Friday, March 16, 2012

Wood Scraps

Wednesday I spent the whole day working outside since we had a beautiful warm day with lots of sunshine. It was perfect weather for working on some of the small construction projects I had planned for this spring.

I started with the rabbit hutch I have been planning on building.
I want single rabbit hutches that would be adequately large enough for one doe and her litter. Also by having the hutches built as singles, I'm hoping they will be easier to move around the yard to the most suitable locations.

The whole hutch is made from scrap wood as part of a project for Earth Day and the Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity Restore. Most of the 2x4s, and 1"x8" boards came from the Habitat ReStore.

The greatest challenge has been getting enough scrounged hardware wire. I had enough in my own stockpile of scrap wire to cover the floor area, but I will have to work at finding some elsewhere for the three sides (front, and sides).

The other issue I may want to change in the future is the eave.

I made the eave quite large, figuring it would be best to have a large eave to keep sun and rain from entering the cage. But this leads to another issue. Access for cleaning. By having the eave larger, having a traditional door on the front of the cage makes cleaning cumbersome as it will make the human (me) having to kneel or crouch while digging out the filth of the cage. I'm considering the idea of making the cleaning access door on the side where it isn't traditionally, but also there is no eave.

By placing it on the side, I can also make it so I can readily chase the bunny into the boxed area and shut her in, while preparing to clean her cage area, as I similarly do with my duck tractor. This would make escaping rabbits less likely.

The frame of the hutch is made from 2x4s, secured together with long wood screws. I then worked on the wall board that separates the caged area from the nest box. I used a salvaged board and notched it to fit around the framing boards so it would make a tight fit.

I then began cutting and placing the roofing boards into place. All the boards used to make the roof were salvaged boards.

Once I finished the roof, I worked at fastening the hardware cloth flooring into place.

Its been recommended by Eric that I consider adding at least one, if not two,
support braces through the middle of the flooring space, to help hold up the hardware cloth, which I believe may be a wise idea.

While the hardware cloth is strong enough to hold one rabbit, once you have an entire litter of half grown rabbits in the cage, it may not be quite enough support currently.

Its been a fun learning project. Its not a pretty hutch, by no means. But the challenge of making it myself from scraps of wood scrounged from here or there has made it an interesting challenge.

Once I get all the wire in place and the back wall of the nest box in place, I still will need to paint its exterior and add some sort of roofing material to keep out moister.

I used trim boards to cover the sharp edges of the hardware cloth wire, so that I won't be stabbed by the ends when working around the hutch. The trim boards I had, happen to be white, so its taken on a very bright color for the time being. I'm sure with a little "help" from the rabbits, that won't be the case.

I have already reclaimed some old fiberglass panels that are green in color. I believe that it would be much lighter to use one of those panels than it would be to use the salvaged roofing shingles, like I had done on my duck tractor.

The one thing I can say to anyone thinking of making chicken or duck tractors or any other backyard devise that will be moved around the yard, remember WEIGHT! I'm of average body type and its a struggle to move the old duck tractor even a few feet because of the amount of shingles it has nailed to its flat roof. It would have been better, in my opinion if we'd made a sloped roof and used tin or fiberglass panels to roof it. But one learns as one works on these little projects.

The hutch is elevated so that I can place tubs underneath the hutch, to collect rabbit droppings and plant matter that they may drop as they eat. This waste material will be used in two ways within the yard. The first method is to directly place my red worm bins under the hutch during warm summer months and allow the worms to feast on the waste that is coming from the hutch.

The current design of the hutch would allow me to place two tubs under the hutch. Giving me greater opportunity to raise red wiggler worms and thus my own composting agents (and the excess worms can be fed to my poultry at the end of summer as additional protein).

The worms feed on plant matter and manure from plant eating animals such as rabbits. The by-product of the worms is commercially called "worm castings" and is considered a highly fertile potting soil and composting material. The worms live out their entire lives in the tubs, growing from small white specks (eggs) to white wiggling worms

(that I call nursery worms. If you look closely you can see in this photo small white worms looking like threads) and later they grow into larger red worms.

The second method is to collect compostable waste material during the winter months and place it into the compost bins that are located near my garden. By having the legs of the hutch high enough to permit tubs to be slid under the hutch, it reduces my time in raking and clearing the deposits of droppings & other matter from under the hutch come spring. It will make it much easier to keep their area clear of waste material and making collection and removal much quicker. (At least that's the theory).

If anyone notices, Yes the leg appears tilted. It is. The 2x4 that was used had a slight bow. At the initial inspection it didn't seem "that" bowed and so I used it. But once it was secured into place, it was clear it was quite bowed. However, I was tired & didn't want to work to remove it. So I chalked it up to another lesson learned. I have at least three more hutches to make and will be more careful in picking which 2x4s are used for legs. This one will be a test of how long a curved board will function if placed up against a building.

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