Did you know that in the wild a rabbit will travel up to 5 miles a day foraging for food. Rabbits are not designed to live in enclosed spaces, so providing enough room for your rabbit is essential to make sure that you are meeting their welfare needs.
The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund recommend as an absolute minimum that your rabbit has space to hop three times, that equates for the average sized rabbit to 6-7 feet. Rabbits should also have enough room to comfortably stretch out to their full height, allowing them to exhibit their natural behaviours as they would in the wild. Rabbits should also have space for a separate toilet, feeding and sleeping area.
The possibilities for outside accommodation for your rabbits are abundant. It’s imperative that we dispel the idea that if you have a rabbit they must live in a hutch. A lot of rabbit hutches fall well below the minimum size standards that are required for rabbit welfare, and often don’t include runs.
Generally speaking they are often made from materials that are not fox/ predator proof. For example, chicken wire can be easily destroyed by foxes, some hutches even come with a simple wooden latch that can be opened by foxes.
We will be exploring ideas for housing that make fantastic accommodation for your rabbits. In some instances these options are better value for money then some rabbit hutches on the market.
- You must provide ventilation for your rabbits.
- Your rabbits should have 24 hour access to a run.
- You must be able to provide a warm and damp free environment for your rabbits.
- Your rabbit’s accommodation must be predator proof.
- Do not use overlapped wood for the fabric of you accommodation, your rabbit will be able to chew the wood which could lead to escapes.
- Rabbits should always have access to toys and enrichment to keep them active, entertained and prevent boredom.
Wooden playhouses and wooden summerhouses can be a great and cheaper alternative to the traditional hutch set up (playhouses will be cheaper than most summerhouses). They are easily adapted to provide great accommodation for your rabbits and can be easily sourced. They are large enough to get creative and provide ample space for your rabbits to display their natural behaviours.
Ideas for converting:
- Source some laminate flooring to place on the bottom of the playhouse. This will help you to keep your rabbits accommodation clean and dry. Most playhouses will advise you to build the outer walls and place it on the base to secure it together. Before you place the walls on top of the base lay the right sized laminate flooring down. This will help keep the flooring secure and stop your rabbits chewing the edges of the laminate.
- Create at least one shelf for your rabbits to have a multi floor accommodation. The best way to create sturdy shelves is to create a bracket and then secure a length of wood on top. If you make the shelf the same height as the window your rabbit will be able to enjoy looking out. More agile and athletic rabbits will be able to jump from the floor to the shelf. However, you may need to build additional shelves at lower levels using the same technique to allow less agile or older rabbits to access all the levels.
- If you don’t want to build shelves you can always use other things such as cat scratching poles, tables, wooden boxes and other safe items that add elements of height to your rabbits accommodation. Make sure you cater for your rabbits ability. The last thing you want is for your rabbit to start exploring and then find themselves getting stuck somewhere high up!
- All playhouses should have windows, its important that your rabbits have access to fresh air but can also stay protected in the winter. You will need to secure the playhouses from escape and predators. The best way to do this is to keep the original window, on the inside use galvanised metal and U shaped nails designed for fencing, securing the metal grid to the inside of the window. If you leave a small gap at the bottom you will be able to still effectively close the window. Which is perfect when you need to batten down the hatches for winter.
- In order to secure the door you will need to purchase a secure shed or gate bolt designed for use outside. This will prevent foxes from gaining access through the door.
- Using a run connection kit you can attach a run to your accommodation. This will ensure your rabbits have 24 hour access to a run and increase the size of their living space.
Sheds are another great option and provide a great space for you to convert; you can follow many of the techniques used above when you are converting your shed.
Only use sheds that have a window to allow for ventilation and for light to enter. Rabbits like to lay next to the window to get a good view of what’s going on outside.
If you don’t use your garage for vehicles then this is a good option for rabbit accommodation. Its imperative that vehicles are not used in the garage as fumes will poison your rabbit and could be fatal.
Garages have the added advantage of being secure and will be warmer during the winter months.
You can still attach an outside run buy making a hole in the concrete and securing a run to the outside of the garage.
Inside your rabbits space you can either purchase tunnels and hideaways for your rabbit to explore, or you could place a hutch inside the accommodation and remove the doors. This will give your rabbit different heights to explore but won’t be as restrictive as being kept in a hutch.
If your going to house your rabbits in one part of a garage make sure that the boundary is high enough so your rabbits can not escape.