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Proper Outdoor Housing

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MyBabyBunnies

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I know we have a cages only thread but I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate a thread to the proper way to house rabbits outdoors.

I'm by no means and expert but in the last 3 years I've learned a lot about the proper way of housing rabbits outdoors and after building 3 hutches, I've also found out the important things a hutch needs.

A large cage with easy access and plenty of it:


Proper ventilation is very important, especially on hot days. The little window at the back allows airflow asdoes as the wire floor.Thise pices of decorative trim on the top and bottom of the big front window are to allow me to slide a translucent piece of plastic in to block out snow, rain, etc. if needed. All the windows have them. Wire should be small enough to keep any wild animals from reaching in.


It's important that a hutch have boards on the wire to allow the rabbit to rest it's feet but not so many boards that air flow is limited. There also needs to be a climate appropriate box provided for a scared animal to hide in. I use a cardboard box in the summer and a larger, bulkier insulated wood box in the winter.


A secure latch that will not accidentally become undone or that can be opened by the rabbit from inside. If you have raccoons in the area, a latch that is harder to open is a better idea.

This is my other hutch and the newest built one, I love this one, it has all the good characteristics that an outdoor hutch should have.

Lots of ventilation:




A climate appropriate box. This one is insulated and not removable like my other hutch but it is easy to access from the outside of the hutch.


Something to fasten a hay rack to so that it stays off the ground:


Appropriate bedding and storage for it. This shed keeps mice out of the hay and straw. Those wood boxes on top are the removable wooden boxes I use in the winter for the big hutch.


A sturdy rabbit run that is high enough to prevent anyone from jumping out. If it's not covered then a rabbit should never be left unattended outside. Also wire can be put a couple of inches into the ground to prevent any rabbits from tunnelling out. Shade is important, they must have some at all times.


Appropriate latches to keep the run closed and rabbits in:


I also provide frozen water bottles and tiles to keep an outside rabbit cool in the summer and plenty of straw in the winter.

Water needs to be constantly changed in the winter to ensure that they always have water to drink since a solid block of ice is not easy for a rabbit to get enough moisture from.

Anyone feel free to add to this post about their experiences as well. :)Hope this was helpful.
 

naturestee

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Great post!:thumbup

What are the dimensions of your hutches? They look big! Also a reminder to people thinking about keeping their bunnies outdoors- they need much larger hutches than indoor bunnies.
 

bunnydude

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Wonderful tips! Your bunnies must love those huge hutches!

:nicethread
 

MyBabyBunnies

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The big, long one is 8' by 2' (it might be 2'6", I forget). It had a divider in the middle until I bonded Mocha and Zoey.The smaller one is 5' by 2'6". So yeah, they are plenty big but I wouldn't want to go any smaller.

I forgot to mention that placement isa big issue as well. In the summer cages can have morning sun but should be almost entirely if not entirely shaded from the afternoon sun. In the winter the cage can be in the afternoon sun, my rabbits love to bask in the sun during the winter.
 

megandawn

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Great topic!!

I am new to rabbit owning and could use some tips to improve my outside hutch. We had our hutch given to us from someone who didn't need it any more. So far we have insulated one half (top and bottom) of it and plan on the rabbits being in there during the winter with lots of straw. It doesn't have a wire bottom though. I sweep it out every few days and let it dry before putting new bedding down. I was considering putting a wire floor in but wouldn't it be too cold in the winter? Plus the was mine is set up the bottom of the cage is a run and I cannot get in there to clean it and I would want it to just pile up down there. Hmmmm.They are free to go in and out of the hutch during the day and then I put them in with the door closed at night. The side yard is enclosed well with a fence as well as chicken wire, bricks and planks to keep them from slipping under it. The right side is for one of the three rabbits to sleep in at night. They get along out in the yard but one of my other females is very protective of her home. Excuse the way the yard look but I have bee working out there and it is still a work in process!

Megan (the human), Sugar, Pipkin and Molly
 

MyBabyBunnies

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My insulated boxes where I put the straw are the only places without wire flooring. But if you're rabbit has a run on the bottom, it's not a big deal to have a solid bottomed hutch because the run has good ventilation and a hot rabbit can go down there to cool off. :)And night is often the coolest time which means that its ok to not have a wire bottom.

I'd be very cautious about the run in winter, if it gets snow in it, you don't want the rabbit in that all the time, it can get sick. I let mine run on snow but only on mild days (where it's not overly cold but cold enough that the snow isn't melting). It's probably best to place a piece of wood on top if the run is larger then the hutch. That will keep most of the snow out. You can shovel the rest away from the sides.

As for cleaning the box, my rabbits are very good about not using their insulated boxes as a bathroom. I clean them out only twice during the winter (unless it needs to be cleaned more)but I add straw as needed throughout the winter. My rabbits burrow in it and I don't want to ruin it by cleaning the straw out every few days.
 

MyBabyBunnies

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Oops, didn't see the picture until after! Very nice hutch and I can tell it has good ventilation even without the wire bottom, so it's fine!
 

m.e.

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Great post, Laura, I love your cages :)
 

MyBabyBunnies

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Thanks, I'm quite proud of them since we built them all. They all have their slight faults but they're a lot better than the store bought ones! The large hutch leaks since the roof opens up and has a seam on it, if the whole roof was hinged to lift it wouldn't leak but oh well, I just use a tarp to cover it.

I just hate how messy they look at times, the mix matched paint job and all, LOL, oh well. That's another thing, I paint all my hutches because pee and constant cleaning with water rots the wood really fast. Half the wood in my hutches would need to be replaced every 2 years if they weren't painted. But only water based paintcan be used. Paint is still paint but water based is safer than oil based if ingested. I also do touch ups every year (Spice's cage still needs to be finished painting) but I allow 24 hours for the paint to dry before putting them back in. I wont ever put them in if still has that paint fume smell.
 

NZminilops

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I really like the look of the off the ground type of hutch and have been back to look at this thread many times :D.

All my rabbit hutches have been on the ground. I did used to put them up on wooden pellets (like the things you stack stuff on and pick up with a forklift) but I found the wind would blow through the wire on the bottom and make it seem colder in the hutch. Does putting hay on the wire floor help with that, and how do your bunnies react to the hay? Mine has a slight aversion to hay after her bad bad owners before me would just pile it into her hutch and not bother to ever clean it out (just stuck more hay on top of the old stuff, when I got her it was about 4 inches thick of rotten hay and poo).

The worst thing weather-wise to cope with here is rain. In winter it rains so darn much! Are the hutches you build very good at keeping out rain that drives in sideways?

Do you have any larger pics of the hutches you've made or rough dimensions so I can get an idea of how you put them together?

Thanks!
 

MyBabyBunnies

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As I said, positioning is very important. In general, (except the odd time) the rain comes from a north-west direction here, as long as the wire part is facing the opposite direction, it's not a concern. The last few days we've had a lot of really heavy rains that creep up unexpectantly accompanied by strong winds and Spice's cage has stayed completely dry. Unfortunately, Mocha and Zoey's hasn't. At this time of year, it's more important for the hutch to get afternoon shade than the direction it faces so they are facing north.I have storm windows I slide in for occasions like that. You can also make the overhang larger.

I don't see a problem with wind coming in the bottom, the ventilation is good for rabbits and in the summer, a cool hutch is a bonus. Even in the winter, a cool hutch is not an issue, as long as they have a warm place to go like an enclosed box with straw in it. I find that most of the time, even in the winter, they prefer to sit on wire than wood floor boards or even in their boxes.

I raisethem off the ground to make it less accessable to predators, to allow the poop to fall through and be easily cleaned up, and for proper ventilation.

The only place that there is straw on the ground is in their boxes and I only cleaned it if necessary. Last winter I only cleaned Spice's box out once and that was only because it was getting dusty. Even if I don't change it out, I periodically pull the straw out, put it into a box and shake it out before putting it back in to keep it dust free. Zoey's box on the other hand, I changed the straw every day or 2 because she soiled it. I don't use hay for bedding because if they do soil it, I prefer they don't eat it.

I had planned on taking picture of Spice's cage in the process of making it but I never did. His cage is by far the best and could easily just be made bigger to accomodate multiple bunnies. The only problem is that my hutch is 5' by 2.5' and the roof is one piece. Since it is removeable, I couldn't make it any bigger or I would not be able to lift it on my own and having the roof in 2 pieces means it would leak without a tarp or something covering it.

I took more pictures of some parts to show you what we did. It's basically a 2x2 frame that we attached plywood to. Here is the bottom of the hutch. There is 2 long 2x2's that run the whole length of the cage on the bottom in the front and back. There there are 2 shorter 2x2's on the sides to make a rectangular frame on the bottom. In between we added 2 short supports running perpendicular to the long supports and my dad being the type to over do it, also put supports the other way.



Onto that bottom frame we attached vertical2x2's in all 4 corners and above the farthest rightsupport so we could attach the insulated box walls to something.



On top of this frame we put wire on, it runs through the whole cage, including under the box to allow some drainage.

This is the divider wall, you can see how the plywood of the wall of the insulated box is attached directly to the 2x2.


On top of the vertical 2x2's, we put another long 2x2 on both the front and back. The side 2X2's were cut and angled t fit directly between these 2.



The box is insulated with styrofoam between thevertical 2x2's in the box area and then another layer of wood is glued onto the styrofoam. We attacked 2 pieces of wood to 2 opposite sides of the insulated box to allow me to put a piece of plywood onto it and another layer of styrofoam to keep the heat in the box.


The top is blocked off so they can't get at the styrofoam.


Sine the cage bottom is wire, I put a layer of Styrofoam down on the wire, and then boards to fit the area. All this syrofoam helps contain the heat.


The door to the box is similar. There is a wood block between 2 pieces of styrofoam so that we could firmly attach the latch.


All the doors have a wood frame around them to help support the wood and to attach the hinges to. We made the plywoodcut outa centimeter larger on both sides to make this 'lip'. It helps to keep the weather out.


For more ventilation we added a 'window' to the end. But because the plywood was not sturdy or thick enough, we glued and screwed a frame around the window where we attached the wire to.


The big front door also has this lip to stop it from going too far into the cage.


You can see the plywood layer attached to the support frame here as well as the hinges. Because it's a large door, we used3 hinges.


Last but not least there is the roof. This is the underside of it. We attached wood blocks to it on the outside to prevent it from sliding off or side to side.


I hope this helped, it’s really hard to describe so there’s a chance I might make no sense, LOL.
 

tamsin

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That's a lovely solid looking hutch :)

One tip I'd add is think about cleaning when you're designing the hutch. Don't build it then find your arms aren't long enough to reach the back or you have tricky bits to get at.

Here is my outdoor setup:




The hutch is above with a ladder down. Having the hutch above gives them more room for less garden area. They sleep in the hutch midday but spend the rest of their time downstairs. Even when the weathers bad they'll often just move to the more sheltered area of the run.

Being partially over the run means the hutch also provides shelter for the sun/rain - the back section of the run next to the hutch is covered too. When the weathers really bad I add perspex sheets over part of the mesh to give more weather protection.

I've seen some lovely setups made from converted sheds and childrens playhouses - definately worth considering if building/buying a big enough hutch is difficult.

Tam
 

MyBabyBunnies

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Those types of hutches are frequently available in Europe but I've never seen one here. A little 3' by 2' hutch here runs about $150 while this 5' by 2.5' hutch cost me about $30 for wire because the wood was all left over from something else and would have gone to waste. The bigger one cost be about the same (onlybought wire again)and it's an 8' by 2.5' hutch.

As for the runs, they are a nice idea but I'd have a heck of a time cleaning them and getting at my rabbits. Not to mention I hate how they are made out of chicken wire. It's just not sturdy enough for my taste. We've had cats rip chicken wire apart and even my rabbits have putholes initso I don't trust it.
 

tamsin

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Do you mean mine? It's all homemade :) I made the hutch frame the same way as you did but it's sides are tounge and grove rather than board. The roof is made from a sheet of plyboard covered in roofing felt. It has blocks to hold it in place the same as yours and lifts off though I don't need to often. The hutch has two doors hinged at the sides (opens like a cupboard) with a bolt holding them closed. When open there is no lip at the front so the litter sweeps straight out into a dustpan.

The run lid is split in two and lifts off. I just lift the lids off and step in to catch the buns. It's on paving so easy to clean (dustpan & brush) and no escapes. It's part covered in chicken wire but that was just because we didn't know better at the time, it's stood up to 8 or so years of use though. I've part replaced it with the weld mesh, and that's whats on the hutch too.

They use a litter tray so most mess is contained in that. Cleaning doesn't take long at all.

I agree with you about hutch prices, it's very hard to find anything big and if you do it costs a small fortune. Definately better to build rather than buy.
 

MyBabyBunnies

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They look very similar to the store bought ones! But I had chicken wire on the runs to prevent digging and I will never use it again. There was holes in it everywhere and a cat got through it and under our shed and the chicken wire was doubled over.

If I took off the lid, I could guarentee Zoey would get out. To be 100% honest, if I wanted to do that. I'd have to have a run that was tall enough to let me stand in it, totally covered, and made with very sturdy wire as well as somehting to keep them from digging. Unfortunately I don't have the resources for that right now and Ihope my next bunnies will be inside.

I can't seem to litter train mine, I gave up. I'm not out there enough when they're in their hutch to try to train them. I spend most of my time in the run with them. Oh well, they're just outside bunnies so litter training isn't important.
 

NZminilops

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Gosh MyBabyBunnies, thank you so much for that. The pictures and descriptions were very clear and now I see how the idea of these kinda of hutches work. I will save all the pics and see if I can work out a plan for my rabbit.

At the moment it's winter here. In my part of New Zealand there is no snow or anything like that. Temps range (all year round) from 3 degrees C to 28 degrees C, so very mild weather. The only things I have to worry about are too much direct sun in the summer and rain in winter, so that probably makes things easier.

Is all the wood you use untreated? Do you think it would be ok for the plywood to be treated and the framing not? My husband is the head yardman at a timber yard so I am able to get my hands on timber for half price which is great, and sometimes even free stuff but often it's a mix of treated and untreated. The styrofoam idea is also very handy to know. We have that under our house to insulate the flooring and it works really well.

Dodge is litter trained so a winter box with solid flooring would be ok, I assume. Also, I have a very wonky and sloping yard so would either have to have the hutch right up by the backdoor againts the wall, which could be nopisier as it's close to the road, or right at the end of the property under the apple trees. Which would you reccomend?

Thanks once again, I appreciate the effort you went to.
 

MyBabyBunnies

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Your welcome.

As for treated wood, what do you mean? Do you mean pressure treated? That's a big no-no for rabbits. If you mean painting, I paint the whole thing, inside and out, with a water based paint or they rot so fast that you pretty much need to replace them every 2 or 3 years.

All my boxes have solid floors, only the one that cannot be removed has wire underneath for easty cleaning anddrainage incase they decided to pee. If the rabbit does not go to the bathroom in the box, you wont even need a litter box in it. All my rabbits stopped peeing in them when it got cold with the exclusion of my doe becaues she was a baby over the winter.

I would almost think under the apple trees would be nicer but maybe not for you. They tend to attact bees and wasps but they are great for shade and shelter from rain in some cases.
 

NZminilops

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I'm not sure how the wood is treated, it is with chemicals of some sort. Usually it's a light treatment. I know it's big no-no for the rabbits to chew on it but if there is no access for chewing would it be ok for, say, just the plywood on the roof to be lightly treated? Dodge has never been a chewer to begin with. I could have a treated layer of ply on the top of the roof and an untreated layer on the flipside I suppose, just to be safe.

She is in an untreated hutch at the moment which I made around 2 years ago and it still hasn't rotted but it has gone a bit green round the bottom. I do think that as she approaches middle age (she's about 3 and half) that she deserves a nice living space and your huches look great.

Last summer she was under the apple trees and I saw no bees or wasps that I can recall, right now she is close to the house for ease of visiting her without having to walk all over the muddy lawn. Under the trees is pleasantly cool, and she likes to nibble on the sticks that fall onto her hutch so yes it would be the best place.
 

MyBabyBunnies

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Well my friend had an untreated hutch and she had to replace it totally after 2 years.

Personally, I'd never use treated wood on a hutch -- just more chemicals to expose them to.
 

NZminilops

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What about staining the wood? That was one thing I was thinking about but wasn't sure on the chemicals in that, if they would be better or worse than paint. The stains I was looking at are oil based and meant for outdoor fencing, it lasts about 5 years before it needs going over again. A lot of store bought PRISONS are stained here to make them look pretty but always on the outsides.

My hutch is holding up ok, one half of it is an older hutch as I joined two end to end to make a big one, and that older half IS rotten, however the half I build is still looking good.

I will take everything you said an apply it to a design. I'm so glad someone else on here has outdoor housing, with my allergies it's hard to keep Dodge inside as she moults so often it drives me nuts. I think a rabbit should be outdoors anyway as it's natural for them.
 
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