Here’s a scenario that might sound familiar: Your kids wanted a rabbit. You agreed — as long as they just got ONE rabbit. I mean, a rabbit is cheaper than a dog, right? You could pick up a bunny from a local breeder (it’s only $20), build a quick cage for it, and then have a new little critter keep the kids busy for a while. Call it a responsibility lesson in a cage, right? Sounds easy. And then you actually have to build the cage.
Suddenly, when you start looking at wire gauges, mesh sizes, and prices; j-clips, c-rings, and pliers; door-latches, urine guards, and drop trays – building a cage becomes multiple times more complicated.
Supplies you need to build a rabbit cage
It’s not that tough, really: you just need to know where to start. If you browse around our blog you can find articles that go into detail on different types of wire and clips, but in case you’re in a hurry, I’ll give you a cheat sheet here. (That rabbit can’t live in a cardboard box forever, right?)
The right wire to build a rabbit cage
Choose the right wire for your cage. Don’t compromise on cheaper wire. It won’t last nearly as long, and won’t protect the rabbit nearly as well. The wire for the cage sides should be:
-14 or 16 guage
-Galvanized, GBW (galvanized before welding) is fine
-1 x 2” Mesh
I recommend buying a 1 x 2” mesh roll of wire that is 18” or 24” wide. Making your cage dimensions in multiples of six inches will ensure that standard sized urine guards and drop trays will fit in them.
The wire for the cage floor should be a little different. Floor wire has a tighter mesh and is sometimes galvanized after welding to produce a smoother surface. The wire for rabbit cage floors should be:
-14 or 16 guage
-Galvanized (GAW is a little better, but GBW is fine, too.)
– ½” x 1” Mesh
As you see, the main difference is the ½” x 1” mesh. Do not keep rabbits on anything larger than a ½” x 1” mesh for the floor. Anything larger will not provide enough support for their feet, and presents a greater risk of feet or toes being caught in the wire.
Pliers and Clips for Building Rabbit Cages
First off: the clips. You’ll need something strong to hold the pieces of wire together. The common clip-of-choice is the J-clip. It’s a small piece of galvanized steel bent into a J-shape, that wraps around two pieces of wire and holds them securely when bent with special pliers. J-clips are very strong; you usually only have to use 3-4 per side when attaching the cage pieces together.
Another option is the C-ring. This is a lighter duty ring that’s often used for attaching cage floors. If used in enough quantity it’s still very strong, and it’s preferred for floors because it won’t catch as much debris in it as a J-clip will.
Both C-rings and J-clips need special pliers. At least, you’ll probably want to get special pliers — I’ve tried it with both specialized and needle-nose pliers, and the special ones are about 500% faster. You can usually buy those wherever you buy the clips.
Lastly you’ll need some wire cutters, available at Menards or perhaps in Dad’s old tool box. Ready to get started?
Drop Trays and More
Think that was all? Oh no, there are a few more things you should grab to round out the cage. Try a door latch, for instance. You can use either a simple spring or a fancier one, as long as it holds very securely.
You’ll also need to decide if your cage will need a drop tray. This depends on where you’ll be keeping the cage. If it will be in the house or garage, you’ll need something to catch the droppings. Even if your cage is outside, you might prefer a tray to keep things neat.
There are many more do-dads you can add to a rabbit cage, but I think that covers the most important ones. A couple of goodies to check out are urine splash guards, which help keep your floors clean, and plastic door trim, which wraps around the edge of a cage door to soften the wire edges.
Building a Rabbit Cage Step-by-Step
Got everything together and ready to roll? Great! Let’s get started.
- Plan your cage. Plan out and write down what size wire pieces you will need to make the cage you want. Purchase the wire and supplies.
- Cut your wire. To make a 24×24” cage, you’ll need:
-One 24”x24” pice of floor wire ( ½” x 1)
-Four pieces of 1 x 2” mesh wire that are 24” times the hight of your cage
-One piece of 1” x 2” mesh wire that’s 24” x 24” for the cage roof
-If you want to make a “slider” cage so the drop tray can slide in an out of it, you’ll need an additional 24” x 24” piece of the 1” x 2”
-One piece of 1”x2” mesh wire that is at least 8” x 10”, for the cage door.
I sympathize – it’s not easy on your hand to cut all that! When you’re done, check back here for step number three.
- Lay out all your pieces on the ground in the way you want to clip them together. Make sure all the pieces of wire are flattened after coming off the roll. Jusing J-clips or C-rings, clip all four sides of the cage floor. Then raise the sides up and clip them together. Lastly clip on the roof.
Important – if you are making a cage with a slide-out drop tray, you’re going to add an extra step in here. Instead of attaching the floor to the bottom of the cage sides, you’ll want to attach it about two inches up the cage sides, leaving enough room for the drop tray between the floor and the bottom of the side wire. You’ll also need to cut down the piece of wire that will form the front of the cage to make a gap where you can slide the tray out. Then attach your extra 24” x 24” piece of 1”x2” wire the the very bottom of the cage sides, to hold the tray in.
- Cut out a door. I usually like to cut the cage door before I attach the roof of the cage. The size of the door hole you cut depends on the size cage you have and the size of the rabbit you intend to go in it. But an 8” x 10” door works for most small breeds. Go a few inches larger for big breeds. The door hole should be slightly smaller than the piece of wire that will actually form the door, so the door will overlap. Attach the cage door with J-clips or C-rings on one side so it will swing, and attach it on the other with a secure latch. Rabbit cage doors can either swing up or swing out; whichever you find easier. Cover the edge of the door with plastic trim for safety
- Attach the roof w/ J-clips or C-rings. Add the urine guards, drop tray, stand, or whatever else you need, and your new cage is all ready for your bunny. Congratulations!
Building a good quality cage definitely requires more time and money than you might initially think, especially since you have to buy two different sizes of wire, but it’s definitely worth it. A cage that you can make from supplies at Home Depot simply won’t offer the kind of protection as an all-wire one will. By using actual rabbit cage wire, you can both provide the best housing for your critter, and have the pleasure of making it yourself.
That said, if the math comes out to be too much when you consider buying the raw materials, you can always consider pre-built cages also. Many companies will ship cages “knocked down,” so all the pieces are there; they just need to be clipped together. These cages can still offer you and your kids a little time of “building” a rabbit cage together, while providing you with all the supplies in one package.