Believe it or not, this page has been one of my favourites to create, as rabbit housing is something I'm quite particular about.
If you go back in time (about 110 years), you'll see that the 'rabbit hutch' was really just a pantry. A place where a rabbit was kept to get fat before going in to the pot. Rabbits were intentionally restricted - the fatter the rabbit, the bigger the meal.
Also the word 'hutch' comes from the French word 'huche', meaning, a chest on four legs. Hundreds of years ago people used to convert old tea chests and barrels into storage areas for rabbits, but now with the advance of modern packaging, these types of boxes aren't available anymore, although for some strange reason a trend began to recreate these cramped containers and the 'boxed' rabbit house is a concept most just can't shift.
A Hutch is Never Enough
Rabbits are not designed to live in a confined space. In the wild they cover an area equivalent to 30 football pitches. They're not designed to live alone either - wild rabbits live in large social groups, foraging, grooming each other and huddling together for warmth. Rabbits living alone experience high levels of stress.
So, for the life of me, I can't think why 'hutches' are still being made and sold!? I have yet to see one big enough to really accommodate a rabbit of any size, let alone several of them together.
This little video will bring a tear to your eye, but don't worry, there is a happy ending...
Smash it Up
In fact the English language uses the phrase 'rabbit hutch' to convey a meaning of 'small', 'tiny', 'cramped', etc. E.g. "The houses on this road are like rabbit hutches."
This is why I'd like to smash the concept of the words 'rabbit hutch', out of the minds of rabbit owners and move towards some alternatives; 'rabbit house', 'rabbit housing', and even better, 'rabbit home'! Of course there's ...shed, cage, condo, etc too, but you get my drift ;-)
There are some fundamental guidelines on rabbit housing we all have to follow as responsible rabbit owners: (these links will jump down within the page)
Lets look at each of them individually...
Owners' Legal Duty to Care
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, rabbit owners are required by law to meet their rabbits' welfare needs; these include providing a suitable environment, i.e. housing.
There is no one perfect way to care for all rabbits, because every rabbit and every situation is different. It's up to you how you look after your rabbits but by law you must ensure that you meet their 'welfare' needs, which include:
Rabbit House Length
The minimum recommended length for a rabbit house is 6 ft (180 cm). This is for a medium sized rabbit the smaller breeds too. In fact smaller rabbits need more space as they are much more active. Larger breeds will need longer - 7ft or more.
The rabbit house should be long enough for the rabbit to take at least 3-4 hops easily. A small bunny hop is a step length for an adult. It is commonly underestimated just how far 3 hops are - tests show that 3 hops from an average sized rabbit covers 6-7 feet.
Rabbit House Width/Depth
When relaxing rabbits like to fully stretch out their back legs when resting, so your rabbit house should be wide enough to allow your rabbit to lie with its legs completely extended.
The minimum width (depth) required for a small to medium size rabbit is 2ft. Larger rabbits need 3ft plus. This gives them plenty of turning room too.
Rabbit House Height
Rabbits stand up on their back legs all the time. They do this almost like meerkats do, to check their environment is safe. Therefore the rabbit house should be tall enough to allow your rabbits to do this without being hunched over or getting their ears squashed against the roof.
will need to check your individual rabbit's height to see how tall they
actually stretch, but generally a height of 2ft (60 cm) is adequate
for small to medium sized rabbits, larger breeds will require 3ft (90cm).
If you are starting out with baby rabbits it is recommended that you purchase (or build) a full size rabbit house and run, and not a 'starter' home. It is best to start your rabbits in the home they will spend their lives in and not change their environment too often.
If you intend to have or already have giant rabbits, the house and run need to be much bigger than the 6 x 2 x 2 ft size recommended above. As an absolute minimum, each of your rabbits should be able to perform the following behaviours within the enclosure and shelter at any time they choose:
A pair of giant rabbits will need, at the very minimum 8ft x 3.5ft x 3.5ft. Giant breeds should really be housed in converted garden sheds or specially made buildings. The traditional hutch is just not anywhere near sufficient for them.
When choosing housing for your rabbits, bear in mind the number of rabbits it is intended for. The more rabbits kept, the larger their housing will need to be as they will need space both to interact with one another, and be alone for a while if they choose.
The rabbit house should provide shelter and a place to sleep, but should not be the only living space.
Rabbits need regular and frequent opportunities to exercise. Make sure your rabbits have opportunities to exercise every day to stay fit and healthy.
Space to Move
Rabbits are active animals. They need to run, jump and play, it's part of their nature. They need the opportunity to hop, run, jump, dig, stand fully upright on their back legs and stretch out fully when lying down.
It should be at least 8 foot by four foot and preferably high enough to accommodate a rabbit doing binkys!
Binkys are high in the air, twisty jumps that a rabbit does to let off excitement. So great to watch.
But just watch this...
If you want to see just how much space a happy rabbit would really like, check out this amazing video of rabbits jumping at a show competition. Look what the little bun does at 1.30 minutes in - this should give you an idea of just how large one bunny hop really is!
Now you can see why a large exercise area and run are so important to rabbits.
Providing shelter and protection for your rabbits is a requirement by the law in the UK, under the animal welfare act of 2006, so you should provide both a large living area and a secure shelter where your rabbits can rest, feel safe and are protected from predators and extremes of weather and temperature.
Ensure all areas of your rabbits’ environment are well ventilated, dry and draught free. This is important as living in a draughty, damp, hot, poorly ventilated or dirty environment can cause your rabbits to suffer and become ill.
Shelter, protection and security can all be provided by good rabbit shelter, but did you know you can also give your rabbits protection from, flies and bugs using a different kind of multipurpose shelter.
Trees, plants and shrubs provide shade during sunny days and cover from the wind and rain, but certain types of trees and plants can repel those nasty creepy crawlies that rabbits and rabbit owners find so offensive.
Rabbits are accustomed to a variety of weather conditions, but they will still need protection from extreme hot and cold temperatures, biting winds and pouring rain.
N. E. S. W.
(I always used to remember that as - Never Eat Shredded Wheat - which is odd because I love shredded wheat :-)
Here's a quick look at what your rabbits can expect by way of weather, dependent on the direction their house is facing. (You may need a compass to help you determine which way is which in your garden, but of course, there's an app for that).
So East and West are best.
(My rabbits naturally like facing West, when relaxing,
sitting, lying down, no matter what the weather,
what time of day, or where they are in the garden!)
In very cold weather it is a good idea to add additional shelter over the top of the existing house or move it into an outhouse or car-free garage (car-free because exhaust fumes can be fatal to rabbits).
Some people like to bring their rabbits into a conservatory or house-porch in the winter. If you do bring them into this type of house extension, make sure it doesn't get too warm (with central heating radiators etc). Outdoor rabbits will have grown an extra thick undercoat to cope with the coming winter and moving them to a much warmer indoor environment will make them too hot and extremely uncomfortable.
During hot weather, double check that your rabbit house is fully ventilated and prop the roof open if necessary to add a flow of air. Putting your rabbit house on legs or study blocks or bricks is good for ventilation. Your rabbit house should be out of direct sunlight, especially during during the hottest part of the day, around midday, as rabbits can suffer from heatstroke, so in hot weather either move their house and run into a shadier area or ensure there is shade available over their house and their run.
Avoid placing your rabbit house in a position that will get a lot of wind. A bitter wintery wind can drop the air temperature around your rabbit's home significantly.
Large mesh doors can be partially covered with clear perspex or plastic,
allowing your rabbit to see out and the sun to come in but preventing
wind and rain. Ventilation is still important though, so leave a gap of
several inches for this. Turning the house so the front faces away from
the wind will also help reduce wind and rain through the mesh areas. If
it's not possible to turn the rabbit house around then put something
just in front to block any direct wind.
Rain is never nice for rabbits as their coats take a long time to dry. Damp feet and wet bedding are awful too as rabbits won't be able to keep their body temperatures up if they are wet and cold. Rain that comes with a side wind is the worst as it can drench even sheltered rabbit houses. Top shelter is just not enough for weather like this, so side protection is needed too.
Walls and Fences
An outdoor hutch should not be positioned too close to walls or fences. This allows air to circulate around and also stops other creatures getting in.
A rabbit house outdoors can attract lots of interest from other animals. Mice, squirrels, rats, snakes, stoats and voles etc, will all be intent on stealing food or sheltering from the elements themselves, especially during the winter months, when the weather is worse and food is scarce. While I do feel for these little critters, it's not advisable to encourage them. They can bring with them fleas, mites and diseases that your rabbits are not equipped to handle. Stoats and weasels will kill and eat rabbits too.
When positioning your rabbit house, think about the access other animals could have. Think about cats and birds of prey too. As long as your rabbit house is of good quality you won't have any unwanted visitors.
Rabbits are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, and during parts of the night. This is when they like to graze, forage for food and be sociable, so every effort should be made to ensure your rabbits have access to a large exercise area at all times.
Rabbits are intelligent, if they get bored with not enough to do, they may suffer from anxiety, depression and boredom related aggression.
(Children are the same, my son has a very low tolerance level to things he finds boring or activities that don't stimulate him enough. Variety, new games and new toys work wonders on him just as they do on our attention seeking rabbits!)
Benefits of Toys
There are so many brilliant toys you can offer your rabbit,
take a look at some of the recommended rabbit toys here...
And don't forget the tunnels, tents and tubes too...
Providing your rabbits with suitable materials that allow digging behaviour, such as a sand box, and areas to mark their territory with chin secretions, urine and droppings is an important part of touch. Their touch.
Not allowing them to do this will upset rabbits and it is part of their fundamental natural right to act like a rabbit.
The only thing I can liken this too in humans, is perhaps the 'Internet'!!..... Meaning, you take away our right as humans to communicate, and you'll have anarchy on your hands!
Benefits of Touch
By Social Housing, I don't mean the local government contributes towards rent and bills, although that would be nice, I mean the concept of housing rabbits in a group, in a community of other rabbits.
Rabbits are social animals and normally prefer to be with other friendly rabbits. It is recommended that rabbits are kept with at least one other friendly rabbit in compatible pairs or groups.
There are exceptions however, where an individual rabbit must be housed alone, but this would only be for a good welfare reason, as advised by an expert, such as a vet or qualified animal behaviourist.
The majority of the time rabbits need the company of other rabbits. Not only are they happier and healthier this way, but they are a joy to watch when they are being so natural. You can really learn a lot from keeping rabbits like this. They are truly amazing creatures.
Scientific studies have found that rabbits show a preference for having separate areas for eating, resting and toileting. Therefore separate areas should be provided for these different activities within the rabbit housing.
The housing should provide enough space for the number of rabbits living in it to all perform each activity comfortably within the designated area at the same time.
Because this is such an important factor, there are several pages dedicated to this subject. Learn more about;
Online Retailers & Affiliates
You'd think that online retailers are savvy when it comes to building, commissioning, stocking and selling rabbit hutches, considering the huge amount of people coming to their sites from all over the Internet. However, they are not.
In fact the image you see above is made by a huge company called Trixie. They make hundreds of rabbit related products and sell them through affiliates all over the world. The dreadful one above is one of their popular hutches and is a best seller. It's positively shameful.
I'm currently creating a list of good pet shops and bad pet shops, both on the high street and online. I'm currently only doing the UK, but if anyone wants to start naming and shaming their country's rabbit housing stockists, please go ahead and add their name, address and website link to the bottom of this page.
Many have already received an email, I will be sending Trixie one too - they are on my 'name and shame' list. Page coming soon on this campaign - sign up to my blog so you don't miss it.)
High Street Pet Shops & Superstores
If you are buying a rabbit hutch, (and I use the word 'hutch' here because that's what they are), from a large pet shop or wholesaler don't assume that because they are a large, professional company with a huge budget, that they understand the importance of adequate rabbit housing size - They don't. In fact over 90% of them don't.
Some of them actually do know but still choose to ignore the guidelines and won't change their stock. It's all about profit with these types of retailers and it's a growing concern for many rabbit lovers.
Also be aware that most rabbit hutches sold in pet shops are made from very thin plywood, completely unsuitable for an outdoor rabbit house. They don't last long and do not shelter your rabbit from wind chill.
Cheap rabbit hutches may be kind to your pocket
but your rabbits will suffer, they will pay the price,
with their lives usually.
Any money you may save by buying cheap, will be swallowed up when you have to replace the whole thing after a year due to weather damage, not to mention vet bills.
This type of rabbit home is the meets the minimum size standards for a rabbit hutch. You can find out much more about these rabbit houses and others that meet the standards here.
But you can also make them yourself!
The Do-It-Yourself Rabbit House
I recommend this option if you have any kind of DIY skills or you know someone who does. There are plenty of superb rabbit house plans and designs to download online. Have a look at some recommended rabbit hutch plans here...
The Best Way
I think the very best option overall is to choose a design you like or create one of your own and pay/commission a local carpenter or small business to make it for you.
You'll be amazed at the quality and the price. You can purchase all the good quality timber and materials from your local builders merchant and then pay your carpenter to put it all together for you exactly how you want it.
For example you can buy all the materials you need for about £50, then pay the carpenter about another £50 to build it for you. For only £100 you'll have something similar to the one above that would retail in a superstore for about £300 plus.
Not only will you be getting a unique design of great quality but you will also be helping your local tradesmen. Perfect!
Oh, and your rabbits will love you for it too!
If you want to build your own DIY rabbit house or commission someone to do it for you, you'll need to know what materials and equipment are best.
Some woods, roofing, wires and flooring are better than others for protection, weather endurance, and safety.
The housing must be robust, draught-proof, damp-proof, escape-proof and predator-proof, contain shady areas and be well ventilated (allow a free flow of air).
Materials must be chew resistant and any waterproofing or preservative treatments must be non-toxic to rabbits.
Here are the basics:
- Well seasoned beech wood is the best type of wood to have your rabbit
house made of as it is non-absorbent, strong and durable. Also a strongly built tongue and groove or shiplap construction is best.
Roofing - Thick strong felt roofing for outdoor sheds is best for outdoor rabbit housing. It will last the lifetime of your rabbits and keep them free from rain and draughts.
Wire & Fencing - Galvanized mesh (not chicken wire) is best for use on the front, not on the floor.
Flooring -Hutches should have solid floors not mesh or wire which are very bad for rabbit's feet. You can line the house with newspaper or cardboard or other bedding materials if you wish. But do not use mesh or wire. To make floors easier to clean you can firmly glue lino/vinyl floor covering to the base. Placing wooden batons around the edges stops rabbits chewing it.
(For some reason many rabbit owners put their rabbits on mesh floors - popular in rabbit breeding. This is to aid cleaning. I think it is cruel and lazy. It's also an indication that your rabbits don't have enough room. Given the right amount of room, rabbits will not defecate near where they sleep. End of, full stop. If your rabbits are pooping in their rabbit house - go back and read this paragraph again.)
Treatment & Varnish
Make sure any wood treatments are safe for animals if ingested and any protective stain or varnish is checked and maintained approximately every 1-2 years.
For exact quantities and measurements look at some of these rabbit housing plans - go with these directly or create your own using these as a guideline.
If this is too overwhelming for you you perhaps you could give the rough idea of your ideal rabbit house to your local carpenter with the appropriate money for materials and have them build the whole thing for you. However, they may charge a little more for this, but well worth it if you don't know your philips from your flathead.
Which ever way you decide to cater for your rabbit's housing needs, they are well worth all the effort. Rabbit housing is VERY IMPORTANT, it should not be scrimped on. Prepare to dig deep in to your pockets when you own rabbits.
If you don't want to pay at least £200 to £400 plus on their accommodation needs, DON'T GET RABBITS - you can't afford them!
There are some important factors and procedures to consider when cleaning out a rabbit house or hutch.
Get your rubber gloves on and get scrubbing!
Housing should be inspected regularly for damage and any potential injury points or hazards.
All walls that are most subjected to the elements of weather should be thoroughly checked for damage, wood splitting, holes or dampness.
Housing should be repaired or replaced as necessary. Like I explained earlier, the cheaper the hutch, the more often you will have to purchase a new one.
Don't buy cheap, it is a false economy.
I'm not going to dwell too much on this section or I will have sweaty palpitations and nightmares in my sleep, but suffice to say, I'm really not a big fan of traditional rabbit hutches.
These traditional shaped
hutches are basically a crate on legs with two compartments, one closed
and one with a bit of mesh on the front. You can sometimes see these little boxes in
old Victorian paintings. See more paintings here...
Victorians used to keep their rabbits in old packing crates. Children played with them at feeding time but their feeding was to keep them fat. Exercise and running was not really offered, the furthest most rabbits got was to the cooking pot.
The legs on these converted crates, were only added to give ease of access, not for the health of the rabbits.
So why, after over 140 years, do some people still think this type of accommodation is OK?
Dogs and cats were never this misunderstood. Some were even worshiped. Yet still, we see these modified crates at the bottom of gardens...
Would you leave your dog or cat in one of these?
Sadly, some bunnies don't get a choice.
When I designed the collage picture above, I just went online and typed in rabbit hutch and these were all the ones in Google Images that came up on the first page. NOT ONE single hutch on on the first page was of the guideline size!
All the companies promoting these hutches sound very proud of themselves and really think their products are good. Do you think they don't know?
Thank goodness for social media and the Internet. Gradually the message is getting out there about the diabolical rabbit hutch industry, but I don't think it's got all the way through yet.
If you have one of these hutches, you may not have even realized you are being cruel to your rabbits, but you are. You might have bought your hutch from a reputable pet shop, you thought they knew best right? Wrong. Personally, I think these reputations that these big companies have should be destroyed if they continue to sell these diabolical excuses for rabbit homes, especially when they know full well that they are too small. So please, do your bit, and don't buy them.
No Good Firewood
Like I mentioned earlier, it's a false economy anyway. I've seen hutches in Pet shops retailing at £100 that are flimsy, small, badly made and nothing more than very expensive firewood.
How is it that I can look online and find local businesses with professional carpenters selling huge, beautiful hutches and runs for only up to £10 more? I know where I'd rather go!
Real Deal Appeal
If you would like to see a small selection of rabbit homes that meet the approved guidelines, then please look here...
Wise Man Plan
If you'd like to download some DIY rabbit house plans to make your own rabbit home, then please look here...
Recall the Small - Name & Shame Campaign
I'm currently doing a campaign to expose the companies that continue to sell tiny rabbit hutches despite being told the guidelines. They have until 1st March to remove them from sale, if they haven't by this date, they will be exposed - on a large scale.
Please get involved if you can, by sharing any knowledge you have of companies, both online and on the high street. I will add them to the notification email list. By working together we can make a real change for the better.
Thank you. Jump to the bottom of this page to share...
There are always alternatives available to the traditional type rabbit hutch. With a little ingenuity you can turn a chicken house into a great rabbit house, a children's playhouse into a perfect bunny pad and a common old garden shed can have a makeover to a happy-hoppy home too.
Just take a look at these pictures and you'll see what I mean...
You can get these barrels or vats from a local brewery or take a look online. They are everywhere! They don't take much converting either, most are made from solid oak too.
Hoppy Holiday Chalet
I love this one, the position is great as well, with great protection and shading from the overhanging trees. I love the fact the rabbits all have window seats around the edge of the house too.
Protected Rabbit Enclosure
This is a great solution to anyone that lives in an area with birds of prey or lots of cats. Predators like this often attack from above and these guys are all safely covered. The sand pit looks like it's getting lots of use too, good for keeping rabbits nails trim.
Safari Ranger Rabbits
There are lots of chicken coups on the market that are really good for rabbits. With a little modification inside they make superb rabbit houses. The sizes are great and they have good access for cleaning.
Below is a great example of how creative you can get. A rabbit house doesn't have to be an eye-sore in your garden, it can be a feature instead. This is perfectly situated under a nice big shady tree too.
There's just something about bamboo that relaxes you. The association with peaceful, spiritual gardens I suppose. Bamboo would provide a cooling air flow through this rabbit house but additional protection may be needed in winter months.
Sandy City Slickers
Rabbits love sand, especially the kind that you can dig and mold and shape. These rabbits are part of a large community and if you are thinking about lots of rabbits an underground burrow system is definitely the way forward. However, not suitable if you are planing on breeding rabbits, as you won't be able to keep track of which doe is having babies with which buck.
If you have seen any others that deserve to be on this page, let me know below!
More Rabbit Hutch Alternatives
As rabbit owners are becoming aware of the real needs of their pet bunnies, they are moving towards much larger, purpose built accommodations for them.
The pictures above are just some examples of the very creative, however, you can very simply and easily, convert a DIY garden shed or children's playhouse just as effectively.
This is what I did for my rabbits. With no DIY skills I put together a 6ft x 4ft simple shed that I bought online from one of the large shed companies.
The shed only cost £89. I weather treated the outside, bought extra wood for the floor, shelving and ramps, I lined it (just with bubble wrap and hardboard) and voila, a luxury rabbit house that will last my rabbits lifetime and more, for less than £200.
For more on this and to see other rabbit shed products, go here...
Name & Shame
Over 90% of pet shops on the high street and online are still selling rabbit houses that are tiny little hutches no bigger than the crates you saw in the old Victorian paintings.
I'm not saying all pet shops fall into the category of shameful practise, but some do and if you know of a pet shop that is selling these tiny hutches and even smaller runs then please name them below. (If they are online, add a link to that product.)
The stupid and most infuriating fact is, that most of them actually know the minimum size requirements and still ignore them when purchasing stock from wholesalers. They are purely interested in profit and not the welfare of animals at all. These shops deserve to be named and shamed. Perhaps a fall in profits might get their attention.
By making everyone aware of where not to go, enough people will get the message and stop buying them. These shops, in turn, will stop selling them and this page will cease to be needed, then all will be well in rabbit-land!
Meanwhile on a positive note:
Share Your Rabbit House
Please tell us a bit about your bunnies, do they love their house? Did you build it yourself? Any little insights would help our growing community.
Do you have a great rabbit home you'd like to share with us?
As more and more people realize that a 'Hutch is Not Enough', rabbit owners are coming up with some really creative solutions to their rabbit housing.
Some are amazing structures of craftsmanship while others have a simplistic, yet practical purpose, but one thing is for sure - they're all better than the tiny hutches we've been so used to seeing in the past.
Unfortunately, these crates on legs are still being sold on the Internet and in pet shops, so lets show potential new rabbit owners that there is another way!
I've come across a few people that have been to pet shops and voiced their opinions about these dreadfully small hutches and most don't get anywhere. Have you experienced the same? Perhaps a 'Name-and-Shame-the-Shop' might help?
Share your pictures or tell us a story, I'd love to hear from you. No matter how small your contribution, it helps the general cause, Hutches Out - Houses In! ;-)
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
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