Rabbits

Setting up an Outdoor Rabbit Space

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Setting up an Outdoor Rabbit Space

Setting up your rabbit area outdoors allows your rabbits to live a more natural life with lots of room to run and dig. But it’s very important to take precautions to keep your bunnies safe and comfortable. Let’s take a look at the basics for a good rabbit space.

The Hutch or House

A good rabbit hutch/house is vital to your rabbit enclosure. A rabbit hutch is a secure place your rabbits can sleep at night or a safe space where they can be when you are away for extended times. It is their home base, and where you will likely keep their food, water & hay. A hutch is generally smaller and good for 2-3 rabbits. If you have more rabbits, you will want a small shed, barn, or coop to house your rabbits.

The ideal rabbit house is at minimum 6 feet long by 2 feet wide. Your rabbit should be able to take a few hops across the length of his cage. He should also be able to stand up on his back feet without hitting his head, so it should be at least 2 feet tall. If you are keeping multiple rabbits in the same hutch, go as big as you can to give them plenty of space. If you have lots of rabbits, it’s best to skip the hutch and give them a larger shed, barn, or coop to live in. Being able to walk into your larger rabbit house will make cleaning easier. Click here for a more in-depth view of my first rabbit area with a hutch. Click here to view my current rabbit area inside my barn.

Setting up an Outdoor Rabbit Space
Our first rabbit hutch, good for two rabbits
Our rabbit barn for a big rabbit colony

There should be a space with solid walls that is enclosed where they can “hide”. If the hutch is all wire with no private space, your rabbit is going to feel very exposed, especially when it’s dark. Rabbits in the wild live in cozy, underground burrows. Without their safe space, they will be stressed and will probably have a hard time sleeping. The enclosed space will provide a place for them to escape the weather. Make the enclosed space cozy with deep hay or straw to snuggle in or even add some old blankets or a cat bed.

If you live where it snows or if you get a lot of rain, your hutch should be raised off the ground and protect them from falling precipitation with a solid roof. You can build a simple base to raise up your hutch – click here to read how we built our rabbit hutch base. Even if you don’t live where extreme weather is a problem, raising the hutch provides another step in predator protection and make rabbit chores easier on your back.

Setting up an Outdoor Rabbit Space

Install duel locks on all doors to the hutch/house. Some predators, like raccoons, have deft little hands and can manage simple locks. Having two different kinds of latches ensures they aren’t going to get in. Around dusk each night, you will need to go outside and lock the rabbits in their house. You can open them up in the morning. This keeps them safe during the highest predator time.

Locate the hutch/house out of direct sun. Rabbits can handle cold much better than they can handle heat. When temperatures get over 85 degrees, rabbits can experience heat distress and can even die of heat stroke. It’s vital to give them shaded places to relax. Consider planting some bushes or trees nearby, or install a shade sail or canopy over their play area. In a large shed or barn, adding a barn fan can help the keep the air moving.

Setting up an Outdoor Rabbit Space

At least some of the floor should be solid. Many people like to install wire floors in their rabbit hutch so the poop can fall through the holes to keep the hutch clean. That is great for the human caretakers, but isn’t great for the rabbit’s feet. When rabbits walk on wire, it puts pressure unevenly on their pads and makes them carry their weight awkwardly even when resting on all fours. This can lead to sore hocks, and left untreated could cause a deadly infection. Click here to read more about sore hocks.

I have read horror stories about predators pulling at the rabbit’s exposed feet from under the wire floor trying to get to them – so that’s another reason to give them some solid flooring! If you want to use wire flooring in part of the hutch that is fine, just be sure there are parts of the hutch where the rabbit can rest on solid flooring. The floor of our rabbit barn is covered with heavy duty foam interlocking mats (like you would find under gym equipment).

You will want to supply the hutch/house with water, a feed bin, hay manger and possibly a litter box. It is important your rabbit has access to food, water & hay at all times so putting it in their hutch makes the most sense. Hang them in places that will be easy for you to access for cleaning & filling.

I like to hang the hay manger over the litter box so they can munch on hay while doing their business. It helps keep the area cleaner when they are litter box trained. Click here to read more about litter box training rabbits. During the winter, it is helpful to swap out the water bottle for one that plugs in and has a small heater to keep the water liquid. It is helpful if you have a power source nearby, or you can run an outdoor extension cord to the area.

Setting up an Outdoor Rabbit Space

The Exercise Yard

The hutch is important for keeping your bunny safe, but the exercise yard is where they will really want to spend most of their time! click here to read more about colony raising rabbits

32 square feet per rabbit is the minimum recommended space. The more space you can give them, the better though! Just make sure you don’t give them a space too big that you have a hard time properly securing it.

Setting up an Outdoor Rabbit Space

Rabbits are diggers. They will dig all kinds of holes & tunnels in their exercise yard, so just putting a fence around the space isn’t going to cut it. You will want to dig down two feet and bury a wall of hardware cloth wire. Do this around the entire perimeter of the yard. The other option would be to line the entire floor of the enclosure with hardware cloth, then add straw or dirt on top. The rabbits won’t be able to dig holes for fun, but it is the most safe option.

If possible, it is best to fully enclosure your rabbit exercise yard. Think of it like a screened in porch (but with solid hardware cloth wire not screens). Making it 6 feet tall will make it comfortable for you to walk in and visit with your rabbits.

Our rabbit yard is attached to the side of the barn. They can access it through a hole we cut in the wall.

Putting a solid roof on the yard will make it so the rabbits can enjoy the yard even when it’s raining or snowing and will provide some shade from the summer sun. It will protect your rabbits from aerial predators like hawks. A solid roof will also make it more pleasant for you to get your daily rabbit chores done even in the rain.

Ideally, your rabbit will have access to their exercise yard all day long and just be locked inside at night. This might not be practical for your set up if it is not totally predator proof or the weather is very bad. At the very least they should be allowed a few hours in the exercise yard daily unless their indoor area is really large (inside a shed or barn).

Our first outdoor rabbit run at our old house. This enclosure had 4 foot high walls with a buried hardware cloth perimeter and an open roof
Our current, much more secure enclosure. Covered on all sides with hardware cloth – walls, floor, & roof

Space for digging. One of the best advantages to letting rabbits live outside is that they can dig to their heart’s content without destroying your home. So leave them lots of space for digging. Inspect the holes every day. When my rabbits get too close to the fence line, I will fill in the hole just in case. If they make a tunnel that has gotten too long (over 4 feet or so) I will also usually collapse it so it doesn’t accidentally collapse on them or on me when I walk over it. I always feel bad because they worked hard on it, but they never seem to mind and are always happy to start digging a new one! Our current enclosure has a full hardware cloth floor. It is more secure but they can’t dig giant burrows. I like to give them large boxes of straw or paper litter to dig in.

Setting up an Outdoor Rabbit Space

Places to hide, things to jump on, in or through. Rabbits like to keep busy so providing them with things to do will keep them happy! We have hollowed out logs for them to jump on and hide under, wood boxes for hiding, planters with rabbit friendly plants, and plastic tunnels.

Setting up an Outdoor Rabbit Space

Benches or chairs – If you have a comfortable place to sit and enjoy your bunny’s company you will be much more likely to hang out with them!

Setting up an Outdoor Rabbit Space

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29 Comments

  1. Paul Eusey says:

    Great setup for pet bunnies. I really love the tile floor, granted I would remove it or cover it with something that doesn’t conduct the cold in freezing/snowing winter conditions (like wood with a decent layer of straw/hay for nesting and insulation). It’s a great set up for folks with one or two bunnies that don’t fight and are the same gender. If you plan to scale up to more, or raise and breed a bunch of rabbits, then you are going to need a completely different set up, but that is pretty much a separate books worth of knowledge, understanding, husbandry, etc. For the pet/hobbiest rabbit tender, this is one of the best setups I have seen and your advice was really good. Are you considering meat rabbits or breeding them at any time in the future?

    1. Thanks Paul! We cover the tile with carpet mats in the winter along with a lot of hay, because you are right they would get really cold! Also correct this is best for people with only a few rabbits that are colony raised. Thinking of getting into breeding and all the logistics of handling dozens of rabbits makes my head spin so not in the cards in the near future for me! We raise angoras (fiber rabbits) and someday would love to get into the breeding side, maybe once the kids are gone and we have more time lol

  2. What an amazing set up! Our indoor buns just have a pen for outdoors at the minute but this looks like an amazing project to start next spring

  3. Andrea says:

    Hey! Could you give me any ideas for what the bottom of an outdoor hutch (2 story) should be? I don’t want him to dig out – but don’t want just dirt (Rain! Mud!)… Thanks!

    1. You could use concrete (either from a patio or use concrete blocks), I would suggest covering it in straw or rug for comfort. But what I have done is built a table out of wood to raise up the hutch. Then I have covered the table with ceramic tiles for easy cleaning and maintenance . You can read about it here https://thecapecoop.com/building-a-raised-base-for-a-rabbit-hutch/

    2. I would love to do that for my rabbits. But the males keeping having sex. How do you stop them?

      1. Hi Andrea, there is not much you can do about natural instincts. I only keep female rabbits to avoid unintentional breeding. But you can also take your rabbits to the vet and have them spayed or neutered. It will not stop them from mating, but it should greatly decrease the instinct and obviously won’t result in any babies which would be the ultimate goal. If you didn’t want to altar your animals, the only other option would be to have separate pens for the males & females. Keep in mind, even with altered animals, and even with them only living with the same sex, they are still going to exhibit mounting behaviors occasionally. That is not about sex, its about dominance and showing who is in charge in the group.

  4. I have 2 rabbits male and female. We bought them each their own PawHut hutch and we made a table to put them on like yours. Well I have to make some modifications for the rabbits but my question is On making a ramp so the can come out of the hutch and exercise would a 4 foot ramp table top to ground be good size and not too steep?

    1. Yes, ours is 4 feet long and our ramps can navigate it. You do need to add some sort of traction with the outdoor mats, or by screwing strips of wood on like steps (like what you would see on chicken coop ramps)

  5. Hello again wanted to let you know that we have gotten the ramps done for both the rabbits and that have used them unfortunately one of the rabbits ends up sliding down the ramp if she doesn’t keep moving but she figured it out. But now we are wanting to put tile down for them and y’all said your table is 2 feet wide. Ours is I believe 3 to 4 feet wide and 7 feet long how would I figure out how many tiles I need

    1. I’m glad they have all figured it out (even if it’s not graceful lol). To figure out the tiles, first you’ll need to find the square feet of the table and then the square feet of the tiles. So it sounds like your table is 21-28 square feet. The most common tile is 12 inches x 12 inches so that would be 1 square foot, if that is the size tile you use, you would need 21-28 tiles. And I’d love to see your set up – you can email me at liz@thecapecoop.com 🙂

      1. What kind of ceramic tile did you use

  6. I would like to send a picture of ours if you want to see

  7. Laura says:

    What do you do to control poop in their outside play area ?

    1. My rabbits are litter box trained so for the most part they return to their hutch to use the litter box. I would say they get about 95% of the poops in the box, the few that remain around the outdoor area compost pretty quickly. You can read more about litter training rabbits here – https://thecapecoop.com/litter-box-training-rabbits/

  8. Melissa says:

    I just recently built an outdoor hutch for my bun bun for the spring,summer,fall here in New England but I’m concerned with mosquitoes and ideas?!
    Thanks
    Melissa

    1. I’ve never noticed the mosquitoes really bothering my buns, but maybe you could put netting over the top? My other suggestion would not to have lights in the area in the evening as they can attract lots of bugs

  9. jamie says:

    question i put wire down as the base on thr grass so the grass will still grow through but digging out cant happen, will that be good. second question when building a hutch do I put the wire inside of thr play yard or on the outside?

    1. That should work great! You can do the wire either inside or outside, in both cases it’s just important that the raw edges are not where the rabbits could cut themselves on it

  10. Kerrie Horton says:

    I’m beginning the process of creating an outdoor space for my rabbit. My concern is do they dig up? I know they dig their burrows, but do they ever dig up?

    1. Rabbits love digging. They will dig burrows, but will also just casually dig around their pen – small holes, large holes, tunnels…..it’s good exercise for them and will keep them busy. This is why you want to be sure to bury wire around the entire perimeter. I also will go out and fill in the holes every few weeks (or sooner if the holes are near the perimeter)

  11. Caroline says:

    Hi my roommate had 4 bunnies in a small cage so I broke them out of it and gave them my backyard lol. I don’t like the idea of having any animal caged up 24/7. Well since I busted them out they’ve had free roan of my backyard and so I’ve been trying to build them a hutch well not a hutch but more like a hideaway to sleep in where they’ll feel secure and safe but I can’t seem to figure it out cuz everything I’ve tried they won’t use lol. They just sleep under my lime trees.theyre low hanging branches that practically touch the ground so it’s got good cover I suppose. Mt question is.. should I be trying to force them into a enclosure at night for their safety or am I okay to just let them do what they want. Which is be out free roaming the backyard 24/7. I worry that I’m supposed to be caging them up at night whether they like it or not for their safety against predators. I don’t like the idea and honestly don’t even know how I’d get it done if I am supposed to do that cuz that means I’d have to catch them first lol. But if that is what you’d recommend I guess I’d have to figure it out. Sorry for the crazy long question.

    1. I always recommend caging them at night to keep them safe from predators. I am sure they are loving the freedom, and probably feel safer under the low branches, but they are certainly at risk unless your backyard is totally predator proof. To do that you would need at least a six foot fence all around and hardware cloth buried two feet down along the perimeter to stop digging predators. That would still leave them open to birds of prey, but it’s a start. Once they learn the routine of going inside at night, they will go in on their own and you just have to go out and close the hutch at night and open it in the morning. Where your bunnies have gotten into the habit of sleeping outside, I would suggest you lock them into the hutch for a week or two full time so they learn that is “home”. Then once you let them out again, plan to devote a little time to rounding them up at night. You can try offering them a treat that they really like inside the hutch to entice them in. After a couple weeks they will understand nighttime = hutch and it will be much easier from there!

  12. Megan Candora says:

    Do you not fine the need to cover the top of their outdoor pen? We are about to get two baby Flemish Giants and keep them outdoors. I’m building them an 8×8 run with fence posts and small gauge wire. I’m going to bury wire on the bottom as well and then cover it in topsoil and plant timothy grass for them. We have chicken hawks etc around our house so my husband is concerned with them carrying them away. Also, how often do you find you need to take your rabbits to the vet? That’s another concern we have. I never took my rabbits to the vet as a child, but it appears that’s a thing now??

    1. It is definitely better to have a fully enclosed area. I felt safe with this set up because it was bordered on two sides by the house and we could keep an eye on them and predators generally don’t come right up to the house. But we have since moved and have built an outdoor enclosure that has a wired ceiling (i’ll have to update the post with new pics!). It certainly is much safer, because we do also have hawks. As far as the vet goes, you will find different opinions from different people. Many people take them in yearly for an annual check up as you would dogs and cats. Depending on where you live, rabbits don’t need annual vaccinations however, so it is just a wellness check. It’s important to note however that in some areas of the world there are vaccinations available that rabbits should have, for example in the UK rabbits should have an annual vaccination for rabbit hemorrhagic disease, but that is not available in most of the US because it is not an issue here. So it might be wise to take your bunnies to the vet when you first get them to ask about regional concerns, and just so you can be established as a client. I have kept rabbits for 7 years and I have had to take them in a handful of times for various illnesses, but in general they are pretty hardy animals! If you take them to the vet or not, you should spend time daily observing and doing a mini wellness check. Eventually you will know when something seems off and can act quickly. Once a month I also weigh each rabbit when I am clipping their nails and keep a health log

  13. Hello! Really enjoy your site and pics. I had a question about the safety of the wood used for hutches. I read that fir/Chinese fir (commonly used in many of the hutches you can find on Amazon and other online retailers) is toxic to rabbits. Would love your opinion on this. Thank you!

    1. I was just reading about this the other day! I need to do some more research, but it does seem like most of these prefab hutches are made with Chinese Fir. Regular fir doesn’t seem to be toxic, but Chinese Fir is a misleading name as it is not actually from the fir family, it is a type of cedar and most cedar is toxic to rabbits. Since writing this post we have moved and now have a barn for our rabbits so this hutch is just used for growing out chicks now, but we did use it for 5 years for rabbits with seemingly no ill effect. My rabbits didn’t really chew on the hutch though. But I always think it’s better safe than sorry so if you are in the market for a new hutch I would avoid any made with Chinese Fir

  14. Caroline says:

    Hi, we have a rabbit hutch outside and we let them run outside during the day but I would like to build them a run to attach to the cage so they can roam a bit more freely – some questions
    1) What is the material that is used to cover the ramp for exiting the hutch?
    2) Can you cover the outside part with tarpaulin so it is covered but you can remove (wondering if this may be a cheaper starting point?!) I have a 4ft high wire enclosure (like the ones you get for dogs) that I am going to start with – was going to bungee cord some tarpaulin to it – thoughts?
    3) I have some concrete slabs in my back yard, I was thinking of lining the edge with this so they don’t dig near the edge but can dig in the middle part if that makes sense? Watching my rabbits (i have 2 chinchilla rabbits) they seem to like to dig a little in the ground and lay in it to cool off so i don’t want to take the ability to dig away completely.

    1. em -That is great, I am sure they will love having more space to run.
      1)our ramp has an outdoor mat attached to it for traction. but we also have another ramp that just has strips of wood attached horizontally for “steps”. The rabbits do well with both ramps
      2) during the day your main predators are likely to be birds of prey, so a tarp roof should be alright to start. I would definitely not recommend that if you leave them outside after dusk when other predators might be coming out
      3) they LOVE to dig so if you can give them some space to dig they will absolutely love it. That set up should work fine as long as you keep an eye on any tunnels they start to construct. You can always let them start to dig tunnels but fill them in before they get big enough that they might tunnel under the concrete

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