Space is of utmost importance in keeping your rabbits happy and active. By nature, they are creatures that need all the room they can get to hop, run and dig. With all animals, whether you keep them indoors or outdoors, they need to be kept in a secure environment, and for rabbits their hutch needs to be large enough to exercise in and stand up fully on their back legs without their ears touching the roof – the minimum spacing required for two rabbits is 3m x 2m x 1m (10ft x 6ft x 3ft).
Housing your Rabbit
Dig-proof barriers will help prevent your rabbit from escaping and, if possible, it’s a good idea raise their sleeping area (giving them a ramp for access) so that it isn’t affected by heavy rainwater and doesn’t become water-logged. Hutches also need to be well ventilated, free from flies, dry and draught-free – the perfect temperature for rabbits is between 10–25°C. Rabbits are very sensitive to heat and can tolerate some cold, but they still require a blanket or tarp sheet to cover their hutch at night, but be careful not to cover ventilation areas as they still need access to fresh air at all times during all seasons. In the colder months of winter, Rooke’s recommends moving your rabbit and their hutch indoors or to a shed or garage (if possible) as temperatures can get very low.
Toilet areas for your rabbit need to be separate from where they sleep with their bedding changed and hutch cleaned out regularly – generally speaking once a week should be ideal. That said, there may be times that it will need to be done more often. Keeping a clean hutch for your rabbit will help prevent diseases and also keep bugs and flies at bay.
Rabbits also require constant access to safe hiding places. This needs to be away from the sights and smells of predators like birds of prey, ferrets, dogs, cats and foxes. A secure, fenced area will safeguard your rabbits so that predators will not be able to access them easily.
Diet is a particularly important element of ensuring your rabbit is happy and healthy. Rabbits are herbivores so they eat plant materials – they require a constant supply of hay and grass and this should make up 80% of their diet. Leafy greens and a small amount of pellets are great food sources for them too, and the constant chewing helps to prevent dental diseases.
In winter, rabbits require extra food so increase their portions as necessary. It’s also worth noting that they should have access to fresh, cool and clean water at all times, especially in the warmer months.
Toys, Exercise and Stimulation
Rabbits are very intelligent and curious creatures who can get bored easily, so place some toys into their hutch (most pet shops will sell boredom-buster toys for pet rabbits) – you can also include cardboard boxes and empty paper towel rolls to keep them entertained. If you house your rabbits indoors, be careful to ensure they don’t eat or chew on your furniture. And if your rabbit run is outdoors, ensure that it is out of direct sunlight and sitting on grass if possible (this will give them food and a chance to dig).
If you are introducing your rabbit to the outdoors, do so slowly and keep in mind that they might be frightened initially as there will be lots of unfamiliar sounds and smells.
Rabbits are naturally sociable animals so they need companionship of their own kind – never get one rabbit by itself. In the wild they can be found in large groups or families so they having a friend is very important for them. Ideally get a male and female rabbit (ensuring they are neutered before you put them together – of you’ll have your own rabbit family before you know it!).
It’s also important to spend time with your rabbits every day – human companionship and play can help them in terms of socialising and it will also prepare them for grooming.
Remember a large living space in addition to a secure shelter are both essential to keeping your pet rabbit happy whether they live indoors or outdoors – they should feel safe and relaxed to rest and play, protected from predators and extreme weather. As well as access to food and water, rabbits also need a place to hide as they can be quite anxious creatures.
If you need any help or advice, please feel free to pop in store. Not only do we have a fantastic selection of products at reasonable prices, we have a team of knowledgeable and friendly staff too!