Long gone are the Victorian times where hutches were used for fattening up rabbits in the kitchen for the banquet. Now we understand and appreciate the need for giving our rabbits space to display natural behaviours and prevent frustration, boredom and aggression. Rabbits will cover a vast amount of space through the evening to the mid morning and enjoy being able to binky and do zoomies while we are tucked up asleep in bed. That is why having access to lots of space 24/7 is crucial as rabbits do not have sleep patterns similar to ours. Rabbits divide their territory into 2 parts; hub space and shared community space. The desire of a rabbit is to have enough territory that they can create safe areas, shared community space for exercise and areas to use for toileting
How can you create a nice habitat for your rabbits?
First decide whether you are housing your rabbits indoors or outdoors. In the UK, both are perfectly acceptable for rabbits to live, since our climate allows for rabbits to live outdoors all year round and we do not have predators such as bears or coyotes.
You will want to consider our 5 S system, which allows you to create the perfect habitat for your rabbit outdoors.
The space must be a minimum of 60sqft which could be made up of multiple areas. Ideally they should have at least 8-10ft in length to run and binky and 6-8ft in width to stretch and zoomie. The height must be at least 3ft to allow them to fully stretch, jump and twist.
Safety against predators such as foxes, badgers and birds of prey is paramount. Any mesh used should be at least 16g galvanised steel mesh with a spacing size of 1x1cm or 1x0.5cm. Chicken wire is not suitable as it can be ripped and chewed through. Shop bought runs are usually 19g which is also not predator proof. The enclosure must have a roof on it and not be open air to prevent cats getting in or birds swooping down.
The rabbits should be safe and not able to escape. This means permanent housing should be on hard standing either solid flooring or slabs, never on grass. This also makes things easy to disinfect should there be a parasite break out.
The area should be sheltered from the elements and allow the rabbits to seek cover from rain, snow and sun. Covers can be used to provide shelter.
It doesn't need to be fancy! It does however, need to provide the rabbits with all the basic essentials for them to display their natural behaviours. This includes litter trays, hay racks, water bowls, toys, tunnels and enrichment. Boxes of dirt to dig in and things to throw around. Empty enclosures make for bored and frustrated rabbits. Toys and enrichment keep rabbits happy and busy.
Outdoor Housing Inspiration
Outdoor housing for rabbits which is robust enough to cope with the elements and is safe can be costly, however you can often find second hand enclosures on selling sites. If you are good at DIY, you could even build something yourself!
If your rabbits are going to live in the house with you, or in a garage, you have two options; either to assign them a room to free roam (aka a bunny bedroom) or create a large puppy penned area for them as their 'base' when you are not supervising them. Even if puppy penned however, they will still need time out of their pen to explore and run around for many hours daily. Some rabbits cannot be puppy penned in as they are too active and will easily jump out of any pen, usually these are young boisterous types of rabbits and these must have access to at least a full room or garage. If you have special needs or older rabbits, they may need to be puppy penned to keep them safe.
Rabbits can be very 'creative' (chewing and digging) so we do not recommend having indoors rabbits on carpet as they will dig at the carpet and may ingest the fibres. Hard flooring such as tiles, wood, or laminate is best and easiest to clean and we recommend lots of washable rugs for rabbits to hop around on and binky on.
If they are to be puppy penned or contained in at all, the minimum size of puppy pen / area they should be closed in should be 6x6ft / 7x5ft / 8x4ft. Some people choose to convert an awkward space in their house for their buns, like a large under stair area or alcove.
Your rabbits hub area should contain their essentials including litter tray, hay rack, water bowl and hideaway. This gives them an area they feel is 'theirs' that they can nap, eat and toilet in.
You will need to keep your rabbits safe by bunny proofing.
Rabbits will naturally enjoy chewing cables so keep these well away or you could cause an electrical fire or worse, a sizzled rabbit!
Protect furniture you don't want nibbled.
Watch they don't tear wallpaper that is loose or dig and eat carpet fibres. It is best to keep your foster rabbits to rooms that do not have carpet as it cannot be easily cleaned and they may dig it up.
Be careful of textures rabbits enjoy chewing: paper, rubber (brush handles, wellies, crocs), leather (bags, shoes, sofas).
Block off behind sofas as rabbits will often hide there and then dig and chew into the back of the couch.
Don't leave food lying around! Rabbits are scavengers and will hoover up anything left, including things they shouldn't eat and that are poisonous to them. Rabbits may even jump onto tables to eat human or rabbit food that has been left.
Keep house plants away from rabbits are most are toxic and they will try to eat them.
Be careful with cleaning and home supplies that are toxic being used or lying around, this includes using paraffin candles.