Last Updated on December 18, 2022 by Ellyn Eddy
10 tips for keeping your hutch rabbits safe and healthy
Where do they keep rabbits in France?
In the hutch back of Notre Dame!
…Okay, dumb joke. But if you are starting in rabbits and want to keep them in the hutch ‘back of your house, here are ten tips that can help them stay safe and healthy.
1. Use weatherproof materials to build 4-H rabbit hutches.
The legs of your hutch should be of pressure-treated lumber so dampness in the ground won’t rot them as quickly. However, the upper part of the hutch that supports the cage should not be pressure-treated, because you don’t want your rabbits ingesting the chemicals in the wood.
The sides and roof of your cage will take a beating from the weather, so make the sides and roof of sturdy plywood. The roof of my first rabbit hutch was particleboard that quickly fell apart. Even OSB weathers after a while.
If you can shingle the roof that’s great! You can cut a piece of plastic tarp to go over the roof, but water will seep under it. Never use chicken wire for rabbit hutch construction. It may not be strong enough to hold up against the rabbits, let alone any predators.
2. Keep the rabbit in a removable cage that slides into the hutch.
Don’t attach the wire directly to the wood. A removable cage is much easier to clean. Also, you aren’t relying on wood to keep your rabbit in. A rabbit with determination will chew through a 2×4 in remarkably little time.
3. Put the cage on L-brackets inside the hutch.
Build the frame bigger than the cage and attach L-brackets to the inside of the 2×4’s to support the cage. This way, rabbits can not chew the wood as easily, and droppings have less surface area to catch on than if the cage was supported by wood.
4. Use sliding plastic rabbit drop trays with your outdoor rabbit hutches.
Trust me on this one! Although it seems like part of the joy of keeping your rabbit cages outdoors to not have to dump trays every week, you really should cover the bottom of your rabbit cage. I’ve had raccoons kill show rabbits from underneath and pull off toes, because the bottom of the cage was not protected.
5. Keep your outside rabbit cages high off the ground.
This is just another method to keep your pet rabbits safe from predators. Keeping the floor your cages at least 3 feet off the ground may also prevent young children from opening the cages and letting your rabbits loose.
6. Keep predators out with fencing.
Put a fence around your rabbit hutch to keep predators out. A strong wire or wood fence can keep enemies out and bunnies in.
7. Insulate the hutch in the winter.
Insulate your hutch with straw bales. Rabbits really do quite well in the cold and don’t need much help keeping warm in the winter, even if the temperatures regularly drop below zero, as long as they are protected from drafts.
However, if you want to insulate your hutch during the winter, one of the best ways to do it is stacking straw bales around the sides and rear of the hutch. You can even lay them on the roof. You sometimes see hutches with quilts thrown over them, but quilts get wet, chewed, and moldy very quickly and don’t provide as much insulation as straw.
8. Don’t place your hutch up against a big plastic greenhouse.
What? Well, let me rephrase that and say: take wind into consideration when you decide where to position your hutch.
Several years ago, we had a twelve-foot-long rabbit hutch that we kept outside. Dad had taken up the idea of gardening and erected a small “greenhouse” out of plastic tubing and clear plastic sheeting, which was placed right behind my hutch.
One afternoon I was outside and a strong wind came up. The wind blew against the greenhouse so hard that it pushed both house and hutch right over. I tell you the truth: that 12-ft hutch rolled 270 degrees right before my eyes!
The lesson is: Don’t put your rabbit hutch where it can be blown over, or have heavy objects such as tree limbs blown onto it. Keeping it under the shelter of your house or barn is a good idea, not in the direct path of the usual wind direction.
9. Keep your rabbit hutch in sight of the house.
If your rabbits don’t have the shelter of a barn or house, it’s important to locate them where you can keep a close eye on them. By placing your 4-H rabbit hutch in view of the window, you can quickly see if a stray dog approaches, you have an escapee, or if the hutch catches fire.
That’s another one of our stories from the days gone by when we kept our rabbits in hutches. It was New Year’s Day, and we had just returned from ice skating. I hear my dad scream “Help!” which freaked me out because Daddy never screams for help!
Well, we just had two rabbit’s at the time which were in a hutch near the house. In an effort to keep them comfy I had placed a nest box warmer in each of their cages. I’m sure the cords weren’t chewed, but the warmers functioned improperly in some way and caught the straw in the cage on fire.
Because the hutch was in sight of the window, we rescued the rabbits in time, but poor little Bumper and Rexy smelled like smoke for a while. I’ve never used nest box warmers since.
When we kept rabbits in a hutch in sight of the window, it was funny to see Bumper check his feeder every few minutes when meal time was approaching. “Nope, still empty. Sigh”.
10. Keep your feed in the garage.
Yes, I know that there are mice in the garage, but overall it’s better than keeping your feed out by the hutch where raccoons can break into it.
Even if you keep your feed in a large plastic bin outside, squirrels can chew through it — I’ve seen it happen. Also, it’s not worth the risk of leaving the lid open and having your feed rained on…trust me.
Keeping rabbits in hutches is a time-honored way of raising rabbits, and if you choose to go this route I hope these tips from my experiences can help you keep your bunnies safe and healthy!