A well-equipped and safe hutch is pivotal to your rabbit’s happiness. Aside from safety factors, your rabbit also needs access to various features that will enhance her quality of life.
If your rabbit’s hutch is located outside, there will be additional concerns. You’ll need to consider the temperature and your pet’s safety from predators. Simply purchasing a hutch is just the beginning of your journey. Plenty of work goes into making a rabbit’s hutch into a home.
How to Prepare a Rabbit Hutch for a New Pet
When bringing a rabbit into your family, accommodation is essential. Some families decide to let a rabbit run free at all times. The rabbit will enjoy this, but it comes with several problems.
Think about the logistics of a free rabbit. Where will your pet eliminate? Where will it sleep? Will the rabbit be safe when you’re not watching? Will it get underfoot and wreak havoc?
It’s safer to arrange a hutch for your rabbit. As long as your rabbit gets sufficient exercise, it will be content. Most rabbits prefer having a place to call her own. Even social animals need privacy.
1) Space to Move
Perhaps the most important thing your rabbit needs in her hutch is space. Your pet must be able to move freely. A rabbit that feels trapped will quickly become stressed and unwell.
The bare minimum size of an appropriate rabbit hutch is 12 square feet. Your rabbit will need to able to hop at least three times within their hutch. Your pet must also be able to stand on their hind legs comfortably.
Bigger is always better, though. You will also need to incorporate a bedroom and a litter tray. No rabbit will complain about having space to run, jump, and play.
If possible, attach a run to your rabbit’s hutch. This will help your pet exercise while still enclosed. This exercise area should measure at least 32 square feet. Always lock access to this run at night. It is unlikely to be secure from predators.
If you cannot incorporate a run in your rabbit’s hutch, more outside time will be required. Space is vital to rabbits. If a pet feels trapped, escape attempts will become a regular occurrence.
2) Soft Flooring
Rabbit cage floor covering is something that isn’t always considered. This is a mistake. If your pet’s hutch has a hard, wire floor, it will be painful. Eventually, this will potentially lead to open sores on your pet’s feet.
An abundant supply of hay will usually be sufficient for your rabbit. The hay must be plentiful, though. Your pet’s feet should not touch the ground. This hay will be eaten throughout a day, so the supply will diminish. Rabbits also dig and burrow.
If you wish to apply soft flooring to your pet’s hutch, consider vinyl. This will be more comfortable than wood or wire. Be aware that rabbits can chew through vinyl. You may need to replace the flooring regularly.
3) Food and Water
Your rabbit must have food and water at all times. Rabbits cannot last long without nourishment. Never allow your pet to miss a meal. Rabbit food comes in three forms.
- Hay is critical. Fill your rabbit’s hutch with as much fresh hay as you can manage. Rabbits can eat as much of this as they like. It’s calorie-neutral and provides essential fiber. It also files down a rabbit’s teeth.
- Pellets are optional for adult rabbits. Once your rabbit reaches six months of age, limit access to pellets. This food can be a little calorific. Pellets do provide nutrition, though.
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetables make a great treat for rabbits. Many of these foods also provide great nutrients and vitamins. Just don’t go too far. Watch your rabbit’s weight.
Rabbits must also have constant access to fresh water. This can be provided in either a bowl or a bottle. Many rabbits prefer a bowl as it’s easier to drink from.
Some rabbits will treat their bowl as a toy, though. It will be knocked over, or filled with hay or bedding. In such instances, attach a bottle to your rabbit’s hutch.
How your rabbit gets water is less important than ensuring your pet drinks enough. Any rabbit should drink between 50-100 ml of water for every kilogram of body weight daily.
4) A Litter Box or Tray
Rabbits are clean animals. You will be able to litter train your rabbit, and it’s advisable. Do not attempt this training before spaying or neutering your rabbit, though. Before this procedure, your pet will use their waste to mark territory.
Pick up a large litter box. Your pet will enjoy stretching out inside it. This can look like an odd habit, but rabbits enjoy it. As long as there are no signs of urine scalding, it’s not a problem.
When you’re ready to populate the litter box, start with a little fresh hay. Next, add some litter. Use a rabbit-specific brand, and avoid clay litter. Rabbits often develop respiratory problems from clay.
Add a little more hay to the litter box. Many rabbits like to eat while pooping. Finally, add some soiled hay or paper. The smell will help your pet understand that this is where they should eliminate.
A litter box will not completely stop elimination in the hutch. It will drastically reduce it, though. This, in turn, means that you’ll need to clean your pet’s hutch less often. It also reduces the risk of hay turning moldy due to rabbit urine.
5) A Separate Sleeping Area
Every rabbit needs a bedroom. When setting up a hutch, be sure to set up on a quiet zone. Fill this with bedding, so your rabbit knows it’s for sleeping. This will keep your pet happy.
A rabbit bedroom can be as simple as an upturned cardboard box. Just cut a hole in the box for your rabbit to enter and exit. Place this in a particular corner of the hutch, ideally on a lower level. Your pet will soon start sleeping in this location.
There are multiple reasons why a rabbit needs a bedroom area in a hutch:
- Rabbits are social, but they still need time alone. A private bedroom affords this privacy.
- Rabbits sleep from mid-morning to early evening. By crawling into a sheltered area, the sun will not bother your pet.
- Rabbits are prey animals and know it. A protective layer helps your pet feel more secure. They do not realize that the box will not keep out a predator.
- Rabbits are unlikely to urinate or defecate where he or she sleeps. This means that your pet will smell better, and stay cleaner.
When it comes to rabbit cage bedding, you have multiple options. Just ensure that the bedding is safe to eat. Your rabbit may consume it, whether by accident or design.
Many rabbits will be happy sleeping on hay. You may prefer to invest in blankets, though. Pet stores will sell safe blankets for rabbits. You could even buy a bed frame for your pet.
Your rabbit will enjoy tearing up and arranging these blankets. Making a nest will be a form of entertainment for your pet. This is critical to a rabbit’s mental well being.
6) Toys and Entertainment
You’ll need to pack your rabbit’s hutch with entertainment. Rabbits are curious animals, always in search of mental stimulation. No rabbit will be happy without a wide array of toys.
Rabbit entertainment does not have to revolve around specialist toys. It’s advisable to buy a handful of such items from a pet store. In addition, though, basic household objects will do the trick. To be clear about what constitutes a toy, consider the following.
- Rabbits need to chew. It prevents their teeth from becoming overgrown. Here are some things that rabbits should never chew.
- Rabbits love to dig and burrow. This is a natural instinct. A domesticated rabbit’s wild counterparts would dig a burrow to live in.
- Rabbits love quiet noises. Rabbits enjoy toys that make rustling sounds when tossed around.
- Rabbits love to be mischievous. This means that your pet will enjoy knocking things over, and tearing flimsy objects apart.
As you will see, this opens up a range of options for your pet. Fill their hutch with makeshift toys. Examples of what you could do include:
- Filling a box with paper, such a phone book. Your rabbit can tear this apart, and burrow in it.
- Dotting small, sturdy cat toys around the hutch. Your rabbit will throw these around.
- Providing tough, plastic baby toys, such as keys. These will cater to your rabbit’s desire to chew. More importantly, it will stop your pet chewing on the wire of a hutch door.
- Leave small balls and similar objects for your rabbit to chase and nudge around their hutch.
- Bury treats in your rabbit’s hay which your pet can hunt. Just don’t allow them to go moldy.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Watch your rabbit while he or she plays, and learn what your pet enjoys most. That way, you can tailor toys accordingly.
Rabbits get bored easily. A toy could hold your pet’s attention rapturously for hours, then be casually abandoned. You’ll need to amend the selection of toys regularly.
Rabbits can live alone. This is far from preferable for most rabbits, though. These animals will always be considerably happier with a playmate of the same species. PETA elaborate further on this.
Whether you bought or adopted your rabbit, you were likely asked to consider two pets. This was not the store upselling you, or a shelter attempting to empty their cages. It was done with the rabbit’s happiness in mind.
If it’s an option, you really should consider adding a second rabbit to your hutch. There will be certain caveats. You’ll need to ensure the rabbits are bonded and both are comfortable. It will give both pets a happier life, though.
It’s quite possible that a second rabbit is not an option, for any number of reasons. That’s not the end of the world. It does mean that you’ll need to step up, though.
Under no circumstances should you leave your rabbit alone for hours on end. You’ll need to check in regularly. If you work all day, ask a friend or neighbor to pop by. Your rabbit will be grateful for the company.
Technically, a pet of a different species will be good company for your rabbit. You’ll need to guarantee safety, though. Don’t allow a cat and a rabbit to run around the house unsupervised. That’s a potential recipe for disaster.
Should the Hutch be Set Up Indoors or Outside?
There are benefits to both of these settings. The advantages of either set up are addressed in the table below.
|Benefits of an Indoor Hutch||Benefits of an Outdoor Hutch|
|Rabbits are social. An indoor hutch means your pet will be around human family members all day.||A rabbit’s hutch can start to smell after a day or two. You won’t notice this as much if your pet lives outdoors.|
|Your rabbit will be socialized faster, and be more confident. Your pet will be used to the sights and sounds of a busy house.||Natural light governs a rabbit’s hormones. If rabbits live outdoors, shedding and sleeping patterns occur naturally.|
|Your rabbit will be safe at all times. Wild predators that roam outdoors will not disturb your pet. This will make your rabbit less nervous in a hutch.||Rabbits are hardy in cold temperatures. Your pet would rather be cold than warm. Living outdoors avoids artificial heat sources, such as central heating.|
|Your rabbit will always be in plain sight. This will make it easier to spot potential illness or strange behavior.||Life outside will likely be quieter for your rabbit. Your pet won’t be startled by voices, vacuums, and slamming doors.|
|You won’t need to worry about extreme weather. Your rabbit will always be safe and warm, regardless of the elements.||Living outside is a more natural habitat for your rabbit. It will be easier to engage in natural, wild instincts.|
Only you can decide whether you’d rabbit’s hutch should be found indoors or outside. Weigh up all the advice in the table above, and make a judgment call.
Does an Outdoor Rabbit Hutch Set Up Differ from Indoor?
Deciding whether your rabbit will live outdoors or inside is an important concern. There are pros and cons to both approaches. If you do decide to settle your rabbit outside, there are additional considerations. If you’re leaning toward placing your rabbit’s hutch outside, consider the following:
Let’s look into each of these in more detail.
Temperature Maintenance of an Outdoor Hutch
If your rabbit lives outside, you should include a thermometer in her hutch. Rabbits can withstand surprisingly cold temperatures, but you’ll need to take action in extreme weather.
A rabbit’s body temperature should run between 100-103 degrees Fahrenheit. That sounds high, but a rabbit’s fur coat accounts for this. Your rabbit will rarely become too cold.
The temperature needs to drop to 32 degrees Fahrenheit to be dangerous for rabbits. If this occurs, move the rabbit to a warmer location. A shed or garage is ideal for this. This will be temporary, until the extreme cold front passes.
Do not alternate your rabbit between indoor and outdoor living at any other time. Sudden fluctuations in temperature have a detrimental impact on rabbits. Your pet needs to be just warm enough to avoid immediate danger.
Excessive heat is just as dangerous. If you’re in the midst of a heatwave, your rabbit will grow uncomfortable. Anything over 70 degrees Fahrenheit is sketchy, but tolerable. If the temperature reaches 85 degrees, a rabbit is in trouble.
If not provided with appropriate support, a rabbit could develop heatstroke in these conditions. Offer plenty of chilled water. Bring your rabbit indoors during the height of the sun, too. Your pet can relax on cold tiles to cool off.
Providing Light to an Outdoor Hutch
Appropriate illumination is another consideration for outdoor rabbits. When you go to bed, your rabbit will return to its hutch. Your pet is unlikely to be sleepy, though. Your pet will amuse herself before retiring.
On paper, this is not an issue for your pet. Rabbits are not instinctively afraid of the dark. Lagomorphs are not nocturnal though. They cannot see in pitch darkness. Rabbit eyes are engineered to function best at dawn and dusk.
This will potentially cause worry for your rabbit. Your pet will not be able to see anything. Rabbits can hear and smell predators, though. This can lead to a frightening night.
The specialist sleeping area that we previously discussed will help with this. If a rabbit feels suitably protected, it will pay less attention to the wider world. Your pet may sleep soundly, unaware of animals patrolling outside the hutch.
If your rabbit seems reluctant to return to its hutch at night, fear is a likely explanation. You can soothe your rabbit’s nerves by applying some light. You have two options for this.
- Add a night light to your rabbit’s hutch. A battery-operated lamp or torch is best, as this will involve no trailing wires. Ensure the light is dim. Your rabbit still needs to understand the difference between night and day.
- Install a motion detector light in your yard, which illuminates your rabbit’s hutch. This will shine whenever something moves in your garden. This may disturb your sleep, though. Think about if this will bother you.
Choose the best option for both you and your rabbit. Remember, though; if your rabbit feels secure in a ‘bedroom,’ light is less of a concern. Always look to improve your pet’s sleeping quarters first.
Ensuring a Rabbit’s Safety in an Outdoor Hutch
There will be wild animals that seek to harm your pet. You need to apply a firm, secure cover to your pet’s hutch. Predators can chew through any flimsy material. Hardware cloth is the safest option, as it’s tougher than chicken wire.
You may also want to consider a clear, Perspex cover for your rabbit’s hutch. This will be more secure. It will also protect your rabbit from any strong winds, or rain.
If you do install a solid cover, remember that your pet still needs oxygen. Do not cover the entire hutch. Leave at least some space for air to circulate. If you have genuine concerns for your pet’s safety, consider rehousing him or her indoors.
Do some research on the ideal hutch before your pet joins your family. Rabbits are particular and fussy animals. If you do not arrange a welcoming home environment, stress, and anxiety can follow.
You have to remember how much time rabbits spend in a hutch. Your pet will wake up hours before you, and remain active after you retire for the night. A rabbit needs to feel secure in this time and be provided with entertainment.