Housing

When it comes to housing Rabbits, they need space, and lots of it!

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Image source: Save a Fluff

 

Sadly our mindsets have largely remained in Victorian times as we continue to view the traditional hutch as a suitable home for our domestic rabbits. This concept lingers from an era when rabbits were kept to be raised for the pot, not as a beloved companion!

The reality is Rabbits need so much more than a small wooden box or the modern day indoor metal cage.

 

A Hutch (or cage) is Not Enough

Studies conducted by the RWAF’s A Hutch Is Not Enough campaign have proven that Rabbits are not designed to live in a confined space.

Rabbits are highly active and agile animals; whilst they are by nature crepuscular, i.e. most active in the mornings and evenings, they spend most of their awake time covering large areas grazing on grasses and wild plants, often covering distances equating to the size of 30 football pitches!

Whilst we may have domesticated Rabbits, they are by nature no different from their wild cousins and as such we should do our best to emulate the natural environment at home and allow them to fulfill their fundamental welfare needs by providing them with adequate space to do so.

 

Outdoor Accommodation

Minimum welfare housing as promoted by The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, PDSA, Blue Cross and many more organisations, including ourselves, recommend a warm, safe, secure sheltered living area, or hutch, measuring no less than 6x2x2ft, which should be securely attached to a run measuring at least 10ft for two rabbits to live in comfortably.

You are also best to stay clear of shop bought hutches, besides there being very few stores who will sell hutches which meet with the recommended minimum sizes, mainly due to a lack of space in addition to a much higher price tag – yes, the reality of keeping Rabbits as pets is an expensive one! Most people would be put off buying something so highly priced for what they wrongly consider to be a cheap and easy pet.

Not to mention baby rabbits grow quite rapidly, so whilst the ‘starter’ hutch or cage that you were encouraged to buy to accommodated bunny, you will find that they quickly outgrow them and need much more space than you first realised.

These are again, another false economy rolled out by an industry concerned more by profits than welfare!

The materials that these widely available small shop bought hutches are made of will not stand up to our weather conditions; they are largely made from cheap, imported wood such as Chinese Fir and the backing a sheet of plywood. They not only rot easily, they buckle and become damp within a few months of being exposed our often unpredictable climate. Hardly a warm, safe home for our beloved pets!

In addition to this, as the wood these hutches are constructed from are quite soft in nature, and it doesn’t take a bored and frustrated bunny long to start chewing on the structure in an attempt to break free!

So the reality is, shop bought hutches are a false economy.

The second reality is, rabbits are NOT cheap pets to care for!

In order to provide rabbits with a secure, warm safe home you are best seeking out the services of a bespoke company who will have both a wide range of welfare recommended housing available or likewise, will work with the owner to build you a suitable home for the space you have available.

The RWAF have a list of approved retailers specialising in welfare recommended rabbit housing, runs and hideaways.

If you do use a hutch and have limited space then there is still much you can do to improve on your rabbits housing and add safe areas to exercise and graze. Runaround offers a wide range of tunnels and boxes which you can mix and match to suit you and your bunny’s needs thus giving them a happy home.

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Image source: Runaround

 

 

Most people opt for a large shed with run attached or an aviary style set up. This is possible the only time shop bought hutches will have their uses as you can pop them in the shed as a small hideaway/bedroom area within a large, more bunny friendly set up.

The shed idea makes for a perfect living area, not only is it safer structurally, it is also warm and cosy, not to mention makes for an ideal structure to attach a large outdoor run onto.

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Inside you can add various platforms connected by runs up to several levels giving them lots of safe hideaways with fun places and activities to explore whilst they keep a watchful eye over their domain.

This video courtesy of Katniss and Rue’s Facebook page, shows you a wonderful outdoor bunny home/shed with run attached.

 

Indoor Accommodation

The same should be said for indoor living rabbits; house bunnies can be easily house/litter trained and are happy to live free range within the family home in the same way the family dog or cat does.

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If you can not accommodate this and must use a cage, then they can of course have their benefits. Cages can be used as large litter tray areas or a feeding station within a larger set-up, just not as a prison. Again cages should only be viewed as a sheltered area, you can easily attach a large pen to allow for free movement for times you are not around to supervise when your rabbits are ‘free ranging’.

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Image source: The Rabbit House

 

You can also dedicate a spare room or large cupboard area to give your Rabbits a spacious indoor environment, where they can be safe to move around as they please during times you are not there to supervise ‘free range’ time.

You can find some great ideas via Best4Bunny’s Pinterest page which will give you some inspiration on both outdoor and indoor homes.

Other considerations

Of course Rabbits will chew, it is after-all, natural behaviour!

With indoor rabbits you need to be especially careful with cables, to these highly inquisitive animals, these are nothing more than ‘roots’ which are in their way and will quickly slice through them with those sharp teeth. Surely a recipe for disaster especially when they are plugged in!

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Carpets, skirting boards, items of furniture, and even your clothing/footwear (if left lying around) can also often come under attack. To help prevent unnecessary damage you need to look at ways to bunny proof your home and of course, give your rabbits plenty of rabbit safe toys to chew on and activities to keep them amused. It also encourages us owners to be more tidy around the home, unless of course we want our new jeans to feature the delicate hint of ‘bunny lace’.

Outdoor rabbits too need stimulation, tunnels, hideaways, toys, and of course plenty of hay – remember they spend much of their time grazing and foraging for food! You can make this fun for bunny by making your own home made toys and activities and encourage grazing or increased hay consumption. Bunny Approved have some great DIY toy ideas and they won’t cost you the earth!

At the end of the day, whether you choose to have rabbits, cats, dogs or even children you have got to remember it is their home too!

Regardless of who, or what you share your home with; the dog will chew your slippers, the cat will claw your couch, the child will draw on your walls, and your rabbit will chew and dig on items you would rather they didn’t. This is the reality of pet ownership, or indeed parenting.

You simply have to provide for them the best you can and give them an environment suited to their welfare needs whilst being aware of potential dangers within the home.

After-all, our Rabbits deserve a life worth living too and you in turn will be rewarded with the love, affection and amusing antics of happy bunnies.

 

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