For those of us who live in a four season climate, we’re just starting to see warmer weather and sunny days! Like so many of us who can’t wait to get outside I believe our fuzzy little friends enjoy the fresh air just as much as we do! Before letting Mr. & Mrs. Buns romp around in the great outdoors you should know there are quite a few reasons to take caution when bringing them outside:
- Rabbits don’t fare well in extreme temperatures. This means keeping them indoors during those high humidity or super hot summer days us humans pine for.
- Rabbits are prey animals. Animals such as cats and large birds may see them in your backyard and think they look like a tasty treat.
- Rabbits are expert diggers. Your fence may leave no room for escape but leave your rabbit unattended for even a few minutes and he could be on his way to freedom (or death)!
- Rabbits are speed and hop demons. My bunnies are so excited to have our backyard to run around in they did laps and jump a good 3 feet in the air! Make sure you have a high fence your rabbit can’t jump over and move lawn chairs and tables that could serve as bunny launch pads away from the fence. If you have a large backyard you may want to use a bunny play pen, ex-pen or make your own pen to keep your rabbits in one area. Otherwise I can guarantee your bunny will love the outdoors so much that getting him or her to come inside will be a challenge! Plus, if an emergency does come up (like a hawk swooping down from the sky) you can quickly scoop up your rabbit.
I would like to say that I in no way advocate keeping a rabbit permanently outdoors to live full time in a hutch. A rabbit should be part of your family, not an afterthought. Your bunny shouldn’t be left to live in the harsh environmental conditions of the outdoors like thunderstorms, hailstorms, snowstorms, severe heat and the horrid cold. An outdoor rabbit on average lives half as long as an indoor rabbit. That being said I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving your rabbit an afternoon of supervised outside playtime. In fact I think it’s good for you and your Bunny!
Before bringing your rabbit outdoors you’ll have to decide if you’re going to keep your rabbit in an enclosure. We built our rabbits a fully enclosed run so we can leave our rabbits while at work and still know they’re safe. The ground of the run is actually large cement slabs which stay cool in the shady place we chose for them. It also makes it impossible for them to dig through. One half of the run has a shingled roof just in case a sudden rainstorm hits before I can get them out of there. There is also a large hidey house we built them which stays nice and cool on hotter days and gives them a place to hide if something startles them. If you use an enclosed rabbit house when your rabbit is outside make sure to bring all food, water and hay inside every night. You don’t want bugs getting in to their food and their water should be changed once or twice a day depending on how hot it is.
If you opt to have your rabbits run around loose in the backyard or in a semi-open enclosure (such as an ex-pen) then you must be supervising your rabbits the entire time they’re out there! Accidents can happen in seconds and you don’t want to take any chances! This is a member of your family after all!
If you’re going to let your rabbit run loose in the backyard have a good look around to see any escape or problem areas. If you have a high deck your rabbit could sneak underneath you’re going to have to think of a creative way to block it off OR perhaps an enclosed, designated rabbit area would be better for you. Have a thorough look at your fence. Are there any holes your rabbit could squeeze through (remember how small they can make themselves to fit in any nook and cranny) or is the fence higher at any point? Our backyard slopes slightly so although the surrounding fence is safe, at the back gate it’s high enough for our rabbits to easily escape through. To fix that problem I used a few storage cubes and secured them tightly to the fence with heavy string.
Having your rabbit run around loose also makes them an easy meal for predators. Being a city dweller may limit the amount of animals that come around your backyard but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be wary. Large birds such as hawks and crows could still be living in trees close by. Predators such as cats and raccoons may also think your rabbit is a tasty treat. Not only being there to keep a watchful eye but also providing houses or areas for your rabbits to hide if they feel threatened is the perfect way to keep your rabbit as safe as possible. And if you just want to let your bunny explore a little without having to worry about building pens and bunny proofing, a well fitted harness and leash will work just fine!
I’ll be posting more in blogs to come about outdoor bunnies but in the meantime enjoy this video of our buns having a great time in our backyard on a beautiful fall day!