We built our chicken tractor/coop from scrap metal found in the barn and old 1x3s taken off our old roof during repairs, so you’d expect me to do more scrounging when it came to my next small project: a rabbit tractor! (No scraps on the old barn, though – the exterior is being resurrected with all new materials!)
A friend of mine gifted me her old chicken tractor, complete with sturdy wheels, a not so sturdy carrying handle, and plenty of torn chicken wire. I took it with pleasure and with plans to make it secure for every predator’s favorite meal to grow up in safely. Sounds like a challenge i’m up to!
The basic shape is a rectangle with wheels off the back. The tractor sits flush on the ground, but the wheels stick back far enough that when lifted in the front it rolls with relative ease. My first step was to re-fence the sides. I used chicken wire again, creating a double layer of chicken wire, though my next ‘start from scratch’ tractor will employ sturdier hardware cloth that is more resistant to predator talons ripping it apart. (Chicken wire really isn’t suitable for protection against predators, it’s best for just keeping little animals IN.) I included a back wall of scrap metal so that they’d have additional protection from rain and a safe wall to huddle up against. Inside i put an old plastic tub, screwed to a joist. They can climb inside for rain protection and seem to LOVE huddling underneath it in a little rabbit pile of scared.
On top i put some shade cloth to protect from sun and resist some rain, some 2×4 field fence for protection against predators, and a new plywood door with latch. On the bottom i stapled more 2×4 field fence to keep the little diggers inside. The first test subjects are LOVING having the additional space to ‘freestyle hop’ around in. They’re grazing happily, as well – saving me on feed costs.
I have some long term plans involving the design of my vegetable garden spaces divided by rows of cover crops, rotationally grazed with rabbit tractors who will mow the cover crop down, side dressing the gardens as they go with nature’s best fertilizer, all the while flavoring their meat and feeding themselves for free. I can’t wait to share more about that project as it comes to pass! I’m also eager to see how the flavor and texture of the meat of this hoppy rabbits will compare to the more sedate, cage bound ones.
Building your own rabbit tractor? Here are some things to consider when you’re drafting your plans:
- Ease of movement: you’ll want to move this every day to minimize damage to your lawn/pasture
- Access to pellets/supplemental feed/water: Any food dish you use for feeding pellets will need to be out of the rain and you’ll want to secure it high enough that the rabbits don’t just trample and poop in it. Be sure to provide fresh water daily.
- Prevention of escapes: little rabbits can jump HIGH. Be sure their enclosure has a secure lid and be sure you’ve used some kind of barier on the bottom to prevent their digging out.
- Shade: rabbits need to be out of the sun, so be sure they have plenty of shade at all times during the day!
- Dry: they shouldn’t get too wet, so be sure they have a dry place to get out of the rain
- Protection: most of all, be sure that you put your tractor in a secure yard or be sure and build it out of predator proof fencing. We’re not aiming to put out a tasty snack pack for the local cats, cougars and coyotes!
It’s such fun to look out my studio window and see these little guys hopping around. Pocket loves it too. Ebenezer loves it a little too much. I think the buns think Pocket is one of them – look how they follow her around!
How about you – do you enjoy building small structures with found materials, or do you always buy fresh and new supplies?