Our bucks, Jefferson and Riddick are pretty pumped about these tractors I’ve got to share today. Jefferson has been living in his for a few months now and Riddick just moved out onto pasture this Thanksgiving weekend.
The design of these tractors was sort of inspired by our chicken coop. They maximize grass exposure, while keeping the rabbits safe. With the nest box on stilts, they have a safe place from predators and the elements without losing any grazing area. We’ve only used them for our bucks so far but we plan to eventually move the does out into tractors as well.
While hammering out the tractor’s design, we wanted to make sure that the rabbits wouldn’t be cramped. Conventional rabbit wisdom concludes that rabbit cages should measure 30″ x 36″ giving the rabbit 7.5 square feet of space. These tractors (24″ x 36″ with a nest box of 24″ x 12″) give the rabbit 8 square feet. Yay for more room! I’ve also found that these tractors are easier to get the rabbits in and out of – my arm is not long enough to grab a rabbit out of a 36″ wide cage (I learned that after building 2 all wire 30″ x 36″ cages: #forethought).
Because I’ve not found an abundance of useful information out there in internetland about grazing rabbits in tractors, I thought I’d put together a materials list, some pictures, and info about how we put our tractors together.
Click through for the details.
Materials (makes 1 tractor):
- 50 linear feet of 2 x 2 boards (You may want to pick up extra if you’re a measure-twice-cut-once-incorrectly-then-start-over kind of person like me).
- 3 inch screws
- 1 sheet non-pressure treated 1/2″ plywood.(they most commonly come in 4 x 8 sheets but if you find a 2 x 4 sheet that will work for 1 tractor – we used scraps for both of ours).
- 1 3/4 inch screws
- 4 feet of corrugated metal roofing
- 1 small box (we’ve hardly put a dent in our 120 count box after 2 tractors) of #9 x 1″ roofing screws for connecting metal to wood.
- 1 3 foot wide Roll of 1/2″ x 1″ welded cage wire (this roll could make 40 tractor nest boxes and will double for hanging cage floors and other nest box floors)
- 1 3 foot Roll of 1″ x 2″ welded cage wire (this roll should make 4 tractors)
- 18 or 20 gauge staples (we’ve used both with no ill effects so far)
- Stapler / Staple Gun
- Metal cutting shears
- Heavy duty wire cutters
- Saw (pick your saw of choice, you will need to cut both the 2 x 2’s and the plywood. We used a radial arm saw on the 2 x 2’s and a jig saw for the plywood)
- 2 Hinges (for the roof)
- Window Sash Lock (to prevent the wind from tearing off the roof)
- Handle (to more ergonomically lift the roof)
- Eye hooks (to which you could attach a rope/chain for pulling the tractor around)
2 x 2 Boards
- 8 @ 33″
- 6 @ 24″
- 2 @ 21 3/4″
- 2 @ 21 1/4″
- 2 @ 20 1/2″
- 4 @ 10″
- 2 @ 9″
- 2 blocks 10″ x 24″
- 2 blocks 9″ x 12″
The footprint of this tractor is 2′ x 3′
We started by screwing together (with the 3″ screws) a rectangle with two 24″ boards and two 33″ boards.
Then, we added 4 of the 33″ boards to the middle with 3″ spacing between them (again using the 3″ screws). This allows grass to be available to the rabbits without them digging out.
We went with a slatted wood bottom because rabbit forums seem to agree that rabbits won’t graze on the smushed grass that you would get if you dragged a wire-bottomed tractor across your lawn. You may consider wrapping these with wire or hardware cloth if you have a rabbit which chews on everything. Our buck, Jefferson has lived in his tractor for several months with little to no damage from chewing.
Then, we used the 1/2″ x 1″ cage wire to create the floor for the nest box. We used staples to secure the wire to the frame.
We next used the four 10″ boards as stilts for the nest box and installed the nest box floor onto the slatted base of the tractor (3″ screws). Make sure you install this with the wire facing upward. Placing the wire between the wood of the frame and the rabbit will (hopefully) minimize damage to the floor frame from chewing.
Next, we took our four blocks of cut plywood and some scrap pieces of 2 x 2 to screw together the nest box (using the 1 3/4″ screws). The scraps are mounted flush to the edges of the smaller end blocks and screwed on. Then, the longer blocks of plywood are screwed directly to the scraps. We used an additional scrap to secure the thin piece above the opening cut-out.
The front and back pieces of the nest box are cut 1″ longer (top to bottom) than the sides. This allowed us to screw through the plywood directly to the floor frame of nest box. You can kind of see this in the shot below.
Next, we used the two 21 3/4″ boards (left and right boards of the top frame) and a 21 1/4″ board (front crosspiece board) to make the top frame of the tractor (3″ screws).
We then flipped the tractor onto its side to add the 1″ x 2″ wire to the frame with more staples.
We used a hammer to smack down the cut ends of the welded wire that stuck out. This stuff is heavy duty and you don’t want to snag yourself on it – there will likely be cursing and bloodshed involved.
Through no virtue of our own, the dimensions of the design of this tractor happened to work out really well with the roll of 1″ x 2″ welded cage wire. The 3 foot roll should fit exactly onto the side of the tractor as shown above. Furthermore, the tractor is exactly 2 feet wide so after we installed the wire to the front section, we had 1 foot of wire which we trimmed off. Don’t throw that scrap away! That 1 foot section of 1″ x 2″ wire should exactly fit the little section under the nest box on the back wall of the tractor – yay for no waste!
Next up, we used the last two 33″ boards (long outer sides), the last two 24″ boards (short front and back pieces), and the other 21 1/4″ board (crosspiece) to make a frame to which the roof is attached. We aligned the crosspiece of this frame to the front wall of the nest box.
We then used the two hinges to attach the frame of the roof to the tractor’s frame.
The last thing we did before installing the roof was to screw on the hardware. We just placed the handle and sash lock where it was most comfortable for me. We did find that it’s much nicer to install the sash lock upside down with the swinging part mounted to the frame of the tractor and the stationary part mounted to the frame of the roof. This way your fingers won’t get scraped by the roof when you use the lock.
The last step is screwing down the roof! I allowed for a generous overhang on the back of the tractor to provide a bit of protection for the water bottle and feeder.
The shot below shows that Justin pre-drilled the holes for the roofing screws. Pre-drilling isn’t necessary, but we found the screws go into wood much easier than trying to drill them through the metal. There was less slipping, gouging and lost screws when we pre-drilled the holes.
It’s also worth noting that these screws only need to be tightened until the soft washer is just squeezed snugly. A screw which is too loose or too tight can make the water tight washers less effective.
Finally, in some of the finished shots you can see that Justin and I used some plywood and 2 x 2 scraps to hack together a ramp so the rabbits can get in and out easily. For a doe cage, I would put a small lip on the inside of the nest box so any babies wouldn’t accidentally roll out.
From start to finish, one tractor took me and Justin about 5 hours. Not too shabby for a freeish-range system for your rabbits. We love them so far. The bucks graze for their fiber so they are only supplemented with grain. I usually move the tractors twice per day to keep the rabbits on fresh grass but I don’t think they’d be harmed by being parked for a full day or so – just be conscious that they get enough fiber.
- We used the 3″ screws to attach the 2 x 2 boards to each other. We used the 1 3/4″ screws whenever we were working with the plywood to avoid the screws poking through and being exposed.
- Using non-pressure treated wood is a personal choice. Because I raise our rabbits for meat, I don’t want them ingesting pressure treatment chemicals if they gnaw on some of the wood in their tractors. If this doesn’t bother you – pressure treated wood will weather much better.
- I would NOT recommend using hardware cloth, chicken wire, or garden fencing wire for these tractors. They may not be strong enough to prevent predators from getting to your rabbits.
- We pre-drilled all the holes for all the screws in the 2 x 2’s. For us, that was easier than worrying about the boards splitting in the middle of the process
- I would also NOT recommend substituting any other size cage wire for the floor of the nest box. Larger spaced wire can be hard for rabbits to move on (their feet can fall through). Larger spaced wire can also increase the risk of sore/infected hocks as the rabbit’s weight is concentrated on fewer points.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments!