Until fairly recently, rabbit hutches tended to be small, wooden boxes with some mesh stapled to the front. Thankfully, things have changed a lot since then and pet rabbits now typically enjoy a lot more space and freedom. According to the PDSA, the minimum setup for rabbits should be a 6ft x 2ft x 2ft hutch with an 8ft run attached. It should allow them to make at least three hops, lie stretched out and stand on their back legs without their ears touching the top.
But how should you accessorise your rabbit’s home? The obvious things to include are a water bottle (at least one but maybe more if there are two or more rabbits living together) and a food bowl or two. A couple of hay racks are also useful as this prevents the hay becoming soiled. A litter tray situated next to the hay rack is also a good idea as rabbits love to poop and nibble hay at the same time! Cardboard tubes stuffed with hay are also stimulating, and yet inexpensive, boredom-busters. Rabbits should be fed a handful of nuggets each day alongside fresh green vegetables such as spring greens, kale and dandelion leaves. The bulk of their diet, however, should always be good quality, clean hay.
Handling rabbits is more of a tricky subject. Advice can change through the ages and there once was a time when holding a rabbit on its back (like cradling a baby) was considered both cute and safe. It’s now known that a rabbit can go into a trance when put in this position which isn’t a good thing! Rabbits are prey animals and therefore don’t like being lifted off the ground. Picking them up isn’t natural and most will not like it. The best thing to do is stroke them on the top of their head once they feel safe and comfortable around you. To begin with, it’s best to avoid touching them at all. Just offer a treat from your hand at first to show them that an arm moving slowly towards them equals treats. They may not take the food at first but eventually, and with perseverance, they will soon realise that nothing bad will happen. Once their confidence grows you can begin stroking the top of their head for a few seconds and proceed from there.
Rabbits are usually happiest living with another bunny companion so neutering them is important - especially if you have one of each sex! Most people find that the combination of two spayed does or a spayed doe and a castrated buck work best and bond the easiest.
As well as having a bunny friend and lots of accessories in their large home, rabbits also benefit from human interaction and shouldn’t just be left to their own devices. Grooming your bunny helps improve your relationship with him, starts to build trust and gives you the chance to check him over for injuries and overgrown nails. You should also always check under his tail and ensure this area is kept as clean as possible as a dirty bottom can lead to flystrike which is extremely uncomfortable and can be fatal. It’s recommended to check your bunny daily, especially during the warm summer months, as a soiled coat will quickly attract flies. Keeping their living quarters clean is also important for preventing flystrike so maintaining a regular cleaning regime is important. Spot-cleaning your rabbit’s toileting areas on a daily basis and carrying out a more thorough clean with pet-safe disinfectant
every week should keep your bunny and his surroundings in tip-top shape.
Many people have house rabbits these days which is great as it means you can spend a lot more time with your furry friend and problems such as flystrike are far less likely (although not impossible). Bunny-proofing your home is necessary if you have a free-roaming house rabbit. Be sure to check out our “Keeping Your Rabbit Indoors” article for more tips on this.
Read more about small animals: