Housing

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Please remember, regardless of the housing you choose, your rabbit needs at least a couple of hours of exercise everyday outside of this cage/pen.

Indoors vs. outdoors

Many people have the misconception that rabbits are smelly and belong outdoors. However, this is definitely not the case, and in fact, we recommend that you keep and house your bunny indoors as much as possible. If you get a rabbit as a pet, you should treat it as a member of the family. Family should not be relegated to live alone all the time in an isolated shed or hutch outside.

There are also other reasons to keep your bunny indoors.[1][2]

  • Rabbits are safer indoors out of reach of predators. Rabbits can literally be frightened to death without any contact to a predator. Additionally, you will need to take many precautions that no snakes can get into your hutch. They are a real risk in certain areas.
  • Rabbits are social animals, and in the wild, they live in enormous warrens. They enjoy the companionship from people and other animals. You can see many instances where bunnies have bonded with cats, dogs, and birds. Hutch rabbits are often never interacted with or socialized, and this lack can often result in a dull and uninterested bunny.
  • Indoor rabbits will probably live longer out of stressful influences such as predators and poor weather conditions. They can easily overheat or freeze to death. Poor weather conditions such as rain may also make you not want to go out to feed and check on the bunny. Rabbits are delicate, and any medical warning signs should be treated immediately or they will go downhill fast. Not being able to keep an eye on them can be disastrous to a bunny's health.
  • Rabbits need exercise. Unless you build an extremely big hutch with a run outside or let him run around outside occasionally, the bunny will be unable to stretch his legs. You may have seen videos of wild rabbits -- see how they love to run around? You can provide a safe environment indoors out of a predator's reach for them to do what they love.
  • Outdoors, you can never see your bunny binky in happiness and learn to appreciate their bonks for pets. Rabbits can show a personality not unlike dogs and cats. Housing a rabbit outdoors without ever interacting with them will result in a rabbit afraid of humans.

You might worry that keeping your rabbit indoors will result in destruction of your personal property and poop and pee everywhere. However, the destruction can be easily mitigated given proper bunny-proofing and training. Rabbits are easily litter trained to poop and pee in a box. In addition, not the entire house needs to be given to the bunny to romp around in. Just a living room or a bedroom is enough space. Give a try to housing your rabbit indoors, and see your rabbit bond with you.

Here are some more links to read about the pros and cons of indoor vs. outdoor housing.

The following pages are from rabbit breeding sites. Please do not take this referral as condoning rabbit breeding for the common house rabbit owner. We provide these links purely for information.

Indoor housing

A consideration when housing indoors is where to place the bun. A good location allows the rabbit has a place to relax by himself yet is not completely secluded from the family. As a result, the corner of a living or family room is a great location as it will have lots of foot traffic from family and roommates but still be quiet most of the time when no one is there.

Some people would like more personal time with the bun and place the housing enclosure in their room. Be forewarned though, that bunnies can be very noisy at night, so if you are a light sleeper, it would probably be best to put the rabbit in another room.

Another option is to delegate an entire spare room to the rabbit. This is also possible but make sure that you fully bunny-proof the room to prevent damage to the walls and floors in case of a destructive rabbit.

Avoid placing your rabbit too near a doorway, in a drafty area of your home or direct sunlight. While rabbits enjoy sunlight, they also have a fur coat and can easily overheat on hot days.

If you are planning to bring an outside bunny indoors, see the following articles for more information.

Outdoor housing

Two French lop rabbits living in a garden with an air-conditioned shed.

While we do not recommend outdoor housing for the reasons stated above, here are some resources to help develop a proper rabbit hutch. Please remember the rabbits can easily suffer from heat exhaustion at temperatures over 85°F, and that indoor rabbits have a history of living 4 times longer than outdoor hutch rabbits due to various factors![3]

If keeping your bunny outside is the only option in your situation, please follow some simple guidelines for housing.

  • Make sure your bunny is always protected from insects through the use of some fine mesh that you can staple to the cage. This is important for protecting your bun from aggressive insect-borne diseases such as myxomatosis. You may also want to treat your rabbits for fleas and other pests.
  • Do not keep rabbits outdoors alone all the time, they need company on those dark nights! A bonded pair or group is best outdoors. If you must house a single rabbit outside, please spend a couple of hours a day to interact with your rabbit so he will not be depressed. Rabbits are social creatures and will not do well alone with no interaction.
  • Remember, your bunny is likely to grow quite a lot! If the bunny is young, make sure you consider its adult size when purchasing a hutch. This should be tall enough for your bunny to sit up on its hind legs in the adorable act of periscoping and long enough for your bunny to completely lie down in with his feet stretched out. Consider having a multi-level enclosure so bunny can survey his surroundings.
  • An outdoor run attached a shed built for rabbits.
    Just because your rabbit is outdoors, it does not mean it has to be kept in a hutch! Consider large dog kennels with runs, sheds, aviaries, and children's wooden playhouses with runs attached. One small advantage of outdoor housing is that human furniture will not get in the way of the rabbit and you can often offer larger square footage just for the bunnies.[4]
  • While your bunny make not be able to chew its way out of your new cage, keep in mind what kind of predators might want to chew their way in. Be especially careful about access to snakes if they are a problem in your area. Keep your hutch close to the house and make sure your bun has somewhere to hide if they get scared. This hidey hole is also likely to be what will protect your bunny from the elements so it is a good idea to insulate it with some hay, old towels, or other material. Even though Mr. Bun is kept outside, a litter tray can still be supplied to make your job of cleaning the cage far easier, and it provides your bunny with a specific spot to go in so that they will not always lying in their own filth.
  • In warm weather, be very careful about flystrike! Check your rabbit's bottom every day to make sure that all poop has been cleaned off properly. Flystrike is a horribly fatal condition to deal with.

Think about keeping a smaller cage to put in the laundry or other area inside so that bun doesn't have to be outside on those cold winter nights or hot summer afternoons.

The following are some additional tips and instructions on having an outdoor rabbit hutch:

Indoor Cages and Enclosures

A variety of options exist for housing rabbits in either a cage or other type of enclosure.

Size Guidelines

Although pet stores market cages specifically for rabbits, some of these cages may be too small to comfortably house adult rabbits, particularly larger breeds. From the House Rabbit Society Housing FAQ page,[5]

A cage should be at least 4 times the size of your bunny when he's entirely stretched out--more if he is confined for a large amount of the day. Cage sizes also should be decided in conjunction with the amount of exercise time and space the rabbit has. One guideline to go by is at least 8 square feet of cage time combined with at least at least 24 square feet of exercise space, for 1-2 rabbits, in which the rabbit(s) can run and play at least 5 hours per day.

The House Rabbit Handbook provides the following guidelines:[6]

  • Option 1: Separated rest and run areas. Run time is at least 4 hrs daily or 30 hrs weekly.
Number of
Rabbits
Rest Area
(sq ft)
Rest Area
Dimensions
1-2 8 2x4 ft.
3-4 16 4x4 ft.
5-6 24 3x8 or 4x6 ft.
  • Option 2: Combined rest and run areas. Run time is 24 hrs daily.
Number of
Rabbits
Run/Rest Area
(sq ft)
Run/Rest Area
Dimensions
1-4 24 3x8 or 4x6 ft.
5-6 48 6x8 ft.

The Rabbit House provides some more minimum measurements based on rabbit size here.

If you don't have enough floor space to give your buns too much room, you can also try to build vertically with multiple story condo cages. Remember, if you have a young bunny, be prepared to provide large enough housing as he grows.

Commercial cages

A rabbit in a cage large enough to fit a small hiding box.

Most commercial cages advertised towards rabbits are too small for the average-sized rabbit. As stated above, the rabbit cage should be at least 4 times the size of your bunny when he's entirely stretched out. Most cages barely let a rabbit stretch out or sit up. If you do opt for a commercial cage, make sure to follow the guidelines stated above.

Be careful of cages with a wire floor. Rex and heavy breeds are especially prone to sore hocks in wire-bottomed cages due to the uneven pressures of the wires. Additionally, untrimmed nails and toes can get caught in the holes and be broken. If you use a cage with a wire flooring, you should provide a resting board or rug for your rabbit to sit on. Here is a good discussion about wire-bottomed cages. In this article, a breeder discusses the realistic dangers of wire flooring. If a rabbit is litter-trained, there is honestly no reason to need a wire-bottomed cage.

If you buy a cage with a solid slick plastic flooring, cover the bottom with another surface like a towel or grass mats. The slippery surface can lead to hip problems.[7]

Look for cages with a side door to allow the bunny to hop in and out on her own, and maybe a top-loading door for ease of cleaning. If the cage door opens on the side as a ramp and is wire, cover the door with cardboard so that a rabbit's foot cannot accidentally be caught between the bars.

Never use glass aquariums because they are rarely large enough and do not have enough air circulation. Rabbits overheat very easily.

Of course, if you use a commercial cage as a home base for a litter box, and the rabbit is free-roaming, size is not so much of an issue. It becomes a problem when the rabbit is shut in for hours on end. If you have to make do with a smaller cage than ideal, just make sure that your bun receives plenty of exercise time every day to stretch out his legs.

Some extra-large cages available on Amazon that can be appropriate for smaller rabbits:

If you would like a professional looking cage, you might also want to look at custom cages. Here are a couple available online made especially for rabbits.

The following are some guides at choosing an appropriate commercial cage to use indoors.

Dog Crates

One solution for suitable rabbit housing is a large or x-large dog crate. The large doors make it easy to clean, and these cages are very sturdy to help keep out kids or other pets. Additionally, some dog crates are easily collapsible for travel.

Some models available on Amazon:

Here are some guides on using and converting one to a rabbit abode.

Below are some relevant discussions.

NIC DIY Cages

A sample bunny NIC condo by /u/batclock

Neat Idea Cubes (NIC) DIY cages are a cheap alternative to buying a commercial cage or pen, but they require some work to assemble. The basic theory behind these cages is to assemble the wire shelving solutions available in stores into a cage using zip-ties. Aspirational owners can even decide to make multi-story condos using additional wood or shelving. A pack of around twelve wire cube sheets costs around $25, and zip ties are around $5 for 100. A commercial cage suitable for a rabbit will most likely start at over $60. See the savings? You can easily adjust the size of the cage and condo to suit the shape and size you want.

Some stores you can buy wire grid panels from are the following:

Larger wire grid panels

Warning: You will need to make sure the type of wire shelving you purchase should have the grates relatively small so your rabbit cannot get his head through. Otherwise, your rabbit may get injured or strangled. There is one type sold at Target and other stores that has bigger grates than the rest. These should either be discarded or used as unreachable walls, shelves, or cage tops. If they have to be used, cover them with cardboard or double grate them to make the holes smaller.

Also, when using zip ties, make sure to have the tie wrap ends face the outside of the cage so that if you accidentally forget to clip one, it does not cause eye injury to your rabbit.

Video Example: Example video of a NIC panel opening that is too large for this rabbit.

Some examples and instructions to setup NIC condos can be found at the following pages.

The following are some videos about setting up a NIC condo.

Here are some relevant discussions about NIC condos.

Exercise pens

An alternative to a traditional cage or NIC cube condo is an exercise pen or x-pen, usually marketed for puppies and available in any pet store. An alternative is a plastic play yard for human toddlers, available in department stores. Do not use fabric playpens as rabbits can easily chew through them and escape in a matter of hours.

Black 30" Midwest x-pen with two ~5# rabbits

Advantages over a traditional cage include the following:

  • Extremely portable (great if you travel with your rabbit)
  • Easy to reconfigure and move around the house
  • Can also be used outside (always with supervision)
  • Lots of room for litter boxes, hidey houses, toys, etc.
  • X-pen walls are easy mounting locations for bottles, hay racks, toys, etc.
  • Lots of space for your money

The x-pen represents an intermediate step between a completely free roaming rabbit and a caged rabbit. It is perhaps best suited to a bunny who can free roam under supervision but still needs to be confined at night. Exercise pens are much more portable than a traditional cage, and do not require as much up-front work as an NIC cube condo. The downsides are that you need to provide hidey-houses besides the x-pen itself, and this can take away from the portability somewhat. It should be stressed that the combination of an animal carrier and an x-pen to set up at your new location is probably the easiest way to travel with your rabbit. Bringing a large enough cage to comfortably house a rabbit in the car is difficult, but because the x-pen folds, it can easily fit in the trunk of a small car.

A small Netherland dwarf rabbit lounging in a 2'x4' x-pen setup.

A decent size x-pen can be had for anywhere from $30-$150. You may find them second-hand on classified ads like Craiglist and Kijiji for even cheaper. Exercise pens generally outcompete cages in terms of square footage per dollar. If your bunny is not a jumper, 24" is fine; otherwise 30" or higher is recommended. Fome popular pens are the following:

Warning: Tiny baby bunnies should not be placed in a regular common Midwest/Precision exercise pen without additional barriers as they can easily squeeze out between the bars — an example video here. You will either need to cut out 12-18" strips of cardboard and attach them to the bottom half of the pen to cover and make it solid until the babies grow bigger or find an exercise pen with only 1"-spaced bars such as the following:

Another handy use of an x-pen is to keep a free-roaming, fully trained bunny from getting into certain areas. Perhaps your bunny only has unsupervised access to the kitchen or the laundry room. You can use an x-pen to block off access out of these rooms. You can also use an x-pen to keep your rabbit away from the TV stand or similar cord jungle.

Some tips on using an x-pen:

  • Set up your pen against a wall to maximize the space you get.
  • Buy cheap vinyl flooring to put under the pen and bunny can even live in a carpeted room. Another cost-saving idea is to buy a shower curtain and overlay it with a carpet or blanket, then set your x-pen on top of that. Other waterproof options include a plastic chair mat, piece of linoleum, tarp, foam playpen pieces, foam equipment mats (warning: bunnies may gnaw off the treadmill pattern), whelping pad, bed pads, or a rubber-backed rug. If the waterproof surface you bought does not have enough grip for the rabbits, buy some cheap rugs and carpet off Craigslist and similar sources to overlay. Make sure to keep an eye on your rabbit for ingestion of materials. Keeping the edges out of reach helps with this behavior.
  • Use an x-pen to confine a free-roaming rabbit when you're out of the house, cleaning, or the door is open.
  • Attach accessories like water bottles, hayracks, etc. directly to the x-pen.

Here are some links with more information on using an x-pen for your rabbit.

Other Custom Enclosures

You can also come up with your own DIY custom enclosures using wood, metal, re-purposed furniture, and other materials. Keep in mind the proper dimensions you will need for a comfortable-sized enclosure for your rabbit. Remember to make any slats fairly close together so that the rabbit will not get his head stuck and be accidentally injured or strangled. Using chicken wire is not recommended as rabbits can chew through it very easily and dogs and raccoons can as well. Use hardware cloth or at the minimum 19-gauge wire mesh.

The following are some examples of custom-made rabbit housing enclosures.

Enclosure Setup

Regardless of the enclosure you choose, there should always be some basic items in your rabbit's housing enclosure.

  • Litter box
  • Hay rack or holder if you don't place hay in the litter box. See Hay for DIY options.
  • Water bowl or water bottle at least one for every rabbit. For those that would prefer to fill up water less or have heavy drinker, try water dispensers. See Diet for more information on pros and cons of both options.
  • Heavy duty ceramic bowls for food, at least one for every rabbit - if you use plastic, be careful that the bunny may flip it over or chew on it.
  • Toys - chewing material, digging material, throwable objects, etc.
  • Soft surface to lie on (e.g. towel, carpet scrap, blanket) - be sure that your rabbit does not ingest this. If you need a washable waterproof option, check out the tips in Exercise Pens.
  • Hidey house - empty cardboard box, overturned baskets with an entry hole cut out, towel draped over one corner

General bedding in an enclosure is not needed. It will confuse the rabbit when trying to litter train the rabbit. The only bedding and litter needed is in the litter box.

Here are some links about other setup ideas:

Below are some galleries of example rabbit housing setups.

Free range rabbits

A large white rabbit enclosed in a bedroom with a baby gate.

Untrained rabbits should be kept in an enclosure during the night and while you are away from home. When you see consistent litter habits when your rabbit is let out to play, you might think about letting him roam free range permanently with a home base. Note that an adult bunny will probably be easier to train and less destructive than a juvenile or baby.[8] If your rabbit tends to be destructive when left alone, then it might be a better idea to keep him enclosed when you are not home. We understand that this option is not for everyone.

Several prerequisites are needed, however.

  • Block off locations you do not wish the bunny to be in with baby gates, fences, or doors. Be sure that they cannot jump over them.
  • Fully bunny-proof the place where the rabbit will be roaming. Make sure there is nothing that he can get under or over that could possibly harm him. Hide all belongings that you don't want possibly destroyed and make sure all dangerous items are also out of reach.
  • The bunny should still have a home base such as a large cage or pen with a den available to him. This allows him to have a place to retreat to for peace and quiet. Things that should be provided in this base or nearby include a litter box, hay, and water.
  • Make sure the place has proper flooring allowing the rabbit to hop, stand, and run without slipping -- a concern especially important for older rabbits. Provide a soft surface for sleeping.
  • Provide plenty of environmental enrichment activities such as cardboard box forts, toys, telephone books, and digging boxes. See Toys for more options. If you have two or more rabbits bonded, they can provide entertainment for each other.

Here is an excellent YouTube video that one redditor SETHW has done to rabbit-proof his entire house and allow a bunny to roam freely.

The following are links with more information about free range house rabbits.

Further reading

Here are some relevant videos you may watch.

See Also

References

  1. San Diego House Rabbit Society, Why to Keep Your Rabbit Indoors
  2. Bunniez, The Great Indoor Rabbit Debate
  3. Dana M. Krempels, Ph.D., Why an Indoor Bunny?
  4. RWAF, A Hutch is not Enough Campaign
  5. House Rabbit Society, FAQ: Housing
  6. Marinell Harriman, House Rabbit Handbook: How to Live with an Urban Rabbit, 4th edition
  7. Wisconsin House Rabbit Society, WHRS Rabbit Care Guidelines
  8. JSPCA, House Rabbits Fact Sheet