Regardless of whether they live indoors or outdoors, getting your rabbit’s home right is vital. Your rabbit can live up to 12 years and during their lifetime they will chew, dig, jump and run so their environment must be able to provide the space and ability to do just that. Mimicking the environment a wild rabbit has access to is the best way to ensure your pet gets all they need from their home.
Housing your rabbit either inside your home or outside in a garden or converted shed both come with advantages and disadvantages. Indoor rabbits will chew cables, wires and furniture as their teeth need to be worn down. This means that you need to “bunny proof” your home if you are going to share your space with your pet. Using cable covers or hosepipe will protect from sharp teeth as supervision alone will not prevent accidents or damage. You will also need to be aware of any house plants that may be poisonous and the large amount of fur that will need vacuuming in moulting season.
Outdoor rabbits need to be protected from the elements as well as from the dangers of escaping your garden and from predators such as foxes and cats. Mesh and wire to secure the perimeter of your rabbits' run are ideal but they must be small enough to prevent your rabbit from getting their head stuck. Chicken wire is not secure as rabbits can chew through this as can foxes!
Space is key. Rabbits can be perfectly happy living indoors or outside as long as they can perform their natural behaviours. A pair of average-sized rabbits (remember, rabbits should be kept as bonded pairs), need a single enclosed area of at least 3m x 2m x 1m high which can include the sleeping area. This refers to the ground space of the main enclosure meaning the upstairs of a two-storey rabbit hutch does not count towards this. Rabbits kept solely in hutches and cages can develop skeletal problems and sores and are more likely to become overweight which in turn impacts negatively on their health.
Regardless of where they are kept, rabbits need access to basic husbandry accessories such as a safe place to sleep and hide, somewhere to eat and somewhere to drink. Indoor cages and rabbit huts can provide somewhere your rabbit can retreat to if they are scared or need to rest. Indoor cages and houses such as a hutch should be easy to clean (as rabbits poop lots and their urine will stain wood), comfortable and easy for the rabbit to access. Ramps are a good way to provide enrichment and exercise but may need adjustments for the elderly, visually impaired or rabbits with joint issues.
A rabbit cage or hutch is not suitable to be the sole or main shelter for your pet. They are simply not large enough and do not allow your rabbit to exercise properly. If using a typical rabbit hutch as a bedroom, make sure your rabbit can take at least three hops and can stretch fully upright.
If kept outside, your rabbit’s accommodation should be sturdy, waterproof and raised from the ground to keep them dry. Their main sleeping area should be located in the shade to prevent overheating but made from materials that can keep your rabbit insulated and warm through the winter.
Most hutches and bunny houses as well as runs and aviaries are made from thick, heavy wood so that predators, people and the weather can’t move them around. Welded mesh is secure and provides good ventilation. Most rabbits will chew on their hutches and runs so it is important to visually inspect their living and exercise areas daily. Weak areas they have nibbled away at mean there is a real danger of your rabbit escaping or predators getting in.