit run could be developed (and I believe it can) to house 5 or more breeding animals and their offspring on pasture reducing labor to filling a single feeding system and single watering system and moving a single unit, all of a sudden, pastured rabbits could likely beat out confinement rabbits on meat price, not to mention nutrition.

Such a system would cut feed costs dramatically, keep infrastructure costs low, and reduce labor costs by about 80% compared to my Runabout Rabbit Run. I think kit mortality would necessarily be higher at least throughout most of the country due to weather extremes and other factors, but with good does bred for pasture, I don't think that would be a dealbreaker.
 
David Miller
Posts: 296
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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Agreed.

Speaking of good does bred to pasture, I purchased my initial stock from Skyview and they have been exceptionally hardy and independent mothers. When I went it was cold and nasty here in VA, around 40 degrees and spitting rain. The rabbits were in great shape and not affected by the weather at all.

I think that your idea for combining pens and having central feed, hay and watering shared by all is great. That type of setup would require mechanical movement (ie tractor or 4 wheeler) but with the wire bottoms they've built into their designs, its very doable.
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 132
Location: Joplin, MO Zone 6b
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As for weight, I agree that is a limiting factor, but I think a tractor unit could be designed to house 5-10 breeding does and still be moved quickly by a single reasonably robust person assuming (and this is a biggie) that the rabbits could interact in a colony situation.

It might, however be necessary or at least helpful to put it on drop down wheels or use a dolly of some sort. I think the biggest problem to solve is keeping the rabbits from digging out. The Skyview unit I saw appeared to only have a border of wire around the outer edge. If that is enough, it would be a reasonable solution as far as weight and mobility. My Runabout Rabbit Run design uses wire under the entire unit, and it is pretty much essential to the design since it serves to add sufficient rigidity to the sides.

I want to design a colony rabbit tractor and actually have some pastured rabbits I could put in it, but I'm not yet studied up on colony rabbits sufficiently, and housing them individually seems like it would increase the weight, expense, and labor requirements significantly. If there is someone out there who would like to jabber for a while about colony meat rabbits, I would love to talk.
 
David Miller
Posts: 296
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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Luke Townsley wrote:As for weight, I agree that is a limiting factor, but I think a tractor unit could be designed to house 5-10 breeding does and still be moved quickly by a single reasonably robust person assuming (and this is a biggie) that the rabbits could interact in a colony situation.

It might, however be necessary or at least helpful to put it on drop down wheels or use a dolly of some sort. I think the biggest problem to solve is keeping the rabbits from digging out. The Skyview unit I saw appeared to only have a border of wire around the outer edge. If that is enough, it would be a reasonable solution as far as weight and mobility. My Runabout Rabbit Run design uses wire under the entire unit, and it is pretty much essential to the design since it serves to add sufficient rigidity to the sides.

I want to design a colony rabbit tractor and actually have some pastured rabbits I could put in it, but I'm not yet studied up on colony rabbits sufficiently, and housing them individually seems like it would increase the weight, expense, and labor requirements significantly. If there is someone out there who would like to jabber for a while about colony meat rabbits, I would love to talk.



As I understood it, their original design didn't include the bottom but they quickly realized how necessary it was so they now have wire mesh/fence material on the bottom of the run and the rabbits eat between the wires

I personally colony and love it.
 
David Miller
Posts: 296
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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I love the idea of pasturing colonies, some bicycle wheels on one end would suffice for easing mobility.
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 132
Location: Joplin, MO Zone 6b
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David,

Just to be clear.

Do they now put wire under the entire run area or just in a foot or so around the edges?

Luke
 
David Miller
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Yes they put wire under the entire run area.
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 132
Location: Joplin, MO Zone 6b
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BTW, David, thanks for the link above.

To keep the pen mobile, relatively easy to move, and to make the most use of pasture it is significant to avoid the use of wire over the grazing area in very large rabbit tractors intended for multiple rabbits. Through the use of electric wire, I can keep stuff from digging in, but that still doesn't solve the problem of how to keep the rabbit from digging out. I don't want to shock my rabbits inside the pen.

In nature, typically rabbits dig only in "thick" areas, not in open areas. I wonder if that behavior could be leveraged to at least keep burrowing to the middle of the run area where they are in no danger of escaping? The other option I see is to put something around the inside of the run walls to discourage digging in that area, but I'm not sure what it would take.
 
David Miller
Posts: 296
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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What dimensions are you thinking of? The pens at Skyview were maybe 5ftx8ft divided in half to house two does and accompanying litters per tractor. They were very easy to drag by one person and were wired on the bottom. Just pointing it out because I believe that they went from no fence on bottom to having it there because of burrowing. I do like your idea for finding a way to utilize their burrowing instinct to your advantage. Let me know where your brainstorms go on that, it'd be an awesome integration if you come up with something. The link from Cuniculture.com said they're using 5x5cm wire on the bottom, probably light chicken wire, maybe lighter gauge than the rest because of weight?

I like the idea of a 20x20 tractor utilizing the levered wheels from that Cuniculture.com link, with a colony of 3 does and one buck inside. It would be too big for most time periods but ideal (in this momentary hypothetical brainstorm) because you wouldn't have to move the colony much at first until the litters are grazing too. Then it would provide enough grazing space for all apx 27 kits to come to weight. You'd have to move it more often as they grow but....
 
David Miller
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Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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Do you have a copy of John Seymour's The New Self-Sufficient Gardener? He has plans for a mobile greenhouse that I've wanted to convert to suit this thread's goals. Basically it utilizes triangular webbing of wire to hold tension on a light weight frame. Just can't stop brainstorming...
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 132
Location: Joplin, MO Zone 6b
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David,
I haven't seen that book, but it sounds interesting.

As for the wire on the bottom, the problems for a larger unit as I see it are three fold. First if all, it adds significant weight. Second, it adds enormous drag since you either have to lift the entire floor higher than the grass or pull it through the grass. Third, it requires building a larger unit or housing fewer rabbits since it mashes about one third to one half the available grass. The last figure is necessarily imprecise because it varies a lot depending on the grass and type of wire/floor used. Moreover, with wire on the bottom, you would probably be moving the weight of the rabbits also whereas if there was an open bottom, some (maybe most) of them might stay out of the hutch. The rabbits themselves could add another 100 pounds to move.

I'm thinking of keeping it within 10x20 and more likely about 8x16 or even a bit smaller. The nice thing about 8'x16' is that it is trailer-able, large enough to be reasonably efficient with construction materials, and small enough to fit between most trees and obstacles. Here in Indiana, I can graze a rabbit and her litter for about a day on 10-20 square feet of overgrown "lawn". I don't know if a colony would work in that space, but 8'x16' would give enough grazing area for at least 5 does even considering a hutch area within that space that couldn't be grazed.

I just built an 8'x16' chicken tractor for pastured meat chickens and it weighs about 100 pounds and is easy enough for me to move, but is starting to get on the outer range of what is reasonable for most people to move over pasture without wheels, IMO.

Personally, I would rather move the tractor daily and make it a bit smaller, lighter, and cheaper, than make it harder to move intending to move it every couple of days.
 
David Miller
Posts: 296
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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Good points, yet another reason to like the design of the louvered wheels that from the looks of the pictures lower as the handle is pulled, facilitating movement. A colony of 5 does that's large enough for all and floored would be very heavy though even with wheels. Someone needs to come up with a way to electric fence rabbits the in a similar fashion as we can for cattle, pigs and chickens.
 
pollinator
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Hi,
very old post, but the link to the plans does not seem to work anymore. Do you have a link to your plans?

The only other plan for rabbit tractors found on instructables is this one
https://www.instructables.com/id/Knockdown-outdoor-rabbit-tractor/
 
David Miller
Posts: 296
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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I don't have any plans to offer but the general outline is pretty simple, so I'll try to summarize.

First, everything is based on a single sheet of metal roofing from Lowes.  That's the measurement from which everything else is based.  

Materials list:
1 sheet of metal roofing
1x2s apx 8ft long from Lowes or lumberyard of choice.
1/4 or 1/2 hardware cloth (smaller is better because kits are suicidal)
Scrap plywood or a new sheet is handy
Some scrap 1x4s are hand for building the nest box



Take the apx 2ftx8ft section of metal roofing (the cheaper the better of course), and lay it flat. Take two 1x2s and lay them on top of the metal long ways.  Cut the 1x2 s so that they are 4 inches shorter than the metal roof (overhang is crucial).

Then cut another 1x2 to build a frame from them. This shape should mirror the metal but be at least 1" shy of the edge in all directions. Now you have a rectangular frame. Build a two of these frames (one for top one for bottom).

On the bottom frame, run 1x2s the length of the frame with 1/4-1/2 inch between each one to allow for grazing (but acknowledging that if kits get out of the nursing box too soon, the slats are a death trap if they're too big). This will be the bottom. Miter each end when you trim them so that you can drag the bottom instead of it catching on the turf.

Now decide how high you want yours to be.  I liked mine a little deeper, about 2 1/2 feet because does don't mess with trying to get the roof open if they can't reach it.  Cut 4 1x2's in the same height and use them to connect your top and bottom. Now you have a rectangular box.

Using plywood (thinner is better!!)make a nesting box on one end. This provides structure and the nest box is mandatory, kits cannot live in the open air.  Make sure to build in a hurdle at the entrance from the nest box to the open area so that kits that can't run and jump, can't get out, they will die if they get out too early so I usually used a removable hurdle that only the doe can get past and then remove it when the little buggers get big enough. One small hurdle should remain (apx 2inches) att the bottom though because I did mine 4 seasons and this helped limit the cold air in the nest box.

Once the nest box is built, take your roll of hardware cloth, screw it down with a washer and screws to the nest box, then wrap it around the length (sides) of the entire tractor back to the nest box on the other side. Washers are crucial! Get this tight, I used a makeshift brake to bend the corners because they were hard to get taunt otherwise.

Now its time to put the lid on. I liked hinges but always found that the screws let water in. The crucial thing is the overhang as you don't want water dripping anywhere in the tractor. I was amazed at how dumb rabbits are. They'd just sit there with the water dripping on their heads, then die of cold if I had let them.

My best setup included a bucket on top with 1/4 or 1/8 plastic tube to watering nipples for water and standard food box cut through the wire but the food always was a challenge with the elements so I'd suggest trying to think about how to mount the food box inside the enclosure with a way to fill from the outside without allowing rain to get at it.  My system was not perfect.

Handles on both ends are crucial. I also like a drag line as my back sucks. I'll try to find some old photos but I hope this helps.  
 
David Miller
Posts: 296
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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Some old photos to give you an idea of what I used. Ps, I'm no longer raising rabbits, anyone near Harrisonburg VA that wants one of these, I have 1 left to gift away.
12507091_10153321606847129_3975269215448614647_n.jpg
Rabbit Tractor
Rabbit Tractor
10534490_10153296245592129_4542854860406157372_n.jpg
Rabbit Tractor
Rabbit Tractor
10708764_10152722045652129_2815971347303707036_o.jpg
Rabbit Tractor
Rabbit Tractor
 
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