February 26, 2010

   

Keep your rabbit protected from predators such as hawks with a strong hutch
Keep your outdoor pet rabbit safe from predators, such as hawks, by keeping it in a sturdy wooden hutch.  

If you’ve decided to house your pet rabbits outdoors, then your No. 1 concern is for their safety and well-being. This means that they must have ample protection from predators and the elements. 

Dealing with Rabbit Predators
When you think of predators, you probably think of wild animals: Raccoons, weasels and coyotes. While all of these animals prey on your rabbits, you must also be aware that dogs (either your own or your neighbors’) can be very harmful if they attempt to “play” with your rabbits. Birds—such as hawks or eagles—can also be potential predators, as can snakes and rats. With all of these possible dangers, keep your pet rabbits safe outdoors by providing them with proper outdoor housing.

Sturdy wooden hutches offer the best form of protection. Wire cages, which are popular for indoor rabbits, usually are not strong enough to protect your pet rabbits when they’re kept outdoors. A predator trying to attack your pet rabbit could easily break into a wire cage. It would have a much harder time entering a hutch reinforced with wood, even if the hutch’s sides and floor are made of wire mesh. (For wooden hutch floors, 1/2-inch-by-1-inch welded wire works well).

It’s best to securely attach the wooden rabbit hutch to a building, such as your house or barn. The added stability helps to prevent other animals from knocking over the rabbit hutch. You should not keep your rabbit hutch directly on the ground. Instead, raise the hutch up at least 2 to 3 feet off the ground. This is important for the safety of your pet rabbits. 

Shade for Pet Rabbits
Believe it or not, the sun is one of the biggest dangers when it comes to keeping pet rabbits outdoors. Rabbits are sensitive to heat, and keeping their hutches in direct sunlight is potentially hazardous to rabbits’ health. For this reason, you should always keep your rabbit hutch in a shaded area where it’s protected from the sun.

While cold weather is not as dangerous for rabbits, you’ll still want to minimize its effects. Placing your rabbit hutch in a protected area—out of the wind—will help keep your rabbits comfortable. If the sides of your hutches are made of wire, consider placing “curtains” around the outside of the hutch during inclement weather. You can make curtains from any heavy material or plastic, but take care to keep them out of reach of your pet rabbits to prevent chewing. Remember to keep at least one side of your rabbit hutch uncovered for ventilation. Fresh air is essential for rabbits.

Daily Rabbit Checks 
Pay close attention to your outdoor rabbits. Check on them at least twice a day to evaluate their appetites, appearance, condition and attitude. By regularly checking on your pet rabbits, you’ll be more likely to notice any problems that may be brewing. You’ll also be quick to notice if any of your rabbits appear to be suffering from adverse weather conditions.

About the Author: Samantha Johnson is the author of The Field Guide to Rabbits (Voyageur Press, 2008) and How to Raise Rabbits (Voyageur Press, 2009). She has been a rabbit enthusiast for nearly 20 years, and resides in northern Wisconsin.

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