The purpose of this work was to develop an optimized transmit/receive birdcage coil to extend the possibilities of a 7T preclinical MRI system to conduct improved full body imaging in medium-sized animals, such as large New Zealand rabbits. The coil was designed by combining calculation and electromagnetic simulation tools. The construction was based on precise mechanical design and careful building practice. A 16-leg, 20 cm long, 16 cm inner diameter, shielded quadrature hybrid structure was selected. Coil parameters were assessed on the bench and images were acquired on phantoms and rabbits. The results were compared to simulations and data obtained with an available commercial coil. An inexpensive assembly with an increase of 2 cm in useful inner diameter and 50 Ω matching with larger animals was achieved. A reduction in radiofrequency (RF) power demand of 31.8%, an improvement in image uniformity of 18.5 percentage points and an increase in signal-to-noise ratio of up to 42.2% were revealed by phantom image acquisitions, which was confirmed by in vivo studies. In conclusion, the proposed coil extended the possibilities of a preclinical 7T system as it improved image studies in relatively large animals by reducing the RF power demand, and increasing image uniformity and signal-to-noise ratio. Shorter scans and time under anesthesia or reduced RF exposure, resulting in better images and lower animal health risk during in vivo experiments, were achieved.