Jumping for joy
Image source: PetForums
Did you know that rabbits can jump up to three metres long and a metre high? They also enjoy exploring, foraging and digging. But all this activity requires much more space than a traditional wooden hutch has to offer. We’ve got the perfect solution for you to offer the best to your bunny. A rabbit fun house.
It’s easy to convert a shed or playhouse into a happy and healthy living space where your pet will thrive. Here’s our guide to thinking outside the hutch.
Why a hutch is not enough
Rabbits aren’t happy in confined spaces. The tradition of keeping them in a hutch stems from Victorian times, when rabbit stew was a popular dish. Rabbits kept for meat wouldn’t have spent long in their hutch, and they weren’t meant to be a permanent home.
According to The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF), a hutch needs to be a minimum of six feet long, two feet wide and two feet high, with an attached eight foot run. But they emphasise that a hutch should be a shelter, not a rabbit’s main living space. Here’s why:
“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.”
There’s nothing better than watching happy rabbits express their natural behaviour, so give your rabbits a home with plenty of room and you’ll be well rewarded.
You can easily transform a child’s playhouse into your rabbit’s perfect pad. But before you begin building, you need to ensure that your playhouse has a level base. Paving slabs are a perfect foundation for a small shed, and they’re fairly easy to lay.
Once your playhouse is up, paint the exterior with pet-safe wood preservative. Because playhouses are built with children’s safety in mind, the walls are usually smooth planed tongue and groove, so they shouldn’t need extra lining.
Waltons Facebook fan Adrian Ashton modified a Waltons playhouse for his rabbit Hunniebunny and it’s not just the rabbit who enjoys the space. Adrian says: “One of our cats has sleepovers there sometimes.”
If you’ve spent any time in a child’s playhouse you’ll know that their main disadvantage is lack of height. But this makes them perfect for little helpers and at least you can stay dry and warm while you clean out your bunny’s home.
Sheds have much easier access than playhouses, so cleaning becomes a lot less awkward, especially in the winter. Facebook follower Dawn Westron is obviously a fan:
“Our rabbits have always had a shed of their own. we ordered our 2 sheds, then I said to my husband the rabbits need one too. So we now have 3 sheds.”
Because sheds aren’t built with kids or rabbits in mind, it takes a little more work to make them safe. In particular, watch out for overlap cladding which you will need to keep away from nibbling rabbit teeth.
Protect the cladding by screwing MDF boards treated with pet-safe wood sealer onto the upright batons. To keep your rabbit cosy, insulate the shed by filling the gap between the cladding and the boards with bubble wrap, newspaper or polystyrene.
Ventilation and safety
Whether you pick a playhouse or a shed, both will require some additions and adaptations to keep your rabbit safe and well. First, reinforce the floor with wooden bearers.This provides protection against wear and tear as bouncing bunnies make quite an impact! Next, cover the floor with lino to make cleaning easier. This needn’t be expensive, as cheap off cuts are often available at diy stores. If you’re storing your rabbit’s hay and food in their shed, be sure to use metal bins with lids on to deter the local rat population.
It’s crucial to allow natural light and fresh air into your rabbit fun house, but to avoid unwanted visitors you need to keep it secure. Attach mesh to the inside of the window frames or if you have perspex windows which don’t open, consider removing the perspex. If you choose this option, Tamsin of The Rabbit House advises:
“You will need to provide a shelter inside the shed for cold weather. You can also create covers for the windows to suit the season such as fly screen for summer and heavy duty tarp to increase heat retention in winter.”
Add an interior mesh door and you’ll be able to keep the main door open in the day to let air and light in. Drilling a few small ventilation holes at the top of the shed will help air to circulate and keep the rabbit house fresher.
Rabbits are sociable creatures who often become lifelong friends. They love to cuddle up and groom each other. Mairwen Guard of Cotton Tails believes rabbits need company to thrive:
“Once you see how happy rabbits are when living in bonded pairs you will vow never to keep a rabbit on its own again, and although there is always an exception to any rule, the large majority of rabbits can be successfully matched so long as care is taken with choosing a suitable partner and giving thought to their environment.”
A male and female combo is the easiest match, as long as you have them neutered at least three or four weeks before they meet. Once your rabbits have bonded, don’t worry if they seem anti-social on occasion. This is normal, according to Richard Lord at Barneyandjemima.co.uk:
“You may find that each rabbit chooses its own toilet area, instead of sharing. This is a territorial thing, and although spaying or neutering reduces territorial instincts, they do not always go completely.”
Richard goes on to advise that when introducing rabbits to one another, it’s best done in a neutral space. A room in the house that neither rabbit normally goes into, an enclosure in the garden, or even in the car. Take it slowly - some people prefer to start with each rabbit in their own cage, but able to see the other at a close distance.
Busy bunnies are happy bunnies
Rabbits are easily bored, and a bored bunny can be destructive, aggressive and territorial. So as well as needing company, rabbits need opportunities to play and explore. But you don’t need to buy pricey toys from pet shops. Enmee of Animal Whoop suggests:
“Add shelves or even use an old coffee table to provide higher spaces for rabbits to sit and jump on. This also maximise play area as they can hide underneath shelves or jump around on top.”
Got any old plant pots? As well as jumping and hiding, rabbits love throwing around plant pots and plastic tubs. They also enjoy munching on loo roll tubes or cereal boxes stuffed with hay and treats. Deep trays packed with soil are perfect for digging.
To be sure that your rabbits get enough exercise you need to provide a run, which can be securely attached to one side of your shed or playhouse. Consider fitting a cat flap so that your rabbits can access the run independently, or cut a hole in your shed wall and add a sliding door which you close at night.
If you’ve enjoyed our guide to creating a rabbit fun house, why not join the rabbit home revolution and have a go at building your own? After all, as Linda Hollfield told us on Facebook:
“They may live outside but my animals are my family. They deserve nothing less than a good home.”
Are your rabbits already enjoying their own fun house? Then pop over to our Facebook page and share your creations!