Setting up your rabbit area outdoors allows your rabbits to live a more natural life with lots of room to run and dig. But it’s very important to take precautions to keep your bunnies safe and comfortable. Let’s take a look at the basics for a good rabbit space.
A good rabbit hutch is vital to your rabbit enclosure. A rabbit hutch is a secure place your rabbits can sleep at night or a safe space where they can be when you are away for extended times. It is their home base, and where you will likely keep their food, water & hay.
The ideal rabbit hutch is at minimum 6 feet long by 2 feet wide. Your rabbit should be able to take a few hops across the length of his cage. He should also be able to stand up on his back feet without hitting his head, so it should be at least 2 feet tall. If you are keeping multiple rabbits in the same cage, go as big as you can to give them plenty of space. Click here for a more in-depth view of my rabbit hutch
There should be a space with solid walls that is enclosed where they can “hide”. If the hutch is all wire with no private space, your rabbit is going to feel very exposed, especially when it’s dark. Rabbits in the wild live in cozy, underground burrows. Without their safe space, they will be stressed and will probably have a hard time sleeping. It will also provide a place for them to escape the weather. Make the enclosed space cozy with deep hay or straw to snuggle in or even add some old blankets or a cat bed.
If you live where it snows or if you get a lot of rain, your hutch should be raised off the ground. You can build a simple base to raise up your hutch – click here to read how we built our rabbit hutch base. Even if you don’t live where extreme weather is a problem, raising the hutch provides another step in predator protection and make rabbit chores easier on your back.
Install duel locks on all doors to the hutch. Some predators, like raccoons, have deft little hands and can manage simple locks. Having two different kinds of latches ensures they aren’t going to get in. Around dusk each night, you will need to go outside and lock the rabbits in their hutch. You can open them up in the morning. They will get used to this routine quickly, my rabbits know when it’s getting dark it’s time to head into the hutch so I just have to close them up.
Locate the hutch out of direct sun. Rabbits can handle cold much more than they can handle heat. When temperatures get over 85 degrees, rabbits can experience heat distress and can even die of heat stroke. It’s vital to give them shaded places to relax. Consider planting some bushes or trees nearby, or install a shade sail or canopy over their play area.
At least some of the floor should be solid. Many people like to install wire floors in their rabbit hutch so the poop can fall through the holes to keep the hutch clean. That is great for the human caretakers, but isn’t great for the rabbit’s feet. When rabbits walk on wire, it puts pressure unevenly on their pads and makes them carry their weight awkwardly even when resting on all fours. This can lead to sore hocks, and left untreated could cause a deadly infection. Click here to read more about sore hocks. I have read horror stories about predators pulling at the rabbit’s exposed feet from under the wire floor trying to get to them – so that’s another reason to give them some solid flooring! If you want to use wire flooring in part of the hutch that is fine, just be sure there are parts of the hutch where the rabbit can rest on solid flooring. We use ceramic tiles for the entire floor of our hutch. They keep the bunnies cool in the summer and are easy to sweep up daily with a small hand broom & dustpan.
You will want to supply the hutch with water, a feed bin, hay manger and possibly a litter box. It is important your rabbit has access to food, water & hay at all times so putting it in their hutch makes the most sense. You can get the type that attaches to the wire walls. Hang them in places that will be easy for you to access for cleaning & filling. I like to hang the hay manger over the litter box so they can munch on hay while doing their business. It helps keep the area cleaner when they are litter box trained. Click here to read more about litter box training rabbits. During the winter, it is helpful to swap out the water bottle for one that plugs in and has a small heater to keep the water liquid. So it is helpful if you have a power source nearby.
The Exercise Yard
The hutch is important for keeping your bunny safe, but the exercise yard is where they will really want to spend most of their time!
32 square feet per rabbit is the minimum recommended space. The more space you can give them, the better though! Just make sure you don’t give them a space too big that you have a hard time properly securing it.
Rabbits are diggers. They will dig all kinds of holes & tunnels in their exercise yard, so just putting a fence around the space isn’t going to cut it. You will want to dig down two feet and bury a wall of hardware cloth wire. Do this around the entire perimeter of the yard. For my rabbit’s exercise yard, two of the sides are bordered by my house so they won’t be digging out those sides. For the other two sides I put in a 4 foot high picket fence. I then added a 4 foot wide length of hardware cloth. I buried it two feet in the ground and then it ran two feet up the fence. On top of that I got a 4 foot wide length of chicken wire that runs from the ground up to the top of the fence. This set up has kept my rabbits in and digging predators out successfully for years.
If possible, it is best to fully enclosure your rabbit exercise yard. Think of it like a screened in porch (but with solid wire not screens). Making it 6 feet tall will make it comfortable for you to visit with your rabbits. Putting a solid roof on the yard will make it so the rabbits can enjoy the yard even when it’s raining or snowing and will provide some shade from the summer sun. It will protect your rabbits from aerial predators like hawks. A solid roof will also make it more pleasant for you to get your daily rabbit chores done even in the rain. This is high on my to do list but I haven’t been able to do it yet. The four foot high fence does keep them in for now, and keeps most things out, but I will feel better when I am able to fully enclose the space for them.
Space for digging. One of the best advantages to letting rabbits live outside is that they can dig to their heart’s content without destroying your home. So leave them lots of space for digging. Inspect the holes every day. When my rabbits get too close to the fence line, I will fill in the hole just in case. If they make a tunnel that has gotten too long (over 4 feet or so) I will also usually collapse it so it doesn’t accidentally collapse on them or on me when I walk over it. I always feel bad because they worked hard on it, but they never seem to mind and are always happy to start digging a new one!
Places to hide, things to jump on, in or through. Rabbits like to keep busy so providing them with things to do will keep them happy! My bunnies like to hide under the hutch and weave under and around the benches. I took two large plastic nursery pots I had from buying fruit trees, cut the bottoms out and duct taped them together. Boom! Free rabbit tunnel! I added some shallow, square planters for them to hop in and out of. In the planters I seeded some timothy grass and dandelions to give them snacks for munching.
Benches or chairs – If you have a comfortable place to sit and enjoy your bunny’s company you will be much more likely to hang out with them!