When it comes to keeping bunnies, there are a number of key points that pet owners should be aware of. Whether you’re new to caring for rabbits altogether or are relocating your bunny outside, our detailed guide has all the information you need to care for your outdoor pet.
How to Care for Outdoor Rabbits
Are you a keen rabbit lover but don’t have the room to keep your bunny indoors?
Getting a new family pet but unsure about how to care for outdoor rabbits? If this sounds familiar, it’s likely you’re wondering whether it is safe to keep your pet rabbit outside.
Before you bring your furry friend home, it’s a good idea to get clued up on the facts. That way, you can give your bunny the best quality of life and teach your children how to care for them.
At Home & Roost, we are passionate about your pets. Beyond product design, we are eager to share advice that can help likeminded people to care for their animals.
That’s why we’ve put together the following guide on how to care for outdoor rabbits. From food, drink and play to housing, habitat and protection, this guide has got you covered.
Should I keep a rabbit outdoors?
They may be small by nature, but getting a rabbit is a big commitment. What’s more, keeping a bunny outside is a totally different matter to caring for an indoor rabbit.
Before you rush into a decision, talk it through with your family – whether that’s your children or your partner. Your rabbit should be treated as part of the family and cared for by everyone in the house.
As well as feeding, grooming and play, their hutches will need cleaning at least every week. Above all, rabbits need to feel loved just like all pets. Without attention from their owners, they will quickly feel neglected.
This is especially important for outdoor pets, as they won’t be at your feet waiting for affection. It takes time, patience and dedication for rabbits to trust their owners.
If you have busy schedules and no time to commit to your pet, we strongly advise against getting a rabbit.
If after speaking with your family you decide that you all have the time to commit to caring for a pet, great! Keeping a rabbit outdoors demands consideration of the following questions:
Do you have space in your garden for a large hutch and run?
You might also want to give your rabbit a run to exercise safely in your garden. Will you have room for this or will your rabbit be restricted in space?
Is your garden safe for exercise and play?
If you plan to let your rabbits roam free in the garden, it needs to be safe, secure and escape-proof.
Bunnies are diggers and gnawers by nature. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the gaps in your fence are too small. When there’s a will, there’s away.
You should also remove all dangerous plants (more on that later) and make sure no predators can get in.
Have you got other pets already and will they be a danger to your rabbit?
Rabbits are social animals and enjoy the company of other animals. However, while it is possible for rabbits to live with cats and dogs, keep in mind that they are prey animals. Even when raised together, predatory pets such as these can still pose a threat.
If you are planning on keeping a rabbit with cats and dogs, never leave them together unsupervised. You should also ensure they have a safe space to hide that your other animals cannot get into.
It’s also important to consider how much of your time will be divided by caring for other pets. This should factor in your initial decision on getting a bunny.
Does your garden have any poisonous or toxic plants?
Rabbits love to graze on nature’s salad, but there are lots of plants that are toxic or harmful to rabbits. Anything growing from a bulb e.g. snowdrops and daffodils are a no-no, as are tulips, hyacinths, ivy and aloe vera. These are just a few of many poisonous plants, so make sure to get informed and prepare your garden in advance.
How to keep your rabbit safe in the garden
Rabbits need lots of space to run and play if they are to lead happy and healthy lives. Of course, the outside world comes with risks and dangers of its own. There are plenty of things you can do to keep your rabbit safe in your garden:
Make a predator-proof space
In the wild, rabbits can hide from predators in burrows and use their tails to signal danger to each other. Even in the safety of your garden, pet rabbits are still vulnerable to predators. It’s our responsibility to provide secure areas that foxes cannot break into.
Our large hutches offer a hidden room behind a securely fastened door – this allows bunnies space to hide should a fox find their way into your garden. Make a point of checking on hutch fastenings and wire mesh on a regular basis, and repair when necessary.
We recommend covering the hutch at night to add an extra layer of protection from predators on the prowl.
Do not use any toxic chemicals in the garden
Weed killers, slug repellant and fertilisers are all examples of toxic chemicals you should avoid using in the garden. Be extra vigilant to check ingredients of bagged soils or compost for harmful ingredients such as Glyphosate in particular. This can cause serious respiratory illness in rabbits so should never be used in your garden.
Protect your rabbit from bad weather
Rabbits can be kept outside all year long, but you should take extra care to protect them from adverse weather.
In the summer, overheating and dehydration is a big risk.
During this time, a hutch with a sheltered, hidden room can make for a great place to get some shade from the sun. Try to keep their hutch well-ventilated and keep their water bottle topped up more frequently. You can also add a cooling ice pod or spare ceramic tiles where they can relax when the weather heats up.
While rabbits are equipped to live outside in winter, care needs to be taken to ensure they don’t get hypothermia when the temperature drops. Extra bedding, insulation and hutch covers are essential in keeping your bunny warm. You may also have to reposition the hutch to shelter them from heavy rain and away from strong winds.
Keep your rabbit fed and hydrated
Outdoor rabbits have the same dietary needs as indoor bunnies.
Unless otherwise advised, you should feed your rabbit:
- 1 quarter cup of high-quality pellets each day (in two servings)
- Unlimited timothy or meadow hay
- Unlimited water (we recommend a 600ml bottle each day)
- 2-3 servings of safe veg or fresh herbs
- Fruit should be given sparingly as a treat due to the high sugar content.
Give your rabbit the exercise it needs
As large as their hutch may be, we recommend letting your rabbit have constant access to a run or playpen. This will help to encourage regular exercise and keep their weight at a healthy level.
Keep your bunny from boredom
This is especially important if you only have one pet rabbit. Rabbits are active creatures and need mind stimuli to keep them from boredom. Wooden blocks, balls, hanging chews and forage boxes can provide entertainment. Toys can also prevent your bunny from focusing on the great escape!
Nothing can replace the company of another Rabbit and constant interaction with your pets hooman! The more of your time you give to your pets the longer and happier their lives will be.
Will my rabbit run away if I let it outside?
If you haven’t kept rabbits as pets before, you may not be familiar with their nature. They say curiosity killed the cat, but rabbits are the most curious of all. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work in their favour.
Bunnies are master escape artists and frustratingly high-risk takers. That means no matter how much love and care they receive, they may still try to break free. Many see their escape as a game or a long-term challenge, which keeps them from boredom.
We can not stress enough the importance of bunny-proofing your garden.
Gaps in fences should be filled or covered and checked regularly for signs of gnawing. Hedgerows that leave room in the soil below for burrowing should be replaced with a sturdy fence. Fences can be buried slightly to prevent your rabbit from digging their way out.
If it isn’t possible to completely fence off your garden, they will still need a sealed-off run or pen. It’s inevitable that they will try to escape this too, but they are less likely to succeed.
How long do rabbits live as pets outdoors?
With proper care, a balanced diet and active life, outdoor bunnies can live between 7-10 years. The same is true for indoor rabbits. The more you do to protect your rabbit from harm and care for its health, the more chance it has of living a long and happy life.
Should rabbits live indoors or outdoors?
Traditionally, rabbits have always been kept outdoors.
However, the last century has seen a growing trend of keeping pet rabbits inside the house. Both are entirely safe options but come with different risks and considerations.
Whether you keep your rabbit indoors or outdoors will depend on the space available to you. It will also depend on whether you have other pets and the type of space you have outdoors.
An indoor rabbit will need to be litter trained, and the house or room that they reside in will need cleaning on a regular basis. If you or your family members have allergies, keeping a rabbit indoors may not be ideal.
Of course, it’s much easier to monitor a rabbit when it’s sharing a house with you.
Keeping an outdoor rabbit can be beneficial in giving them fresh air and a garden to play in. But you need to check on them and devote time to them just as you would if they were indoors.
You will also need to take precautionary measures to protect them from danger. This includes predators, weather and keeping them from breaking free of your garden.
How long can a rabbit be left alone?
Rabbits do not fare well in isolation, so we advise not to leave your rabbit on their own for more than two days. A weekend away is fine, but it’s important to give them everything they will need before you go.
As a precautionary measure, you might want to attach two full bottles of water to their hutch. That way, you won’t have to worry about your rabbit being thirsty.
When it comes to hay, there is no such thing as too much. Pellets can be given in surplus, but be careful not to overfeed. One cup should suffice for two days.
As well as plenty of hay and enough water, we recommend providing toys and boredom busters. To keep them active while you’re away, it’s best to buy a large hutch with access to an enclosed run.
If you are planning on a longer trip or time away from home, organise a bunny sitter ahead of time. Give this guide to your designated bunny sitter if they aren’t well-versed in rabbit care.
Can pet rabbits live outside in the winter?
In winter, wild rabbits burrow underground in groups to keep warm. They also have thick fur coats that allow them to forage for food throughout the colder months.
For domesticated rabbits, it’s a different story. Not only are their coats less thick, but their homes are also above rather than below ground. Hutches don’t offer the same level of insulation as the burrow, so extra protection is needed.
If you think your rabbit will get cold outside, now is the time to make adjustments to their habitat.
In practice, that means extra bedding, plenty of straw and a water-resistant hutch cover. Another trick to keep the heat in the hutch is to line the walls and floors with some newspaper under their bedding.
You may also need to reposition the hutch if it is facing the direction of the wind and rain. Ideally, it should not be placed anywhere that is prone to damp as this will damage the wood of the hutch.
It may not be pleasant going outside in the winter months, but if you’re keeping an outdoor pet, it’s essential. Rabbits thrive on the company of others and need plenty of love and affection. Extra effort throughout this time will make sure your rabbit never feels neglected.
Information from the Healthy Pets Club states the optimum temperature for your rabbit’s habitat is 10-20 degrees. If temperatures get too low (i.e. below zero), you might want to consider bringing them indoors for the season.
If you are planning to keep the hutch in the garage over winter, make sure you use a different space to park your car. Carbon monoxide from the exhaust smoke can be harmful to your bunny and cause illness.
Remember, rabbits are crepuscular – they sleep in bursts during the day.
They do not hibernate.
Owners who do not know this can mistake lethargy and a lack of eating hibernation and overlook serious illness.
Should you notice any worrying behaviours, don’t wait to make an appointment with the vet.
Caring for Outdoor Rabbits
If you’re new to bunny care, you are in for a treat: rabbits are brilliant creatures with unique personalities. However, it takes time to learn how to properly care for these creatures.
We hope our guide has helped to give you an understanding of best practice in bunny care – from keeping them warm in winter to keeping them safe from danger.
If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.