The Right Type Nest Box
By Bob Bergene
Over the years, Berbene Rabbitry has accumulated a lot of various types of nest boxes. Some were bought from rabbit equipment distributors while others were bought from rabbit breeders going out of business. We have METAL type next boxes that have a removable bottom. This allows the nest to stay dry and the metal is very easy to clean after each kindling. However this box measure 19 inches long and 9 inches wide. For my Dutch, Holland Lops and Dwarf Hotots it works okay, but in some instances, because of the length of the box the litter can move around and become isolated. If the doe has the babies in the back of the box and they break out they can get scattered in the front or vice versa. Once scattered, they can become chilled and die.
In the summer time, when heat might become a factor for the babies in the nest box, we use a WIRE NEST BOX. Is is made of 1/2 by 1 floor wire and has a pegboard floor placed on the bottom of the wire nest box. It measure 18 inches long and 10 inches wide. This box is utilized in the months of May thru September as in Kansas the temperatures and humidity increase, making it imperative to keep a litter from overheating. In the summer time, it is good to get the babies out of the next box as soon as they are able and their little feet don't fall thru the floor wire. This box is taken out at 2-3 weeks. It is more sanitary for them to be on the clean floor wire than to be in the nest box. The nest box can be a breeding place for bacteria in damp and humid conditions.
Now we describe the IDEAL NEST BOX. This is a nest box designed and built by L & L Johnson rabbitry. L & L was Les and Louis Johnson of Halstead, KS. Les and Louise both have passed away. When they went out of rabbits, I purchased their nest boxes. It is the best box I have ever used for kindling rabbit. When I have a doe that I absolutely have to save the litter, then this is the box I use. It seems like this box is not too big and not too small and the doe has her litter right in the center of that nest box. The dimensions are such that the doe does not lounge around in the box when her litter is there. Some nest boxes can by too long, and then the doe will have the litter in the back and then she sits in the front which is not desirable. The ideal nest box is built of solid inch boards that measure 15 inches long, 11.5 inches wide and 11 inches high. In the front is a U shape cut to allow the doe in, but the bottom of the U is 6.5 inches from the floor, so that the babies do not accidentally jump out. For large breed rabbits, such as N.Z. White, Californian, Satins, American Chins and Champagnes you may want to use a large size box to accommodate a 10 to 12 lb doe. If you have a smaller breed in your rabbitry, such as Dwarf Hotot or Netherland Dwarf, they would require a smaller box measuring about 10"x7".
Nest box materials used at the Bergen Rabbitry are basically the same in the winter as in the summer, although more is used in the winter than in the summer. We use either baled hay or straw depending on what we have available First I will put a handful of shavings in the bottom and then stuff the box with brome or prairie hay or straw. I work it in breaking any long pieces with my hand and then work some additional shavings amongst the hay. Finally, I punch a hole in the center with my fist to prepare the opening for the doe. This is all the material I put in the nest box, however I have heard that other breeders have successfully used shredded newspaper or fluffed up cotton balls to provide for lack of pulled fur from the doe.