Written By: Laurie Stroupe
Rabbit breeders can be very particular about the type of rabbit nest boxes they like. What works great for me might not be what quite suits you best. But regardless of the type you like, there are several things that are common to all.
Rabbit Nestboxes Must be Easily Sanitized
First and foremost, nest boxes must be sanitized between uses. That doesn’t mean just brushing them out or even spraying them out. They must be either bleached or sanitized with an iodine-based biocide. If my husband Andrew prepares my nest boxes, which is normally the case, he sprays them off and removes any old hay. Then he dips them in one part bleach and five parts water. After twenty minutes or so, he rinses well and then puts them into the sun to dry, if the weather cooperates.
If I do them, I spray them off like he does, but then I saturate them with a diluted iodine based biocide. Then I place it in the sun to dry. I’m sensitive to bleach but not iodine.
I once got caught short without a nest box for a doe that needed one. So I took one that wasn’t visibly dirty, but used, and placed it with the doe. I thought that it wouldn’t hurt “just this one time.” Everything seemed to be fine. The kits didn’t die from a mysterious illness or anything. But when I took the doe out to see if she was in good enough condition to rebreed, I found a huge lump under one teat (golf ball size). I took her to the vet and he told me it was the worst case of mastitis he’d ever seen. It had to be lanced in two placed. Then I read that mastitis was one of the things that could happen if you don’t sanitize your nest boxes. Boy, did I feel terrible. I will never do that again.
(Ed. Note: Metal Nest boxes are very easy to sanitize and won’t harbor bacteria or debris like wooden ones can.)
Choosing the Right Rabbit Nesting Box
The box should be comfortable to the doe. Rabbits can scrunch into much smaller areas than we give them credit for. All the same, different does prefer different things and your nest boxes should accommodate different preferences.
The box should also protect the kits. I like boxes with a shelf above so that the kits can be nestled underneath and protected from the dam’s jumping in and out. The kits need to stay close together in a protected part of the nest box.
The nest box should keep hungry kits from wandering out in search of a midnight snack. We learned this with our first litters. We bred two does and had no idea what we were doing. I put a hole in end of a plastic shoe box for a nest box. The doe loved it and climbed right in. She had lots of privacy and was very snug. But when I swept the dining room the next day, I found a kit 16 feet away behind a basket of books! The box should allow the doe to get in and out easily. It should allow older kits the ability to get back in when they are not quite ready to graduate the nest box, but it should keep tiny kits inside.
The nest box should allow urine to flow through and not build up in the nest box. This point is especially important with big litters that need to stay in longer because of cold weather. A lot of urine can build up on a solid bottom in a hurry.
A good nest box, in my opinion, should not over bake babies in the summer or chill them in the winter.
Finally, when you’ve selected the nest boxes you like, the final thing to remember is that it must be added to the doe’s cage on day 28. I was late one time and didn’t get it in until day 30. The doe delivered an hour later. You can just imagine her in her cage with her legs crossed wondering where the heck her pet person is with that box!
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