Rabbits are fun-loving, mischievous, inquisitive, active characters given the chance.
So it is very important for their quality of life that they are provided with an environment that provides sufficient space (including height to jump and stretch) and entertainment.
Hutches should as a minimum size allow your rabbit to stand upright on their back legs and take several hops across the floor. (Rabbits shouldn’t be kept like battery hens). Having more than one level adds interest. They should be off the ground if outside and in a predator proof environment. Straw makes excellent bedding. Care should be taken with pine shavings as some can be toxic or irritant to rabbits. Also, some wood treatments can be fatal if chewed.
Rabbits love to run and jump. They like boxes to get in to or sit on as a vantage point or lookout post; and an area of shelter from sun, wind or rain if outside. Rabbits often like to play in rain, but if the weather is hot i.e. more than 26 degrees Celsius, they can get heat stroke. Bunnies can go outside year round as long as they are used to this and the sunlight and exercise is very beneficial.
Remember rabbits can burrow out, predators need keeping away and rabbits have no respect for your favourite plants! (Some of which can be poisonous).
Toys keep your bunny occupied. A bored bunny will find its own fun which may be chewing your wallpaper or worse! Find out what your rabbit likes to do.
- Chewing or shredding: provide apple tree branches, willow stocks, old junk mail without the plastic or staples, old telephone directories, cereal boxes, larger cardboard boxes to play in before destroying etc. Remember – if you leave a wire or cable trailing across their pathway e.g. a telephone cable behind a sofa, they will chew right through it like a tree root!
- Throwing: untreated fur cones, plastic plant pots, hard plastic dog toys.
- Digging: a box of old blankets (females burrow more than males, especially if they haven’t been “neutered”).
- Climbing: boxes and shelves
- Specific rabbit-friendly toys: can be found on the internet
Rabbits need areas to hide (at least one per bunny) such as boxes or large drain pipes, to minimise their stress as they are a ‘prey species’. Be aware that if a box is dark, then a rabbit will take refuge there on a hot day even if the box is even hotter than outside.
Rabbits need companionship. This can be yourselves, however other bunnies are the very best. So instead of having one rabbit, have ‘double trouble’ and get two happier bunnies.
Rabbits are very specific as to who or which other bunnies they like, especially once they are mature. So if you are introducing a new rabbit, you need to take time to ‘bond’ them or simply find the right individual. Good rescue centres recognise this issue well and will often help you find the right companion. A rabbit is never too old to find a new friend!
It is now thought that neutering before their hormones rise makes bonding easier. Therefore we have moved our neutering protocol from 6 months of age to about 4 months.