Rabbits can live outside or indoors, and there are a variety of different forms of accommodation to choose from. Choosing the right accommodation for your rabbit is vital to its welfare. Accommodation that is too small can cause skeletal deformities, obesity and muscle wastage. It’s also important that your rabbit’s accommodation is safe and secure.
Indoor cages generally have a plastic tray on the bottom and wire frame on top. Cages of this style come in a variety of sizes aimed at animals from hamster to guinea pigs and rabbits. Only the very largest of the cages are suitable for rabbits. Some cages described by manufactures as suitable for rabbits are much to small so do look at the measurements closely.
Most cages are standard length, either 100cm (3’4”) or 120cm (4’). Occasionally you may find a 5’ (150cm) cage available but these are harder to find. Anything smaller than these is not suitable for a rabbit. If your rabbit is going to spend most of it’s time running around out of the cage then a 100cm cage will be adequate (though go larger if possible) otherwise you should go for a minimum of 4’.
Watch out for the height as well as length, as some cages are aimed at guinea pigs and are not tall enough for a rabbit to stand up in.
When deciding which cage to choose you should also consider the door size, depth of the base and how easily it comes apart for cleaning. Another thing to bare in mind: if the door drops down to form the ramp out of the cage then you must cover this with something solid – several cases have been reported of rabbits breaking a leg after putting it through the bars climbing out of the cage.
Alternative to a Rabbit Cage
Dog crates (a.k.a puppy crates) provide an excellent alternative to rabbit cages. A 4’ dog crate is often cheaper and provides more space, especially height. Another benefit is they fold flat when you’re not using them. If you’re good at DIY they are also tall enough to at a shelf inside for more space. The only down side is they don’t have deep trays so you may want to fix Perspex around the bottom to hold in the litter. If you have baby rabbits or small breeds, then watch out for the bar spacing as this can be wider on dog crates than rabbit cages.
The Rabbit Welfare Association and RSPCA minimum guideline for rabbit hutch length is 6’ (180cm). This will house one or two small-medium size rabbits; however if you have a large breed a bigger hutch is advisable. Ideally the width and height should be around 2’ (60cm). Height is very important, as your rabbit needs to be able to stretch upwards without banging its head on the roof.
If you are short on space, a multiple storey hutch may give your rabbit more room without filling up your garden. If your hutch has more than one level then it does not need to be as long, for example a two-storey 5’ hutch will provide plenty of floor space. Three-foot hutches (even with multiple levels) are too small for rabbits, as they do not provide enough room to stretch out and turn around with the ramps between floors.
Hutches should be fitted with proper bolts not wooden twists – you can always buy these separately and fit them yourself. This is important to protect your rabbit from foxes (even in urban areas) and prevent escape attempts.
Weld mesh is stronger than chicken wire but again this is something with your can replace yourself if needed.
Look for hutches with easy access for cleaning and picking up your rabbit.
Buying second hand is a great way to get a better rabbit hutch for your money. As long as the basic hutch is sound then repairs can easily be done. You should always thoroughly disinfect the hutch before using it for your rabbit. Vinegar and water will remove any urine stains and a new coat of pet safe wood stain will protect it from the weather and improve the appearance. You may also need to replace the mesh and reseal the roof.
Alternative to a Hutch
If you really want to give your rabbit luxury accommodation then a converted shed or children's playhouse can make excellent rabbit accommodation. They provide a large floor area and a warm dry place for you to interact with your rabbit.
In addition to a hutch, your rabbit also needs an exercise area. An ideal solution is a combination hutch/run so your rabbit can go between the two as it likes.
The minimum guidelines for rabbit run size are 6’ (180cm) by 4’ (120cm). This is the absolute minimum and ideally you should provide your rabbit with as much space as possible.
It is very important the run is secure both to protect your rabbit from predators and to prevent it escaping. The run should have a lid, as rabbits can jump several feet and cats/foxes are very agile. The mesh should be small enough to prevent your rabbit getting its head stuck through or a cat pawing at your rabbit through the mesh. It’s also important to bear in mind rabbits are diggers. If you put your run on grass then you need to watch out for your rabbit digging its way out. You can prevent this by putting it on paving slabs of burying mesh under the grass.