Updated: Oct 5, 2019
After reading multiple books, blogs, Facebook groups and watching YouTube videos; Kallo and I have settled on making our own rabbit cages. The only local place we can find that sells the proper sized metal mesh for the floor of the cages is Ace Hardware. 16 gauge, 1/2 x 1 inch opening steel cage wire that is 30 inches wide and 10 feet long. We will leave that in one piece as the bottom of the cage and get, from the same brand, a 16 gauge, 1 x 2 inch opening steel cage wire that is 24 inches wide and 25 feet long. That will be used as the walls. Corrugated plastic or steel roofing at a slight slant, to keep rain off the rabbits and similar material along the back, to keep rabbit pee form soaking the side of the house.
The cage wire is secured together using J or D clips, and those are attached using a special set of pliers. Fortunately both things are also available from Ace Hardware, so at least the cage supplies all can be picked up in the same place, and for less than buying pre-made wire hutches.
It seems to be best for the door of the hutch to open inward, so that any pushing or jostling by the occupant cant swing it open or push it out enough to escape. This makes access to the bunnies a little annoying, but that's preferable to an escapee! The hinges will be located on the bottom of the door, with the latch on the top.
We will, of course, have either a board or something else inside the cage so that the rabbits can get up off the wire when they wish to, but otherwise we will avoid any wood product being inside the cage, to prevent them chewing on and damaging their hutches.
Watering will, in the beginning, be done with plastic bottles with waterer nipples attached. Plastic bottles are required in our climate to help prevent breakage when the temperatures get below the freezing point. Having a couple to trade out twice a day during freezing temps will make things easier. We can remove the one with frozen water and bring inside to thaw, and replace with a fresh bottle. By the time that freezes, the first one can be emptied and restocked to replace. Rinse and repeat. The same could easily be done with a water crock but those are less sanitary and must be sterilized more often.
Eventually I'd like to use PEX tubes and set up a gravity feeder for them, and put a livestock water heater in the container, so there is less chance of freezing or of bunnies going without water. They need about 1 liter per day to be healthy, so it's not something to skimp on!
To suspend the cages above the ground we explored building with wood, metal or PVC frames. Wood may be the easiest to assemble, along with being the most familiar material to work with, but its costly and will deteriorate quickly, especially in the places where rabbit excrement can get on it. The next medium was metal, in the form of angle iron. It would hold up better to the elements and the rabbits, but it's still quite pricey, as well as harder to work with. While scrolling through images of set-ups of people in the meat rabbit Facebook groups, I saw one done in PVC pipe. This material is a little lower on the price scale and is still easy to work with. It should hold up to weather and it's inhabitants just fine. The last option I stumbled upon just as I was about to decide that PVC was the way to go was step-in fence posts. The caging material we plan to use fits perfectly into step-in fence posts and a handful of posts will easily hold up three cages, the breeder rabbits and a handful or two of future dinner-rabbits.
There will be three cages in this set-up, approximately 36 x 30 inches and 24 inches tall. To start, we plan to be a little less traditional than the breeding trio and only have one female and one male. We aren't going for volume, just getting a feel for livestock and butchering; not to mention our town ordinances forbid us having more than 2 pets in total on our property. There is an exception for any offspring of those two pets, assuming they are off property in a reasonable amount of time (or - in our case - in our freezer!). The restrictions of living in a dense suburb are a bit stifling, but hopefully this won't be a permanent situation, anyway.
We will likely be purchasing Californians or New Zealand's, based on reading up on the various meat breeds and seeing what's available from breeders in my general area. D'Artagnan rabbits would have been my first choice, but there doesn't seem to be any breeders within a reasonable amount of distance.
The gathering of the supplies has to fit into our tight budget piecemeal. Once we have everything we can assemble and then finally make the plunge into growing our own livestock and harvesting our own ethically raised meat.
Update: We finally got ourselves moving and built the hutches. Here's a post all about it!