How to Keep a Free-Range Outdoor Rabbit
Rabbits Were Meant to Roam Free
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 in their cages. Though most people wouldn't consider keeping a cat or dog in a cage, the sight of a rabbit in a cage barely raises an 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, happy, and active life? Well, there are several ways to go about this, and each of these methods come with its 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.
How to Keep an Outdoor Bunny
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 waste. No matter how clean you keep a bunny's litter box, there will be some odor.
Outdoor Cage With Frequent Daytime Lawn Outings
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 backyard, 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 and Supervision Are Important
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.
Sequester Your Flowers and Vegetables
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.
Return to the Cage at Night
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.
What Does a Good Outdoor Rabbit Cage Look Like?
For an idea as to an appropriate bunny cage, I've included a photo of mine below. It is 2 meters long by 1 meter wide (about 6 foot by 3 foot), and it 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.
Wicket's Favorite Set-Up
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 the two of us 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!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.