It’s not just children who love rabbits. The classic way of keeping long-eared comrades is still a stable or cage such as fareasthobby.com in many places. The Veterinary Association for Animal Welfare (TVT) compiled the latest scientific findings as early as 2019 and determined that this type of living for long-eared animals is not appropriate for animal welfare. Studies show that rabbits’ need for exercise is far greater than previously assumed. In addition, the rodents should be kept at least in pairs, otherwise, they will become lonely. Thus, a spacious outdoor enclosure is a good idea to adequately satisfy the space requirements of rabbits. Before you look around the Internet for a suitable enclosure or get out your hammer and saw yourself: How much space do you have to plan for your hopper? How should an outdoor enclosure be placed to offer the animals sufficient protection from the weather and security? Which materials should you use?
Keep outside all year round
In principle, rabbits can live outside in a beautiful environment all year round without any problems. The exception is, of course, if the animals have certain diseases. Therefore, it is essential to consult your veterinarian again in individual cases. When building or buying an outdoor enclosure for rabbits, you have to pay attention to a few things in order to protect the animals from all kinds of dangers. Rabbits are generally very sensitive to heat: half of the area of an outdoor enclosure should be in the shade, for rabbits with red eyes even the entire area. If you want to build an enclosure on your balcony, you should use additional shading, e.g. an insulated shelter. In any case, sufficient water should always be made available. Winter with frost, on the other hand, can affect the animals far less if they can move around sufficiently.
Plan a generous amount of space
What about rabbits’ actual space requirements? Based on the latest scientific findings, the experts from the TVT recommend that rabbits must be able to take at least three consecutive steps in their enclosure. For this, a rabbit needs a length of about 2.4 m. The area required for two rabbits should be at least 6 m². For each additional rabbit, you need 20% more space. But these are only the minimum dimensions. More space will have a positive effect on the well-being and thus on the health of your hopper. For the cold winter months, a lot of exercise space is even vital to prevent hypothermia. Rabbits can only keep warm by moving.
Enclosures Must Be Structured
Like many other pets, rabbits do not want to eat where they have urinated and defecated. They also need a place to sleep separately. Therefore, when designing a rabbit enclosure, it is important to structure it according to useful functions. The following division makes sense here:
- Feeding area with feeding and drinking bowl and hay rack
- Toilets: at least two with litter
- Sleeping and resting places: elevated lying areas, e.g. on a house with a flat roof
- Wooden ramps to get to the lying surface
- Caves or labyrinths made of wood or fabric
- Employment and play opportunities: digging areas for corridors or digging hollows, also to cool off in summer
Suitable materials and substrates
If you build the enclosure yourself, do not use any toxic materials, varnish, or glue. Plastic should be protected around the edges with metal rails. The choice of a suitable surface is also very important. It should not become muddy when it rains and it should be stable enough to be able to build corridors. Grass flooring is very suitable, but it is difficult to clean. Therefore, paving slabs should be used at the edges where the animals leave excrement. So that the animals cannot create corridors outside, you can create a barrier layer in the underground, for example, made of wire mesh, on grass surfaces. If you use the sidewalk or exposed aggregate concrete slabs as the floor, you still create a section for digging and littered areas for comfortable sitting.