A DIY Alternative Rabbit Tractor

Give your pastured rabbits room to roam with this innovative pasture pen setup, a clever DIY alternative to standard rabbit tractors.


Photo by Adobe Stock/Raul Murphy

When my husband and I began teaching homesteading skills at our school, Koviashuvik Local Living School, we knew that locally grown meat would be on the menu. Being excited about all things DIY, we planned to raise the animals ourselves. We wanted critters that would eat what we had — grass and browse — and be efficient about it, so we settled on goats and rabbits. The goats would eat brush and brambles, and the rabbits would fit into nooks and crannies among our perennial plantings, growing fat on clover and dandelions.

The most common way to raise rabbits on pasture is by using rabbit tractors. These are movable pens with slatted bottoms that keep the rabbits from digging out. Having done our research, we built a rabbit tractor, put in our doe and her kits, and sat back to watch our plan materialize. It didn’t take long for us to experience problems. We made the tractor light enough to drag easily, which limited the surface area that it covered to such an extent that we had to constantly move the rabbits to new ground. Also, our homestead is stony and uneven. The rabbit tractor was always bridging dips in the ground or getting hung up too high on rocks, leaving much of the grass beneath the slatted bottom out of the bunnies’ reach. Then, too, our field isn’t exclusively grassland; it’s disrupted by fruit trees, berry bushes, flowers, a pond, our garden, and other obstacles. We couldn’t maneuver the rectangular tractor into those enticing hexagons, spirals, and triangles of unused space. Further frustration was caused by the slats on the bottom, which continuously matted down grass as we pulled the tractor onto a new spot, regardless of how carefully we pulled it. This project was looking like a spectacular failure!


Flexible Fencing

We didn’t give up. We devised an alternative system to deal with these issues: a series of 6-by-3-foot panels that can be set up in any configuration, including surrounding trees, rocks, or other obstacles. The panels are quickly and easily connected by sliding a dowel down through a few eye bolts that we screwed horizontally into the sides of the panels. To keep the rabbits from getting out under the fencing, we attached a wide strip of heavy-duty fabric along the bottom of the panel, which we lay flat on the ground on the inside of the pen. The rabbits don’t see any light showing underneath the fabric, and don’t care to nose under it far enough to discover that there’s a way out. We attach a wheeled rabbit cage to the outside of the pen via a chute and a pen panel with a door to accept it. Our chute is made of folded 1/2-inch hardware cloth, but you could also use boards or anything else that creates a tube the rabbits can’t jump out of. There’s no trick to making the pen door. Just be sure it fits tightly to the chute so the rabbits can’t get out where the pen door and chute join.

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