The traditional solution for rabbit accommodation is of course, a hutch. However, as rabbits require a good deal of space in order to have a fulfilling life, even a large hutch may not be enough. This page is designed to give you ideas if you do want to ‘think outside the box’ in order to give you and your rabbit the best pet experience possible.
The traditional hutch
Hutches should be as large as possible, bigger really is better and if you can afford a 5 or 6 foot hutch, your bunny will be happier for it. Even if you are adopting or buying a baby bunny don’t be tempted to buy a hutch suitable for their current size. It sounds obvious but rabbits grow quickly and your small bundle will soon out-grow a smaller hutch meaning more expense for you. It really is better to start out with as large a hutch as you can afford as this will save you money in the long run.
Hutches are seen as the traditional housing for rabbits. However, they were only introduced as a short term measure for rabbits that were being raised for consumption, not living in its confinement for potentially ten years. Modern rabbit keeping looks at the hutch as more of a shelter within a wider area accessible to the rabbit, whether this be a permanently attached run, secure garden or similar setup. Being confined continuously to a hutch does not allow a rabbit to exhibit natural behaviors such as running, hopping, jumping and digging and is actually cruel confinement. Where used, hutches must be as large as possible, bigger really is better. It is best to buy the biggest, best quality hutch you can afford even if your rabbit/s are only babies. It is a worthwhile investment to buy a 6 foot hutch from the start rather than going through the expense of buying another bigger hutch later on. There are tiered hutches on the market with 2 or 3 floors. Its worth bearing in mind the internal ‘ladder’ does use up floor space, effectively making the hutch smaller. Also rabbits sometimes slip on the ladder causing injury. So a 6 foot hutch would probably be better than a 4 foot tiered hutch as it gives the rabbit more room on one level.
Your rabbit/s will require access to a run for exercise and the stimulation of a new area to explore. Many people find it difficult to put their rabbits out each day or find that their rabbits try to dig out of the run. The easy answer to this is to buy a hutch with a run permanently attached and site on concrete or install an anti-dig kit on the perimeter. This way the rabbit can’t get out, predators can’t get in and the rabbit does not have to rely on you for its daily exercise. Some simple corrugated plastic or tarpaulin can be draped over the top of the run to provide shelter but also remember to ensure the hutch is located in a relatively shady location anyway as rabbits can die from overheating in summer if not properly sheltered. It is wonderful for your rabbit/s to free range in the garden and the time when you are most likely to see them binky with joy, but you must ensure that the garden is secure (from the rabbits getting out and predators getting in) so its probably best reserved for days where you can keep an eye on them.
Many hutches or hutch/run combinations sold by large commercial pet shops may well by easy to access but are often far too small and are expensive for the amount of space you are actually getting for your rabbit. It is worth shopping around and just a few online sites to check out include:
Happy Hutch Company: This has a 6 foot hutch with run in front which has been selected by many people who have adopted rabbits from Cottontails Rescue. It provides a fantastic home for your rabbit/s and is cheaper than many of the commercial options around. http://www.happyhutch.co.uk/details.php?product=74
Rabbit Hutch Warehouse: This has some great options at reasonable prices and is great if you, like me, are not fond of putting together flat packed stuff. The hutches come fully assembled within around 7-10 days. Click on the drop down boxes and you can easily see how much each extra foot will cost you. But please remember 3 foot hutches really are too small for any rabbit and are not really an option for a happy bunny and owner.
Bits for Pets: Has some lovely options and features plastic tray floors which make cleaning easier and preserve the life of the hutch. The Freddie luxury hutch and run combo is fantastic and gives 40 square feet of space though it is pricey. There are other single floor options and also runs which can be added on at a later date which make it more affordable.
These are just a few options and it really is worth shopping around to get you the best value for money with a hutch that is going to make your bunny happy and last the duration of it’s life.
Converted shed or child’s playhouse
This provides a great option for rabbits, with plenty of space for them and a great opportunity for you to fully enjoy their antics where they have such room and stimulation. Believe it or not, many sheds/playhouses can be purchased for a similar price to a traditional hutch, although may well take up more room in your garden. The building can have a permanent run attachment to allow for further space and access to grass, fresh air and sunlight. Alternatively, you could just put your rabbit/s out in an independent run which could be moved around the garden as you liked.
The advantages of this option include the ability to have shelves for all your rabbit bits and pieces such as food, sawdust, hay etc, keeping them from taking up any space in your home. The floor can be covered in lino for ease of cleaning so it can easily be swept out or even a garden sucker used (obviously when the rabbit is not present!). The inside of the shed can be kitted out with as many tubes, outlook points and chew toys as your imagination can provide, as long as they are clean and suitable for pet use. Some owners have even installed cameras so they can enjoy watching their rabbit’s behaviour when they think they are alone! Lots more photos of variations of this option can be found here: http://www.therabbithouse.com/gallery/rabbit-sheds.asp and much invaluable information here on general requirements and ‘how to’ advice: http://www.therabbithouse.com/outdoor/rabbitshed.asp
With this housing option it is important to ensure there is plenty of ventilation so stable doors can be handy, as can windows that open. These features are also important to provide plenty of sunlight as it can be a dark place with the door shut as it may have to be in poor weather. Fox proof wire can be placed across internal door or window openings to prevent access by predators. For specific playhouse advice, great information can be found here: http://www.therabbithouse.com/outdoor/rabbit-playhouse.asp
If you fancy this accommodation option but are not that handy at DIY there are companies around that will build custom made animal housing and these can be searched for online. More information on shed/playhouse conversion can be found on the Rabbit Welfare Society web site, click here to visit the information directly: http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/shedconversion.htm
Runaround is a relatively new kind of modular rabbit run for rabbits and guinea pigs that attaches any hutch to an ever extendable run system. This is quite useful in providing an environment which is as similar to their natural warren of tunnels as we can provide. It can attach to any existing hutch or run and can be added onto as desired.
Much more information and pictures can be found here: http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/pdfs/AHUTCHISNOTENOUGH-makeitrightfinal.pdf This contains a lot of information and ideas about improving your rabbit’s life and specific Runaround examples are around half way down the page.
Most neutered rabbits can learn to use a litter tray and can make interesting and entertaining house pets. However, it is important to remember that they are not a cat or dog and will still have rabbit behaviours, so they can be demanding and destructive. Chewing is often a problem and is natural behaviour no matter how many distractions you provide. Also even litter trained rabbits can sometimes drop occasional droppings around the house. These are the negative aspects and it does not mean you shouldn’t try having house rabbits, but it is essential to go into it with your eyes open and fully informed. As long as you are prepared to bunny proof your home (wiring usually presents the biggest chewing hazard) and don’t mind the odd dropping, house rabbits can bring much joy.
Despite having such space and access to human company, it is important to remember that the rabbit will still need to have its other needs met. Namely, it will still require a companion (with neutered male/female pairing being best) and will also need access to the outside in order to remain healthy. More information on keeping house rabbits can be found on the Rabbit Welfare Trust web site, click here for a direct link: http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/resources/content/info-sheets/think.htm
Cottontails is also an excellent resource on house rabbits and on all aspects of rabbit care, including a dedicated helpline. They also have lots of rabbits and guinea pigs looking for homes, visit by clicking here: http://www.cottontails-rescue.org.uk/
There is also a dedicated organisation which provides advice and information which can be visited by clicking here: http://www.rabbit.org/care/living-with-a-house-rabbit.html
It really is worth doing as much research as possible on this option to maximise both your own and the rabbit’s enjoyment of this way of life.
Of course any of these options can be combined; i.e. a hutch and run with Runaround attachments or converted playhouse can be further extended by Runaround or connected hutches/runs as and when you wish to (or can afford to!). There really are a huge range of options and the best site I have found which outlines them all in a really easy to use way is: http://www.therabbithouse.com/ which is really worth visiting for any number of ideas.