Your rabbit hutch set up is more than a place for your rabbit to eat and sleep. It’s where your bunny will be spending a lot of his or her time. In addition to being safe and comfortable, your setup needs to provide exercise space, entertainment, and somewhere to get away. Does that sound like a lot? It’s not. Here’s how to do it.
If you’re bringing your first rabbit home soon, you’ve probably already given some thought to where your rabbit is going to live. You already know that a cage is too small and that rabbit hutches alone are not enough. The question is, where to go from there.
Rabbits can live happily indoors or out. The important thing is that their enclosure is safe, comfortable, and gives them opportunities for both exercise and mental stimulation. Also, rabbits need somewhere to escape to when they want a bit of quiet time.
At the same time, rabbits are social animals, and are unhappy alone. The best solution is to bring home a pair. But if you can only have one, make sure that he or she gets plenty of attention, and that your enclosure isn’t isolated from the rest of the family.
Placement of Your Rabbit Hutch Set Up
Should you place your hutch indoors or outside? That’s a matter of personal preference, of course. If the weather is often harsh where you live, then an indoor enclosure can protect your rabbits from the elements. On the other hand, everybunny loves fresh air and access to the great outdoors. Either way, though, there are a few things to consider.
Finding the perfect spot for your indoor rabbit hutch setup can be a balancing game. On one hand, rabbits need quiet and calm. Rabbits are nervous by nature, and constant loud noise and disruption can cause them stress. On the other hand, rabbits are also very social and hate to be lonely.
Put your rabbit hutch in an area where people pass through regularly. At the same time, it shouldn’t be the noisiest, busiest place in the house. Find opportunities to bring your rabbits into the family circle. For example, you could set up an exercise pen in the living room in the evenings, when the family comes together to watch TV.
For outdoor rabbits, the most important thing is protection from the elements. Rabbits are particularly sensitive to heat. They can also suffer from rain and wind gusts. And if your hutch or its contents get wet and stay wet, harmful mould and mildew can grow.
In addition to a secure, protective hutch, your rabbit should have a run for exercise. Rabbits love grass. It’s their natural habitat, and being allowed to run about in it will help your rabbit to stay healthy and happy. Place the run over grass if you can. But also take measures to make it dig-proof and predator-proof.
A connected hutch and run can give your rabbit exercise space and outdoor access during the day. At night, simply close off access to the run to create a safe and secure sleeping area.
To sum it up, place your outdoor enclosure so that it is:
- Out of direct sunlight
- Away from gutter runoff or other water sources
- Safe from gusting wind
- Able to provide access to grass
Inside Your Rabbit Hutch Setup
Where you place your hutch is only the beginning. Make sure your enclosure is well set-up inside, too.
Bedding provides a layer of protection between your rabbits’ feet and the floor of their enclosure. It can also provide extra warmth when temperatures drop.
High quality rabbits’ bedding can be made from hay, wood, or compressed paper. The important thing is to make sure any bedding is processed to mitigate dust. Also, change your rabbits’ bedding regularly to keep the enclosure clean.
Food and Water
Your rabbits should have fresh food and water every day.
A water bottle can provide your rabbits with clean water on demand. Check your water bottles every day to ensure that there is enough water. This is especially important in hot climates. Also, wipe the nozzle well once a day with a clean, damp cloth to keep it clean.
Your rabbits’ diet should consist of 80 to 90 percent fresh hay, specifically timothy hay or alfalfa. Supplement the hay with rabbit-safe vegetables and greens, and pellets. Some rabbits will turn their noses up at hay if pellets are provided on demand. If your rabbit does this, try feeding fewer pellets and more hay. Adult rabbits are capable of getting all of their nutrients from high quality hay.
Nobody likes to be bored, and that includes rabbits. Make sure that your enclosure has a variety of toys, puzzles, and boredom busters.
Be aware, though, that because rabbits’ teeth are always growing, they love to chew. They will chew just about anything (though a particular favorite appears to be electrical and data cords). So make sure that anything you give them is chew-safe.
Finally, as social as rabbits are, they also need their peace and quiet time. Your rabbit enclosure should have a bunny box or other area where your rabbit can go to be alone and out of sight.
Your setup needs to be large enough to allow your rabbit to engage in natural behaviours such as jumping, running, and digging.
A rabbit hutch should provide a minimum of 1.1 square meters (12 square feet) of space per rabbit. A rabbit should have enough room to complete three jumps from end to end. There should also be enough room in your rabbit’s house for your bunny to stand up on its hind legs.
And that’s just the beginning. Your rabbit will need a lot of room for exercise. A run can provide that.
As with your hutch, make sure your run is well shaded. Take care to predator-proof and dig-proof your run. Choose a run constructed from chew-proof wire. Also, dig-proof your run by providing a wire canopy around the perimeter of the run, inside and out. Alternatively, you can sink wire several inches into the ground around the perimeter of your run.
Maintaining Your Rabbit House
A safe rabbit house is a happy rabbit house. Keep it clean and secure.
Cleaning Your Hutch
Keeping your hutch clean isn’t just about aesthetics. A regular cleaning regimen can reduce harmful bacteria, keep mould and mildew from gathering, and can help to protect your bunny from flystrike and other problems.
Some cleaning tasks should be done every day. You can do others on a weekly basis. It might sound like a lot, but if you make a habit of it, it’s really not. And besides, your rabbits are worth it.
Daily Cleaning Tasks
- Empty, clean, and refill water bottles
- Remove and replace uneaten food and hay
- Wash out food and water dishes
- Spot-clean the litter box
- Remove soiled bedding from your bunny’s area
- Do a visual inspection for mould and mildew
Weekly Cleaning Tasks
- Remove all toys and wash them with dish soap and warm water
- Change disposable bedding and wash reusable bedding
- Wash plastic and metal surfaces with a vinegar and water solution
- Disinfect plastic and metal surfaces with a rabbit-safe disinfectant
In addition to keeping your hutch and run clean, keeping it in good repair can stop a lot of problems before they begin. Here are a few things you need to put on your list.
Inspect for Chewing
While you’re performing your daily cleaning, look for signs of chewing both inside the hutch and out.
Rabbits love to chew on anything they can. Sometimes this may even include the wooden parts of your hutch. The problem is, they may eventually chew their way out of the hutch and escape. Also, chewing can be a sign of frustration, boredom, or pain.
If you find signs that your rabbit is chewing on the hutch or other parts of the enclosure, you’ll need to first examine your rabbit. Make sure he or she isn’t suffering from illness or injury. Next, give your bunny some new chew-safe toys. And be certain they’re getting plenty of attention. You can also treat affected areas with a solution of vinegar and water, or with a rabbit-safe chew deterrent.
Evidence of chewing on the outside of the hutch may well mean a different kind of problem. Predators like foxes and weasels love to snack on rabbits, and will sometimes try to chew their way into a rabbit hutch.
If you find evidence that a predator is trying to break in, you’ll need to take measures to secure and predator-proof your hutch. Make sure to securely lock all entrances to the hutch at night. Also, a bunny box or closed-off part of the hutch can keep your rabbit out of sight when you’re not there to protect them.
Wear and Tear
Even the highest quality hutch will eventually begin to show wear and tear. Regularly inspect your hutch and setup for damage. This may include:
- Holes in the walls, floor, or roof
- Damage to hasps, hinges, and fixtures
- Splintering wood
- Sharp edges or bits of wire
A Hutch is Not Enough
Your hutch is only the beginning.
Your setup should include a hutch — the biggest hutch you can afford, in fact. And it should provide no less than 1.1 metres squared of space per rabbit. Your bunny should have room to jump, stretch out, and stand up on its hind legs. There should also be an enclosed place where they can go to be alone when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
A run will provide your rabbits with extra room to run, jump, exercise, and enjoy themselves.
Your setup should include toys and boredom busters. But the best entertainment is company, whether that be you or a bunny buddy. Rabbits want to be part of the family.
It’s important to keep your setup clean and in good repair. Does this sound like a lot of work? It is! But your bunny is worth a little hard work.
In short, your rabbit hutch setup should include:
- Living space
- A “getaway” place
- An enclosed area for exercise
- Bunny-safe entertainment
Our rabbits are family members, and we want them to be safe, comfortable, and happy. Meeting their basic needs is only the starting point. Now that you know what you need to build your rabbit palace, where will you start?
Do you have any unique ideas for a rabbit palace? Have we forgotten anything? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.
And for more rabbit reading check out our bunny blog here.