SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Creating an enriching home and environment for your rabbits

Rabbits can live happily either indoors or outdoors, or both!

If your rabbits live outside

Your rabbits will need a roomy hutch and an exercise run (or an enclosure containing both) that is high enough to allow the rabbits to stand-up fully on their hind legs, as well as being big enough to allow plenty of room for them to hop around. Place the hutch in a position that faces the morning sun. Make sure that your rabbits have access to shade, especially on sunny days, and that they are protected from the rain, wind, and any other adverse weather conditions.

Hutch and run size

  • Many hutches sold in shops are far too small for rabbits to live in. Your hutch should be no smaller than 2m long. We recommend a minimum hutch size of 3m (length) x 1.5m (width) x 0.75m (height) or the equivalent area with other dimensions. However, the bigger the better and you should get/make a hutch as big as you can afford/manage/fit!
  • The hutch should connect to, or be contained within, a run (which should be as large as possible) to allow your rabbits to hop, run, jump, and stand fully upright on their back legs.
  • The exact amount of space the rabbits will need depends on the number of rabbits being housed and the size and breed of the rabbits but the more space the better.

Hutch requirements

  • The sleeping area should be raised off the ground slightly and must be weatherproof and draught-proof.
  • Your hutch must be predator proof, as dogs, cats, and other predators can kill your rabbits.
  • There should be areas for the rabbits to hide and play.
  • There should be raised areas for your rabbits to sit on, sunbathe and look out.
  • Digging is a normal rabbit behaviour. If digging is leading to problems such as escaping, click here for advice.

If your rabbits live inside

It is possible to litter train rabbits [link to relevant info on this page], meaning that they can easily live inside your house with you as part of the family.

They will need:

  • A safe (rabbit-proof, i.e. that they cannot escape from!) place for sleeping and for unsupervised play, which includes a water bottle/bowl, hay, bedding, food dish, litter tray, and toys.
  • Close supervision when loose in the house in non-rabbit proof areas.
  • Ideally, access to an outdoor area for additional exercise and enrichment.

A rabbit-proof environment

  • Tape electrical and phone cords where they cannot be chewed (don’t forget those things that are up quite high but which your rabbits could reach when they are on their hind legs).
  • Consider getting cord protectors and covers for electrical outlets.
  • Move potted plants where they cannot be eaten, as they are likely to be poisonous to rabbits.
  • Remove children’s toys, clothing, etc. that could be dangerous and other things that you don’t want to be chewed.

Exercise

  • You can train your rabbits to use a cat flap if you would like to give them easy access to a secure and safe outside area.
  • If your rabbits do not have free access to an outside area, you should consider providing them with daily exercise in the garden where they are free to hop around for at least one hour a day. This area would need to be secure and rabbit-proof and might consist of a large exercise pen.


Wherever they live the rabbits will also need:

Plenty of bedding

  • Bedding for rabbits should consist of dust-free straw, hay, or shredded paper on a layer of newspaper.
  • Do not use products made from treated timber or wood shavings as bedding because these can be fatal to rabbits.

Mental stimulation

  • Rabbits, like all animals, require mental stimulation.
  • Add ramps, tunnels, boxes, climbable objects, and toys to your rabbits’ home (ensure that these are made from rabbit-safe materials).

Safe spaces

  • In the wild, rabbits use higher ground to feel safe and check for danger. Provide objects or higher surfaces for your rabbits to jump up on so that they can exhibit this natural behaviour.
  • Rabbits naturally live underground, so it is great to provide them with protected areas and hidey holes where they feel safe and secure, such as:
  • Cardboard boxes of different sizes
  • Wicker baskets (untreated ones) filled with hay
  • Tunnels

Exercise and enrichment

Rabbits need lots of exercise and enrichment to stave off boredom and to promote positive physical and mental health. Use your imagination when enriching your rabbits’ environment but please ensure that everything you use is safe, non-toxic, and will not cause injury.

Training

Many people have great success in training their rabbits to do all kinds of tricks – fetching, sitting, rolling over, or even jumping through hoops!

Toys

Toys are a fantastic way for you to interact with your rabbits. Try tossing a ball and encouraging your rabbit to toss it back. Rabbits love to investigate, push, pull, and play with toys. Alternate toys regularly to keep them interested.

Here are some toy ideas:

  • Fill carboard toilet paper rolls with hay and healthy treats.
  • Hide a slice of fruit or vegetable in a treat ball.
  • Untreated wicker baskets, wooden ‘fiddlesticks’, cartons, and untreated fruit tree limbs make great shredding fun and are also important for wearing down teeth.
  • Telephone books, boxes, cat tunnels, and blocks of untreated wood are excellent for stretching, climbing, or sitting.

Remember to let your rabbits destroy their toys if they want to – that is part of the fun for them!

Outside Enrichment

Rabbits are naturally outdoor animals and they will love the chance to kick up their heels in their own exercise area outside.

  • Invest in an exercise pen or buy several and link them together with tubes/tunnels to make a mega outdoor play area.
  • Add a variety of toys to the pen.
  • Allow your rabbits the space and opportunity to eat fresh grass.
  • Sandpits filled with soil or sand are loved by rabbits. Pushing sand and digging encourages their natural behaviours.
  • Ensure that the rabbits have access to fresh water at all times.

Download our Rabbit Care Brochure (PDF)

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