When taking on a rabbit it is important to consider their natural behaviour patterns and needs. Rabbits are social animals who like to jump and burrow, so they require plenty of space. Ideally they should be kept with a companion, preferably another rabbit, and it is important to allow them to exercise for several hours a day, whether kept indoors or outdoors.
Outdoor Rabbits: Two or more rabbits can live in a permanent enclosure, with suitable shelter and the opportunity to exercise at will. This is the ideal situation for them to display their normal behaviour patterns.
Alternatively, they can be kept in a hutch at night but be allowed access to the garden or a run for several hours each day. A hutch can never be too big, but it should be at least 5′ x 2′ x 2′ (per rabbit). A confined sleeping area should be provided to protect rabbits from the elements, and the hutch should be in a sheltered position out of the wind and direct sunlight. It should be raised off the ground to prevent damp and to deter vermin. The roof should be waterproof, sloping and have an overhang to allow water to run off.
Rather than allowing free-run of the garden an exercise run may be preferred. This, again, should be as large as possible, and may be portable so it can be moved around the garden, or permanent with the hutch incorporated into the enclosure.
A customised garden shed with access to a permanent outdoor run via a catflap makes an ideal home for a rabbit. As rabbits like to burrow, a permanent run should have the wire mesh sunk into the ground at least 15” around the edges to stop them burrowing out. The runs should include somewhere to hide – either a wooden box or a length of pipe – and should be partly covered to provide shade and protection from the rain.
Needless to say, any run or hutch should be secure against predators – cats, dogs, foxes or birds of prey.
Indoor Rabbits: Rabbits are naturally very clean, and in the wild they have toilet areas. This means they can be easily litter trained, so can live indoors with us just like a cat. Initially it is best to keep the rabbit in an indoor cage with a litter tray and then gradually build up their freedom over time. Provided the rabbit gets out for several hours a day it is reasonable to keep them caged when unsupervised. Over time it is quite possible to turn them into ‘free-range’ house rabbits.
The biggest problem with an indoor rabbit is that they like to chew. ‘Bunny-proofing’ the home is essential to protect both your possessions and the rabbit! Cables should be covered with plastic piping, houseplants lifted beyond reach, skirting boards and furniture legs protected with plastic, and books and clothing not left on the floor.