Prior to domestication, rabbits were well versed in how to protect themselves from predators and harsh weather conditions. They burrow and have thicker furs during winter and their ears pick up movement signals from perceived predators so they can dash for safety. However, this changed after their incorporation into the human world, now they need humans to protect them from predators and even from themselves!
Most rabbit owners keep their pet rabbits outdoors because they assume that the rabbits should do just fine since their ancestors lived with no problems in the wild. This notion would be correct if you own a wild rabbit, but for breeds that have been domesticated centuries ago, you are setting up the bunny for an untimely death.
Apart from possible risks from predators and harsh conditions, put door rabbits are also at the risk of eating poisonous plants, escaping and even dying from loneliness.
Outdoor Rabbits: How to keep them safe and happy
Theoretically, it is best to keep rabbits indoor to protect them and form better bonds with them. But this is real life, there is an inexhaustible list of reasons why most owners can’t t must keep the rabbit outdoors. Moreover, breeds such as Rex and mini Rex rabbit, New Zealand Red rabbit, Blanc De Bouscat, Colombia Basin Pygmy Rabbit, German Angora Rabbit, White Vienna Rabbit and European rabbit do very well outdoors.
As long as the owner is ready and willing to take up the responsibilities required to make the bunny happy and fulfilled outdoors, then there is no problem.
Diligently follow these rules to fulfil your duties as a pet owner.
- Rabbits require a dry, well-ventilated, spacey, and comfortable enclosure to call home. It must be able to support their hopping hobby and stretching capacity, that is why it is advisable to make the hutch at least 8 by 2.75 by 2.75 feet. The hutch’s flooring can be made with various materials except for wood. This is because wood absorbs ammonia from urine and this can be poisonous to them.
- The room must be lockable, especially at night time when you wouldn’t be able to shoo off potential predators. To further make the bunny inaccessible to predators, you may wind the perimeter of the rabbit’s hole and exercise area with high cable wire.
- As you already know, rabbits are active animals and need to play and run around. When you are chanced to supervise at dusk or dawn, let them play and exercise. Make sure the exercise area is not extended to the garden where they may come across poisonous plants such as aloe vera and daffodils and are tempted to nibble on it.
- You must regularly check to see that their food and water supply is never cut off. Supply them with clean, fresh water and healthy food that consists of about 75% hay, leafy vegetables and some rabbit pellets.
- Companionship and friendship are must-have for rabbits. You must provide a friend for your bunny if you don’t want it to literally die from loneliness. It may be a female-female pair, male-male pair or a female-male pair. Except you want to make your backyard a breeding site, make sure to neuter/spay the pair before bringing them together.
- Check for any large holes in your garden through which the rabbit may escape from. You may also include toys so the rabbits can entertain themselves.
Making Winter Warm For Outdoor Rabbits:
During winter, wild rabbits make burrows and hide there to maintain their body heat, but as mentioned, earlier domesticated rabbits have lost the knowledge to do that and hence must be cared for. Domesticated rabbits may be able to withstand some level of cold but at extreme temperatures, they’d develop hypothermia if care is not taken.
Make winter reasonably warm for your pet by following these steps:
- Before the winter season, check for any damage on the roof or on the wall that needs to be fixed.
- To keep in as much heat as possible, insulate the hutch by adding tarpaulin, PVC, newspaper or grass on the roof and on the walls. You may also add extra layers of hay and straw to the beddings to make it comfortable. However, you must regularly change the beddings because it would become damp over time and damp is bad for your rabbits, especially during winter.
- Since your rabbit would be with you for a long time, you may invest in heaters and heating pads made especially for rabbits.
- Constantly check the water bottle and make sure the nozzle hasn’t frozen over. If it has, rinse it with warm water. Constantly change the water with warm water and increase their food supply during winter. More food equals more energy, more energy means more body heat production.
Rabbits do not hibernate, so if your rabbit appears lethargic and unmoving, it probably means it is suffering from potential hypothermia. Hypothermia is dangerous and can be fatal if treated nonchalantly. Quickly wrap her up in warm blankets and towel and seek immediate medical attention.
Make Summer Cool for Outdoor Rabbits:
With so much fur on their skin, summer is usually almost unbearable for rabbits. With increasing temperature, rabbits need a bit of cool and you must do right by them by decreasing the heat distress.
- Provide shade and move them from direct sunlight. If their hutch is moveable, place it under a tree or under a building that can provide shade. If it’s immoveable, you may need to buy a sun umbrella or a shade sail.
- You can create a ”cool” spot in the hutch by placing two frozen water bottles in positions that the rabbits usually visit and rest on. You may also sneak two or three cubes of ice into their water bottle.
- There are a number of videos on how to make inexpensive DIY air-conditioning for the rabbit. You can also make one for the rabbit.
- Trimming of fur has also proved to be a good method of reducing heat distress during summer.
Rabbits may suffer from heat strokes if proper care is not taken to reduce body temperature. If your rabbit is showing signs of heat strokes, move her to a fully air-conditioned room and add cold compression to extremities such as the ear. If the body temperature doesn’t reduce within minutes of first aid, seek immediate medical attention.
Moving Outdoor Rabbits Indoors
If the temperature drops below 0° during winter or above 82° during summer, it would be advisable to move the rabbit indoors. The change in environment might be stressful for the animal if the proper steps are not followed.
- Before repositioning your bunny friend(s), make sure you have bunny- proofed your home and prepared their indoor cage. You may leave objects that smell like you around the cage so they can bond quicker with you.
- Except to change beddings or provide food and water, do not visit her cage. Let her come around on her own.
- In case you haven’t noticed rabbits like to poop and urinate in a particular position. While they may not do so in the first week of bringing them in, as they begin to become used to their new surroundings they would find the spot best for them soon. Then, you can now introduce a litter box in that spot.
- After acclimation, you can let it run and play around. Be patient. She’s not used to affection so don’t try to carry her around during the first few months of introduction. With time, your bunny would love you as much as you love her.
- Do not attempt to move the animal in and out for whatever reason. Once, you have introduced the bunny indoors, it should remain indoors.