How to create the ideal home for rabbits
- Credit: Simon Way
Many think that rabbits are ‘easy’ pets to keep, but just like dogs and cats, they have specific needs when it comes to their housing, food and handling.
With many decades of experience caring for and rehoming rabbits, Woodgreen Pets Charity knows a thing or two about how to keep them happy and healthy. The charity is part of the expert team behind Rabbit Awareness Week, the annual welfare campaign, which takes place from June 27 to July 1.
We speak to Samantha Ryan, small pet behaviour and training specialist, about this year’s campaign theme – how to create the ideal home for rabbits. Below, she answers some of your most commonly asked questions.
Q: What housing does a rabbit need?
A: When creating a home for rabbits, it’s important to make sure that they have enough room to run, jump, stretch, forage for food and explore their surroundings. In other words, it’s best to give them as much space as possible. Generally, rabbits don’t enjoy being picked up and handled, so having a spacious enclosure where you can sit on the floor will allow them to come to you when they want to.
Rabbits that are kept outdoors need to have a secure enclosure that predators can’t access. Ideally, it needs to be at least three metres by two metres, and one metre high so they can stretch up. A garden shed, old Wendy House or a hutch that has an adjoining run for exercise works well. Make sure you provide access to the entire enclosure at all times, as rabbits are crepuscular, which means they are most active at night and early in the morning. Large groups of rabbits or bigger breeds will require more spacious enclosures.
Indoor rabbits need just as much room to roam. A converted room or large enclosure that has been rabbit-proofed is ideal. The space should have plenty of natural light, be a comfortable temperature and away from loud appliances or draughty areas of the home. Putting down old carpets and rugs can make the flooring less slippery and protect it from droppings and stains.
Q: What should I put inside my rabbits’ enclosure?
A: Natural behaviours for rabbits include digging, jumping, grazing, foraging, hiding and chewing. To allow them to express these behaviours, fill the enclosure with plenty of hay or grass, sand or soil trays for digging and litter trays.
Old furniture covered with blankets for grip is great for rabbits to jump on. They also like to hide, so add some cardboard boxes with holes for them to climb through. Safe wood like willow tree branches can also be used for rabbits to chew on to keep their teeth in good condition. You may also want to add some toys and puzzle feeders for enrichment.
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Q: How many rabbits should I have?
A: Rabbits are social animals who live in groups in the wild. This is why we recommend always keeping at least two together as companions. The best combination is a neutered male and neutered female of a similar age. Same-sex siblings can also live well together if they are neutered when young to help them bond and prevent them from fighting. The ideal age for neutering is between three and six months.
Introducing one rabbit to another can often be challenging, especially if they are mature. At Woodgreen, we can help find a perfect pairing for your rabbit with our mixing service, or we can offer advice on how to successfully bond them at home.
For expert advice and support about all aspects of pet care, visit woodgreen.org.uk/pet-advice. To find out more about Rabbit Awareness Week, visit rabbitawarenessactiongroup.co.uk and download your free information pack.