Rabbit Welfare | Rabbit Hutches and How They Should be Used – Home & Roost

Rabbit Welfare | Rabbit Hutches and How They Should be Used

Rabbit Welfare | Rabbit Hutches and How They Should be Used

Jess Faraday |

Did you know that rabbits are the most mistreated pets in the UK? It’s true. But not all mistreatment is intentional. Most rabbit owners want to give their pets a good home, but some don’t know everything that proper care entails. One of the most important things for a happy, healthy rabbit is a spacious enclosure. Rabbit hutches sometimes get bad press. And it’s true that keeping a rabbit locked up in a hutch -- any hutch -- 24/7 is mistreatment, plain and simple.

But hutches, in and of themselves, aren’t the problem. The problem is that many people use hutches incorrectly.

What do we mean by that? 

We’re glad you asked.

Rabbit Hutches and Rabbit Mistreatment

Unintentional mistreatment often comes down to not knowing better.

A well-meaning rabbit owner may think that because rabbits are quiet, they’re low-maintenance pets. That’s false. Rabbits have not only physical needs, but also social needs. And they also have active minds that need stimulation.

Some people might also think that because rabbits are small, they can live happily in a small cage or hutch. And this is absolutely, most sincerely not true.

The first step toward avoiding misunderstanding is to know the facts.

Rabbits are Not Low Maintenance Pets

Caring for rabbits can be hard work. It can also be expensive. The average pet rabbit lives eight to ten years. Over the course of those years, an owner can spend £4000 or even more on their upkeep.

But purchasing an enclosure and supplies is just the beginning.

A recent RSPCA survey found that 70 percent of pet rabbits in Britain never leave their hutch. That same survey found that half of Britain’s pet rabbits live in filthy conditions. Animal welfare organizations see this as mistreatment, and they’re absolutely right.

In addition to housing your rabbit, it’s important to keep that house clean. And it’s vital that your rabbit get out of that house, on a daily basis, for exercise and play.

Rabbits have complex social needs. Your rabbit wants to be part of the family, and most want a rabbit friend to live with, too.

Bunnies are intelligent animals, and can suffer terribly if left on their own in a hutch at the bottom of the garden. And spending all of their time inside a small hutch can lead to a number of different health problems.

Before you bring home that bunny, make sure that you can give it the time and attention that it needs. Provide it with a spacious enclosure with regular access to exercise space. And develop a hutch maintenance routine.

We’ll discuss all of these things in-depth in a bit. But first, we want to address some misunderstandings about rabbit hutches.

Are Rabbit Hutches Cruel?

A lot of people have a lot of opinions about rabbit housing. Should a rabbit live inside or out? What should an enclosure consist of? And, importantly, are rabbit hutches cruel?

We maintain that a hutch, in and of itself isn’t cruel. But a rabbit hutch alone is inadequate. And inadequate housing can cause a rabbit to suffer physically, emotionally, and behaviourally.

How Much Space Does a Rabbit Need?

The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund recommends a minimum hutch size of three metres (10 feet) by two metres (6.6 feet) by one metre (3.3 feet) high per rabbit

This means that, inside their hutch, every rabbit should be able to:

  • Stand up on hind legs without touching the ceiling
  • Lie down and stretch out without touching the walls
  • Hop three times in a straight line from end to end

But again, this is a minimum

A hutch should be part of a larger whole. It shouldn’t be your rabbit’s entire world.

Think of it this way: every teenager should have their own bedroom. But it would be cruel to keep a teenager locked in their bedroom 24/7, even if they had food, drink, a toilet, and a few toys. It’s cruel to keep a rabbit locked up in their hutch all the time, too.

All of this is not to say that a hutch is a bad option. Just that used alone, it’s not enough.

About Our Rabbit Hutches

Home & Roost sells high-quality rabbit hutches. We’re not just animal lovers; we work actively to promote animal welfare through ethical and sustainable production, as well as by educating our customers and the public about proper pet care.

We believe that while a great hutch can be the foundation of a happy rabbit home, it should only be one part of a much larger enclosure. And we carry everything you need to build your rabbit that generous enclosure.

Top Quality

Most rabbit hutches on the market today are made in China. Many ship from there directly. This means that if there’s a problem, it will be expensive and difficult to fix -- if it can be fixed at all.

On top of that, when you purchase from a large retailer that sells many types of products, chances are, their customer service won’t know a hutch from a hole in the ground.

Home & Roost is a hutch specialist located in Britain. Our products are made in Britain with British labour. This means that in the unlikely event that something goes wrong with your order, we can make it right, fast. And if you ever need specific advice, we’re here.

rabbit hutches

We sell the largest available flatpack rabbit hutches and runs. Our hutches are made from solid wood, with solid plywood floors -- not wire. Ventilation panels are crafted from fox-proof mesh, and the floors of multi-tier hutches are connected by safety ramps.

Finally, hutches and supplies are our only business. We don’t just sell hutches; we’re experts.

Ethical Company Practices

Home & Roost is an accredited Ethical Company. This means that our company maintains the highest standards when it comes to the environment, animal welfare, human rights, and labour practices.

It’s not enough to simply fulfil the minimums. Only the top 33 percent of companies who apply will receive accreditation. We take our responsibilities to animals, the environment, and the human community very seriously indeed.

Our Educational Efforts

We believe that most pet owners want to give their pets the best life possible. And we want to help people to achieve that goal.

Home & Roost has invested heavily in owner education through our free public database of articles on animal care. Customers also have access to our help centre. On top of that, every hutch we sell comes with extensive guides about the ethical care of rabbits.

How We Believe Rabbit Hutches Should Be Used

Rabbits have a home territory, and even pet rabbits need a place to call their own. Hutches can provide that.

But a hutch should only be part of your rabbit enclosure, not the entire thing. 

The Hutch is the Heart of the Enclosure

A happy, healthy rabbit home has several components. First, there’s the home base. Many people use a hutch for the home base. But you can also convert a garden shed into a rabbit palace. In fact, there are numerous options for building the heart of your rabbit enclosure.

The heart of your enclosure should be safe and secure. It should have everything your rabbits need, including:

In addition, your hutch or shed should have an enclosed “bunny box,” or hide, where your bunnies can go when they want to get away from it all.

The hutch should also be weatherproof, rodent proof and predator proof.

Again, a great hutch is a great start, but it’s only the beginning.

What Else Does an Enclosure Need?

We all need exercise, and that includes bunnies. Wild rabbits have a home range of around 20 acres. They may cover up to three miles in a day. Pet rabbits need a similar amount of exercise, but according to the RSPCA survey, at least 70 percent aren’t getting it.

After your rabbit’s house, the most important part of the enclosure is their exercise space

rabbit welfare

Rabbit runs are an easy way to provide your bunnies with a safe place to kick up their heels. Many of our hutches integrate directly with our runs to provide your rabbits with all-day access to their exercise space. 

And at night, a locking trap door seals off that access, providing an extra layer of security from predators.

In addition to a pre-built rabbit run, you can set up your own exercise space. You can fence off part of your garden around the hutch, for example. A chicken coop can also make a good run. 

The important thing is that your run, however you set it up, needs to be dig-proof. You don’t want predators digging in, and you don’t want your rabbits digging out. For specific information, check out our article on dig-proofing your rabbit run.

And just like you, your bunnies need protection from the sun and rain. A run cover is a good first step.

Caring for Your Enclosure

In addition to providing your rabbits with a safe, spacious enclosure, it’s very, very important to develop a regular hutch maintenance routine.

Your rabbits’ urine and faeces can attract rodents and flies, and increase your bunnies’ risk of flystrike. Litter training your rabbits is a good start, but you’ll still have to change bedding, empty the litter box, and clean up if your rabbits spray.

Mould and mildew can be a huge problem for your rabbits’ health. It can also weaken the wood of your enclosure. So it’s important to inspect for mould and mildew regularly and treat it when you find it.

A good cleaning and maintenance routine can go far toward keeping your rabbits healthy and happy, and keeping your hutch in good working order.

Here are a few of the most important tasks.

Every day, you should:

  • Spot clean the litter box 
  • Remove wet litter and bedding
  • Remove uneaten food and hay
  • Empty, wash, and refill food dishes and water bottles
  • Inspect for mould and mildew
  • Check for signs of rodents or other pests

Do the following weekly:

  • Change out bedding
  • Wash blankets and toys
  • Wipe down plastic and metal parts of the hutch with water and vinegar
  • Remove white urine stains with vinegar and water
  • Disinfect metal and plastic parts with a rabbit-safe disinfectant

What Is Good Rabbit Ownership?

Seeing to your rabbit’s physical needs is an important component of good rabbit ownership, but it’s only part of the picture. 

Physical Care

Your rabbits need a clean, safe, and spacious enclosure, with plenty of opportunities for exercise and play.

A healthy diet is likewise important. Rabbits should eat a diet that is a minimum of 70 to 80 percent fresh hay. They should also have access to plenty of fresh water.

Grooming can also help your rabbit to stay in tip-top condition. 

Take a little time every day to perform a “rabbit M.O.T.” Check your rabbit for:

  • Cuts, scratches, and wounds
  • Discharge from the eyes or ears 
  • Impacted scent glands
  • “Wet bum”
  • Signs of flystrike
  • Fleas, ticks, mites, and other parasites

Also, pay special attention to your rabbit’s backside. Urine and faeces can attract flies and irritate sensitive rabbit skin. Age and injury can make it harder for a rabbit to groom itself. So, if your rabbit needs help grooming itself, use pet-safe wipes for safe, gentle cleanup.

If you have a long-haired rabbit, pay particular attention to their hair. Give them a good brush-out once a week, and cut out any mats.

Clip your rabbits’ nails once a month or as needed. A lot of rabbits hate this, so a good alternative is asking your vet to do it.

Finally, even if your rabbit is healthy now, having a relationship with a rabbit-savvy vet will help them stay that way. It will also save you time in case of an emergency.

Rabbits are Social 

Because rabbits are quiet, it’s tempting to think that they don’t want or need a social life. But loneliness and boredom can cause them, and you, problems, including:

The best solution is to have a pair of properly bonded bunnies, so they can keep each other company. But even with a bunny buddy, a rabbit still wants to be part of your family. So visit your bunnies daily, and make time each day to play with them in a rabbit-friendly way.

Try to build opportunities for interaction into your daily routine. Many rabbits, for example, enjoy sitting with you while you watch TV. Alternately, you could place your rabbits in a puppy pen in a room where your family is gathering for a meal or to hang out.

If you do bring your bunnies indoors, however, make sure that any space they have access to is rabbit proofed. This means:

  • Covering or removing cords and cables
  • Covering wooden furniture legs
  • Protecting baseboards
  • Closing off the space beneath furniture where a rabbit could get stuck or injured
  • Protecting your rabbits from small children and other pets

Rabbits Communicate Differently

Because rabbits don’t demand your attention like a dog or cat might, you might think that they don’t care. But they do. They just have different ways of expressing it -- different from humans, and different from cats and dogs, too.

Learn about rabbit body language and meet your bunny halfway. You might be surprised at how much they have to tell you.

Rabbits are Intelligent

Did you know that rabbits are quite clever? They are.

On the positive side, this means that they can interact with you in a lot of different, fun ways. Not only can you play games with your rabbit like” treasure hunt” and “fetch.” You can also teach your rabbit tricks. In fact, you can train your rabbit to do many things using a dog training clicker

Rabbits need intellectual stimulation. A bored bunny is an unhappy bunny. And an unhappy bunny can become aggressive, destructive, and stressed out.

In addition to a bunny buddy and plenty of toys, take the time to engage your rabbit’s mind. Teach them new tricks, and have plenty of treats on hand for when they succeed. Because they will succeed.

Toward Better Bunny Care

Most people want the best for their pets. But to provide that, it’s important to know the facts. 

Rabbits need a spacious enclosure. A well-built hutch can be the heart of that enclosure, but it shouldn’t be your rabbit’s entire world. A happy, healthy rabbit home includes exercise space, as well as living space. 

And all of your rabbits’ spaces should be weatherproof, rodent-proof, predator-proof, and in good repair. Develop a regular hutch maintenance routine to keep your hutch in good shape.

In addition to space, rabbits need an active social life and plenty of exercise and intellectual stimulation.

It’s a lot. Rabbits are high-maintenance pets. But in the end, all pets are family members, and they deserve the best care we can provide.

Do you have any further questions on rabbit care? Or perhaps you have some advice for our readers. We’d love to hear about it in the comments.