Cage system of rearing rabbit for optimum production

Pashu Sandesh, 02 July 2020

Dr A. Yasotha, Dr M. Areshkumar, Dr N. Vimal Rajkumar

Starting from the 9th century AD, the rabbit (both wild and domesticated) began spreading to other European regions. Despite their expansion from the area of origin, rabbits were rare and only infrequently reared in the nations to which they had recently come, primarily due to scarce knowledge of their habits and nutritional and environmental needs. 

Today the rabbit is reared systematically on a vast scale, with global rabbit meat production reaching 1.8 million metric tons a year. Such production is, in decreasing order, concentrated in Asia (48.8%), Europe (28.4%), Americas (18.1%), and Africa (4.7%).

Up until the 1970s, the rabbit was an animal to which little importance was assigned in the profit accounts of farm and was often decimated by disease or predators such as rats, cats, and dogs. It was an irrational form of farming due to the promiscuity of the rabbit, the impossibility to monitor mating, and the absence of even the barest rules of hygiene, and so was primarily destined for family consumption and only rarely for sale, and even then, only at a local level.

But then the things have been changed considerably, since the scarcity of other meat, people have been turning their head towards rabbit meat. Rabbit is white meat, Compared to beef and pork, rabbit meat is relatively low on saturated fat.

Rearing of Rabbit:

Cages, fittings and building walls must be designed so they can be easily cleaned, disinfected or replaced. Portable components should be cleaned outside the rabbitry building, are recommended. Keep the rabbits away from the stronger cleaning agents. For equipment more effective methods like - powerful disinfectants, lengthy soaking, prolonged exposure to the sun's rays can be followed.

Equipment made up of galvanized iron is easy to clean and disinfect. Concrete, provided it is smooth, can be cleaned and disinfected, but portable concrete installations are virtually ruled out due to their weight. Glazed earthenware can be used for some accessories (troughs, or even nest boxes). 

  1. Cages (hutches) with straw litter.    

Cages designed for breeding animals should have at least a 60 to 70 cm × 80 to 100 cm floor space and are 50 to 60 cm high.  Identical cages are often used for fattening five or six young rabbits (to 2.5 to 2.8 kg).  For "deep litter" system slightly taller cages should be used. The floor should be covered with bedding (minimum thickness 15 to 20 cm) of absorbent material (husk, wood shavings etc.) evenly covered with straw. Every six or seven weeks the whole lot, absorbing layer plus accumulated litter, has to be replaced. 

  1. Cages (hutches) without litter.  

Litter fewer floors (hard earth or wooden planking). The hygienic conditions are nearly always possible (uncontrolled local humidity favouring parasitism), despite daily cleaning. This system is not recommended because of the health risks involved.   So it is recommended, to rear the rabbits on raised state above the ground on a wire-mesh or slatted floor.

The wire-mesh floors should be thick enough not to injure the pads of the rabbits' feet (diameter 2.4 mm, minimum 2 mm); the mesh should be wide enough to let the droppings fall through (diameter 1 to 1.3 cm, according to feed) but narrow enough to prevent the feet getting caught in the mesh. 


Cage systems are good and provide appreciable accessibility, supervision and comfort to the animals, as well as the convenience of waste removal. For cages without litter, mainly cages with wire-mesh floors, the structure is usually in metal or wood (the latter out of reach of the rabbits' teeth). Walls are usually entirely in wire mesh, but this is not obligatory. There are four main systems: flat-deck, Californian, inclined-slope battery and compact battery. 

  1. Flat-deck type of cages 

In this system, the cages are all on one level. They usually open at the top. They can be suspended by chains or set on feet or low walls. Floor litter drops into pits (ranging in depth from 20 cm to 1.5 m). Shallow pits are cleared daily or every two or three days and deep pits every one to three years.

The advantages of the flat-deck system are: 

  1. Convenient supervision and handling of animals;
  2. Long-life for the material used; 
  3. Animal and producer comfort;
  4. No elaborate ventilation system required.

Cage sizes for breeding animals   (in centimetres)





Doe's cage with Inner nest box




Doe's cage with outer nest box




Buck's cage




Cage for future breeding animal




  1. Californian type of cage

In this system the cages are staggered, one deck higher than the other but not above it. The cages on the lower level open at the top and those on the upper level at the front (poorer access). Floor litter drops beneath the cages and is collected as in the flat-deck system.

 Advantages of the California system are: 

  1. Same advantages as the flat-deck with regard to ventilation;
  2. A slight increase in animal density per square metre of building.


  1. Access to upper cages and supervision difficult; 
  2. Frame more expensive than flat-deck.
  1. Inclined-slope battery type of cages

The cages are placed one above the other. Waste slides down Ferro cement or metal panels into troughs from which it is removed manually with scrapers or with running water. Cages obviously open at the front.

 Advantages of the inclined slope are: 

  1. Higher animal density;
  2. Reasonable cost, although more expensive than flat-deck.


  1. No matter what material is used for the panels or how steeply they slant, waste does not drop properly and must be periodically raked down; 
  2. High animal density demands careful ventilation;
  3. Access to the cages, supervision and handling of the animals is more difficult.
  1. Compact battery type of cage

Animal waste can be removed by conveyor belt or vats can be installed beneath the cages and emptied by cable-operated scrapers (manual or electric). As with the inclined-slope battery, the cages must open from the front. The advantage of this system is that the maximum density of animals reduces costs per animal housed. 


  1. As for the inclined-slope battery regarding ventilation, access to cages,  supervision and handling of animals; 
  2. Quicker wear and tear on materials; 
  3. With automatic scraping there is the risk of breakdown and harmful gases from the scrapers; 
  4. Poor distribution of light for breeding does.



Dr A. Yasotha, 

Assistant Professor, 

Department of Livestock production and management, 

Madras Veterinary College, Chennai – 600 007.

Dr M. Areshkumar, 

Research Associate, 

Canine research Centre and Networks, TANUVAS, 

Madras Veterinary College, Chennai – 600 007.

Dr N. Vimal Rajkumar, 

Dept. of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Extension Education, 

Madras Veterinary College, Chennai – 600 007.