On the one hand, keeping rabbits outdoors is a particularly natural and animal-friendly form of keeping. On the other hand, it is more labor-intensive than housing. Here’s everything you need to know about keeping rabbits outdoors.
Rabbits can be kept both indoors and outside in the garden. While basic aspects of keeping rabbits, e.g. the size of the enclosure, feeding, and care, apply to indoor and outdoor keeping, there are still a few aspects that should be given special attention when keeping rabbits outdoors.
Pros and cons of keeping rabbits outdoors
Keeping rabbits close to nature in the garden or on the balcony has a number of advantages:
- The rabbits’ senses are positively stimulated by the changing weather, the fresh air, and other environmental stimuli.
- An outdoor enclosure also typically offers more space and some design options beyond furnishings like caves, branches, ramps, and logs.
- If the enclosure stands directly on the ground, suitable grasses, herbs, and shrubs can be planted as fodder, for example.
However, you must be aware that keeping them outdoors is more complex than keeping them indoors. Because even in bad weather (rain, cold, etc.) the rabbits have to be fed and the enclosure cleaned. So that you can recognize the first signs of illness in good time and the animals do not “run wild”, you should take time every day to observe your long-eared bats, carry out a health check and deal with them.
The outdoor enclosure for rabbits
In principle, the requirements for the size and layout of an outdoor rabbit enclosure are no different from those of an indoor enclosure. However, you should note the following things:
- Protect the enclosure from heat, drafts, moisture, and excessive cold.
- At least half of the outdoor enclosure must be in the shade at all times.
- The enclosure should be designed to be burglar- and escape-proof and protect rabbits from predators.
- The enclosure should have a minimum size of 6m² for two rabbits. For each additional rabbit, the space must be increased by at least 20%.
Outdoor enclosures of this size cannot be bought in pet shops. You must therefore put together a species-appropriate enclosure yourself. A mere stable from the pet shop does not meet the requirements of rabbits, even if they are labeled “XXL”. It must always be connected to an exercise enclosure to which the animals have constant access. Here are some examples:
To prevent the rabbits from digging out of the enclosure, wire netting can be laid in the ground at a depth of about 30 to 50 cm. If your rabbits dig a lot, the underground passages must be closed again regularly. Make sure that the animals don’t dig so deep that they can injure themselves on the buried wire mesh!
Protection of rabbits from heat and cold
As in the apartment, rabbits living in the garden need protective hiding places. The “Veterinarian Association for Animal Welfare e.V.” recommends a shelter large enough for all rabbits to stretch out in it and also to sit up.
A wood-styrofoam-wood layer is suitable for better insulation of the house. To protect against moisture, the wood can be painted on the outside with non-toxic paint. However, to prevent moisture from forming inside the hut, several air holes should be made on the upper side.
It also makes sense to place the little house a few centimeters above the ground and to provide it with ramps. In this way, the animals are better protected against the cold ground. The wooden floor, like the roof, can be coated with non-toxic paint or laid out with PVC (edges must be protected against nibbling with metal rails!).
Acclimate rabbits to being kept outside
Rabbits that have previously lived indoors are best accustomed to being kept outdoors in the summer, from mid-May at the earliest. Once the animals live in the garden, they should not be taken into the house temporarily in winter. Due to the strong temperature differences between the heated apartment and the cold garden, there is a risk that your long ears will catch a cold.
Dangers and feeding of keeping rabbits outdoors
In addition to avoiding strong temperature fluctuations, it is important to ensure that the rabbits do not eat poisonous leaves and plants when keeping the garden.
As in housing, healthy feeding consists of high-quality hay (freely available), fresh feed, if necessary small amounts of grain-free dry feed, and fresh drinking water. In winter, high-energy vegetables such as carrots and kohlrabi can be offered.