Thursday, June 21, 2012

Making the Growing Out Hutch, and HEAT!

Work continues on the hutch, and despite my desires it isn't quite done yet due to some in process design changes to account for reality. The other part of it not being done is just how hot it was yesterday. Temperatures in the mid to upper 90s with near 100% humidity doesn't mean you can't work. It just means you should do so slowly and with awareness of your body. Between that and needing some new materials to do this properly, we are currently 2 doors short of a hutch.

As you can see Above the monster is nearing completion. For scale, the center support is where the end of one of the normal hutches would be. I neglected to get a photo of the basic frame of the hutch before I added any legs, but Right shows you basically what it looks like. It is an 8' by 3' frame of 2x4s with two interior supports at 18" in each. The wire is secured to the frame from below with a combination of staples and scrap blocks of wood nailed in at strategic locations.

On the Left the photo shows the blocks positioned about every 8 inches with staples holding the wire tight everywhere else. Ideally, we would have the entire frame edge lined with 2x2s or 1x2s to provide the absolute best way of securing the wire from below. The reason I decided to secure the wire from below is to avoid the cleaning issue of having urine and feces caked on the wood that is obscured by the wire. So far that has worked out fairly well with the addition of the blocks since staples alone eventually fail.

The center strut is unsurprisingly a vital part of keeping the growing out hutch stable, and for giving it a long lifespan. As you can see, it is actually a very simple structural piece. The nice part about using 2x4s for everything is I have lots of little leftover scraps. The chunks of wood left over from cutting the 45 degree angles are going to be used to support and connect the two parts of the corner legs to keep them solid and stable as one unit. This should decrease the stress on the hutch, and make the doors easier to work with. The lack of side to side stability in the original hutch design coming from only having the single direction of leg has been a pain, and the legs on this are designed to attempt to ameliorate that particular difficulty.
The next major difference in design from the smaller hutches is the roof. On a 4' roof you can deal with fairly minimal bracing. For an 8' roof on the other hand, you can not. Especially when you are using old warped plywood. To keep the roof from sagging in the center, or breaking under the weight of the snow in winter I designed in a lot of cross supports. I can't claim that all of the supports you see Right and Below Right are carefully measured to the best possible positioning.

 The main difficulty that will come from this particular design is going to be how to best put the private space wall in. I am still considering how to handle that, but I am thinking to simply use ply wood as usual and cut knock outs to go around the roof bracing as the best option. The interior walls will likely be going in after this set of litters is butchered.

Above you can see me looking unhappily at the massive warp in the roof which was fixed with substantial nailing and fiddling.
Fortunately, a good friend of ours came up while I was in process last Friday and gave a hand. Trying to put the roof in place would have been nigh on impossible without a second pair of hands. He isn't in any of the photos because I'm not sure if he is ok with his face being on the blog. In most of these photos he is just off to the side, or on the other side of the hutch providing the second set of hands needed to do things correctly. Left you can see me trying to line up the corners of the ply wood. Due to the warping combined with the lack of level ground, to get it properly squared required quite a lot of force. The way we achieved this without a saw or a fresh sheet of plywood was to go corner by corner.

Get one corner tacked down with a nail, move to the diagonally opposite corner and tack that down. Once those two are in and solid, getting the rest is actually much easier. Once all four corners are down, we went ahead and nailed the warped wood in to a number of the support members. As you can see Left we eventually got the roof fairly well flat all things considered.

 Once the roof was on, and the basic structure sound, the next order of business was to get the sides and back on. The wire in back was fairly simple once you are used to putting wire in. The side walls are a matter of getting proper measurements, no matter how uneven the ground. In the case of how off our terrain is I've found that holding up the board to be used and tracing what shape needs to be cut into it and using that is actually the best option. As you can see the back wall is effectively just the same as the privacy area doors for the hutches, just nailed in to the supports, and secured fully with a scab plate in back. The back walls are made like that simply because I ran out of plywood, and had substantial amounts of scrap 2x4 in nearly the right size already. The Z bracing you can see on the back walls and the doors are to keep the 2x4s from shifting around. It is especially relevant on the doors, but I figured the back wall could use some extra love since the whole thing is so big.

 Heat is a major concern for rabbits and their caretakers. Starting at around 80 rabbits can begin to die from the heat. Heritage breeds are less susceptible to it, but still suffer greatly. To combat this we use bottles of water frozen into ice over night and put into the hutches to preserve the rabbits. Even with that you end up with some unhappy sprawled bunnies. The picture Above is about as alert as they get because the rabbits perk up when they see pictures being taken. Below you can see some of Sunny's litter sprawled out around the hutch. The white and black bunny together are sitting on a cool chunk of rock put in there for the purpose. The rest of that family are off in the private area sitting on the ice bottle. I didn't take a picture so as to not disturb them.

Weight Charts
The thing to note is the drastic weight increase drop in the hot days. I expect to see virtually zero weight gain in the next few days due to the sweltering heat and high humidity. The rabbits aren't eating or drinking at all during the day, but when I return in the morning the food is entirely gone. I wonder if cold ends up producing the same sort of slow down of weight gain, or if this is just a coincidence with the litters naturally slowing down as it gets hot.

Dawn's Litter Weight Chart

Sunny's Litter Weight Chart


  1. Cold has its own challenges, as they'll only eat while their water is liquid.

    1. To try to deal with that because it gets so cold up on the hill, we are planning to get heated water bottles since they are used to drinking from bottles as is. They're costly, but they should keep the water liquid at least.