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Proper rabbit housing can feel a little confusing.
There are so many different options out there for rabbit hutches and rabbit housing. But more important than whether or not your rabbits are living outside or inside your house, there is something that all of them NEED to have in order for you to have a healthy herd.
That is ventilation, humidity and temperature, and lighting.
I will also get to the other factors of housing rabbits and the structure itself but that is not as important as these things.
Rabbit Housing Needs Ventilation
I don’t hide the fact that my rabbits are not housed in a barn and even if we had one I wouldn’t use it. There are so many breeders I have come across that have major health issues in their rabbitry and the common denominator to me is the lack of ventilation.
My lean-to-style hutches with cages hanging inside work great. The rabbits have a three-sided shelter and I am able to put up tarps when the weather is bad. I have never lost a rabbit to respiratory issues with this setup and their production is always great as well.
Adequate ventilation will determine whether or not the rabbit will be in good health and produce well. Inadequate ventilation makes the rabbits prone to many common respiratory issues such as pneumonia or sniffles. And let’s be honest even if they don’t have any obvious health issues they are going to look better and produce better if their body is operating at is best.
The only way to eliminate these diseases or at the very least prevent them is through proper ventilation.
The ideal ventilation rate is a minimum of 10 total air changes in the housing area per hour. Of course, that is pretty difficult to track without state-of-the-art equipment. So what are you supposed to do? Do your best to provide them with the best options possible instead of closing them up tight in a structure with no real air circulation.
This should also be a consideration when you keep your rabbits inside your house and in a bedroom or a small room of their own.
In this situation, you should consider an affordable baby gate to keep them closed in the room but leave the door open. You could also use an air purifier to help keep the air moving and provide them with fresh air. BUT MAKE SURE any electronics are out of the rabbit’s reach. Electrical cords are deadly if a rabbit chews on them.
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What To Do If You Need To Keep Them Closed Up For Safty
This won’t be an issue if your rabbits are in your house but if your rabbits are outside and neighborhood dogs are a problem or like us wild predators you have to do what you have to do to be a responsible rabbit owner and keep your rabbits safe.
Consider These Things Before Using An Outbuilding Or Barn
This becomes very difficult when the existing shelters on your property were intended for other purposes and then are converted into rabbitries.
Often times assistance is needed to make the necessary adjustments to allow for proper ventilation in the converted rabbitry. Which is why you should try having your rabbits outside of a structure if possible.
If you have rabbit hutches consider putting them inside a fenced-in area. But also be mindful of what is around them. Don’t put them up against a woods line or somewhere a predator can hide and plan out what he is going to do without being noticed. You don’t want to give them easy access.
If you don’t have a fenced-in backyard you can buy livestock wire and staple it up around the legs of each of the hutches to keep animals from getting underneath the hutches and attacking your rabbits that way.
Good ventilation is just as important during the winter as it is during the heat of the summer. I will talk more on this later but keep in mind that rabbits cannot tolerate temperatures in excess of 80 degrees with accompanying high humidity rabbits can tolerate higher temperatures when humidity is low as long as the air is moving about the rabbitry.
Humidity / Temperature
Humidity and high heat are your enemies. And together they are a deadly combo. Ideally, you want to have less than 60% humidity and 80 degrees or less in your rabbitry for the summer months.
Believe it or not, ideal temperatures for rabbits are 50 degrees. This is when they are the most active and even in the best mood.
These are some key things to help keep a rabbitry cool.
- Location – Choose the shadiest location possible.
- Trees are nature’s cooling system and will keep the rabbitry cooler than shelter by a barn or structure.
- Freeze bottles or veggies for your rabbits to snack on.
There are several ways to help keep your rabbits cool. You can read more here about how to keep rabbits cool in the summer heat.
On the flip side if you want to raise rabbits for good pelts or get them in good fur condition the less light the better. In the winter there is less light.
Rabbitry Housing Needs Lighting
I am a bit of a nerd about these things but it makes sense. Lighting is key to raising almost any animal. If you want them to produce well and be healthy it only makes sense that the more light they have the more likely they are to have successful litters.
More light is a trigger to the animal that spring is coming and warm weather along with grass and food will soon be here. Making them and their body ready for production.
Ideally, rabbit housing should have 16hrs of light per day. Obviously, that is not doable unless you are willing to put artificial light in your rabbitry if it is in a barn. I see so many people have breedings never take (be successful) and most of the time the rabbits are closed up in a dark building with little to no light.
Rabbit Housing Flooring, Solid or Wire
Ok lets get into the heavy topics first.
Hands down I am pro wire floor. Hear me out.
If Your Rabbit Is Bred Right Sore Hocks Should Not Be A Problem
Rabbits’ feet are their main weapons of defense. They are powerful and should be able to withstand heavy use. Your rabbits should have no issue living on a wire floor.
Why I Think Solid Floors Are Unhealthy
I already eluded to this when talking about the importance of clean air for your rabbits. If they are living on solid floors they will literally be sitting with their waste and urine until you are able to clean it out. Even if you clean it every day it could be 8hrs or more before you are able to get it cleaned up.
Whereas a wire floor will allow the waste to fall immediately away from the rabbit and keep the humidity and ammonia away from their breathing area.
Why you REALLY do not want a solid floor when rabbits live outside. It takes maggots 24hrs to hatch. Rabbits naturally turn those little cubby holes that these hutches nowadays have into a toilet. If your rabbit uses that same area and there are fly eggs in even the smallest pile of the mess they could end up with maggots attached to them!
This is why I am so against rabbits having a litter box or anything of the sort.
If you do not have a situation where your rabbit’s waste can fall to the ground at least get a hutch that has a litter tray that will catch the pee and poo so they are not sitting near it.
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What To Do If Your Rabbit Struggles With Sore Hocks
So what do you do if your rabbit does struggle with feet issues? Should you still get a wire cage and just let their feet be sore? No. Let me give you some tips to help with that. It’s not your or your rabbit’s fault if it has issues.
Start by giving them a few resting mats in their cage. These are a great way to give your rabbits a place to sit but still have holes to allow the waste to fall through the wire flooring of the rabbit cages.
If this does not help after a few weeks then you may have to consider a solid floor. But this also means you are going to have to clean your rabbit’s hutch far more often.
Bare heels does not mean sore hocks. Your rabbit’s feet need to be raw or bloody to qualify. If you notice your rabbit has bald feet take note of it to see if it processes before freaking out.
If your rabbit does have sore hocks most of the time then that animal should not be used for breeding. This is considered a disqualification when you are showing a rabbit.
Rabbit Housing Size
Ok, so many people have different opinions on this. I go by what the ARBA recommends and if you have the room to give your rabbit more room then great. But you currently don’t have to.
Minimum Size For Rabbit Housing
- Under 6 pounds 18″ wide, 24″ deep, 12″ high.
- 6-11 pounds or under 26-36″ wide, 12″ deep, 18″ high.
- 12+ pounds 36-48″ wide, 24″ deep, 18″ high.
If you are concerned about your rabbit getting plenty of exercise time you should consider getting a puppy playpen and give them time in the shade but NOT on the ground where wild animals could have been. This is super unhealthy and can cause your rabbit to get the RHDV2 virus which is deadly to rabbits.
Does Your Rabbit Need A Cage
YES! Here is why.
A cage gives them their “home” or safe space to go when they need some space away from loud noises or when they simply need some solitude.
Rabbits will also become unruly with no boundaries and if they have no designated spot to go to the bathroom they will go wherever they feel like it which also means leaving trails of turds all over your house. They also chew on literally anything and everything. You need to protect them from this. Wood, fabrics, and anything else in your house can be deadly to your rabbit.
If your rabbits live outside they need shelter and security from predators. If you let them run loose in your yard outside they will start to have untrained rabbits with wild behavior and you will not have a nice friendly pet. They will also be exposed to diseases and other health issues from wild rabbits.
Supplies For Your Rabbits
Water bottles or water bowls – These are my favorite water bowls for large rabbits. They hold plenty of water so they don’t run out and they are heavy enough that they don’t tip over.
It can be easy to want to have them in the perfect protected conditions be keeping them all closed up is doing more harm than good. Remember that they are livestock animals. They are adaptable and pretty impressive creatures if you allow them to be.
Do the best with what you can and make changes as needed. Having and outdoor rabbit can be just as rewarding as having a pet indoors. Do what you need to to keep them safe and know you did your best.
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