Where should I keep my rabbit

Keep your rabbit/s happy & healthy by making sure they have the right living conditions

Where should I keep my rabbit? This is a question we get asked many times and it’s not as simple as it seems, as there are several issues to consider and for some owners, the requirements may not be so easy to put into practice.

Ideally, a rabbit should either be kept indoors, or if not, kept outdoors in a safe warm environment such as a garden shed.

The traditional method, or idea, of rabbits being kept in hutches was not for the purpose of keeping them as pets. It was for the purpose of fattening them up for meat, breeding them and in some cases for their fur.

As far back as the time of the Roman Empire rabbits use to be kept in small cages/hutches/enclosures for just that purpose, food and their fur, and down the years until quite recently this method of keeping rabbits as pets in hutches had become the accepted norm.

It was accepted, and still is sometimes these days, to keep a rabbit cramped up in a small hutch outside in the garden or yard, regardless of the weather conditions and with no consideration of the numerous predators that can harm and kill rabbits.

In truth, this form of keeping pet rabbits, or any rabbit for that matter, is very cruel.

A very good example of how a rabbit should not be kept. The hutch is far too small and if kept like this long term, the rabbit will become very miserable. Photo courtesy of change.org

Indoors, outdoors or both?

To further illustrate this point, of all the different pets we have, cats, dogs, hamsters, birds, you name them, there are not many of us who would be happy to leave that pet caged up most of the time in a hutch too cramped for them, or outdoors all night in the freezing cold, rain or in danger from predators.

Fortunately for the rabbit, more and more people are now happy and prepared to keep their rabbits as house pets keeping them in the home most of the time or having suitable outdoor housing.

Preferably a rabbit should be kept indoors, and during the day when the owner is at home, also given the freedom of a garden, a yard or run, in a safe environment. However, we don’t live in an ideal world and if this is not possible then you should do the best you can, finances and available room considered.

House rabbit sits contently in a corner of the room. When the owner is not at home then the rabbit can be hutched but while the owners at home, there is nothing to stop the rabbit having the freedom of a room or a garden, if you keep a watchful eye on them

Incidentally, while we are on this point, please ensure you NEVER keep your rabbit in an outside garage where they may be diesel or petrol fumes. I think the danger here speaks for itself but you may be surprised how many owners still do this thinking they are keeping their rabbit safe.

Furthermore, if you do have a house rabbit then please remember to keep their resting/sleeping area away from draughts and away from noise, such as televisions, loud electrical equipment and the like.

How much room does my rabbit need?

A rabbit can never really have too much room, they like to run around and forage like any other pet. They need to stretch, to run freely, dig and forage where possible, to be able to stand on their hind legs and to be occupied. A rabbit needs company, that company being either another rabbit/s or human company.

If your rabbit is kept in a hutch, or when your rabbit is in a hutch, there needs to be enough shelter from all weather conditions, be that the sun, rain or the cold. In a small hutch a rabbit cannot escape the weather conditions and may be forced to sit in their bedroom area, which is where they go to toilet, simply because the rest of the hutch is either damp from the rain, or open to direct sunlight.

When buying a hutch, care needs to be taken when considering what type and size. For example, you do not really want a hutch with wire (open sides) at the front and on the side of the hutch as this gives the rabbit no shelter from the various weather conditions.

A good example of a hutch with the two open sides. Not only is the hutch too small but it gives no protection for weather elements. No where to go if it rains and no where to shelter from direct sunlight. Photograph courtesy of Rabbit Welfare Association 

Likewise, you need to consider buying a hutch as large as you can accommodate and afford. You need a hutch high enough for the rabbit to stand on its hind legs, a hutch long and wide enough for the rabbit to stretch out and move around comfortably and one that only has the front open to the environment.

Actually under the animal welfare act 2006 there is mention of the size considered the minimum acceptable for housing a rabbit. It suggests a hutch minimum size of 6ft x 2ft x 2ft, preferably with an attached run of 6ft x 4ft x 4ft.

Excellent example of a hutch with attached run giving a rabbit plenty of freedom when not running around the garden or in the home. This particular hutch can be viewed at bluewhalesales.co.uk

There are several main principals when considering a rabbit enclosure/hutch etc.

·         Rabbits should be able to stand on their hind legs, without their ears touching             the roof

·         Lie fully outstretched in any direction

·         Be able to do some hops without hitting any part of the hutch/enclosure

·         Turn around unimpeded

You also need to consider that when buying a hutch for a baby/young rabbit, that they will grow bigger.

Hutches/enclosures should have separate areas for eating, resting and for their toilet.

Rabbits are sociable animals and generally love company (there are, of course exceptions, as with everything) and bearing this in mind ideally you should have two rabbits to keep each other company. If this is the case then, of course, your housing area needs to be that much bigger for both rabbits to perform all the above mentioned principals together.

Hutches/enclosures should not have wire or barred flooring. Rabbits prefer solid flooring, it stops them getting sore feet which will lead to further problems for the rabbit.

If the hutch/enclosure is kept outside, then it should be raised off of the ground to help deter predators and keep away from the damp ground. Fastenings and locks should be strong and the wire mesh of a heavy gauge. All these considerations help to prevent predators, of which a rabbit has many.

Never leave a rabbit in the garden unprotected. if you let your rabbit have the freedom of the garden for a little while, stay with the rabbit. It only takes a second for a cat/fox/any other predator to strike!

Do remember, if the housing or run is kept outside; make sure that the rabbit cannot escape. Rabbits love to dig and will burrow in their run, under any perimeter to the outside. The same can be said of predators that can do the same from the outside, into the run. There are ways of securing against this as mentioned elsewhere on our site.

We hope this article gives you some idea of what you will need and for further information; you will find various articles on this website concerning hutches, care and how to keep your rabbit well.

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