Outdoor Rabbits

Rabbits need to be kept warm and dry, so they make ideal pets as house rabbits, however they can also live in rabbit hutches outside as long as they are kept safe, warm and dry, and you give them lots of company every day. If they are lonely, cold or wet, their life expectancy and general wellbeing will be much reduced.

Accomodating Your Rabbit

If your rabbit is to live outside, you should keep it in a secure hutch. The hutch should be large enough for your rabbit to take several hops in any direction, and should have an outdoor run and a smaller enclosed sleeping area.

The outdoor run should have a solid floor and wire mesh on at least one side to let plenty of light in. The enclosed sleeping area should have a small entrance from the run and should be enclosed by solid walls on all sides. The entire hutch should have a solid roof to keep the rain off, the roof can hinge upwards to give you easy access for cleaning.

Cover the whole floor of the hutch with suitable bedding, such as wood shavings, hay or newspaper. Make the layer of bedding thicker in the sleeping area.

Your rabbit will choose a section of the hutch to use as its toilet area; you should clean this area each day and clean the whole hutch around once a week. Use an animal safe disinfectant when cleaning. You should also provide a supply of hay and water, see our feeding section for more information about this.

Safety

As your rabbit is in a hutch outdoors, it needs good protection from predators. If possible, raise the hutch off the floor to make it harder for predators to reach. Make sure that the wire mesh on the sides of the cage is a small mesh so that it would be very hard for an animal such as a cat to reach inside.

Playing In The Garden

If you let your rabbit out of its hutch to run around the garden, it is important to supervise it at all times. Before your rabbit goes out in the garden, go all around the edges of the garden and make sure there are no little gaps that it could escape through. Be aware that a rabbit could very quickly dig under a fence that is resting on soil.

You could also use a rabbit harness and lead to keep your rabbit safe. Use a proper rabbit harness, not just a collar, as rabbits do not have strong enough necks for collars and leads. A proper harness fits around the middle as well as the neck to make sure that the neck is not at risk of injury.

Rabbits don’t always know to avoid plants that are poisonous to them, so make sure that you have nothing that your rabbit could eat that is not safe for them to do so. See our feeding section for foods that are safe and plants that are poisonous.

10 Responses to Outdoor Rabbits

  1. paul evans says:

    I am worried about a local rabbit . They are keeping it outside on a grass floor and it is now getting cold.Its in a temporary hut- with no floor- it looks like it is the type of thing you may use as a exercise hut while you clean out the proper hutch.

    Will it survive? What should i do?

    best wishes

    Paul Evans

    • Richard Lord says:

      Hi Paul
      Rabbits should have an area that they can access any time that is out of the wind and rain. Most rabbit hutches have a small enclosed section with a small entrance that the rabbit can go into to keep dry and out of the wind.
      If a rabbit does not have access to an enclosed space like this, it will be more susceptible to illness, as rabbits can get ill easily if they are in a damp, drafty environment.
      If you suspect that an animal is being treated cruelly or is in distress, you can contact the RSPCA (if you are in the UK). There are similar organisations in other parts of the world.

  2. Stephanie Patterson says:

    Hi , we have recently gotten ourselfs a lop eared bunny , he will b 8 weeks on sunday. We have a proper hutch for him and all the proper bedding but i was wondering if it is safe to keep him outside, or does he need to be kept inside because of the cold.
    Thank you

    • Richard Lord says:

      Hi Stephanie, Thanks for your question.
      It is safe for an outdoor pet rabbit to remain outdoors during winter, as long as you take care with his living environment. Some people bring their rabbit’s hutch into the house or garage during winter to protect the rabbit from the weather, but you can provide this protection by preparing his living area properly.
      You will need to make sure that the rabbit’s bedding is always kept clean and dry, as damp bedding can cause health problems, and could even freeze in very cold conditions. Also, make sure that his water does not freeze, as rabbits need to have constant access to water.
      His living area should have a section that is enclosed so that he can get out of drafty, wet conditions. In wet and windy weather, it is best to cover the whole hutch to protect the rabbit from the weather, but ensure that there is still enough ventilation.
      Make sure that your rabbit has plenty of hay, as some rabbits eat a little more in winter. And finally, even though you might not always feel like it on cold, wet days, make sure that you go to see him every day to cuddle and stroke him so that he does not feel lonely.
      Hope this helps
      Richard

  3. Stephanie Patterson says:

    Thanks alot yea it really does help ! If it was up to me ad keep him in all the time but my husbands not too keen hehe . I’ve just bought an indoor cage aswell just for the really cold nites , a little compomise :)
    Thanks again

  4. janeparker says:

    Hi,we have a 10 month old male lop eared rabbit and also a 4 month old female lop we have had the male neutered and the female is being done next week im just a bit worried when there first introduced to each other they may fight had you any advice that may help thankyou.

    • Richard Lord says:

      Hi Jane
      It is always possible that two rabbits may fight wehn they are first introduced to each other. Having both neutered before introducing them is a good way to reduce this risk. I would suggest waiting a few weeks after having them neutered to allow their hormone levels to reach a the new balanced level.
      When you do introduce them, do it in an area that is neutral to both rabbits, and stay with them until you are sure they won’t fight. You can probably expect a small amount of chasing each other, or even mounting each other to affirm which rabbit is the dominant one. Any more aggressive behaviour than this could risk an injury to one or the other.
      Some people like to have the two rabbits separated, but able to get close to each other. This can be done by having one rabbit in a cage and the other free in the room with the cage.
      Good luck!
      Richard

  5. Susie Stone says:

    Hi,
    We have just purchased a female lop eared rabbit, we are new to keeping a rabbit and have quite a few questions. We bought the rabbit from a breeder and it was housed outside in a hut with its mother, brothers and sisters. We have set up a hutch in our hut outside. The hutch is in 2 tiers and the bottom is like a run, although not very big, it has no bottom – we were wondering if we should put a bottom on this and is the hut the best place to keep the rabbit during the winter months. We also have a question on straw and hay, do we use both and should we include both in the bottom of the hutch as well which is the run? We have read that the rabbit uses hay as food. We have been advised to feed our rabbit pellets and not to give carrots etc until over a year old is this correct. Any other tips would be much appreciated

    • Richard Lord says:

      Hi Susie
      I always say that the best place to keep rabbits is inside the house, however keeping your rabbits in a hut during the winter months will protect them from the weather better than having a hutch outside. Make sure that plenty of daylight can get into the hut, as rabbits routines are regulated by daylight, and they can become depressed if kept in a dark environment all the time. Also, ensure that the ventilation is sufficient.
      You could use wood on the bottom of the run, or if the hut’s floor is level you could just use the floor of the hut. Adding a separate bottom to the run will protect your hut’s floor from digging, scratching and nibbling!
      You are correct that rabbits should have large amounts of hay in their diet, and also that the diet for a young rabbit is different to an adult rabbit. Have a look at my page about feeding rabbits for more information. There is some discussion in the comments section at the bottom of the page about changing diet through a young rabbit’s development.
      Richard

    • Susie Stone says:

      Hi Richard, Thank you for your last reply it was very helpful. As I said before we are new rabbit owners and our baby lop Tipsy is 9 weeks old and she seems to eat all the time! We are feeding her in the morning but by lunch time she has nothing left, we are also giving her hay to eat as well as fresh water each day – is this nornal, we were told to fill her bowl (normal rabbit bowl) half full with the food the breeder give us which seems to be a mixture of pellets and muesli ( we could only get nuggets from Pets at home, what would you recommend?) We have been letting her out every day for half and hour to an hour for exercise, do you recommend this my daughter is afraid she will get wild as she loves this and does not want to go back into her hutch, she is jumping and having appears to be having great fun. We have also noticed she seems to be eating her hay. I am cleaning her cage out every 2nd day and using compressed wood shavings on the bottom and then staw and hay. The breeder we bought her from only used hay, could this be the reason she appears to be eating the straw. Thank you for your help, we are really enjoying our new rabbit but it is a bit daunting we just want to make sure we are doing this best for her and dont have anyone to ask Susie

      Reply
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