How to design an inspirational rabbit hutch: Designing a hutch for your bunnies
Today I want to talk to you about how to design a great hutch for your bunnies; I don’t have a specific design for you to copy, although plenty of the ones here are for sale. I hope you are inspired to build or buy your own fantastic hutch for your precious bunnies. Updated to remove Amazon links.
We have designed and made three hutches so far, in all three instances we used the original hutches that we acquired with the rabbits. In the case of one hutch, we deemed it too uninviting to modify it, so it sits out in one of the runs as a playhouse instead, on the understanding that we’d never leave any rabbit in that run for more than a few hours if we need them all outdoors (i.e. if we’re vacuuming, doing home improvement etc). There’s already plenty of articles about specific hutches, I wanted to discuss more generally how to ensure your exciting hutch project meets your rabbits needs (and your own) and how this factors into the design process.
Consider the basic minimum for welfare:
Check out laws in your state, in case they’re different. Most states recognise rabbits as “exotic pets” which makes no sense to me – they’re as common as cats and dogs, and are native to the USA, so why exactly are they classed as exotics, like monkeys and weird spiders? In the UK, they are just classed as standard pets, and this means there’s laws about how they should be kept. In the UK, rabbit hutches should be at least 6X2X2 feet. In the USA, there’s no minimum, but welfare charities recommend the 6X2X2 rule there, too (for a standard sized rabbit, i.e. one that is about 2 feet long when resting stretched out – if you have a giant rabbit, the hutch size recommended is 9X3X3). While there is no recommendation about dwarf rabbits, we can do the same calculations and arrive at 5X18”X18” as a conservative (generous in favour of the rabbits) estimate. This is the bare minimum size your total rabbit housing space should be. Make it bigger, by all means! This doesn’t include any outdoor space e.g. if the rabbit hutch has a run permanently attached to the front. All rabbits housed outdoors need a run. The run needs to be at least 36 square feet, or 6 by 6 (8 by 4 is also apparently acceptable). Indoor rabbits are recommended to have outdoor access if at all possible, but there’s no recommendations for the amount of indoor space.
This outdoor hutch design would look beautiful in a bedroom or lounge – I’d tile a floor underneath it and cover the whole of the bottom level with hay to give an outdoor style environment.
How much time will your rabbit spend in their hutch?
Be realistic. Do they only come out for an hour at dinner time? Do you plan for them to roam free in a particular room 24/7? Do you want them to run around the house but only while you’re in it? Think about how much time the rabbit will spend in their hutch. If they’re going to be closed inside while you’re in bed and at work, that’s about 16 hours a day of hutch time. Scale up the space accordingly. You wouldn’t want to live out the majority of your days in a space that’s your height (height) x your height (width) x four times your height (length), would you? Think about what you would like if you were a rabbit. You’d probably want to run around a bit, and have room to binky (happy jump) and stretch as well as room to sleep and impersonate a bunny slipper.
Assess your rabbits needs:
Do they like to climb? Do they like to run around? If you left a dining chair out, would your rabbit climb on it? Do you have high ceilings? Do you have lots of floorspace? These factors affect whether you build a tall hutch, with lots of platforms and climbing spaces, or whether you build a short hutch with lots of horizontal space. If you have a low ceiling, a tall hutch isn’t your best solution. Likewise, if the rabbits are scared of climbing back down when they’ve jumped onto the couch, or if they’ve got a bad leg, they probably won’t suit a tall hutch. In this case, you would probably choose a hutch that took up a lot of floor space but with room above it for your own storage, e.g. wall shelves.
How awesome is the window box???!
If you have limited floor space, build upwards. Even if your ceiling is only seven feet high, that’s still a pretty tall rabbit hutch (you want the highest platform to be reachable for cleaning, and the roof of the hutch needs to be placed high enough to allow the rabbits to comfortably stand upright on their back legs).
Decide what you can afford, comfortably build, and fit in your house reasonably:
Don’t spend money that you don’t have on a rabbit hutch. You will resent your rabbits if they’re living in a palace and you’re out on the street asking them if you can stay the night, because you didn’t make your rent this month. Yes, it is natural to want the absolute best for your bunnies, they are part of your herd. However, they also like living in a forever home with happy humans. To this end, make sure you budget sensibly for your rabbit hutch or hutch building project. While budgeting, you may be looking at your various options and thinking “hey, it’s only wood and metal, right? I could build this myself!” If you have the skills, or think it’s within your ability to learn, then great, good on you. If on the other hand you last used a drill to make a beer bucket in 1993, perhaps this is a job best left to the professionals. The cost of a ready-built rabbit hutch (or flat packed) can be extortionate, and many companies only offer a one-shape fits all approach, with the most common options being all that’s available. It’s up to you, and there’s a fine balance between budgeting and build skill. The final consideration here is whether it will fit in your home. If you’ve got a specific space earmarked for bunnies, it might be better to go down the custom-made route. Design the space, see what you can make yourself, see if there’s anything for sale that would substitute for the bits you can’t make yourself, and if all else fails, ring a custom rabbit hutch maker and have your serious money ready because custom made rabbit hutches can be shockingly expensive.
The rabbit run above is available from most pet retailers worldwide. Sometimes they’re called puppy pens. I have two of these, 16 panels in total, which provide structural support to my Bunny Village where four of my six rabbits live.
Look around for inspiration:
A google image search of rabbit accommodation, rabbit housing, house rabbits and rabbit hutches comes up with lots of good results, although on the last two there’s a lot of rubbish to trawl through as well. The best thing about getting inspiration from other people’s pictures is that often you can find a way to simplify what they have done, and adapt it to make the ideal environment for your bunnies.
The above photo sourced from: http://bunniesaspets.com/house-rabbit/
Remember to do a more detailed sketch after the first, rough sketch, where your lines are drawn with a ruler and a scale, your materials are labelled and listed, and features are explained briefly. I like square paper for anything like this. If you’re open ended or uncertain about which materials to use, a quick browse of DIY stores can help. Otherwise, you could ask a member of staff at a DIY store (although some people have conceptualization problems when it comes to building something that’s slightly outside the box – these people get confused and think you want to make one of those tiny, 3 foot outdoor rabbit hutches that evil people leave their poor bunnies in. If you get stuck with a cretin, just smile and nod and go elsewhere). Also bear in mind that you are under absolutely NO obligation to buy something just because the sales advisor has spoken to you about a product. It’s okay to say “thanks, that’s really helpful, once my design is final, I’ll come back with measurements” then work out where you can get the cheapest bargain.
This stage might include cutting wood and screwing it together. Or it might include clipping together a flat packed hutch from amazon. Whatever hutch design you’ve gone with, this is the stage where it will start taking shape. Remember to test your hutch for stability before moving the rabbits in, the only thing worse than the hutch falling down with them in, is when they crawl out afterwards, scared and confused, and electrocute themselves on an exposed wire you never expected them to get close enough to chew. Don’t let this happen.
Admire your new hutch:
This is the best stage. Take photos, take videos, introduce the rabbits to their new home, show your friends and the Internet. Feel proud that you conceptualized this and have seen it through to the end, you’re officially awesome. Bunnies sometimes take a few days to feel settled in a new home, so their initial reaction can sometimes be a bit icy, but they will grow to like their new, spacious, fun rabbit home.