The Free-Range Outdoor Rabbit | Keeping A Bunny Out of Its Cage

This Hutch Displeases Wicket...

One of the greatest tragedies of the rabbit keeping pet craze is the way that rabbits who were designed by nature to roam free over wide tracts of land end up barely being able to hop a few feet in either direction their entire lives. Though most people wouldn't consider keeping a cat or dog in a cage, the sight of a rabbit in a cage barely raises en eyebrow, even though it really should. Rabbits are just as smart as the average cat and can even be litter trained.

So how does one go about getting one's rabbit out of their cage and letting them live a full and happy, active life? Well, there are several ways to go about this, all of these methods come with their own drawbacks, risks and rewards.

Rabbits are becoming very popular house pets, and it is possible to have them loose indoors as long as you a) bunny proof the room(s) they're allowed in, and b) make sure you get them litter trained before you give them the run of the place. Once a bunny decides where it is going to poop, it is quite difficult to convince them that they're wrong. There are a plethora of resources on keeping a rabbit inside, and I've listed some of them at the bottom of this article.

Though hardcore house bunny keepers will tell you that you're mad and cruel for keeping a rabbit outdoors, there are many advantages to keeping your bunny outdoors. For one, your house won't smell like rabbit ass. No matter how clean you keep a bunny's litter box, there will be some odor.

The secret of keeping a rabbit outside in a healthy way is to provide them with a clean, secure cage with a run, and also to let them out of that run as often as possible to roam about in your back yard, which of course, should have high fences and not be populated by bunny killing predators. Cats are usually okay with rabbits, especially cats that have been subjected to a thorough bunny beating. (Yes, that cute little fuzzy creature in my profile picture has handed out beatings to not one, but two cats simultaneously.)

Fencing is important, as is supervision. Make sure that your fences are actually secure. If there is a glimmer of light under the fence line, it will not take long for your rabbit to dig their way out. Supervision doesn't mean you always have to keep an eye on the bunny, but do go out periodically to make sure it is still in one piece and also to make sure that it hasn't found any escape routes. For the first few weeks you try this free ranging approach to bunny keeping, make sure you supervise your bunny often.

If you keep flowers or a vegetable garden, you'll need to fence them off. Not only will bunny raze your precious plants to the ground, she'll probably make herself extremely sick doing so. Not all plants are good for bunnies, but if you simply have a plain lawn, you should be okay.

I would recommend putting your rabbit back into his or her cage at night. That will protect them from nocturnal predators. Don't be surprised if your bunny doesn't want to go back into the cage, once they've tasted sweet, sweet freedom, even the largest bunny cage can seem like a prison.

For an idea as to an appropriate bunny cage, I've attached a picture of mine. It is 2 meters long by 1 meter wide (about 6 foot by 3 foot) and gives her a secure place to run and sleep in when she's not roaming the lawn. We made this at home ourselves, and I cannot recommend doing this enough. You get to save money and actually give your rabbit enough space to live comfortably in.

Why am I going on so much about cages when we're talking about free-range bunnies? Because free range is not a substitute for no cage. Your rabbit will still need a well sheltered home, even if you let her out in the morning and don't put her away at night, or even if you make the decidedly more risky decision of letting your bunny roam your section 24/7.

Having lived with Wicket in everything from a small one roomed apartment to a workshop to a house with a yard, I have to say that the most convenient and mutually pleasing situation I've found for Wicket and I is for Wicket to live outside and have the run of the lawn on nice days. It gives her exercise and a break from living in a cage and it allows her to socialize on her own terms. It also allows me to enjoy her company without being constantly assailed by the scent of her urine. Win!

The outdoor run. A sleeping box is added in colder temperatures.
The outdoor run. A sleeping box is added in colder temperatures.

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Comments 9 comments

Rabbit Breeders 5 years ago

The one bad thing about keeping rabbits in cages is the fact that they loose their freedom. Many domestic rabbit breeds however would find a hard time functioning in the wild anyway.

ann 4 years ago

I had "free range" bunnies as a kid. They would run around during the day and we would cage them at night. Unfortuatly all but one were killed by predetors, and had very, very short lives. They would figure out, despite our best efforts how to get out of their cages as night, and the neighbors cat killed most of them, and a minx took up residence in our wood pile and took out the rest, at night by slinking into their cage under the door and killing an eating them there. Although I love bunnies I would never have them as pets again. Their too stinking, high maintenance and destructive for indoors.

Sarah 4 years ago

We had a virtually free range rabbit. She had the free run of the garden in the day and was put away in the shed at night (she had an open hutch). I loved seeing her running around the garden and lying in the sun. She lived for 9 years until last summer when a fox caught her and although we rescued her she must have had a heart attack. It was heart breaking but am still glad we let her live freely

KittyFluffyninja 4 years ago

Honestly, I don't know how to start this. I'm a rabbit breeder that has a large shed-type structure I keep my rabbits in (usually just called 'the rabbit barn') and a much, much larger chicken wire pen that I place the rabbit(s) in during the day. I live in a very rural area, basically the middle of nowhere, and yet none of my rabbits have been killed by wild animals. Though a linx almost got one (my father ran out in his socks in the winter to save her from it). I agree that rabbits will live longer if kept inside, but mine cannot get enough of running free. One even climbed out of the pen each time I put him in. This was winter, and back then we did not have an extra cage for him, so when we went for vacation he of course climbed out and was free. He went missing for three weeks (two of which I was at home) and finally reappeared perfectly fine. He is literarily my free-range rabbit. He always hangs around the yard, follows me around (right at my feet most of the time, and if I stop he circles me) and is almost always there. We have five amazing hunters of cats, that commonly pull in Snowshoe Hares about their size, and yet when it comes to my free range rabbit, they don't touch him. He hangs out with them and kinda bullies them too. I have incredible experiences with my rabbits everyday and I have no doubt having them to run outside would make the experiences far more mundane. I've got so many stories, actually (even one miracle) that I could write a book on them. Haha, I mean no offense to anyone with my opinions, but they're so amazing. I just love then so much.

Madi 4 years ago

I had a free range holland lop mix rabbit. She was the best rabbit I ever had. I would put her in her hutch, and she could open the door and get out (keep in mind it was a pretty tricky door!) we would get calls from our neighbors saying "did you know there is a rabbi in your front yard?" and sure enough it was her! Sadly she passed away and I have no idea what caused it.

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belleart 4 years ago from Ireland

So true. I had my cocoa for a year in a hutch and run out the back before I realized how happy she was inside. We don't have a cage at all now for her, she sleeps on a cat mat, has a litter tray and spends hours sitting up on the couch with us...and she gets to roam free in the garden ( with our supervision). She is definitely happier inside than outside. :)

bunnymommy72 2 years ago

I have a dwarf lionhead that has been free range in my fenced in backyard for 2 years...she is 6. Recently I mis-sexed a rescue sable rabbit and now we may have a litter under my shed. The shed is their shelter-with the cage in it. I have separated the male and female but my question is should I be doing anything special to help care for the kits or just monitor her and double up on her fresh veggies and fruits? I don't know how I would get the kits out of the hole but I am worried that she may not take care of them...since she hasn't had a litter before.

guinea 17 months ago

my neighbour had a guinea pig that got loose. In the year it took to catch it the thing trebled in size. Once caged again it died a few weeks later.

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DoralisM33 2 months ago

My baby rabbit Nilla of 3 months passed away 6 days ago and it was the most TRAUMATIC thing I had experienced. She jerked and twitched and seems to be having seizures. She pissed herself and had a little bit of soft poop left under her bottom. I am not sure if she died from eating from a bunch of weeds/leaves I had picked up from the neighborhood or if she ate one too many pellets from the cat food but i feel GUILTY for letting her roam free. I hope she is in bunny heaven; I held her in my arms til her last breath. I pray that we always keep our buns safe when other pets are roaming about. Perhaps she was stressed out or bit an electrical cord or had digestive issue from eating something bad?? I am full of DOUBTS and Tears :(

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