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.