Good shelter for your rabbits should provide a number of things, including:
Click each link above to jump down within this page and get more details on how you can fully create your perfect rabbit shelter.
You can also look at these great in-page links to give you some more rabbit shelter ideas:
Protection is probably the most important factor in the rabbit shelter criteria as it covers quite a few different aspects:
Click each of the links above to jump down to topics dealing with the protection aspect of rabbit shelter within this page. Each link provides a more detailed look on how to protect your rabbits from each type of threat - predators, weather and disease or you can click here for a quick summary.
The type of predators you need to be careful of will be different depending on
which part of the world you live in, but there are many which ever country
you live in. The rabbit shelter you provide should be effective against the predator threats you have in your area.
As rabbits are a prey species, they need to be able to hide in a secure place, away from the sight and smell of predators such as foxes, ferrets, snakes and birds of prey.
With their acute vision, hearing and smell, a rabbit can sense the presence of a predator, such as fox or a raccoon, from as much as 2 miles away.
Rabbits can die from shock or a heart attack just from sensing a predator is stalking them outside. If they are then confronted by their hunter panic can seriously injure them if the shock doesn't kill them first.
Don't Forget the 'Friendlies'
When you think of predators, you'd probably automatically think of the wild animals listed above but be aware that dogs and cats, yours or your neighbours’, boisterous children and strangers are all 'predators' in the mind of a rabbit.
While all may come with friendly intentions and a desire to 'play', a rabbit will not see it as anything but danger and get extremely stressed out about it.Sturdy As She Goes
With all of these possible dangers, keep your rabbits safe outdoors by providing them with sturdy well built housing. Sturdy wooden rabbit houses offer the best form of protection.
raccoons can open the doors of those dreadful traditional type rabbit hutches, so yet another reason to stay away from them. A sturdy, lockable shed or out-building such as a garage is a much better option for a rabbit house and any rabbit shelter attached to this should be covered and secure in the same way.
Wire cages, which are
popular for indoor rabbits, are NOT suitable for outdoor rabbits. A strong predator intent on attack
could easily break into a wire cage. It would have a
much harder time entering a rabbit house made of reinforced wood or brick. If you do have your rabbit shelter within a wire structure, like a cage system just make sure your rabbits have the recommended space needed and their hiding places are secure and safe.
Danger From Above
Runs, exercise areas and rabbit shelters need to be covered if you live in an area where predators may come from above such as jumping cats, birds of prey or clever climbing creatures like stoats and weasels.
Hawks, Owls, Falcons, Kestrels, Eagles and Buzzards are among the
many birds of prey that would like to get their talons into a bunny and
providing your rabbits are covered these birds won't swoop down to
attack, but move on to easier targets.
Burrowing Baby Snatchers
Baby rabbits are especially vulnerable to predators such as weasels, badgers, stoats and even rats, as these killers can squeeze through very tight gaps, dig tunnels and bite through wire if they know there's an easy meal inside. These critters are relatively small in comparison to an adult rabbit so they tend to go for the baby rabbits when the opportunity presents itself, so make sure your kits are covered and protected!
Upgrade the Shade
Believe it or not, the sun is one of the biggest dangers when it comes to keeping rabbits protected outdoors.
Rabbits are very sensitive to heat, and keeping their homes in direct sunlight is potentially hazardous to a rabbits’ health.
Don't Sweat It
Rabbits don't sweat like us and they can't pant like dogs do to keep cool, but they control much of their temperature with their ears!
Their outer ear (pinna) has an extensive
network of blood vessels which provide a lot of surface area for heat
exchange. When they get overheated, the vessels will swell
with blood. As
blood circulates through the ear, heat is given off so that the blood
returning to the rest of the body is cooler than when it entered.
Rabbits should have plenty of rabbit shelter areas to go to that are shaded
and protected from the sun. Keep in mind also that rabbits need fresh air, so any shaded area must be well ventilated.
Getting Ill from Wind Chill
As well as good ventilation, the rabbit house and rabbit shelter areas should be dry and draught free. Rabbits living in a draughty, cold, damp or environment can suffer and become ill very easily.
Rabbits are quite hardy creatures but rain and a biting wind can cause them no end of suffering. A rabbit's coat is not designed to get wet, and it takes a long time to do so, but it takes even longer to dry. They can develop colds and snuffles just like we do, but bed rest with lemon and honey won't shift the snuffles in rabbits, things like this can be fatal for them.
More on disease protection here...
While cold weather is not as dangerous for rabbits, you’ll still want to minimize its effects. Placing your rabbit shelter in a protected area, out of the wind, will help keep your rabbits comfortable.
You can cover your entire rabbit house, run and rabbit shelters with waterproof fabric or plastic, but remember to keep covers out of the reach of rabbits to prevent chewing and to keep at least one side of your rabbit house and shelter uncovered for ventilation. Fresh air is essential for rabbits.
The right rabbit shelter can also play an important role in the protection against disease and illness.
Making sure your rabbits are out of the cold wind, rain and heat so they don't develop colds, snuffles or heat-stroke etc. is good practise, but good shelter can also lend itself to guarding against the most common rabbit diseases.
Most rabbit diseases are spread through unhygienic conditions, where soiling and urine attract parasites, fleas, mites and flies. These insects can carry disease from other animals and rabbits, wild and domestic, so a clean environment at all times, and restricted contact with other animals, especially wild ones, are vitally important.
Rabbit Diseases spread by Insects & Other Animals
There are many other illnesses and diseases caused by biting flies, fleas, mites and parasites etc. If you are worried or need more information you can browse our rabbit diseases page or look for your rabbits symptoms here to determine your best possible cause of action and treatment.
The four most common bugs and beasties that spread rabbit diseases are:
I've summarized how important rabbit shelter is here as I believe it to be the most important criteria for happy rabbits, both indoors and outdoors.
You can't wrap your rabbits in cotton wool and not give them the freedom to just be, 'rabbits', but a good rabbit shelter can go a long way in protecting them.
Rabbit Shelter Providing Protection Quick Summary:
All good rabbit owners know that it is their duty to protect their rabbits from pain, suffering, injury and disease but they also know that if anything does go wrong, pet rabbit insurance can go a long way in helping with the surprisingly high cost of keeping healthy rabbits. Rabbit's medical treatment bills, can soon add up, so get your wallet protected too!
Rabbits tend to hide when they are feeling afraid, stressed, unwell or when they simply wish to withdraw from social contact (with other rabbits or people) for a while. Make sure your rabbits have constant access to safe hiding places where they can escape if they feel afraid. Rabbits that are stressed are much more likely to become ill.
Good rabbit shelters provide easily accessible hiding places, or ‘refuges’ allowing rabbits to escape and hide quickly, which is an important part of their natural behaviour. Rabbits need to be able to do it or they will get distressed. Providing constant access to safe hiding places within your rabbits' home allows them to perform this important coping strategy and should help them to feel safer and more reassured.
Hiding places should be provided in addition to your rabbits' main shelter (e.g. rabbit house, hutch, cage, shed etc).
Check their environment, make sure they are not being bullied by other rabbits or stressed out for any reason, such as being chased by the neighbour's cat every time you pop to the local shops. Protection from other rabbits that may be in the herd is an important factor to consider in a good rabbit shelter, especially when a young rabbit is going through adolescence as their raging hormones can bring on aggressive territorial behaviour.
Over enthusiastic children can stress rabbits too by constantly chasing them or trying to pick them up incorrectly. If a rabbit doesn't want to play, letting them retreat in to their rabbit shelter, away from 'heavy-petting', will allow them to calm down and they may even come back out again to 'play', as curiosity often gets the better of most playful rabbits. Learn about correct handling here...
Rabbits tend to hide outward signs of pain so they may be suffering a great deal before you notice anything is wrong. If your rabbit uses their rabbit shelter as a hiding place regularly and seems to be out of sight for much of the time, speak to your vet for advice as your rabbit may be unwell, stressed or frightened. A change in the way your rabbit normally behaves can be an early sign that they are ill or in pain. Learn more about illness & injury behaviour here...
Space & Platforms
Rabbit shelters and hiding places should be high enough to allow rabbits to rapidly move underneath but low enough to give rabbits a feeling of security. You should provide at least one hiding place that is large enough for all your rabbits to rest together. If rabbits can jump onto the hiding place, it will also function as a platform. Have a look at some of these ideas...
How Many Hideouts?
For rabbits kept in pairs or groups, it is recommend that you provide at least one rabbit shelter/hiding place per rabbit with preferably one more in addition, so that all your rabbits can hide at the same time if they want to.
Be Size Wise
If you keep rabbits of different sizes together, ensure that one or more of the rabbit shelters/hiding places has an entrance that is large enough for the smaller rabbit to enter but too small for the larger rabbit to enter. This will ensure the smaller rabbit can get away from their larger companion if they want to.
Entrances & Exits
It is also important to ensure that, where possible, hiding places have two entrance/exit points, to prevent dominant rabbits becoming territorial or aggressive to subordinates inside a hiding place.
To ensure that your rabbit has 'faith' in the rabbit shelter and hiding places you provide, i.e. a trust in the hiding place's effectiveness, never trap or remove your rabbit while they are in it. If they feel cornered or threatened while they are taking refuge they won't feel secure there again and will stop using it or even scratch or bite at you when you attempt to go near them.
Lock It Down
The twisting style locks you see on most traditional rabbit hutches are not sufficient when it comes to keeping rabbits safe. Wild animals are very adept when it comes to mealtime, so the door locks to their house, hutch, shed or run etc, that are accessed from the outside, need to be the slide locking bolting kind.
It’s best to securely attach a wooden rabbit house to a building, such as your house or barn. The added stability helps to prevent other animals from knocking it over. Raising it up by 2 to 3 feet prevents wood from becoming damp and making it easier for rodents etc to gnaw their way in.
Space it Out
The amount of space each individual rabbit has is vital to their safety. Rabbits that are very territorial can seriously harm another rabbit that encroaches in their own personal domain.
Smooth It In
Your rabbit shelter needs to be free from sharp nails, split wood, glass or jagged edges. Even cardboard boxes can be harmful as they usually have large metal staples holding them together which can be eaten by your rabbits and cause blockages and infection within the digestive system.
Protection, refuge and safety can all be provided by good rabbit shelter, but did you know you can also give your rabbits protection from most nasty flies and bugs using a different kind of multi-purpose shelter?
"What is this?" I here you ask!
Trees, shrubs, herbs and plants all provide shade during sunny days and cover from the wind and rain, but certain types of plants act as insect repellents, keeping away those nasty creepy crawlies that rabbits, and rabbit owners find so offensive and often dangerous.
Here's a super list of trees and shrubs that are ace at repelling those horrible disease carrying bugs, insects, flies and parasites:
Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus Dioica) -
A large shade providing tree with long leaves. The seeds can be roasted and eaten like nuts or made into a coffee substitute. The bruised foliage when sprinkled with sweetened water will attract and kill flies. Can also be raised in containers.
Black Locust (False Acacia, Robinia) -
Beautiful ornamental loaded with white fragrant flowers. Another excellent shade tree with acacia type foliage. The bruised foliage mixed with sugar will attract and kill flies.
Chinaberry Tree (Melia Azedarach) -
A handsome and dense tree with profuse berries used to make necklaces and insecticides. Also called Lilac Tree, Pride of India and Bead Tree. For flea repellent mix 1 tablespoon of dry, powdered berries with one teaspoon of dish-washing detergent to a gallon of water and spray on lawns with a sprayer. This will also repel flying insects as well.
Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) -
This woody perennial can be planted in pots or in the ground as a hedge around play areas such as sandpits and decks, where it repels both mosquitoes and sandflies.
There are many rabbit safe plants and herbs that repel flies and mosquitoes too. Growing these in pots, window baskets and gardens close to your rabbit house can help ward off any unwanted flying or crawling visitors.
Shoo-Fly Plant (Nicanda Physalodes) -
Wormwood (Artemisia Absinithium) -
Marigolds (Tagetes patula) - These brightly coloured annuals have a particularly pungent aroma that not only repels mosquitoes but also many other insects. They are often planted in vegetable gardens for this reason.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) -
Pelargonium (Van Leenii) - This ‘mozzie
buster’ has been implanted with citronella genes that give it a strong
lemon scent, which is said to repel mosquitoes. Great for growing in tubs, and placing round the garden - they need plenty of water during warm weather, just like your rabbits!
Pennyroyal (Mentha Pelugium) -
Rosemary (Rosemarinus Officinalis) -
Lemon Basil (Ocimum) -
Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) -
There is a very effective natural insecticide called Pyrethrum that instantly kills or stuns flying and crawling insects on contact but does no harm to mammals or birds.
It comes from the dried, crushed flowers of the Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium and Chrysanthemum coccineum plant. It has been found effective in repelling aphids, bed bugs (Cimex lectularius), leafhoppers, spider mites, harlequin bugs, ticks and lice.
The flowers can be dried, then crushed and mixed with water. When made into a brown powder it will kill or stun the insects the moment it touches them but does no harm to pets when sprinkled on their coats. While very effective, the dried powder only lasts for a few days. You can prolong its use throughout the year by freezing fresh flower heads in zip-lock bags and drying and crushing them as needed.
The 'Mozzie' Masher
Mosquitoes are very sensitive to certain scents, Chamomile and Citriodora especially. Both are easy to grow and both are used in dry flower arrangements. Citriodora is also used in potpourri.
To make this great repellent, take one oz. of green leaves from both plants and boil in a gallon of water. Strain and store in the fridge. Rub the mixture on your rabbit's coats, shelter, house, etc and mosquitoes will stay far away.
Tobacco Dust Bug Buster
Tobacco dust is ideal for making a great natural pesticide. Mix 1/8 oz. of tobacco dust with one tablespoon of black pepper and one teaspoon of liquid dish-washing detergent. Simply apply as you would a chemical pesticide. This dust is also very effective sprinkled around the base of plants.
There are many preparations from naturally occurring sources that have been used as a repellent to certain insects. Some of these act as insecticides while others are only repellent.
These should all be safe for your rabbits when used in the correct doses etc but please double-check, some rabbits are more sensitive than others!
If you would like me to create a more detailed page about these special plants, including instructions and recipes etc, please let me know, I'd be happy to, if the demand called for it!
These sturdy rabbit shelters are just to give you an idea of the necessary requirements of a good bunny shelter. You may have to enlist the help of a good DIY expert if you want to re-create them, but you may be lucky enough to be talented in that department yourself. If you are, we'd love to see some of your wonderful creations...
Some of the following ideas are very easy to create yourself and your rabbits will love them!
Partitions are also really useful in breaking up your rabbits' living enclosure and separating different areas for different activities. For example, rabbits should be provided with separate areas for sleeping/resting and going to the toilet. Partitions can also be beneficial for rabbits kept in pairs or groups, as they allow rabbits to withdraw from their companions when they want to.
If you need to give your rabbits something quick by way of rabbit shelter, a cardboard box with two entrance/exit holes cut out can be made in no time.
You can also use your rabbit travel carrier with the door kept open, a chair or table with a blanket draped over it or wooden shelters within a larger enclosure.
However you decide to shelter your rabbits, it's your rabbits that will let you know if they like your efforts or not. Experiment with different things until you find the perfect cover for your particular rabbit. Because, we all know, rabbits can be very particular!
I know there are some really talented people out there that will go to incredibly creative lengths to ensure the safety, protection and happiness of their rabbits. We'd love for you to share your awesome creations with us, you may inspire others to get their tool box out too!
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! ;-)
Share your views, points, tit-bits and tales! (Remember, you don't have to have a Facebook account to make a comment.)
All input is good, no matter how small ;-) Thank-you.