Housing – “A hutch is not enough!”

Rabbits - Rabbit housing

Rabbits are not designed to live in a confined space. Hutches were originally used by the Victorians when they kept rabbits in backyards as a source of cheap meat, and were housed on a short term basis while they were fattened up. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, rabbit owners are required by law to meet their rabbit’s welfare needs – which includes providing a suitable environment.

The Rabbit Welfare Association recommend a minimum hutch size of at least 6’ x 2’ which allows rabbits some room to move, stand on their hind legs, and enough space for the food, toilet and sleeping areas to be kept apart. They should be able to perform at least 3 consecutive hops. Larger breeds will need more space than this.

A hutch should not be their only living space – it should be attached to a secure run of at least 8’ x 4’.

Bear in mind, these are the minimum recommendations – as with most things in life, bigger  is better!

Location and design
Their living area should be sheltered; out of direct sunlight with some shade, and also against driving wind or rain. It should also provide a hiding area where your rabbit can hide away and feel secure from predators.
The hutch should be raised on legs to prevent rising damp and deter vermin. The roof should be covered with roofing felt to allow rain water to drain off.

Safety
Unfortunately, each year many pet rabbits are snatched by predators. You need to make sure your rabbits are safe from foxes, dogs, cats and birds of prey. Strong mesh is better than chicken wire.

Rabbits are very social animals, and should be kept at least in pairs as they rely on the companionship from another rabbit – they love to snuggle together, groom each other and keep each other warm. The best pairing is a neutered male and a neutered female. Keep them occupied with toys such as tunnels, plant pots or even a cardboard box. Scatter food around to encourage them forage rather than feeding from a bowl, and ensure they have constant access to hay.

Stimulation
Rabbits are very social animals, and should be kept at least in pairs as they rely on the companionship from another rabbit – they love to snuggle together, groom each other and keep each other warm. The best pairing is a neutered male and a neutered female. Keep them occupied with toys such as tunnels, plant pots or even a cardboard box. Scatter food around to encourage them forage rather than feeding from a bowl, and ensure they have constant access to hay.

Introducing your rabbit to your existing pets
Like you, your new rabbit will be nervous when experiencing something new and unknown. Being in a household with other pets will give your rabbit companionship, but it goes without saying you should ensure your rabbit is safe at all times. Cats and dogs can make good companions, but never forget they still possess a carnivore instinct, so you should supervise when they are together, as any responsible parent would with children.
Rabbits have a territorial instinct naturally instilled in them, so if you want to introduce another rabbit you should do so on neutral territory. Find an area as large and safe as possible, both rabbits should enter this area at the same time – then simply watch their actions. One may be more interested in the other, they may stare at each other for a while, and after a bit of running around they could simply end up doing their own thing. You have to be aware that there could be some aggression shown and a fight may break out. If this happens, split them up immediately, but don’t give up, try the process again later in the day, or wait until the next day. You can keep doing this as many times as necessary, eventually you will see them happily sitting together or even grooming each other. Even if they seem happy with each other from the first introduction, make sure you keep them separate overnight – you need to be keeping an eye on them until you are really sure they are best buddy bunnies.

Free EBOOKS
Behaviour Secrets Revealed...
Discover what your pet is really trying to tell you

Rabbits - Rabbit Mobile App