Choose the right home.
Your rabbits hutch should only be viewed as your rabbits’ ‘bedroom’ and should be attached to a much larger run or exercise area giving your rabbit the choice of when to be inside or outside and able to move arounf freely when ever they want.
A good quality hutch should provide shelter and protection from extremes of weather and temperature, is draught-free and predator proof, and is a cosy place to sleep. If a ramp connects your rabbits hutch and run ensure it is wide enough and not too steep so that your bunnies can get up and down safely and easily.
Provide lots of bedding to keep your bunnies warm; this should also be safe for your rabbits to eat such as dust-free hay. In the wintertime when it’s particularly cold, you should consider moving your rabbits’ home somewhere warmer such as a shed, unused garage or outhouse; and don’t forget to make sure they can exercise every day.
The bedroom area should be as big as possible:
- Big enough to allow rabbits to lie down and stretch out comfortably in all directions.
- Tall enough for them to sit (and ideally stand) up on their back legs without their ears touching the roof.
- Long enough to allow at least three continuous hops from one end to the other (make sure there are no obstructions in the way).
- As rabbits should be housed in friendly pairs or groups, their bedroom area should be enough to allow all the rabbits to perform all the behaviours mentioned above at the same time.
Rabbits need their space.
Although rabbits are social creatures and should be housed together in friendly pairs or groups they do also need to be able to have their own space away from each other. Make sure that you:
- Ideally create separate sleeping chambers for each rabbit.
- Ensure rabbitshave a place to hide and get away from one another if they want to.
- Provide at least one sleeping area that is large enough for all the rabbits to sleep together if they want to.
- Line the sleeping area with newspaper (for absorbency) and cover in hay.
Keep your rabbits clean.
Rabbits are fastidiously clean animals, and spend a large proportion of their day grooming themselves and their companion rabbit(s). Housing needs to be cleaned out frequently and must be adequately ventilated to deter flies. Ensure that you:
- Thoroughly clean your rabbits home regularly
- Leave some of the used bedding material each time, as this will smell familiar and so provide reassurance.
- Clean the toilet areas every day (rabbits tend to pick the same corners of a hutch to toilet in, or you can train your rabbits to use litter trays).
If you have a large or unsecured garden then consider creating a Rabbit Paddock. A Rabbit Paddock is an alternative to a hutch and run. Rabbits are often a lot happier too because they have lots of hiding areas and space, allowing them to behave as they would in the wild.
- Make sure you’re aware of what plants are poisonous to rabbits and ensure there are none in the Rabbit Paddock. Consider growing some rabbit-friendly herbs in the Rabbit Paddock for your rabbits to e
- Simply corner off an area using picket fencing and mesh (fencing needs to be put about half a metre underground and curved back into the enclosure by half a metre to make it escape-proof).
- The area should be around 7m2 and covered with a roof or mesh to make it predator-proof.
- Lots of hiding places should be provided within this area.
- A wendy house or a large hutch can also be placed inside this area to provide your rabbits with shelter.
Just like humans, rabbits become bored if their environment remains the same, so consider an occasional change of scenery. However, be careful as too much change can be stressful. Wild rabbits’ survival depends on an intimate knowledge of their surroundings in order to escape from predators, so structural changes to your pet rabbits’ ‘warren’ should be kept subtle, such as changing their toys and regularly providing new ones. You can replicate a rabbit’s natural environment by providing some of the items below:
- Tunnels - that are wide enough for the rabbits to pass through easily.
- Tree stumps - from trees that are safe for rabbits to chew, e.g. apple, that have not been sprayed with chemicals) to act as look out points (platforms).
- Safe, unsprayed twigs - which can be hung up so that they can pull them.
- Suitable toys - there are many rabbit toys available commercially; ensure any you buy are safe and that your rabbits use them. Rabbits can become bored of toys quickly, so rotate items regularly to keep them interested. Ensure there are enough resources for all your rabbits to use at the same time. Regularly inspect items for damage and potential hazards and repair, discard or replace any items that become dangerous.
- Digging Box - Digging is a very natural behaviour shown by both wild and domestic rabbits. Providing digging materials for your rabbits in their enclosure will prevent them from damaging your garden or escaping. Fill wide plant pots, childs sand pits or litter trays with child-safe play sand or earth to allow your rabit the opportunity to dig.
- Platforms for hiding under and climbing on.
- Constant access to safe hiding places, such as cardboard boxes.
- Games, such as food items in brown paper which they have to unwrap
- Put food in multiple places so they have to move around to find it.
- Use food balls - (the treat balls made for cats work well) to feed their nuggets as they will spend longer eating and have fun chasing them around
- Fill hanging baskets with hay for rabbits to reach up and nibble
For further hints, tips and ideas on how to make your rabbits environment more intersting click here.