Indoor or Outdoor?
Housing, Bedding, and Cleaning
Rabbits can live indoors or outdoors. Indoor rabbits can play outside and outdoor ones can play inside. There are certain precautions to take whether your rabbit lives indoors or outdoors most of the time. My rabbits live outdoors, so I can only provide a basic overview on keeping rabbits indoors. Browse through commercial websites and rabbit lovers' sites for a more thorough guide to keeping indoor rabbits.
NOTE: When you buy a baby bunny, it can not be put outside immediately. It should be about two months old before it lives outside. At this age, it can ONLY live outside if it is spring (warm weather) or summer (as long as temperatures do not exceed 80ºF). A rabbit this young can not be put outside in the fall because it will not have enough time to put on fat for the winter. If you buy a baby bunny, be prepared to let it live inside in a wire cage until the weather is right for it to live in an outdoor hutch. The good news is, rabbits this young can be confined to wire cages without much trouble. (Older rabbits need more space.) Your baby bunny will most likely fit its cage until it is time for it to be moved outside. However, it still needs exercise from time to time.
When keeping your rabbit indoors, your house will have to be bunny-proofed. This means ridding the floor area of hazards such as chemicals, cleaners, electrical cords, etc. Rabbits love to chew wires, so you if you choose to have your rabbit indoors, you should invest in electrical cord covers. Rabbits also like to chew wood and sometimes material, so use bitter apple spray on any surfaces you do not wish to have chewed.
Rabbits can jump onto beds and couches, so you will wan to make sure that you do not have any pillows on these surfaces that you do not want chewed. If you have children, make sure that keep their toys out of the rabbit's reach as well. Rabbits like to chew on rubber things such as Barbie legs or Pokémon figures.
Rabbits can eventually be trained not to chew on so many things. This training takes persistence, so be patient and eventually you can put pillows and toys back out where they belong.
Litter training is another issue when rabbits live indoors. Rabbits should be taught to use a litterbox as young as possible. Use a small Rubbermaid dishpan or a cat box for your rabbit's litterbox and fill it with low-dust sand, pine shavings, or any other small animal bedding that your pet store recommends. *NOTE: DO NOT USE CLUMPING LITTER.* Place some droppings in the litterbox and your rabbit will learn by seeing and doing. This takes persistence. Again, patience is key. Clean the litterbox frequently or else the rabbit will not want to use it! (For more info on litter training, check the page of commercial rabbit site links and rabbit lovers' links.)
Your rabbit should have a space of his or her own even if he/she has the whole house to play in. Choose an area to keep a wire rabbit cage which can be left open at all times. This way, the rabbit can enter and leave his/her cage at his/her leisure. Keep the cage on the floor and keep the litterbox inside or near it. (Some wire cages have pull-out pans which can be used in place or a litterbox; clean these as often as necessary.) Also, keep your rabbit's food, water, toys, and bed in the cage. If you have a two-story house, you will want to give your rabbit additional food, water, and toys--maybe even a secondary litterbox--on the other floor of the house. (Yes, rabbits will teach themselves to use stairs.)
A final precaution when keeping a rabbit indoors: make sure there are no places where your rabbit can get stuck (Behind furniture, under beds, etc.) and make sure that if you own other pets, your rabbit is still safe. See the Multiple Rabbits/Multiple Pets page for more information.
Indoor rabbits can play outdoors as long as you keep a close watch on them. If your yard is NOT fenced in, you should not let your indoor rabbit outdoors unless he/she is on a leash and you are holding the leash in your hand.
Rabbits who live outside in hutches all the time need exercise. As often as possible, let them run in the yard (if it's fenced in). Supervise carefully. Or, let them run around inside. If you don't want to bunny-proof your whole house, bunny-proof one or two rooms and allow the rabbits to exercise in them.
When it comes to outdoor rabbit hutches, the bigger the better. A good hutch should be at least one foot off the ground. The door(s) should have secure locks. The hutch should have an open, wire-screen part as well as a wooden, covered-over area. The rabbit hutch which my rabbits live in is about 5' long × 2' wide × 1.5' from floor to ceiling. It is about 2.5' above the ground with wheel on two of the legs so that it can be easily moved around the yard. One half of the hutch is all wooden, even the flooring, and covered with shingles (shingles are not necessary on every hutch). This is the area which my rabbits can hide in if there is a spontaneous rainstorm. The other half of the hutch is wire-screen with a wire floor. My rabbits love the open air, so they stay in this area most often. Each section of the hutch has its own door with a slide lock.
Most hutches like these can be bought with "some assembly required," meaning the addition of legs, optional paint job, etc. I had the luck of buying my hutch from a friend who no longer needed it, so no assembly was required. I added wheels and hayguards on my own, but other than that, the hutch was ready to use. Check with friends and read classified ads to see if anyone has a ready-to-use rabbit hutch. (Be sure to wash out a second-hand hutch before using it on your own rabbits!) Otherwise, buy a hutch kit at your local pet store.
The other option for an outdoor rabbit house is a cage. These may be less expensive, but in the long run a hutch is worth the extra time and money. Cages rust easily and protect the rabbit less from outdoor animals, weather, etc. You may want to invest in a large spare cage which your rabbit can live in indoors. These spare houses can be used during severe temperatures (below 0ºF, above 80ºF), severe weather (torrential rain, blizzard, tornado, hurricane, hail), when your rabbit is sick, or when you go on vacation and your rabbit has to board somewhere.
During cold months, moderate rain/snow, high winds, etc, your rabbit can still live in its outdoor hutch. However, it is necessary that you design a cover for the hutch. Your best bet is plastic sheeting or an old shower curtain. Simply cover the hutch top and sides and then weight the cover down with rocks or bricks. If the bottom of the rabbit hutch is wire-screen, then air will still be able to circulate. If you want to make the cover extra effective, poke holes through the plastic and use wire to tie it to the wire-screen part of the hutch.
Hayguards are also something extra that you can add to a rabbit hutch. These will help keep hay and litter inside the hutch even when it is windy. Simply cut plywood (or any thin wood) to match the length of the wire-screen part of the hutch. The width of the wood should be about 4"-6". Nail the wood along the sides of the hutch, near the bottom, and less hay will fly out.
Bedding and Cleaning
Once your rabbit hutch is ready, you will need to buy bedding. Your rabbit MUST have hay at all times, as it is part of their diet. Timothy hay can be bought in bags or bails at pet stores; if your rabbit lives outdoors you will want to buy hay in bails. Pet stores also sell alfalfa hay, but this is a lot less healthy for rabbits.
For indoor rabbits, place hay in the bottom of the cage or in a hay rack, which can be purchased at pet stores. Hay racks can also be attached to the wire-screen part of an outdoor hutch, but they are not necessary. It is easier to cover the whole bottom of the wire-screen area with hay, as seen in the photos on the hutch picture page. Your rabbit needs hay for warmth as well, and as a soft ground under their feet. Rabbits who step only on wire-screen may develop an illness of the feet known as sore hocks. Some rabbits are very prone to sore hock and others can walk on wire all the time and never get it, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
Rabbits love to play with their hay. Sometimes they will push it out of the hutch, other times they will build a nest, other times they will just toss it about and chew it. They also like to have toilet paper or paper towel rolls to toss around and use in their bedding. Give your rabbits the cardboard rolls to play with and use as needed. My rabbits have hay that covers the bottom of their hutch, as seen on the hutch picture page; they keep their toilet paper rolls in a metal tray or else they mix them with the hay.
In addition to a constant, full supply of hay, you will need litter for the closed part of the hutch. You can use hay for this also, but it's not the best choice because it's not very absorbent. The three main types of rabbit litter are pine chips, aspen chips, and cedar chips. Each kind is sold in plastic bags, vacuum packed, at pet stores. Bags come in different sizes, so you will want to choose a size that is appropriate for the size hutch your rabbits live in.
Pine litter is the cheapest, and aspen litter is the most expensive. Aspen bedding has the least amount of odor while cedar chips have the most odor. These odors, called PHENOLS, can irritate a rabbit's nose. Scientists have hypothesized that the phenols can have bad effects on a rabbit's respiratory system. Studies are being done on the subject of phenols, but no completely concrete information has yet been discovered. I have tried all three litter types and I have found that plain pine litter works best.
Change the litter as often as possible, AT LEAST once a week. Scoop used litter out of the hutch and replace it with fresh.
A rabbit hutch should be hosed and scrubbed at least once a season. While the hutch is being scrubbed (with dilute bleach or mild soap), have your rabbits live in the spare cage. Be sure to hose the soap/bleach out completely and let the cage dry and air out for at least one full day before putting your rabbits back in.
Click for the food/drinks/treats page and the playtime page to find out what other things your rabbit will need for his or her hutch.
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