Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Indoor Plumbing, take 2*

Months ago, I promised to post the plans and progress photos from when we built our second hanging cage/flush system. I'm finally getting around to it now, even though it has been in use for 4 months now.

It would be a bit tricky to post plans, but I'll try to at least give you an idea of what we did. Of course, these plans assume that you are buying/building cages that are the same size as ours, which are 24"w x 16"d x 12"h.

It seems a little backwards, but start with the height of the bucket that you plan to use on the bottom, and work your way up. Our bucket was 13" tall, so I wanted the bottom of the lower gutter to be just over 13" from the floor. The gutter is 3" deep, so the left end was secured at 16" from the bottom. It slants up 2", so that the right end is 18" from the bottom. Below is a picture of the right hand end without flashing or cages, for reference.
Next comes the supports for the flashing. They are electrical conduit, running the width of the frame and are attached to the frame horizontally with 1/2" brackets. The one in front is 20 1/2 inches from the bottom (on center), and the one in back is at 24" (on center). This gives the flashing a 6" slope from back to front. The lower row of cages is hung using conduit bars running the depth of the frame through the same type of 1/2" brackets from a support that is 41" (top edge) from the bottom of the unit.

For the upper level, we did our math from the top down. The cages are suspended from the bottom side of the supports at the top. The back piece of conduit is 17" down (on center), and the front piece of conduit is 21 1/2" down (on center. The top edge right end of the gutter sits just below the front conduit, at 22". It slopes down to the left 2", so the left end is secured at 24" from the top.

There is also a center support, and horizontal supports on each end (at 36" down from the top).

Now for plans, to try to make sense of it all. From someone who can't draw...this should be good.

The left end will mirror the right end, with one difference. Each gutter will be secured 2" lower than it's opposite end. So, the bottom will be at 16" (measuring up), and the top will be at 24" (measuring down).
The entire wood unit is 72" tall and 9'9" wide, to accommodate 10' gutters. This left plenty of space for a center support, as well as space between each cage and at both ends. It is 21" deep, including the width of the 2x4's on front and back. This unit is 2" deeper than the first one that we built, and I like it better.

 End supports

 Middle of back, with angle supports to prevent twisting

 Close up of right side, back--we had to add pieces to the legs in order to secure the angle braces on the same depth as the top and middle.

Front of completed wood frame

 Conduit, gutter, and support for flashing in place--I recycled some pieces of corrugated plastic, and zip tied it in place to help support the flashing.

Vinyl flashing in place--once the cages were hung, I secured the flashing to the back of the cages with a couple of zip ties also.

My favorite tool for cleaning now is a 2 gallon pump garden sprayer. It's like having a mini power washer to hose the flashing and gutters off, even daily if I want to do so.

If this makes no sense at all, please let me know. Construction was months ago, and I'm afraid the process is a bit fuzzy in my brain now.
*Do you know how tempting it was to be naughty with the title of this post?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Illinois NDSC Summer Fun Triple Show

What a great day for a show! We could not have had better weather if we had paid for it--mid 70s, sunny, light breeze--perfect.
There were over 100 rabbits entered and most of them made me want to come home, sell everything in my rabbitry and start over. There were some absolutely stunning animals there--including a few really beautiful rabbits for sale. I am happy to report that I resisted temptation...for once, and came home with the same number with which I left.
It was also a treat to see a few of the Champagne project rabbits brought by Pam Jones. I wish everyone on the COD the best of luck. When they finally are granted approval, they will be a magnificent color variety.

When I got home, I realized that there were several people that I did not get pictures of. I'll try to do better next time.

Results from June 12 Illinois Netherland Dwarf Specialty Club summer triple show

Open show #1, judge Pam Jones
Best of Breed: Reynolds/Morgan, Himi Sr Buck
Best Opposite Sex: Wayne & Twila Coffey, Otter Sr Doe

Best of Group: Deb Owens, REW Sr Buck, no opposite
Best of Group: Mark Jacobs, Siam. Sable Jr Doe,
Best opposite: Becky Skirvin, Siam. Sable Sr Buck
Best of Group: Sarah Zins, Chestnut Sr Doe
Best opposite: Deb Owens, Chestnut Sr Buck
Tan Pattern
Best of Group: Wayne & Twila Coffey, Otter Jr Buck
Best opposite: Wayne & Twila Coffey, Otter Sr Doe
Best of Group: Reynolds/Morgan, Himi Sr Buck
Best opposite: Reynolds/Morgan, Himi Sr Doe

Youth Show #1, judge Pam Jones
Best of Breed: Taylor,Tanner & Kaycee Baird, Siam. Sable Sr Doe
Best Opposite Sex: Lisa Wendel, Otter Sr Buck
Best of Group: Mikayla & Katie Martin, Black Sr Buck, no opposite
Best of Group: Taylor,Tanner & Kaycee Baird, Siam. Sable Sr Doe
Best opposite: Mark Hazard, Siam. Sable Sr Buck
Best of Group: Dru Dahman, Chestnut Jr Doe
Best opposite: Dru Dahman, Opal Jr Buck
Tan Pattern
Best of Group: Lisa Wendel, Otter Sr Buck
Best opposite: Mikayla & Katie Martin, Otter Sr Doe
Best of Group: Mark Hazard, Himi Sr Buck
Best opposite: Joey Dierdorf, Himi Sr Doe

Open show #2, judge Donyelle Schultz
Best of Breed: Laura Wendel, Otter Sr Buck
Best Opposite Sex: Mark Jacobs, Siam. Sable Jr Doe

Best of Group: Mark Jacobs, REW Jr Buck, no opposite
Best of Group: Mark Jacobs, Siam. Sable Jr Doe,
Best opposite: Mark Jacobs, Sable Point Sr Buck
Best of Group: Deb Owens, Chestnut Sr Buck
Best opposite: Deb Owens, Chestnut Sr Doe
Tan Pattern
Best of Group: Laura Wendel, Otter Sr Buck
Best opposite: Wayne & Twila Coffey, Otter Sr Doe
Best of Group: Reynolds/Morgan, Himi Sr Buck
Best opposite: Reynolds/Morgan, Himi Sr Doe

Youth Show #2, judge Donyelle Schultz
Best of Breed: Dru Dahman, Opal Jr Buck
Best Opposite Sex: Taylor,Tanner & Kaycee Baird, Siam. Sable Sr Doe
Best of Group: Mikayla & Katie Martin, Black Sr Buck, no opposite
Best of Group: Taylor,Tanner & Kaycee Baird, Siam. Sable Sr Doe
Best opposite: Britt Bookwalter, Siam. Sable Jr Buck
Best of Group: Dru Dahman, Opal Jr Buck
Best opposite: Britt Bookwalter, Chestnut Sr Doe
Tan Pattern
Best of Group: Mikayla & Katie Martin, Otter Sr Buck
Best opposite: Britt Bookwalter, Smoke Pearl Marten Sr Doe
Best of Group: Mark Hazard, Himi Sr Buck
Best opposite: Joey Dierdorf, Himi Sr Doe

Open show #3, judge Jeremy Watmuff
Best of Breed: Reynolds/Morgan, Himi Sr Buck
Best Opposite Sex: Wayne & Twila Coffey, Otter Sr Doe

Best of Group: Deb Owens, REW Jr Buck,
Best opposite: Sarah Zins, REW Sr Doe
Best of Group: Mark Jacobs, Siam. Sable Jr Doe,
Best opposite: Becky Skirvin, Siam. Sable Sr Buck
Best of Group: Wayne & Twila Coffey, Chestnut Sr Buck
Best opposite: Sarah Zins, Chestnut Sr Doe
Tan Pattern
Best of Group: Wayne & Twila Coffey, Otter Jr Buck
Best opposite: Wayne & Twila Coffey, Otter Sr Doe
Best of Group: Reynolds/Morgan, Himi Sr Buck
Best opposite: Reynolds/Morgan, Himi Sr Doe

Youth Show #3, judge Jeremy Watmuff
Best of Breed: Lisa Wendel, Otter Sr Buck
Best Opposite Sex: Taylor,Tanner & Kaycee Baird, Siam. Sable Sr Doe
Best of Group: Mikayla & Katie Martin, Black Sr Buck, no opposite
Best of Group: Taylor,Tanner & Kaycee Baird, Siam. Sable Sr Doe
Best opposite: Joey Dierdorf, Siam. Sable Sr Buck
Best of Group: Dru Dahman, Chestnut Jr Doe
Best opposite: Dru Dahman, Opal Jr Doe
Tan Pattern
Best of Group: Lisa Wendel, Otter Sr Buck
Best opposite: Dru Dahman, Sable Marten Sr Doe
Best of Group: Mark Hazard, Himi Sr Buck
Best opposite: Mikayla & Katie Martin, Himi Sr Doe

Friday, June 10, 2011

Indoor Plumbing

We finished our first do-it-yourself Flush clean system this week. After months of lifting each cage to clean the litter trays, it is a relief to have this first unit done. Now, these 8 cages can be cleaned in less than 5 minutes.

 Instead of the carrier style cages  (that sit in a tray), these are hanging cages. They hang above a sloped sheet of vinyl flashing (which has already been dubbed the Raisin Ramp). All the waste, hay scraps, spilled water, and dust from food pellets slides down the ramp into a gutter than angles down into a bucket.
Cleaning is simply a matter of brushing the ramps and gutters and emptying the bucket onto the compost pile. If I want to get really picky about it, I can spray and wipe the ramps and flush the gutters with hot water. All of this can be done in 5 minutes. The other cages take me 5 minutes each.

The cages are hung with two pieces of conduit that run through eye bolts on each end of the cage unit. Removing them for heavy cleaning is simply a matter of pulling out the conduit and lowering the cages. Each unit is two 24 x 16 x 12 inch cages separated by a 2 inch hay rack. The hay rack doesn't need to be filled every day and serves the double purpose of keeping the rabbits out of sight of each other, reducing snarkiness. It also cuts down on the amount of hay wasted. I chose to make the units smaller so that I can handle them without needing help.

We're planning to build more of these units, but decided to wait a few weeks to see if we need to make any tweaks to the design. The angle of the slopes has to be right. Too shallow, and nothing slides down the ramps. Too steep and it launches into the middle of the floor like it came off a ski ramp.
So far, it's working exactly as it should.

When we build the next unit, I will post plans and assembly pictures.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Netherland Dwarf Rabbit 411

The following is the basic rabbit care information that I send home with all of my customers. Keep in mind that this is one breeder's opinion and is subject to change as my own knowledge evolves and as I learn better what information is helpful to others. It is not intended to be everything you would need to know and is geared toward pet owners rather than breeders.
If you would like to print it out, please send me an email request and I will send it to you in document format.

Netherland Dwarf Rabbit 411
Your rabbit needs a home that will keep him secure and clean. A cage or hutch works best, and should be made of sturdy wire, wood or hard plastic. The best option would be an all wire cage because it is easiest to keep clean, cannot be chewed, and will last the longest. The sides and top should be of 14 or 16 gauge wire that has openings no bigger than 1” x 2”. The floor should be 14 or 16 gauge, but with holes that are 1” x ½”. This will allow waste to fall through, but support the weight of the rabbit without causing sores or injury.
A secure latch on the door will keep unwanted visitors out, and clever rabbits in where they should be.
The litter tray or drop pan should be below the floor wire, so that the rabbit is not sitting in its own toilet. Untreated Pine shavings and newspaper are acceptable materials to use in the trays, but do not use Cedar shavings or cat litter, as they can cause health problems for your rabbit. Keep in mind that rabbit pellets make excellent fertilizer, but they are better for your garden without added material like shavings.
Many rabbits can be trained to use a litter pan. Some will even train themselves. Other are just not as good at housekeeping.
Unless a rabbit has bonded with another from birth, and been neutered or spayed, they cannot be housed in the same cage. Everybody needs their own hole.
Rabbits need lots and lots of fiber. Unlimited access to Timothy and Grass Hay will provide them with what they need. You can supplement with a good quality pellet food (I recommend Manna Pro, Pen Pals, Oxbow, or Nutrena), but don’t feed them too much. A rounded ¼ c for a 2 pound Dwarf is plenty. You want a pellet that is 16% protein and at least 20% fiber. If the rabbits are housed outside during the winter, you can bump them up to an 18% protein, but only during the winter.
Of course, you can also feed them fresh veggies as well. They are particularly fond of Kale, Collard Greens, Parsley, Cilantro and other herbs. Avoid lettuce (in spite of what you’ve always seen on TV) and celery. Feed spinach and very dark greens sparingly, as they can cause diarrhea. Introduce one veg at a time for a minimum of 48 hours before adding a new one. This will allow you time to see if your rabbit will tolerate each one. I also recommend finding a list online for all of the acceptable vs. toxic plants.
Rabbits also need plenty of fresh water, preferably from an un-softened or chlorinated source.
Bringing home a new rabbit is just like bringing home any other pet. There is going to be a period of adjustment for you and for the animal. You are going to have to train it to what acceptable behavior is and what is not acceptable. This is not a complete primer on training rabbits, but here are a few thoughts:
·     Offer freedom slowly. Immediate run of the whole house is not a good idea. Start in your arms and on your lap. If the rabbit behaves, allow then the surface of the bed or couch, then move to a small open area of floor. Each of these steps should take several days, and progressing to the next level should only happen with good behavior. Misbehaving means moving back to a more restricted level.
·     Offer treats when the rabbit is doing what you want. Don’t just give them randomly in the cage.
·     Undesirable behavior should be disciplined with a sharp, loud noise (like you would make to get a child’s attention), or blowing in their face (putting them at eye level). The discipline must be immediate for them to connect it with the undesirable behavior. Putting them back in their cage is not a punishment to them.
·     Never allow the rabbit to get away with the undesirable behavior. If they are refusing to come out of their cage, don’t just give up and walk away. Make them come out, even if it is only for a moment. You must be the boss, not them.
·     Keep in mind that rabbits are a prey species. If there is some behavior happening that you are concerned about, first consider the environment to see if you can find a logical cause and alter it. Noise, too much traffic in their area, and being held insecurely are the top reasons that I see for nipping. Nipping and biting that breaks the skin or draws blood are two different things. Aggression should never be tolerated.
·     If you have any questions about behavior, please don’t hesitate to call or email.
Rabbits are curious creatures. They love to get out of their cage and explore. Just be sure to bunny proof their environment first! Move all electrical cords and cables, and other things that would hurt them (or make you mad) if they chew on them.
Rabbits, unless they have bonded from birth with another rabbit, do not usually play well with other bunnies. Unnaltered bucks and females will fight, sometimes viciously, and injure each other. So, just like with the cages, remember “everyone needs their own space”.
If you take your rabbit outside, keep them in an enclosure that will protect them from predators, on the ground and in the sky. Remember, they like to dig—especially the does!
Rabbits like toys. Ping pong balls, cardboard tubes and egg cartons, baby key rings, and blocks of untreated wood all make great toys to keep them busy in and out of their cages. Chew toys also help to keep their teeth worn to the proper length.
A clean, dry rabbit is a healthy rabbit. Some staining of the fur on the bottoms of the paws is normal, but other than that, no discharge of any kind should be overlooked. Wet eyes and noses are not normal, and should be treated.
Diarrhea in a rabbit should be addressed immediately. GI Stasis and death can occur very rapidly if stomach troubles are ignored.
A rabbit not eating or not going to the bathroom normally are also warning signs.
A word about vets-Most vets do not receive adequate training in caring for rabbits in school. That is not to say that there can’t be good vets that have trained themselves afterward, but they are rare. Be wary and educate yourself. Your rabbit does not need any vaccinations. It would not likely survive an attack by anything that would transmit the diseases for which the vaccinations are designed; and the vaccinations would also likely kill it. Antibiotics can also be deadly to a rabbit. Do not ever let anyone give your rabbit Amoxicillin. Bactrim and Baytril and several others are safe.
The Merck Veterinary Manual online is an excellent source for other health information you might need.
This is one of the top questions that people ask when they are purchasing a rabbit.
Unless you plan to buy male and female rabbits and house them together, it is not necessary to have them “fixed”. The procedure is expensive and anesthesia is risky. However, it does help mellow the temperament and can reduce the risk of reproductive organ cancers. You need to find a very experienced vet. You will also need to be vigilant about not overfeeding. Neutering makes them prone to obesity.
Locally, the Fox Valley Animal Welfare League in Aurora does 2 rabbit spay days a month, are relatively inexpensive, and have more experience than most. I have not personally used them, but have several clients with good experiences there.
One of the concerns is that an unaltered buck will spray, or mark it’s territory. Even with more than 40 intact rabbits here, I have not found that to be true. I have read that approximately 2% will spray.
The other question that I get is regarding a female rabbit’s “heat” cycle. Does do not have a heat, or menstrual cycle like cats or dogs. They are “forced ovulators”, which means that within 8 hours of breeding, they will ovulate and become pregnant. There is no bleeding to deal with.
Save the money on a vet bill and just make sure to follow the “everybody gets their own hole” rule and you should not have a problem.
Dwarf rabbits tolerate a range of temperatures, but can handle cold better than heat. They really don’t like wind. If you must keep your rabbit outdoors, here are a few things to consider:
·     In the summer, keep them and their cage out of direct sun. A rabbit can get sunburned! Help them through the hot weather by placing frozen water and 2 liter bottles in their cages to keep them cool. Drape their cages with beach towels that you can wet down periodically.
·     Rabbits normally breathe through their noses. They do not sweat and do not pant to cool off like a dog might.
·     In the winter, board up their houses with plywood or surround it with bales of straw and cover it with tarps to keep the wind out and insulate it. Give them wood boxes only slightly larger than their bodies to hide in. The boxes should have an opening just big enough for them to get through and it should be faced away from the windiest side. You can also give them lots of extra straw and hay inside the cage to help keep them warm.
Weird, but normal
There are a couple of things about rabbits that are strange, but perfectly normal:
·     Red Urine-urine that is dark red (or even pink), like the color of rust, is nothing to be concerned about. It is just a rabbit’s natural way of metabolizing some of the minerals in plant material. It will come and go on its own. Blood in the urine, however, is rare, but would look like normal urine with small red streaks in it. That’s a vet visit.
·     Cecotropes, or Cecals-Normal rabbit pellets are regularly shaped, nearly dry balls. Cecotropes are small, wet clusters with a strong odor that you may occasionally see in the litter tray. These are partially digested food that the rabbit normally eats directly from their cecum. Gross, but a necessary part of their digestive process. A few may fall into the tray before they are eaten, and that isn’t a problem. If you start seeing lots of them, stop feeding pellets and fresh veggies for a few days to see if the problem clears up. Pregnant does, or those with litters will have more than other rabbits.
·     Blowing coat-a rabbit will shed its coat once or twice a year. Lots of fur everywhere, and a very raggedy looking bunny is normal. Bald patches, anything that looks flaky or like dandruff, is another story. The most likely cause would be mites.
Your rabbit does not need a bath! They groom themselves regularly, like a cat. So, unless they fall into something yucky, don’t bathe them. Their fur is so dense that it takes them a long time to dry, which can be dangerous for them.
You can brush them with a soft grooming brush, or simply wet your hand and pet them to remove loose hair and smooth their fur.
Your rabbit will need its nails clipped occasionally. You can use normal fingernail clippers, or you can purchase dog/cat clippers. There is a vein in each toenail, just like in other animals, so just take a small bit off each time and don’t clip past the hairline. I recommend keeping a small bowl of cornstarch handy when you clip them, just in case you nick the vein. You can hold the paw in the cornstarch to help the blood clot quickly. It works the same way that Styptic powder does, but is much cheaper.
Here are a couple of tips for handling your rabbit to minimize scratches:
·     When you take your rabbit out of its cage, bring it forward face first. When you put it back, lower it hind feet first. If the rabbit cannot see the floor of the cage, it will not scramble to get there.
·     You can pick you rabbit up quickly and safely by grasping it toward the back of the body just inside the hips. Even if your fingers touch, there aren’t any vital organs in that part of their body that you can damage. This is a useful way to pick your rabbit up in an emergency or if they are being naughty.
·     When you need to groom or examine your rabbit by laying it on its back, the best way to do this is to grasp the base of the ears firmly in the curve of your thumb and index finger and hold their head still. If you control their ears, you control the rest of them. This is also helpful when carrying them up or down stairs (which they don’t seem to like).
·     Covering their head with your hand or a towel is a quick way to subdue them, if necessary.
·     You can also tuck your rabbit, feet up, in the crook of your arm and hold their head and ears still with your elbow. This works well for clipping nails.
This is not everything that you need to know about your rabbit, but it’s a start. Here are some other helpful resources:

My contact information:
Leaning Tree Acres
Stacy Christian
Newark, IL 60541

Please do not ever hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Silver Marten

On April 17th, Bluet, a blue otter, gave us a litter of four babies. Since Bucky, a black otter, was the sire, I expected all black otters. To look at his pedigree, you would not think he carried anything but otter in his genes.

I should know better by now.

Here they are at three weeks old--one black otter and three black silver martens. I am excited to be adding the silver marten color variety to our stock, and even more excited to learn that Bucky carries both the self gene (a--we learned this in the last litter from him) and the dark chin gene (cchd).

For those that are thoroughly confused by now, the black silver marten looks very much like the black otter. However, where the otter has tan markings around the eyes, nose, ears, jaw, chest, belly and back of the neck, the silver marten has silvery white.

Here is a comparison:
The rabbit sniffing noses with Caper* is otter. See the tan on his neck? The one below has no tan.
There are two does and a buck in this litter, so we will likely be keeping all of them. It was not my intention to start the Silver Marten variety yet, but since it has fallen into my lap, there is no reason to avoid it.

The Silver Marten is judged in the same group as the Otter and comes in the same colors: black, chocolate, blue, lilac. Unless the other colors miraculously appear, I only plan to raise Black.

I will try to remember to post an updated photo as they grow.

*How funny it was to see Caper intimidated by that little piece of fluff! He's such a chicken.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Otter Colors

Over the last several weeks, there has been some discussion on several venues regarding the Otter color varieties in the Tan Pattern group of Netherland Dwarfs. Back in November, we had all of the colors in the nestbox at one time and, of course, I took pictures. With all of the attention this subject has been getting, it occurred to me that I've never posted about it here. So, without further ado, here is your crash course in Otters.

First off, for all the non-bunny people, an Otter is not an otter, like river otter or sea otter. An otter is a color variety of rabbit marked by tan fur around ears, eyes, jaw, chest, feet, and a triangle patch on the neck. The belly is cream. The rest of the body is a darker, solid color.

There are four Otter colors: Black, Chocolate, Blue (the dilute of Black), and Lilac (the dilute of Chocolate).

This is a litter of otters born last Thanksgiving. The parents are Blue Otter (sire-Coffey's RA1) and Black Otter (dam-Coffey's OS2). Left to right are two chocolates, a blue, and a lilac. This is at day 3.

Day 4, same line up.

Also on Thanksgiving, we had a single black otter born to two black otter parents (Coffey's US x Coffey's 8KF). This is at one week old.
At day 19. The lilac in the middle turned out to be a very full-of-himself false dwarf who will make a wonderful pet for someone. The black otter did not survive. I sold one of the chocolates, but the other two are still here. The blue is a doe that holds a great deal of promise as a brooder.

Here they are now:
"Hickory", chocolate otter buck

"Mia", blue otter doe

Lilac otter buck

 "Anemone", a black otter from another litter.

And that is the Otter color variety.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Year of the Rabbit

According to the Chinese calendar, this is now the Year of the Rabbit. Chinese New Year began yesterday and we celebrated (unintentionally) by having two new litters of baby bunnies.

Bluet (x UKU) gave us three otter babies (too early to get more specific than that)

Mim (x 38) gave us two (probably Chestnut) kits.

We're still waiting on Violet, but at this point, I'm guessing she was just pretending to be pregnant. We should know for sure by the end of the day.

Update: We left to run errands, and Violet had a litter of three, but only one alive. I'm going to foster it to Mim. Here he/she is (I'm guessing Chestnut):

Happy Year of the Rabbit!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Smarter than Bunny Pee

Anyone with animals knows that cleaning up after them is a never ending chore. So, it goes without saying (and yet, I'm saying it) that Sanitation is a major component in maintaining a rabbitry.
Since I'm new to all of this, I have been spending a fair amount of time looking into the various options for cleaning and waste disposal. Now, they've gotten my name and the catalogs have started to arrive. It's rather amusing that you can spend literally thousands of dollars on systems whose sole purpose is getting rid of rabbit poop. I may feature a few of the more interesting methods later.

I don't have any sort of budget allowed for this hobby of mine, so I'm leaning the other direction--the cheaper, the better. Since I'm making my own cages, I'm also making my own litter trays. I can purchase them for about $16 each. Currently, I can make them for $5, and I hope to get that amount down even farther.

Metal pans are out of the question. I don't have the equipment to cut, fold, and weld them. If I did, I'm sure I would injure myself in the process. It would be cheaper to just buy them, anyway.  Making molded plastic trays is also not possible.

So, I've been on a search for a material that is cheap, flexible, and liquid-proof.

My first attempt was to make fused plastic liners for cardboard trays. Fused plastic is lots of fun, the materials are readily accessible, and free. Unfortunately, it's also labor intensive (at least, it is when you're needing more than 20 huge liners), and isn't durable enough. The metal cage wire tears it easily. Back to the drawing board.

Linoleum was my second attempt. I bought a remnant at the hardware store and made 6 trays out of it. One side is water-proof, and I could cut it easily with scissors or an exacto knife. It folded easily and I secured the corners with contact cement and then sealed the seams with silicone. I had to be careful not to get the paper backing wet and they sagged some. Lino is just a little too flexible. But, they cleaned well and would work in a pinch.

The most recent trial seems to be very promising. I purchased sheets of corrugated plastic from an outdoor sign company. The 4'x8' sheets were $30 and I can make 6 trays out of them. It scores and folds just like cardboard, but is rigid and water-proof. I folded them up, used duct tape on the corners and sealed the seams with silicone. No matter what size the cage is, you can make a tray to fit. They are very light weight, but durable. So far, they are cleaning up well. The duct tape makes them a little messy looking, but hey, they're just rabbit toilets. Who said they had to be pretty? If I wanted to get fancy, I could use the contact cement, but I was in a hurry this time.

I'm hoping that I might be able to get some of this material even cheaper, or free, but I might need to be patient. If a sign company makes a boo-boo and can't sell a sign, maybe I can get it for my trays.