Think outside the hutch!
One of the reasons why rabbits have become recognised as the most cruelly treated pet in the UK is that many owners do not understand their accommodation needs. Rabbits have been kept in tiny hutches for so long now that it has become accepted as appropriate. The truth is that keeping rabbits shut up for long periods of time in inadequately sized housing is cruel and leads to mental and physical suffering.
“The RSPCA believes the traditional husbandry method of keeping rabbits permanently confined in small hutches is totally inappropriate for the long-term housing of rabbits kept as pets.”
The minimum hutch size for a medium sized pair of rabbits as recommended by welfare organisations is 6ftx2ftx2ft. This is the bare minimum that rabbits require. In order for their welfare to be properly met they also require access to lots of exercise outside of their hutch. A happy rabbit needs the opportunity to express natural behaviours ie. hopping, stretching, digging, foraging none of which it can do within a hutch. A hutch should only be considered as a shelter/base. It should not be somewhere for rabbits to live, or be shut up in for any length of time. Rabbits should have permanent access to a safe exercise area such as a large attached run so they can move between their hutch and exercise area at will (this is far superior to being moved between a hutch and separate exercise run when we decide, especially considering that rabbits usually prefer to be most active around dawn and dusk).
It is not acceptable to shut pet rabbits into hutches for extended periods. We are working along side other welfare organisations to re-educate the public that this tradition is outdated and unacceptable. Ask yourself whether you would want to keep a pet cat in a hutch for hours on end? I hope the answer is no! As intelligent, active animals of a very similar size there really is no difference keeping rabbits in small hutches.
Credit for photo above Home and Roost
One reason why so many people fail to provide adequate accommodation for their pet rabbits is that a majority of hutches/cages manufactured for rabbits are completely unfit for purpose! Sadly, many caring owners are unknowingly keeping their pet rabbits in very cruel conditions. Finding appropriately sized rabbit housing in pet shops can be difficult. Even when a hutch appears to be the appropriate size the quality can be appalling meaning that the hutch is neither weather/predator proof so again completely unfit for purpose.
Great alternatives to hutches that we recommend for rabbits are sheds, children’s play houses, aviaries, and the brilliant and unique Runaround system. A runaround connecting tunnel is a fantastic way of joining together any existing hutches and runs that you may have to make a far superior rabbit set up.
The Rabbit Welfare Association has an excellent rabbit housing section packed full of brilliant information here on their website: http://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-housing