We recommend the same size hutch regardless of what breed or size your rabbit is. However, we do recognise that sometime a smaller hutch may be acceptable – usually only on a temporary basis.
When introducing a new rabbit to an existing rabbit or group, it will be necessary to have a tempoary environment for your new rabbit. As this is a temporary measure only, and understanding that the rabbit will still get daily access to an exercise area, it is generally acceptable to use a smaller hutch for them.
Sometimes a slightly smaller hutch is ok. If your rabbits are a particularly small breed e.g. Netherland Dwarf or Polish you might be ok with a 4 or 5ft hutch. Remember the 3 hops rule though! Just because they are small doesn’t mean they need less freedom of movement. Also be aware that they may in fact be more actiove than larger breeds so access to a large exercise run is also important.
Already have rabbits in a small hutch? There may be ways to make to most of the resources you have available without breaking the bank. A smaller hutch may be acceptable where a run is permanently attached allowing your rabbits to come and go as they please. Make sure that the run area is sheltered and has a cover if possible so that the rabbits don’t feel confined to the small hutch just because it’s windy/raining.
Moving the hutch into a shed or garage where the hutch doors can be left open can provide a cosy home where the rabbits are able to run around a bit more between run time.
We have also often seen the common 4ft hutches available from Pets At Home being joined together to create a cheap 8ft wide hutch!
Create a Warren with plastic tubes and piping leading out and around the hutch for your rabbits to run around and explore. You could attach these to other small houses or nest boxes to provide alternative sleeping quarters. Caution: make sure any adaptations to your hutch are secure, watertight and fox-proof!
An article about owning House Rabbits written by Laura McFarlane, a Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care volunteer.
It is a relatively new concept to keep rabbits indoors. It can be very challenging but also very rewarding. Having 4 house buns of my own, I can honestly say the pros far outweight the cons (even for the most house proud!)
The first thing to say is that rabbits make excellent house pets. They are clean, quiet,extremely sociable and they love nothing more than to be part of the household.
Because rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk they fit very well into most peoples work routines.
They can even get on with other house pets. There are many examples of rabbits living happily with dogs and cats (although this must be done with caution and they will need supervision) but as with any pet, the best friend they can have is one of their own kind and that is very important for rabbits.
So why keep rabbits indoors?
The main reason I chose it is because I live in a flat. I didn’t think I would be able to keep a rabbit until I did some research. I found that there are many benefits. I wanted the rabbits to be part of my home and a be big part of my life. By keeping them inside I am able to spend lots of quality time with them without having to go outside (in the cold and rain!) I can sit and watch the tv with the buns lying next to me, play with their toys, talk to them and have a very close bond. Because of this, I am able to see subtle changes in their health and behaviour that I may not see if they were outside or if I wasn’t seeing them as much. As rabbits are prey animals, they hide illnesses and quite often can be seriously unwell before we realise there is a problem.
By keeping them indoors I don’t need to worry about keeping them safe outside, predators and extremes of weather – and as a very paranoid bunny mum this is a huge positive for me!
The first thing to consider is where bunny is going to live. Are they going to have a cage/hutch, their own room, or have free reign.
Whatever option you chose, your rabbit will have to settle into your house. The best way to do this is to give them a small area to use (puppy pens and large dog crates are brilliant for this and can be adapted really well to suit). By starting with a small area, they will feel safe and can adapt to the noises, smells and routine without too much stress and it’s a good opportunity to litter train them. Once they become used to their new environment, the area they are allowed access to should be gradually increased until they may eventually have free reign of your house.
As rabbits are very territorial, litter trained rabbits will often scent mark areas around the house.The house (and all contents) now belongs to them. They will leave droppings and may pee in and around their own area and possibly other areas they decide they like (my bed was a victim of this for a while :/ )
If this continues, reduce the area they have access to until it settles again.
Always give them a hide hole and a special place for them to go to to relax and feel safe in.
Our homes are filled with many hazards for our furry friends and before deciding to keep a house rabbit, you must be prepared to bunny proof everything.
Every area they have access to must be made safe. Wire cables are a major attraction for rabbits. They are like magnets to wires and cables… I can’t count how many rolls of electrical tape I have gone through trying to repair wires I thought the buns couldn’t get to….they are masters of destruction!!
The best way to protect them is to hide the wires altogether, but when that’s not possible, you can get plastic cable managers that cover the wires. It won’t stop the buns chewing but it at least they are not at risk. They must be checked regularly for signs of nibbling.
(Thick hose pipe can also be used and are normally a much cheaper alternative)
Many household plants are poisonous to rabbits. Always make sure plants are out of reach (bearing in mind they will jump up onto shelves/tables/windowsills) and always check for fallen leaves/petals.
Food is another hazard. Rabbits don’t always know what’s bad for them and may nibble at food left around or dropped on the floor and can cause health problems. I learned this early on when my 4 month old girl ate half a malt loaf that was left on a table one night…thankfully she got away with a minor upset tummy. Unfortunately though, she hasn’t learned her lesson and has been found trying to raid the biscuit tin :/
Another hazard that I haven’t found mentioned before is the toilet. If your bun has access to the bathroom I would make sure the seat is always down… They don’t know what it is and are more than likely to jump up thinking its a platform. This is potentially a deadly situation if they fall in the toilet.
Rabbits are very complex animals. Although they have been domesticated, they retain some of their ‘wild’ behavior. This means they can become very challenging at home. They love to dig and chew and sofas and carpets are perfect for them to practice this.
The best way to keep bunny happy is to give them a friend.
A single bunny is a lonely bunny. Some pet stores are happy to sell single rabbits but this is not recommended, even if they are house rabbits. When I first enquired about getting a rabbit I was told that it would happy on its own because as a house rabbit, I would be it’s companion and friend, but over the years I have realised this is not really true.
Even though you are around a lot of the time, you are not at home all day, every day. If we are out at work for long periods, rabbits get lonely and depressed. This can show in many kinds of behaviour. They can become withdrawn, stressed (strange noises can scare them), they may stop eating or can become destructive in the house due to boredom (Chewing and digging at sofas/carpets/tables) and can develop health problems.
Rabbits should always be in at least a pair. A neutered boy/girl is the best combination.
Pairs of rabbits provide great company and support for each other, esp when we are out and they are home alone. A pair of rabbits with turn to each other for comfort and although that means they don’t crave our attention as much, the joy of watching them interact with each other makes up for this!
It’s very difficult to avoid any kind of misbehaviour, but providing toys and wooden chews can help to minimise it. A dig box filled with shredded paper/hay is a good alternative to the sofa/cushions. Toilet roll tubes stuffed with hay/treats can be fun as well as many toddler toys (not gel filled) but remember bunnies have very sharp teeth and always check them for signs of wear and tear and make sure small parts are not being eaten :/
A good routine helps keep bunny happy. They are like children. They are very much creatures of habits. When you spend more and more time with them you will notice they tend to do certain tasks (like sleeping/cleaning themselves) in different locations throughout the day. This pattern repeats each day so when we keep them to a good routine – breakfast /dinner at the same time. Bedtime cookie/treat etc, then you will have a happier and healthier companion.
Although I live in a flat, I worried that the rabbits needed some outdoor time to feel the grass, the sun and get some fresh air, but despite many attempts, the buns hated it. They were not used to the noises (leaves blowing on the trees/wind/birds etc) and it ended up being a very stressful event for us all so I gave up on it. I still worried, however, that they were missing out on important vitamins so I discussed it with my local vet, who reassured me that if they were happy indoors then there is no great need for them to out if they don’t like it. I was reassured that if they are getting good quality hay and grass then they will get all the vitamins they need from that and they would not be missing out. That said, I still wish I could take them out regularly and that they would enjoy it.
If they do have acces to outdoor space, remember it’s a big scary world if they are not used to it. Start with a small area. And always ensure they are safe with no means of escape!!
Too many rabbits are left cooped up in a tiny hutch all their lives. Rabbits need space, exercise, company and stimulation, so if you’re planning on keeping an outdoor rabbit, you must make sure you give extra thought to how you can ensure they are getting everything they need.
You must give a lot of careful thought to your rabbits environment to make sure you’re giving them somewhere that’s right for their natural needs & behaviours.
Think about whether you want a House Rabbit or an Outdoor rabbit.
Most people imagine keeping a hutch rabbit, but all too often people are shocked at just how much space a rabbit actually needs. Did you know, that most rabbit hutches and runs available in local pet shops are significantly smaller than the recommended sizes quoted but the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF) & the RSPCA, and that most stores don’t even stock any that meet these recommendations?
So what should you be looking for?
RWAF & RSPCA recommendations state:
- The minimum hutch size must be 5ft x 2ft x 2ft (152cm x 61cm x 61cm), and is suited to no more than 2 adult rabbits of a small breed.
- The recommended hutch size is 6ft x 2ft x 2ft (183cm x 61cm x 61cm), and is suited to no more than 2 adults rabbits of an average size breed.
But you needn’t stop there. The more room you can afford to give to your rabbit the better! So why not consider some of these options:
- Convert your garden shed into a customised rabbit hutch (see the RWAF article with some hints & tips)
- Kid’s lost interest in the play house? It’s an excellent new home for your rabbits
- Clear out all the junk that’s gathering dust in your garage and create a safe, warm area for your rabbits to call home.
- Can’t find the hutch you want? Consider having one built. Either DIY via your local DIY store where you’ll find all the materials you need, or contact a local shed builder or joiner and ask for a quote. The build quality is generally better than a shop-bought hutch, so you’re money will go much further in the long run, and you get the hutch exactly the way you want it.
A Hutch Is Not Enough!
Your rabbits need loads of space to exercise, so you cannot leave them in their hutch all day.
RWAF & RSPCA recommendations state:
- The minimum run size is 8ft x 4ft (244cm x 122cm)
- The recommended run size is 8ft x 6ft (244cm x 183cm)
- Your rabbits should get a minimum of 60 minutes exercise, twice daily.
Of course, we recommend, where possible, providing permanent access to a run area. It is important to ensure that the run is fully secure and will prevent predators (urban foxes, owls, buzzards and even cats & dogs) from getting to your pet.
If you are lucky enough to have a fully enclosed garden, you may wish to consider giving your rabbits free reign of the garden. This will really let your bunnies show you what they’re made of.
Getting the Environment Right
It’s just as important to make sure the space you are giving them provides your rabbit with everything they need to keep them active, stimulated and healthy.
Your rabbit needs to be able to run, jump, stretch, dig & forage in order to ensure they get to carry out their natural behaviours.
Consider including the following within their run areas:
- Somewhere to hide. This can be cardboard boxes or carries with access holes cut into them. Or perhaps a tunnel – many pet stores sell these, or you could use some old drainage piping.
- Why not fill some boxes, hiding places, and toilet roll tubes with hay and small treats to encourage your rabbit to forage
- A digging pit can easily be created using a large tray and some soil. Or, if you have one, why not use the plastic base of an indoor cage filled with sand or soil.
- Include some rabbit safe potted plants or trays, with fruit, veg or herbs or even just grass for them to enjoy as a treat.
- Leave some toys around. Again – toilet roll tubes are brilliant, safe and very stimulating for a rabbit, or you can buy some of the many “boredom breakers” available at your local pet store.
Did you know you don’t have to keep your rabbits locked up in a hutch all day? In fact, it’s important that you don’t!
You must give a lot of careful thought to your rabbits environment to make sure you’re giving them somewhere that’s right for their natural needs & behaviours.
So, think about whether you want a House Rabbit or an Outdoor rabbit.
It is getting increasingly popular to keep your rabbit indoors. Rabbits can live in the house with you much the same as a cat or dog would. Most people are shocked to learn that a rabbit can become as much of part of the family as either of the other popular pets, and will happily share your living space, sit on the couch with you, and watch Eastenders! They can be incredibly affectionate and interactive when given the opportunity.
In fact, keeping a rabbit indoors can often make it easier to meet the essential welfare needs of your pet, including space, exercise, companionship and stimulation. A rabbit, given the conditions of the “run of the house” can often show more natural behaviours than their hutch-stored counterparts.
It’s important to be prepared though, and there are things you need to consider before bringing your rabbit indoors.
Choosing a House Rabbit
Any rabbit can make a good house pet. It doesn’t matter what breed, size, gender or age they are, a rabbit will easily and happily adapt to your home if you prepare well for it.
Giant breeds, such as the British Giant, Continental Giant, French or German Lops and various others, are becoming the most popular breed for house pets largely because their size makes them comparible to a cat or dog, but it really isn’t important. Literally any rabbit can make a good house pet.
Training Your House Rabbit
Yes, it can be done! But just as with any pet it takes a bit of work, and perseverence is the key!
Rabbits are usually very easy to litter train though, as this is essentially their natural behaviour. We often advise that it can be easier to litter train a rabbit than it is a cat. Some rabbit may even just “train themselves” to use the tray!
A tip though, particular for baby rabbits:
- Cover the floor of their cage or the area of the house you want to have the litter tray. Put the litter tray in place, topped with a handful of hay.
- Try to confine your rabbit to the area/cage for 48 – 72 hours. Move any stray droppings or urine soaked newspaper into the tray.
- Once he is reliably using the litter tray, let him out for gradually increasing periods of time, spervising closely.
Bunny Proofing your Home
You probably don’t want your rabbit to chew the legs of that antique dining table you have, but to your bunny it’s just a chew toy, so it’s going to take some effort on your part to stop him from chewing things he shouldn’t.
Move house plants out of reach, and cover or remove all cables (rabbits love chewing through cables!). Books, magazine, clothes are all attractive chew toys for your bunny, so unless you want to be constantly at the shops replacing items, keep them out of reach.
TOP TIP! If you rabbit attacks your carpets or wall paper:
- Prevent access. Can you block the area off from your rabbit?
- Prevent damage. You may want to consider covering your carpets or walls with protective sheets. Most office suppliers can provide carpet protection rugs (clear plastic sheeting). Or you could consider buying cheap carpet doormats or rugs specifically for your rabbit to “work on”. Seagrass doormats are an excellent choice for your rabbit.
- Provide lots of distraction by offering your rabbit other options. Toys, cardboard boxes, wicker baskets, even toilet rolls stuffed with hay!
Other House Pets
You needn’t be put off having a house rabbit just because you have other house pets. House rabbits often enjoy the company of other creatures, and it’s not unheard of for them to live happily alongside the family cat or dog. If carefully introduced, as you would any pet, other pets will usually accept a new house rabbit.
Don’t leave them unattended until you are absolutely, 100% certain it is safe to do so! Some dogs, in particular, may never get to the stage where they can be left alone with the rabbit (they’ll behave when the boss is there, but when your back is turned….)
Living Space Suppliers
These are some of our recommended suppliers for rabbit sheds, hutches and indoor pens.
These are some of our recommended suppliers for additional accessories such as pipe connection kits.
Living Space Suppliers: Outdoor Environments
Manor Pet Housing have a fantastic range of rabbit sheds and hutches available, all made to order and meeting or exceeding our requirements for living space.
Note that lead times can be lengthy, but it is very much worth the wait!
One of our own favourites, used by a number of our foster carers are a customised version of the "Cattery" from Duchy Farm Kennels.
Aim for at least 10ft x 6ft versions if used on their own, or smaller in conjunction with additional exercise space.
One of our budget recommendations, these lower-quality hutches are a great introductory setup, meeting the minimum living space requirement.
We recommend the accompanying weather protective covers to prolong the life of these hutches, and increased warmth is necessary for the winter months too.
Living Space Suppliers: Indoor Environments
A favourite for our foster carers, this creates an excellent, cheap and versatile indoor living space to keep rabbits secure and safe when you are not at home.
We recommend the 96cm panel version (2016) and it needs to be a 2 x 1 panel configuration minimum.
You can even add a roof with just two extra panels!
Exercise Space Suppliers
4Wire has a HUGE range of options available, including different roof styles, the strength of mesh, sheltered panels and more. Worth a real hunt through their website.
We recommend their fully enclosed 6ft x 9ft walk-in run.
Suitable indoors and outdoors, the puppy exercise pens can be expanded to any size.
2016 model only recommended (each panel 96cm x 96cm)
We recommend a minimum of 8ft x 6ft for exercise (approximately 3 x 2 panels).
Our absolute favourite product of all - these connection pipes offer a secure 24/7 connection between your shed/hutch and the exercise space. Fox proof, and incredibly versatile! Move your run without disconnecting the pipe. Disconnect the pipe easily when you need to. Block of the entrance at both ends with the awesome connection doors. Just a fantastic bit of kit that should be in every rabbit garden!
When its warm in the summer or indoors, use these cool pods to help cool your rabbits. No need to chill or freeze the pads - when your rabbit sits on them it activates a cool reaction.
Do you have what you need for your rabbits?
When considering getting new rabbits, or when reviewing the care of any existing rabbits you may have, it is essential to ensure that your rabbits are getting enough space for living and exercise.
With such a wide range of products in the marketplace, it is often surprising to discover that many of these products are actually far from suitable!
Current research, backed by various welfare organisations including RSPCA, PDSA, Rabbit Welfare Association and various rescue services such as ourselves, has carefully monitored rabbit health and behaviour to assess the space rabbits need.
As of 6th April 2018, The Scottish Government have also now published their "Pet Rabbit Welfare Guidance", which you can view by clicking here.
The Don't Dos!
There are things that are relatively common place that we simply say “Do Not Do It!”, and we would not be able to consider adoption applications where any of the following apply:
- Indoor “Rabbit” Cages. None of those currently available commercially meet our requirements, and so we operate a “No More Indoor Cages” policy. The plastic bases do make excellent litter trays though, if a somewhat expensive one.
- We don’t support the use of hutches smaller than 6ft in length, unless used as a secondary living space within an environment that otherwise meets the rabbits living space needs, for example a 6ft hutch alongside a 5ft hutch within the same space.
- We don’t support the use of chicken-coop style hutches at all, regardless of the dimensions. This is because these environments generally utilise mainly mesh sides and offer only a very small sheltered area for the rabbits.
- Single Rabbits. Rabbits are sociable and need company of their own species. Other than for rare scenarios where it is in the individual interests of the rabbit, we insist that all rabbits are kept in pairs or small groups.
Need Suggestions & Ideas?
View our recommended suppliers list for living & exercise equipment and accessories too.
The 3 Hop Rule
Whether its a single rabbit (although you should always try to keep rabbits in pairs or small groups) or a pair of rabbits, the recommendations are the same in terms of space.
These recommendations are based on a rabbits need to be able to complete 3 consecutive hops at all times, even when/if they are shut in a hutch or cage only for short spells whilst you are at work or sleeping.
What Do We Look For?
The most basic rule of rabbit ownership has to be that you should always aim to give your rabbits as much space as you possibly can. So with that in mind, the following should be considered a rough guide of what is expected as a minimum recommendation.
The RWAF’s latest recommendation is to aim to provide an overall environment for your rabbits of 10ft x 6ft, or equivalent. This should incorporate a combination of living space (traditionally a hutch) and exercise space (traditionally an exercise run).
Rabbits must have constant access to their full environment, choosing for themselves when to relax in their living space or binky around their exercise space.
Living space should be a minimum of 6ft (183cm) x 2ft (61cm) x 2ft(61cm). These requirements are true whether it is an outdoor environment like a hutch or a shed, or whether its an indoor setup that rabbits are sometimes (even if its occasionally) locked into.
Most commercially available hutches and indoor cages are therefore considered to be too small and you may need to think "outside the box" in terms of suitable accommodation.
Outdoors, garden sheds and children's playhouses can easily and cheaply be adapted to make excellent living accommodation for your rabbit.
Indoors, we insist on avoiding the use of indoor cages such as those sold in many pet shops. One solution is to use a puppy plan pen setup to create a safe secure area within your home that rabbits can be safely locked away in when you are not around, whilst still ensuring they get adequate space.
Within their living area there should be facilities for sleeping (lots of warm bedding such as straw, blankets, paper, etc), an area for toileting (ideally with a litterpan in place), and an area for eating with plenty of hay, fresh veg & herbs and a small amount of dried rabbit pellets (only about an egg cup size per day) and of course fresh water supplied either via a suitable bottle and/or bowl.
Just as important is ensuring that your rabbits are getting plenty of exercise. Our minimum requirement would be for the living area to have a permanently attached exercise area that allows the rabbits themselves to choose when they want to be in their living space or in their exercise space. Runaround systems are an excellent way to connect living space to exercise space.
Owners may wish to consider closing access to exercise areas overnight, on the basis of safety and protection from predators. We would encourage owners to consider all other safety precautions to prevent predator attacks and only use this technique as a last resort, ensuring that if you are locking rabbits away it is only done so at the latest possible opportunity at night, and access is re-opened as early as possible the next day. This is because rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk and we should not prevent them the opportunity to demonstrate their natural behaviours during these times.
Our minimum requirement for exercise space is an area 8ft (244cm) x 6ft (183cm).
But remember the rule: always aim to give your rabbits as much space as you possibly can.
Within the run space there should be things to keep the rabbits entertained and stimulated. Toys could include tunnels, boxes, stools, chew toys, etc. It is also really important to have somewhere the rabbit can hide within the run if they get scared or simply want some alone time.
Protection From Weather & Predators
Your rabbits environment needs to consider protection from weather & predators. Rabbits can cope with reasonable dips in temperature, but are often harmed by harsh winds and rains rather than low temperatures. And the mere sight of a fox can be enough to startle your rabbit to death.
This means that there should be a well sheltered area, offering ample space for movement within a closed-off area that is guarded from wind and rain, and allows your rabbits to hide from the outside world when they wish to do so.
We suggest then that outdoor living spaces should meet the space requirements above with at least three of the walls using solid materials. Many cheap hutches and chicken-coop style homes utilise a large amount of wire mesh finishing which leaves the living area open to the dangers of weather and predators.
Many forget about the temperatures of summer too, and protection from extreme temperatures is also important.
For both hot and cold temperatures, insulation measures can make a big difference. These can be inbuilt on the equipment, or you may use insulated covers and liners.
Rabbits also like to be able to hide quickly if they feel they may be under threat of attack, and so hiding spaces are crucial within the environment. As well as a sheltered living area, we recommend additional hiding spaces within the exercise area such as hide boxes (these can be cardboard, timber or plastic), tunnels and more.
Safety & Security From Predators & Others
We live in a complex and often confusing world, and the reality is that our pet rabbits aren’t as secure as we would like them to be in our homes and in our gardens. Many people consider safety from foxes, but often forget about other predators such as birds of prey.
Sadly, they are also not safe from other humans. There are many stories of rabbits being deliberately stolen, let free from their environment or abused and tortured.
Your rabbits’ environment therefore needs to consider additional security measures.
Chicken Wire and some weaker wire mesh netting is actually not fox proof! A fox will be able to break through many of these systems. So ensure that any mesh used on your run is of a high standard and securely attached to the framework of the environment.
We do not recommend open-topped runs and environments as foxes can scale over tall fences and walls, and birds of prey can also swoop down very quickly. We recommend that all environments are fully enclosed, and if possible we suggest doing this at “walk-in” height so that it is easier for you to access your rabbits and spend time with them in their own environment.
Many rabbit owners like to offer their rabbits free-reign of their garden. From a space perspective this is fantastic, and whilst we are not against doing this we do urge some careful thought an planning to ensure you are comfortable that the threat of predators is a low risk to your rabbits.
We also recommend that for outdoor rabbits all environments are locked with high-security padlocks or equivalent to prevent unwanted access by strangers. Consider also additional security on any main access garden and property gates to further protect your rabbits.
Safety is important for indoor rabbits, where you should consider the following factors:
- Ensure there are no small spaces a rabbit can squeeze into and become inaccessible or stuck.
- Ensure all electrical cables are completely out of the way. Rabbits will chew cables if given the opportunity which will result in damage to your electrical goods but may also result in electric shock for your pet.
- Stairs should be considered carefully. Most rabbits learn to go up and down stairs happily and safely, but thought should also be given to any extreme drops from banister landings or similar.
- Consider restricting access to areas leading to doorways where they may accidentally become trapped in closing doorways, or escape into areas not suitable for them and/or areas outside (unless they are also to gain garden access).
Rabbits are highly intelligent, social, interactive animals who get bored very easily.
We look for adopters to consider ways to make sure their rabbits are stimulated and entertained within their environments.
This should include items such as:
- Hide boxes
- Dig Boxes
- Beds & Resting places
- Multiple levels
Bigger is Always Better
The sizes quoted here are recommendations and minimums. You cannot do your rabbits any harm by offering more space, as long as you are confident that the space is secure and safe.
Got Space And Ready To Adopt?
Check out our rabbits all waiting for adoption right now!
Need Suggestions & Ideas?
View our recommended suppliers list for living & exercise equipment and accessories too.