The best outdoor rabbit hutches are made from wood or metal. They have different types of materials used for their construction. There are many kinds of rabbits and they need different sized shelters. Some rabbits like to live in burrows, some prefer free range living, but all types of rabbits require a good shelter at least once during the year when temperatures drop low enough for them to freeze to death. Rabbits do not hibernate. If they did, they would never go outside in the cold weather. A rabbit’s body temperature drops dramatically when it gets colder than 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius).
Rabbits need to be able to stay warm while inside their shelters so that they don’t get too sick from exposure. Many of these shelters are made out of wood or metal which will rust if exposed to sunlight and rain.
These metals may even catch fire! You want your rabbit hutches to last forever because you don’t want to spend money on something that won’t work.
There are two main types of rabbit hutches:
1) Metal or Wood Rabbit Huts 2) Insulated Rabbit Huts
Metal or Wood Rabbit Huts
Wooden huts are often made out of solid wood. Solid wood is heavier than other types of wood, such as plywood.
Make sure you buy the heavy wood and not plywood if you want them to last a long time. You may have to pay more money up front, but they will last a lifetime.
Metal huts are often made from galvanized sheet metal. Galvanized metal does rust, but it isn’t too bad if you maintain it.
It is very easy to cut into the desired shape and it is very sturdy. Galvanized metal can also be sold as a complete unit, which can make it easier to install.
Insulated Rabbit Hutches
Insulated rabbit hutches are made much like wooden ones, but with an added layer of insulation and sometimes more than one layer of wood or metal. This extra layer or layers of material help keep your rabbits warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
How to Install a Rabbit Hutch
Your rabbits need room to run. If you only have one rabbit, then you only need to buy one rabbit hutch.
However, if you plan on having more than one rabbit, then you need at least 4 square feet (0.37 sq. meters) of space per additional rabbit. This means if you have 2 rabbits, you will need at least 8 square feet (0.74 sq. meters) of space, and 3 rabbits would need 12 square feet (1.11 square meters) of space. It is better to err on the side of too much space rather than too little space.
If the ground is especially hot, then you may build a shade shelter for them out of plywood. You will need to place this close enough so that they can still get shade during the day, but far enough away that they cannot reach it.
It is generally best to put the rabbit hutches in an area that gets full sun most of the day. This ensures that your rabbits get all the Vitamin D3 that they need.
If there is a shaded area nearby that your rabbits cannot reach, then it is okay to place their hutches there.
If you only have a small backyard, then consider getting more than one hutch and placing them together side-by-side so that your rabbits will have space to move around. At the very least, you need to make sure that your rabbits cannot reach any area that they could potentially escape.
Your rabbit’s hutch should have a solid bottom. Otherwise, they may eat their own droppings and this could make them sick.
You must be able to easily access your rabbits for feeding, cleaning, and checking on them.
Rabbits can contract a disease called Coccidiosis, which causes severe diarrhea in rabbits. This disease is extremely deadly and can wipe out an entire herd if precautions are not taken.
One of the best precautions to take is keeping your hutches clean. You should remove all droppings from your hutch every day. If you have more than one rabbit, then you may have to remove droppings twice a day. Always wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning out the hutch. A hutch that has not been cleaned properly can also cause your rabbit to develop ears permanently up-turn (splayed) or even go blind.
In addition to hay, your rabbits also need a constant supply of water. A water bottle that hangs on the side of the hutch works well.
Clean it every day and refill it. Do not use an open bowl as your rabbits could kick the bowl over or make a mess with it. If the water becomes contaminated then you may have to treat your rabbits for Coccidiosis (see above).
You can feed your rabbits a commercial rabbit feed or you can feed them vegetables. The best ingredients for your rabbits are fresh grass, clovers, dandelions, and carrot tops.
Carrots are high in sugar and should only be given as an occasional treat. You must wash all vegetables before feeding them to your rabbits to remove any dirt or pesticides (if you grow your own vegetables). Other good vegetables to feed include kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, and collard greens.
When feeding your rabbits Timothy hay or other grass hays, you must also feed them alfalfa because it provides the vitamins that their bodies need to digest the fiber in the grass hays. If you do not feed your rabbits alfalfa, then they will eventually develop a Vitamin Bdeficiency.
You may have to give your rabbits supplemental Biotin (Vitamin H) as well since it is not stored in the body for very long. The nutritional requirements of rabbits are still not very well understood and they may have other deficiencies as well. They also need extra calcium so you must either provide them with a supply of broken bones or mineral blocks.
If you want to breed your rabbits, then you need two of them (a doe and a buck). The buck (or sometimes called a “Tom”) is generally not very friendly and you should handle him as little as possible.
The doe (or “doe”) is the one that produces the most milk and is generally a nicer rabbit. You can get baby rabbits (called kits) either through natural breeding or by artificial insemination (if you have a buck that you do not want to handle).
Baby rabbits are born blind and without fur. They are totally helpless and will die without their mother’s milk.
After one week, their eyes open and they start to explore their surroundings (while their mother watches them carefully). When the kits are two weeks old, you should start feeding them “Kitten Replacement Milk” which is available from a vet or pet store. Once they are weaned at about four to five weeks old, you can start giving them fresh vegetables. Do not give them fruits since these contain a lot of sugar that can cause health problems and obesity.
Breeding rabbits is more complicated than you might think and not every doe breeds every month (or ever). Each time the doe gives birth, it is called a “kindle”.
The size of the litter usually ranges between one and twelve kits but most kindles are only one or two kits. The size of the litter grows larger as the number of kindles grows. So a doe that has had 8 kindles will probably produce more than eight kits.
Baby rabbits are very cute but they grow up to become big rabbits and you cannot keep them inside your home like you can with kittens and puppies. If you got your rabbit from a shelter then it may have been abandoned by a previous owner after he grew tired of it.
If you want to breed rabbits, then that is your choice.
When rabbits reach sexual maturity at five to eight months, the buck can be very aggressive and may even attack and seriously injure the doe. It is essential that you have a strong hutch with a door that locks to keep the buck inside.
If you do not have a buck (and do not intend on getting one) then two does can be kept together since they tend to be more peaceful.
Every year, thousands of unwanted rabbits end up in animal shelters and are subsequently euthanized. While adoption is always a preferable option, if you decide that breeding and raising rabbits is for you then the following information may be helpful.
Rabbit housing has come a long way and there are many options to choose from. A good place to start is with your local rabbit club (check the yellow pages) since you can get free advice from people who have first hand experience.
There are two basic options: inside or outside.
Indoor housing: Rabbits that live their entire lives indoors have a tiled “bathroom” area (with grid flooring) connected to their living area so that the litter is easily cleaned out on a weekly basis. The living area is lined with safe wooden chew toys that are changed out once a week.
This keeps their mind active and prevents boredom.
Outdoor housing: Rabbits that live their entire lives outdoors are usually raised in a cage (sometimes called an “ex Pen”) with attached shelter. The cage has grid flooring to allow waste to fall through and can be lined with wood shavings or hay.
The top can be made of mesh or netting to allow sunlight and fresh air inside. The shelter is usually a hutch (cage on ground) that is also lined with wood shavings or hay. The outdoor setup can get very elaborate but the general idea is always the same: safe, clean floors; sunlight; and fresh air.
Hay, fresh water, and dry food should be placed in the cage or hutch daily.
Breeding: If you are raising rabbits for meat then breeding is a no-no. You are essentially creating more creatures that will eventually end up as someone’s dinner.
If you are planning on keeping rabbits as pets then breeding is an option although, again, you should do your research first.
While two healthy rabbits will mate whenever they feel like it, a doe can only give birth once a year (just like humans) and the pregnancy only lasts 32-36 days. A buck can mate with several different does during the breeding season.
The gestation period (pregnancy) is only one month if the doe gets pregnant right away but it can range between two and eight months if the doe is not pregnant right away.
A rabbit’s teeth continue to grow so they need to chew to keep them worn down. They also need to eat a lot to keep their digestive system running smoothly.
Health issues: As with all pets, rabbits can suffer from a variety of health issues including fleas, intestinal worms, hair or food allergies, overweight/underweight, and sudden death (usually cardiac arrythmia).
Fleas are common and can be treated by using over-the-counter medication or you can have your veterinarian administer a special dip.
Intestinal worms can be common in rabbits and can be treated via a de-worming medication.
Hair or food allergies are fairly common in rabbits and can cause open sores and hair loss. You will need to bring your rabbit to the veterinarian for examination to determine what is causing the allergic reaction and then perform daily care such as adding a medicated shampoo (if it is a skin allergy) to their bath water or adjusting their diet (if it is a food allergy).
Hair loss can be treated with medicated shampoo or with a steroid cream such as 0.1% hydrocortisone but this should only be used short term (less than two weeks).
Overweight: Like all pets, rabbits must get plenty of exercise and their diet must be controlled to avoid obesity. An overweight rabbit will suffer from health issues such as joint problems, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and reproductive problems.
Underweight: Like all pets, rabbits must get plenty of exercise and their diet must be controlled to avoid underweight. An underweight rabbit will suffer from health issues such as impaired immunity and digestive problems.
Sudden Death (usually cardiac Arrythmia): A rare condition that can affect some rabbits, an affected rabbit will often seem fine until it suddenly drops dead for no apparent reason.
Sources & references used in this article:
Raising Belgian hares and other rabbits by DE Lantz – 1912 – naldc.nal.usda.gov
Housing and Feed Management Practices among Rabbit Keepers in Enugu State, Nigeria by JM Chah, IO Uddin, WE Nnodim… – International Journal of …, 2017 – academia.edu
Rabbits by R Bjorklund – 2008 – books.google.com
Rabbit hutch by WC Havens – US Patent 2,667,143, 1954 – Google Patents
Animal hutch by RR Krueger – US Patent 2,524,229, 1950 – Google Patents
BEST PRACTICE GUIDANCE FOR RINGING AND NEST RECORDING BARN OWLS by NBOX DESIGN – bto.org
Success In Rabbit Farming. By FA Deale, Extension Officer for the Districts of Pretoria, Brits and Springs. IN past years the turnover from Angora-rabbit wool llas left … by FA Deale – Farming in South Africa, 1935 – journals.co.za
Rabbits: health, husbandry and diseases by VCG Richardson – 2008 – Wiley Online Library