Keeping rabbits safe outdoors can be tricky, but not impossible! Rabbits need a lot of love, care, and very specific living conditions to have a healthy and happy life. Here are five things that make a very happy outdoor bunny.
- Spacious enclosure:
Rabbits are incredibly active and need plenty of space to hop around. A bunny should be able to stand comfortably on their hind legs in a full stretch in their hutch, as well as run around and be able to make at least three full hops.
- Dry, well-ventilated hutch:
A rabbit’s hutch should be well-ventilated and never draughty. To protect them from snow and rain, it’s worth installing roof panels or using a tarpaulin that will also give them some shade in the summer. Damp can not only make your rabbit sick but also invites unwanted hutch mates like insect infestations.
Also, make sure their home isn’t directly on soil or grass and is slightly elevated above ground level.
If you’re not using an outhouse, shed, or garage, this could make a great rabbit home. If you do this though, make sure you remove any electric wiring or vehicles first. Rabbits can not only chew through electric cables but inhale fumes which could prove lethal.
- Space to exercise:
Rabbits should also have an area in which to exercise that is three times bigger than their hutch. However, letting them roam around freely is not recommended, as curious bunnies will nibble anything that catches their eye and may end up digesting plants that are toxic to them.
Avoid planting aloe, daffodils, geranium, hemlock, and pretty much all plants that grow from bulbs.
- Safety from predators:
As prey animals, rabbits are extra sensitive to the world around them. They had to be in the wild, otherwise, they would not have survived! Rabbits can literally die of fright, so it’s important to be mindful of the effect other animals - welcome or not - can have on your pet bunny.
For example, if you have a cat or dog who likes to spend time in the garden, your rabbit may die purely at the sight of them.
It’s important to consider other visitors to your garden. For example, do neighboring cats drop in from time to time? Do you have foxes in your area and is your garden secure enough that they can’t get in?
Speaking of security, your garden has to be secure enough that your bunny can’t escape into your neighbor’s backyard.
Bunnies are intelligent, inquisitive, and social animals. Rabbits that are kept outdoors often receive less human contact than indoor rabbits, so it’s worth having another bunny in your garden so they can keep each other company.
Like any pet, it’s important to spend time with your bunnies so they don’t get lonely.
But as well as having company, they also need to be entertained and stimulated. Tunnels or huts for them to run through, and toys for them to play with will provide your bunny with hours of fun. Hanging feeders and beaker maze feeders are also a creative way to make their haystacks more fun.
Can my rabbit run free in the garden?
Pet organizations and experts are increasingly advocating for rabbits to be kept indoors, and while you should definitely give your rabbit enough space to exercise in your garden, it’s not wise to let them roam free.
The risks to letting your rabbit roam free are mainly exposure to predators, digesting potentially poisonous plants, and escape.
However, you can mitigate these risks.
Above we’ve listed plants that are dangerous for rabbits to ingest, so be mindful not to plant these if possible or make sure they’re in a part of your garden your bunny can’t access.
While pet bunnies are just as sensitive to danger as their wild ancestors, they are not as good at protecting themselves from these threats. Rabbits are in danger of being attacked by raccoons, foxes, hawks, and even cats and dogs.
If you have other pets, do not let them into the garden while your bunny is out of the hutch, and make sure your bunny is safe and secure in their hutch when your other pets are having outdoor time.
Rabbits like to dig, but this could lead to them escaping. If your bunny’s home is on top of soil or grass, make sure there is mesh wire all around and under the level of the soil where they could escape.
Can pet rabbits be kept outside?
Yes! Outdoor rabbits can adapt to the elements, growing a thicker coat in the winter and molting in the summer.
However, they are not so great at handling extreme temperatures. Their home must be well-equipped for the cold winter months by providing adequate shelter and ways to keep them warm.
Can pet rabbits live outside in winter?
While rabbits can live outside, anything below 10 degrees is going to make your rabbit crave some warmth and extra bedding. If you have an older bunny, colder weather can lead to them developing painful arthritis, so they must be kept warm and dry.
If the temperature drops to zero, you should move your rabbit indoors or to a shed. If you decide to leave them outdoors, make sure their hutch is well protected from wind, damp, and water and there are plenty of ways for them to keep warm, like bedding.
You should also face your rabbit’s hutch away from wind and rain. A sloped roof will help to drain rainwater, and an elevated hutch should stay dry.
During the day, place a clear cover over all of the shed except the front, if it’s facing away from the direction of wind and rain. While a weatherproof cover will protect the hutch at night, you should make sure to leave a small section uncovered for ventilation.
Provide lots of extra bedding in the winter, such as straw or hay. Make sure they are dust-free and place them on top of layers of newspaper to keep the damp at bay. Blankets are not recommended as rabbits can chew through these.
Check the hutch regularly for leaks or damps, and act if you notice any. Wet bedding may freeze overnight, and damp hay or straw could make your rabbit sick.
Microwavable heat pads are also available and made specifically to keep rabbits warm in the winter. You can put these under heaps of straw and hay.
If your rabbit lives in an outhouse, shed, or garage, and you use a heater to keep them warm, make sure your bunnies are away from cables that they can chew through, and also make sure they’re far enough away from the heater so they don’t burn or get overheated.
Should I lock my rabbit up at night?
Rabbits are active creatures. In fact, they may still be wide awake when you go to bed. Leaving a rabbit to run around out of their hutch overnight can be problematic as they chew everything in sight, could be attacked by nocturnal predators, or try to escape.
If your rabbit will not return to its hutch at night, you need to explore why.
What breed of rabbit can live outside?
While it is becoming more common (and recommended) for rabbits to live indoors, there are rabbits that are said to be more suited to outdoor living.
- Blanc de Bouscat: These lively rabbits love cuddling up to their owners and playing with them. If you own a bouscat, remember to make time to play with them.
- European Rabbit: These rabbits are the ancestors of approximately 80 different breeds of domestic rabbits!
- German Angora Rabbit: These long-haired rabbits are incredibly friendly and make an excellent family pet.
- Meissner Lop: These rabbits have a sweet nature, but are really lively too.
- Mini Lop: This rabbit is a great choice for families with children.
- New Zealand Red Rabbit: These easy-going and friendly rabbits are also an excellent choice for a family pet.
- Rex Rabbit: Their short, soft fur that points out instead of against their bodies, makes this rabbit one plushy, fuzzy bunny!
- Mini Rex Rabbit: The Mini Rex Rabbit is one of the most popular rabbit breeds, particularly for families looking for first-time pets for their children.
- White Vienna Rabbit: This rabbit stands out for its stunning blue eyes and snowy white fur. They are also docile and easy-going.