Meet Our Rabbits

So I thought after all these months, it might be nice to actually introduce our rabbits to you.  I know I put lots of pictures of them up and obviously do all the rabbit care articles as well, so let’s go through them, in order of when we got them:

Banacek (2012-present):

Banacek when he had up ears.
Banacek when he had up ears.

Banacek is a mostly white, with brown splodgy bits on his fur, that used to look exactly like someone had drizzled treacle on his back when he was a baby.  Now he is an adult, it looks more like a respectable snowy camouflage.  We got him in April 2012, the week after Mother’s Day (UK edition, usually 2 months earlier than everyone else has it).  We bought him brand new from Pets At Home because there were no adoption bunnies in a 50 mile radius, and there hadn’t been for months and months (literally, I bought hay, toys and a food bowl for a new rabbit about 7 months before we finally gave up on getting an adopted bunny and just bought one).  He had up ears when we first got him, but after about a year they both gradually became lop ears, apparently this happens sometimes with particular cross breeds where the genes can’t make their minds up whether to give the rabbits up or down ears.  For a while he had helicopter ears, and even now, one of his ears is much more lop than the other.  After about a year, we realised he was profoundly lonely, and given that we weren’t allowed a bunny in our house, we started to look for a new house of our very own so we could bring a friend home for him to adore.  It took a ridiculous length of time but we found our perfect house and then we looked for a friend for him.  He likes to jump on the sofa and try to drink my tea (with soya milk and no sugar, of course – the bunnies are lactose intolerant and I have a milk allergy).  He also has developed a habit of trying to steal my toast in the mornings.

Cleo (2005 to present, we had her 2013-present):

Cleo in front of her home with Banacek.
Cleo (on top of the toy) in front of her home with Banacek (inside the toy).

When we were looking for a friend for Banacek, we were sure that we wanted someone who was adoptable, since we felt bad that we had bought Banacek, even though there were no adoption bunnies at the time.  We looked everywhere but there were no female rabbits for adoption.  Banacek was a male and we knew he hadn’t got on with other males since he’d been neutered at 7 months old, because he had regular playdates with my friend’s rabbits.  At long last, we found an advert on Gumtree.  There were three rabbits up for adoption, all Netherland Dwarf bunnies, about 15 miles from where we lived.  The owners were emigrating.  We phoned and asked questions.  We were initially disappointed, as the female hadn’t been neutered, and neither had one of the males, and the males were kept separate from the female, and they were all eight and a half years old.  We knew bunnies could live to see a decade, but I also knew that this was not always the reality of having a bunny, and I didn’t want my current rabbit to be lonely again in six months if his new friend died.  This was in September 2013.  We asked if we could arrange an introduction, and the following day, we took Banacek on the car ride that would change his life.

Cleo, Sebastian and Neville’s former owners had two outdoor runs, where the bunnies played out all day during the day, then went back to their hutches at night time.  We put Banacek in to meet Cleo.  At first she was terrified – Cleo had never seen such a big rabbit!  She wouldn’t stop running away and we didn’t think this was going to work – she was such an elderly bunny, and Banacek was so young and full of the joys of spring, that it looked doomed to fail.  We left them alone for half an hour, though, and Cleo started offering her nose to Banacek.  Netherland Dwarves do this to say hello, and other bunnies don’t do it as much, so it was astounding to us when Banacek offered his nose back!  He had never done this on any of his playdates with other buns the same size as him!  They soon were chasing each other as a game, rather than out of fear.  Three days later, we brought Banacek back, to check whether they were still going to get on or not, and they remembered each other straight away (which rabbit care websites claim is impossible).  The hardest part was having to put them in separate boxes to get them back down the motorway to our home, as they didn’t want to be apart!

We put them in the living room and let them play together.  I was still worried about leaving them unsupervised so I put Cleo in her hutch outside every night at bedtime, because she is such a tiny rabbit and I didn’t want to close her into Banacek’s hutch in the living room until we knew he was happy for her to be in there – and for about two months, she showed no interest in going into his hutch to explore.  One day, though, she had a bit of a cut on her nose and I wanted to keep her in as the weather was getting colder, so I put her into Banacek’s hutch, ready to pull her out again at the first sign of trouble, but she was ok, he was ok, and we came downstairs the next morning to find them snuggled together on the bottom floor of the hutch.  We did have to make some reasonable adjustments to the hutch as it was designed for a bigger rabbit and Cleo couldn’t climb up to the higher platforms, but once we put extra climbing blocks in for her to get onto, she was soon on the top floor at night time with Banacek – which was his favourite spot!

Cute flopsy fluffy snuggly bunnies

Neville (2005-2015; we had him 2013-2015)

Neville, our little Netherland Dwarf bunny.
Neville, our little Netherland Dwarf bunny.

Neville and Sebastian were twin brothers, and were from the same litter as Cleo.  When we went to get Cleo, my husband fell in love with the boys too.  The only problem?  Banacek didn’t get on with them.  After a couple of scuffles we had to give up on the idea of a rabbit foursome in our living room, so we then had to think seriously about what to do.  We decided that, if we only wanted to get rabbits to be friends with Banacek, then perhaps we shouldn’t get any rabbits at all, not even Cleo, because in our eyes they wouldn’t all be equals.  We re-examined why we wanted rabbits at all, and came to the conclusion that if we brought Sebastian and Neville home, it would be because we liked them and wanted them to be happy in a new home, not with any kind of illusions that they would ever be friends with Banacek (but it would be great if they ever did).  My husband decided he liked them anyway, and so they came home with us too.

Neville was always the loudest, most energetic of the two.  He was the one who had been neutered, and he was definitely the dominant twin.  Sebastian was a quieter bunny and liked to sleep for long hours, while Neville was the most playful little bun, always starting games with his brother.  More than that, they had never been apart since they were conceived by their parents.  When Neville got attacked by Fifer, later on, we took Sebastian to the vet with him to keep Neville’s stress down, and kept them both in the bathroom for a while, until Neville had healed.

Neville went on to make a full recovery, but about eight months later, just one month before his tenth birthday, we found him dead in a corner of his hutch.  We left him out for the other bunnies to see, as this helps them with their grief (if they don’t see the dead bunny, they will assume they are out somewhere, and will sit and wait for them to come home for weeks).  We buried him in our back garden the next evening.

Sebastian (2005-present, we had him 2013-present)

We didn’t think that Sebastian would cope without Neville, and watching him grieve was profoundly sad – if we’d had to guess, we both expected Sebastian to go first, not Neville, as he was less active and often didn’t leave his hutch during the day.  We thought he was winding down in life.  It’s five months later, and Sebastian is still going, still just as inactive as ever.  Occasionally we see him running round, but not often.  We tried introducing him to other bunnies, but it turns out that he wants some peace and quiet in his retirement, and hasn’t been particularly kind to Fifer when we tried to get them to be friends.  We are letting him have his own space as he seems content with the friendship that Katie and Fifer keep offering him through the fences between their rabbit runs, but face to face he is less than polite to them.

Sebastian and Neville snuggled together in the summer.
Sebastian and Neville snuggled together in the summer.

Fifer (2014 to present)

Fifer, enjoying a brisk morning hop.
Fifer, enjoying a brisk morning hop.

When I first saw Fifer in Pets At Home, he was 3 months old, and named Clover, and they thought he was a girl.  I thought she was the most adorable little bunny I’d ever seen, and she clearly was annoyed that she was up for adoption, disliking the attention,  preferring instead to hide in a tunnel so only her back legs and tail were visible.  She was a beautiful wild-looking bunny, and when I asked the store manager if I could handle her, she attacked him viciously, covering his hands in angry bloody scratches in seconds.  They clearly had a history.  The second he passed her to me, Clover stretched out her nose and snuffled mine, to see if I was friendly.  Then, when I brought her closer to me, she licked my face and snuggled into my neck.  She came home that same day, I didn’t care that we already had four rabbits (and really, I had shared ownership of Banacek, who is his own bunny, Banacek has Cleo, and my husband has Sebastian and Neville, so Clover would be a bunny just for me), she was my little darling.  I had high hopes that she would integrate with Cleo and Banacek, and offset how hard it was going to be for Banacek when Cleo died, as Cleo was 9 years old at this point.  Hilariously, I booked her in for a spay, and cried when I gave her to the vet to sort out.  The vet took a look and pronounced her male.  So we changed her name to Fifer.  Fifer got neutered, a procedure I was far less stressed about, and he came home and we stopped trying to introduce him to the other rabbits.  We gave him his own section of the garden to play in, which he really liked.  After about three or four months, though, he seemed really bored and disinterested in life.  He just sat in the same spot, day after day, staring wistfully at Sebastian and Neville.  We’d tried to get them to make friends before, and it had all gone wrong, so we didn’t want to try again until we were certain they would be okay.  Fifer had other ideas.

I came downstairs one morning to find Sebastian and Neville’s rabbit run strewn with fur, Banacek was sitting at the front of his run, staring into the kitchen window (he lived outside all of last summer) and Cleo, Fifer, Sebastian and Neville were nowhere to be seen.  I went straight outside, concerned that the boys had been fighting, and I was very surprised to see Fifer sitting in Sebastian and Neville’s run, looking like that girl at the start of Battle Royale.  I scooped him up and popped him on his own side of the run, and he had the sense to stay there.  I opened the shed doors to get to Sebastian and Neville’s hutch and found Sebastian trying to bite my hand, clearly trying to protect Neville, who was very very badly injured and had taken himself off to a quiet corner to die.  I ran to the house and grabbed a rabbit carrier, brought it back to the hutch, carefully extricated Sebastian, then even more carefully got Neville into the carrier, trying not to hurt him more by picking him up.  I left the other bunnies where they were, closed the runs and gave the vet a heads up that I was coming in with an emergency, and drove straight to the vets.  After 4 hours of surgery and three hours of recovery, I got a phone call telling me Neville was going to live, but we needed to keep him indoors for two weeks and give him strong painkillers and antibiotics and examine his wounds several times a day.

This is what Fifer did to Neville.  The saddest bit was that he lost a part of his ear.
This is what Fifer did to Neville. The saddest bit was that he lost a part of his ear.

We didn’t know what to do about Fifer.  We were obviously very angry, hurt and upset that he had gone out of his way to try to kill Neville, but we also knew that every time we’d tried to introduce them, Neville had attacked Fifer.  Fifer had learned this behaviour from Neville.  My husband suggested taking Fifer to the RSPCA, and we discussed whether we thought that what he had done was bad enough to warrant him being put to sleep.  I was heartbroken, and I didn’t think it was fair on Fifer, that he was such a young rabbit, not even a year old, for his life to be over when he had his whole life ahead of him.  It was the hardest thing we had ever faced with our rabbits, and I felt awful for bringing Fifer home in the first place.  I think this was when we realized he was at least a half-wild rabbit, and when we researched them, we found out he has the right shapes and behaviours to be at least part wild.  Our best guess is half-wild, half-Netherland Dwarf.  Despite all my negative feelings, I also felt that I had a responsibility towards Fifer.  He was my bunny, where none of the others were in the same way.  I went out to see him after two days of not looking at him when I fed him, and I picked him up, and I just held him and cried, because he was my little bunny and I didn’t know how he could do such an awful thing to another bunny.  He just snuggled me, but I could tell he knew he’d crossed a line.  But I’ve crossed lines in the past, and felt like there was no redemption in sight, like I would never be able to make things right, and I knew how Fifer felt.  So I made the decision that any mother would.  I bought him a bigger, new hutch all of his own, I got my husband to build it, I placed it in the living room, and I moved Fifer indoors.  I decided that if he was too wild, then we needed to bring him in so he could be around us and learn how to be more domesticated.  After about three months of taking it in turns with Banacek and Cleo to be indoors for the day, and always sleeping indoors at night, Fifer had shown a great improvement in his behaviour.  He stopped acting in fear and started feeling more confident.  That was about the time when I saw Katie.

Katie (2013 to present, we adopted in late 2014)

This was Katie Bunny's enclosure in the adoptable area at Pets at Home
This was Katie Bunny’s enclosure in the adoptable area at Pets at Home

Katie was (you guessed it) another adoptable from Pets at Home.  She actually came from the same holding enclosure as Fifer.  Her story was that she was dumped outside my vets in a cardboard box one night, so they passed her on to Pets At Home.  When I first saw her, I was very excited because I thought she was the perfect size to be safely paired with Fifer.  When I took Fifer for his vaccinations, I asked the vet about her, and she said that Katie had a lovely temperament and would probably get on with Fifer.  The best guess is that she’s two years old, but nobody really knows.  She was already microchipped and neutered when we got her.  I went to Pets At Home and arranged an introduction between Katie and Fifer.  There was uncertainty, there was scuffling, but ultimately, Fifer learned that this ginormous female marmalade bunny was just immune to his aggression.  She would literally just lie down and ignore him.  When she got bored, she’d lunge at him then go back to sleep.  After two hours of introduction, we decided they were getting along.  We didn’t take her until the Saturday, when we took Fifer back, expecting to have to re-introduce them.  They remembered each other, though, and shared a bowl of vegetables.  They were so friendly, I brought them both back in the dog box that we’d brought Fifer in (Katie was too big for those cardboard Pets at Home boxes), and when we got home and I opened the box, they just lay in there together for about an hour before coming out.  Katie moved into Fifer’s hutch straight away, and they’ve never been apart since.  Katie thinks she’s the size of Fifer, and he seems to think he’s the size of Katie; she’s very timid, and I don’t know what happened before we got her, as she has a lot of fears and hang-ups, but Fifer looks after her and makes her feel safe.  In return, she seems to have helped Fifer to become a kinder, more loving rabbit.  I would never separate them.

Katie and Fifer in the living room after a hard day's play.
Katie and Fifer in the living room after a hard day’s play.

So that’s all our bunnies.  We reconfigure who lives where on a regular basis so they all get their fair share of life indoors and outdoors, and we’ve just bought a new hutch (a £30 fixer upper two storey ex display model, down from £99, from Pets At Home) so Banacek and Cleo can move out for the summer to keep them cooler, and so we can get Katie and Fifer back indoors and spend more time with them.

Should you get a bunny for Easter?

So there’s obviously a lot of topical debate at the moment about whether anyone should get a rabbit at all over Easter. I wrote a cautionary tale about impulse buying a rabbit and believing that a child has the maturity to care for one over a long period of time. I’ve also written about getting a rabbit and of things you need to know about bunnies before you get one. I’ve also written a long catalogue of posts on rabbit care which you can find here. My main reason for writing this article is because some people might get a rabbit at Easter and be the best bunny parents ever.  They are not the majority. There is a huge increase in rabbit sales at Easter and pet shops generally don’t give a damn who buys their animals (except my local Pets at Home store, whose staff are actually amazing and I’ve seen them refuse sales a few times due to ethics), so it’s down to you as a responsible human being to be sure you’re not just getting caught up in the moment, and that you’re going to love your bunny and meet their needs forever.  If you’re even reading this, statistics show you’re probably a responsible bunny parent because you’re doing your research.

BUNNY is for LIFE not just for EASTER

Here are some things you need to really think about before you get a live rabbit, and the preparations you need to make:

1. They look so cute, but have you held one?
Have you any past experiences and have you ever actually met and handled a rabbit? Any reputable pet shop will let you handle a bunny and take your time over choosing the right one.  Would you be better getting a cuddly toy or a bunny calendar?

2. My child wants one, but can she look after it?
For some reason, parents often believe that their child is different, and that their child will have the sustained interest in a living being to be able to care for it. They can’t. That’s why we don’t let kids babysit each other, and why people get all concerned about underage pregnancy. All living things have the same set of needs to be met, and children are still learning how to meet their own needs independently, let alone another animal. Any pets brought into the house MUST be brought under the understanding that they are a FAMILY pet, and therefore that it is EVERYBODY’s responsibility to look after them. If you know your 6 year old forgot to feed Nibbles, or that Nibbles isn’t getting enough outdoor playtime, it’s your job as your 6 year old’s parent to pick up the slack.

Think about it from a management point of view. If you’re a supervisor and one of your employees doesn’t do the job right, you don’t leave the job undone, you either get someone else to pick up the slack or you do it yourself, making sure that the employee knows this wasn’t cool. If they consistently fail to do the job, you give their job to someone else on a permanent basis either in-house or elsewhere. For example, if your 6 year old isn’t doing the job, give it to someone else in the house, or do it yourself. You can’t let the job suffer because the employee isn’t doing it right. As a parent, you are a manager of your own house.

3. Before you get a rabbit, plan for about a week. Choose what sort of hutch they’ll have, and make sure it’s arrived before you bring Nibbles home. Bunnyproof your house, even if they’re outdoor bunnies, you need to nominate one room of the house to be a care room for if they have to recover from any vet care. Nominate a cupboard to store hay, dry food, water bottles, bowls, sawdust and newspaper and spare litter trays and toys. Buy all that stuff and check it fits, then choose another place for all the overflow that doesn’t fit! Make sure you know what food to get and why. Rabbits need lots of hay to eat, and a bit of nuggets every day.

4. Make an outdoor play space for your bunny so they can get their daily amount of natural daylight and fresh grass. If you don’t have anywhere, you’ll need a rabbit leash and to commit to taking Nibbles to the park each day (and you will need to protect him from dogs). Otherwise, a rabbit pen is a good choice for the garden, but cover the top so Nibbles doesn’t get eaten by Felix down-the-street when he comes over the fence on his daily walk.

5. Do you have enough money for a vet bill? What will you do if, a week after you bring Nibbles home, he breaks his leg or back? What if the neighbour’s cat attacks him and he needs $400 of reconstructive surgery? Will you be able to afford vet care? Consider a pet insurance plan (although read the fine print, I haven’t seen one that actually covers all of my rabbits due to age, and what they do cover is stuff I can pay myself without blinking, so I just pay all vet bills upfront for my 5 bunnies). Consider putting £10 (or $10) aside each week as an emergency fund for your rabbits. Don’t rely on charitable organizations like the PDSA, they’re not there to be taken advantage of, they’re there for genuine emergencies for low income animals, not for you to irresponsibly take on a pet you can’t afford to care for.  You will need vaccinations every year and each rabbit will need neutering.

6. Invest in a pet vacuum.
You might also need Cage and Hutch Flea Spray cleaning products, grooming brushes, and a dustpan and brush. I recommend getting some carpet cleaner if you’re going to have houserabbits for when you’re litter training. You’ll also need an open litter tray (or three) and to find out about litter training.

7. Now you’re ready for a rabbit. Go and get one or possibly two (but beware- when hormones kick in at 4-6 months, they may not be as snuggly, even after they’re neutered, so I recommend getting one then introducing them until they find a good companion, to avoid ending up with loads of single lonely angry bunnies) get them from an adoption centre by first preference, and remember that this is the start of a beautiful friendship, that can span two decades if you look after them well and are lucky.

8. If you do need to give up your rabbit for whatever reason, here’s your options, and what not to do. Don’t abuse a rabbit when you could have found them a new forever home instead.

And remember, folks, a rabbit is for life – their life – not just for Easter. Happy rabbiting.*

*Rabbiting: the act of looking for a rabbit.  Let’s re-define what happens to them afterwards through our own actions!

Taken from his mother too soon: How this baby bunny lives will AMAZE you.

When we first got Banacek, he was a tiny baby bunny, no more than six weeks old.  He had been taken from his mother at a very young age and had been kept in an enclosure so he was lonely and scared, and freedom to roam was totally new to him.  It was love at first sight, but he was very timid (and so were we) and it took a few days for him to realise that he was allowed out of his hutch when the door was open – that he wasn’t escaping.

baby banacek01

baby banacek05

At first he wouldn’t go far from the safety of his hutch.

baby banacek07

Soon he was venturing further and feeling more relaxed:

baby bnacek02

He refused to drink from his bottle, so I tried to get him to drink like this. Eventually, we just gave him a water bowl.  He also liked to eat his food on the floor with us at mealtimes:

baby banacek13

We worked hard to litter train him.  He was definitely trying to get his head around the concept, but he didn’t quite know the basics:

baby banacek12

Then, during a misadventure, he got behind the downstairs toilet and it was REALLY manky with unknown substances (we’d only had this house 2 weeks when we brought Banacek home) so, despite the fact that we never wanted to have to do this, we had to give him his first bath.  I was adamant that he wasn’t licking himself clean when he was covered in God knows what, because I was scared he might be covered in something poisonous.  He was miffed for about 3 hours then once he was dry he totally got over it and got on with his life.

baby banacek03

Soon, he was really settling in and starting to be part of the herd, guarding our living room from intruders:

baby banacek08

Soon he was totally happy sleeping everywhere in our house:

baby banacek10

baby banacek11

baby banacek15

He decided to take his red cabbage into the stone square shelf he liked to hang out at.

baby banacek14

He helped us open the mail and even got rid of junk mail for us by nibbling it:baby banacek09

We kept him well stocked with “proper” toys as well as unwanted cardboard and what not. This was his favourite, a toy carrot patch with carrots made of wood wrapped with hemp:baby banacek18

At Christmas, he was eight months old, but he hadn’t finished growing:

baby banacek21

We wrapped some muesli in paper and wrote little “gift tags” out of more wrapping paper.  It took him a while to realise they had food in them:

baby banacek22

baby banacek23

Now he is a full size, 3 year old rabbit with a beautiful 10 year old Netherland Dwarf girlfriend who we adopted 18 months ago.  Awww… they grow up so fast:

flopsy sunshine bunnies

We became his family, and now he gets confused when we go on holiday and our petsitters expect him to do bunny things, like sleep closed into his hutch at night, but he humours them even if he thinks it’s weird.  When we go to bed, he sleeps in front of our bedroom door, in the doorway of his own room where his hutch is, and when we get up in the morning, he comes downstairs with us.  He is truly one of the family now.

Share if you love baby bunnies.

See also The Flopsiest Bunny Sleeps

How to design an INSPIRATIONAL rabbit hutch

How to design an inspirational rabbit hutch:  Designing a hutch for your bunnies

Today I want to talk to you about how to design a great hutch for your bunnies; I don’t have a specific design for you to copy, although plenty of the ones here are for sale.  I hope you are inspired to build or buy your own fantastic hutch for your precious bunnies.  Updated to remove Amazon links.

Available at www.petplanet.co.uk
Hexagonal rabbit hutch, available at http://www.petplanet.co.uk

We have designed and made three hutches so far, in all three instances we used the original hutches that we acquired with the rabbits. In the case of one hutch, we deemed it too uninviting to modify it, so it sits out in one of the runs as a playhouse instead, on the understanding that we’d never leave any rabbit in that run for more than a few hours if we need them all outdoors (i.e. if we’re vacuuming, doing home improvement etc). There’s already plenty of articles about specific hutches, I wanted to discuss more generally how to ensure your exciting hutch project meets your rabbits needs (and your own) and how this factors into the design process.

Consider the basic minimum for welfare:

Check out laws in your state, in case they’re different. Most states recognise rabbits as “exotic pets” which makes no sense to me – they’re as common as cats and dogs, and are native to the USA, so why exactly are they classed as exotics, like monkeys and weird spiders? In the UK, they are just classed as standard pets, and this means there’s laws about how they should be kept. In the UK, rabbit hutches should be at least 6X2X2 feet. In the USA, there’s no minimum, but welfare charities recommend the 6X2X2 rule there, too (for a standard sized rabbit, i.e. one that is about 2 feet long when resting stretched out – if you have a giant rabbit, the hutch size recommended is 9X3X3). While there is no recommendation about dwarf rabbits, we can do the same calculations and arrive at 5X18”X18” as a conservative (generous in favour of the rabbits) estimate. This is the bare minimum size your total rabbit housing space should be. Make it bigger, by all means! This doesn’t include any outdoor space e.g. if the rabbit hutch has a run permanently attached to the front. All rabbits housed outdoors need a run. The run needs to be at least 36 square feet, or 6 by 6 (8 by 4 is also apparently acceptable). Indoor rabbits are recommended to have outdoor access if at all possible, but there’s no recommendations for the amount of indoor space.

large rabbit hutch amazon

This outdoor hutch design would look beautiful in a bedroom or lounge – I’d tile a floor underneath it and cover the whole of the bottom level with hay to give an outdoor style environment.

How much time will your rabbit spend in their hutch?

Be realistic. Do they only come out for an hour at dinner time? Do you plan for them to roam free in a particular room 24/7? Do you want them to run around the house but only while you’re in it? Think about how much time the rabbit will spend in their hutch. If they’re going to be closed inside while you’re in bed and at work, that’s about 16 hours a day of hutch time. Scale up the space accordingly. You wouldn’t want to live out the majority of your days in a space that’s your height (height) x your height (width) x four times your height (length), would you? Think about what you would like if you were a rabbit. You’d probably want to run around a bit, and have room to binky (happy jump) and stretch as well as room to sleep and impersonate a bunny slipper.

This gorgeous crate is cunningly disguised as a coffee table and would be suitable for a 24/7 free roaming houserabbit, or even overnight accommodation for your houserabbit if it was decked out with food, water, hay and toys, although if your rabbit is in his house a lot, you definitely need something bigger.
This gorgeous crate is cunningly disguised as a coffee table and would be suitable for a 24/7 free roaming houserabbit, or even overnight accommodation for your houserabbit if it was decked out with food, water, hay and toys, although if your rabbit is in his house a lot, you definitely need something bigger.

Assess your rabbits needs:

Do they like to climb? Do they like to run around? If you left a dining chair out, would your rabbit climb on it? Do you have high ceilings? Do you have lots of floorspace? These factors affect whether you build a tall hutch, with lots of platforms and climbing spaces, or whether you build a short hutch with lots of horizontal space. If you have a low ceiling, a tall hutch isn’t your best solution. Likewise, if the rabbits are scared of climbing back down when they’ve jumped onto the couch, or if they’ve got a bad leg, they probably won’t suit a tall hutch. In this case, you would probably choose a hutch that took up a lot of floor space but with room above it for your own storage, e.g. wall shelves.

The dimensions are quite small but you could use it for dwarf rabbits or for inspiration of how to modify an existing hutch to make an exciting living space for your bunnies.
The dimensions are quite small but you could use it for dwarf rabbits or for inspiration of how to modify an existing hutch to make an exciting living space for your bunnies.

How awesome is the window box???!

If you have limited floor space, build upwards. Even if your ceiling is only seven feet high, that’s still a pretty tall rabbit hutch (you want the highest platform to be reachable for cleaning, and the roof of the hutch needs to be placed high enough to allow the rabbits to comfortably stand upright on their back legs).

This behemoth from www.rehutches.com has four floors of bunny play space and a storage locker for hay and food, making the most of a tall room.  I'd put this in my living room.
This behemoth from http://www.rehutches.com has four floors of bunny play space and a storage locker for hay and food, making the most of a tall room. I’d put this in my living room.
Rehutches also does this wider tall hutch option for people with more space.  I love the attic window!
Rehutches also does this wider tall hutch option for people with more space. I love the attic window!

Decide what you can afford, comfortably build, and fit in your house reasonably:

Don’t spend money that you don’t have on a rabbit hutch. You will resent your rabbits if they’re living in a palace and you’re out on the street asking them if you can stay the night, because you didn’t make your rent this month. Yes, it is natural to want the absolute best for your bunnies, they are part of your herd. However, they also like living in a forever home with happy humans. To this end, make sure you budget sensibly for your rabbit hutch or hutch building project. While budgeting, you may be looking at your various options and thinking “hey, it’s only wood and metal, right? I could build this myself!” If you have the skills, or think it’s within your ability to learn, then great, good on you. If on the other hand you last used a drill to make a beer bucket in 1993, perhaps this is a job best left to the professionals. The cost of a ready-built rabbit hutch (or flat packed) can be extortionate, and many companies only offer a one-shape fits all approach, with the most common options being all that’s available. It’s up to you, and there’s a fine balance between budgeting and build skill. The final consideration here is whether it will fit in your home. If you’ve got a specific space earmarked for bunnies, it might be better to go down the custom-made route. Design the space, see what you can make yourself, see if there’s anything for sale that would substitute for the bits you can’t make yourself, and if all else fails, ring a custom rabbit hutch maker and have your serious money ready because custom made rabbit hutches can be shockingly expensive.

Join two of these simple 55 inch panel rabbit runs together in a room (they're modular, like lego, so you can make a big rectangle or circle with enough panels).  Team it with some good tile flooring and plenty of hay and toys and a few platforms to get the perfect houserabbit's indoor rabbit home.
Join two of these simple 55 inch panel rabbit runs together in a room (they’re modular, like lego, so you can make a big rectangle or circle with enough panels) to make the walls. Team it with some good tile or wooden flooring, wall protection, a litter tray and plenty of hay and toys and a few platforms to get the perfect houserabbit’s indoor rabbit home.  Add food, water and a rabbit or two and you’re good to go.  For larger breeds or more rabbits, just add more Panel Runs.

The rabbit run above is available from most pet retailers worldwide.  Sometimes they’re called puppy pens.  I have two of these, 16 panels in total, which provide structural support to my Bunny Village where four of my six rabbits live.

Look around for inspiration:
A google image search of rabbit accommodation, rabbit housing, house rabbits and rabbit hutches comes up with lots of good results, although on the last two there’s a lot of rubbish to trawl through as well. The best thing about getting inspiration from other people’s pictures is that often you can find a way to simplify what they have done, and adapt it to make the ideal environment for your bunnies.

This is the sort of awesome rabbit home you can build using the panel runs I mentioned above.
This is the sort of awesome rabbit home you can build using the panel runs I mentioned above.

The above photo sourced from: http://bunniesaspets.com/house-rabbit/

Get designing:

Remember to do a more detailed sketch after the first, rough sketch, where your lines are drawn with a ruler and a scale, your materials are labelled and listed, and features are explained briefly. I like square paper for anything like this. If you’re open ended or uncertain about which materials to use, a quick browse of DIY stores can help. Otherwise, you could ask a member of staff at a DIY store (although some people have conceptualization problems when it comes to building something that’s slightly outside the box – these people get confused and think you want to make one of those tiny, 3 foot outdoor rabbit hutches that evil people leave their poor bunnies in. If you get stuck with a cretin, just smile and nod and go elsewhere). Also bear in mind that you are under absolutely NO obligation to buy something just because the sales advisor has spoken to you about a product. It’s okay to say “thanks, that’s really helpful, once my design is final, I’ll come back with measurements” then work out where you can get the cheapest bargain.

If you have the room in your garden, this giant hutch (it's more of a rabbit annexe or outhouse) from www.rehutch.com would be amazing even for a bonded quintet of giant rabbits!  You could build something similar using two garden sheds and some wood and wire, and make the bit in the middle roofless (cover in wire instead) so the grass continues to grow.  Not very handy with a saw?  The guys at Rehutch will probably custom make something for you.
If you have the room in your garden, this giant hutch (it’s more of a rabbit annexe or outhouse) from http://www.rehutch.com would be amazing even for a bonded quintet of giant rabbits! You could build something similar using two garden sheds and some wood and wire, and make the bit in the middle roofless (cover in wire instead) so the grass continues to grow. Not very handy with a saw? The guys at Rehutch will probably custom make something for you, I’ve never met them but their website seems very rabbit-friendly.

Get making:

This stage might include cutting wood and screwing it together. Or it might include clipping together a flat packed hutch from amazon. Whatever hutch design you’ve gone with, this is the stage where it will start taking shape. Remember to test your hutch for stability before moving the rabbits in, the only thing worse than the hutch falling down with them in, is when they crawl out afterwards, scared and confused, and electrocute themselves on an exposed wire you never expected them to get close enough to chew. Don’t let this happen.

Banacek waits for Jason to come home with carrots.
Banacek’s hutch is 6 foot wide, 6 foot tall and two feet deep, and was custom built by someone who’s handy with a saw and nails (not me).


Admire your new hutch:

This is the best stage. Take photos, take videos, introduce the rabbits to their new home, show your friends and the Internet. Feel proud that you conceptualized this and have seen it through to the end, you’re officially awesome. Bunnies sometimes take a few days to feel settled in a new home, so their initial reaction can sometimes be a bit icy, but they will grow to like their new, spacious, fun rabbit home.

[Rabbits] ” I can’t keep my rabbit any more ” What to do when Bunny has to go

“ I Can’t Keep My Rabbit Any More ”

What to do when you can’t look after your rabbit any more.

Fifer and Katie, unwanted rabbits.
These rabbits were unwanted by their previous owners. So we adopted them both separately.  Tired from pooing everywhere, they settle to a rousing episode of Clifford The Big Red Dog.

This is what nobody likes to talk about, but I think it’s important. Sometimes, we enter into things for the best of reasons. Right now, if you’re contemplating having to get rid of your rabbit, you’re probably feeling pretty bad, you don’t need a lecture on responsibility, some other website will do that instead. I don’t know you or why you’re getting rid of little Nibbles. The main thing is getting rid of your rabbit the responsible way. I am not discussing the decision making process behind getting rid of a rabbit, just what to do after that decision has been made. I know it can be difficult to think straight when you’re under the extreme stress of having to get rid of your beloved companion, but please read through this article and think it through before you do anything hasty.

Ways NOT to get rid of a rabbit:

“Releasing them” into the wild: This is a terrible idea. Rabbits that are kept as pets are as genetically different from wild rabbits as dogs are to wolves. They can’t survive on their own, and will die from either starvation, predator attack, wild rabbits attacking them or coldness. Drive a bit further and take them to an animal shelter, where they will have a chance at finding a new forever home.

Leaving them at the side of the road: Wild rabbits have no road sense, that’s why so many of them end up as roadkill. Pet rabbits don’t even know what a road is. If you leave them at the side of the road they may even get hit by a car before you pull away. Drive a bit further and take them to an animal shelter, trained staff will look after them and they’ll have a better chance of survival.

Killing them: Please don’t do it! This is not the way to get rid of a rabbit. Whatever they have done, whatever your circumstances, please don’t harm Nibbles. If you care nothing about the rabbit’s welfare, look at it for your own interests – don’t get an animal abuse charge, okay? Officials can and do find out about this very easily, it’s illegal to kill a pet rabbit, they can tell the difference between pet and wild rabbits, and if you get prosecuted you could face a whole host of penalties dependant on where you live. Take Nibbles to a vet or an animal shelter if you really must be rid of them at once and leave him in their care. There is absolutely nothing a rabbit can possibly have done to necessitate being killed, and I’m saying that having been savaged by rabbits more times than I can remember since I first got them. Rabbits are not dogs.

adopted bunnies in front of their cardboard castle
Fifer (left) was responsibly taken to an adoption centre. Katie (right) was dumped in a box on the doorstep of our vets. Now they are our cherished companions in their forever home.

The best ways to get rid of your rabbit:

Advertise as free to a good home: If you have some time (a week or two) before the rabbit must be gone, put an advert on the internet- google “buy rabbits” to see the best places to advertise your unwanted rabbit. To get rid faster, make him “free to a good home.” Give your rabbit to an adult, never a child, and if you’re never having rabbits again, give them the rabbit hutch, toys and feeding things as well, so the rabbit has as much stability as possible.

Take him to an adoption centre: If you don’t have time to rehome him yourself, for whatever reason, take him to an adoption centre. It might be worth phoning around to see which ones take rabbits so he doesn’t end up at a horse rehoming centre or something equally inappropriate. Adoption centre staff get all their animals from people who can’t have them any more, they are usually experienced and non-judgemental, although a few might be preachy due to caring a lot about the animals they rehome. Take it on the chin. Whatever your reasons for doing it, be assured in yourself that you are doing the right thing by getting rid of your pet responsibly.

Conclusion:

By doing the right thing, you will save yourself sleepless nights for years to come about what happened to little Nibbles. This is why advertising and meeting the new owners is the best way to get rid of a rabbit – additionally, adoption centre resources are often very stretched so they can’t always take new animals. However, if you can’t rehome him with someone, get him to an adoption centre instead. They are the best two options. Please, please don’t abandon your rabbit or harm him in any way. He is dependant on you to do the right thing.

Keeping your rabbits? Check out this awesome article to find out how I made a rabbit stroller for under $15.

[Rabbit 101] Getting a Rabbit

Rabbits 101: Getting A Rabbit

This is a post for people who want a rabbit, showing how to get a rabbit, where to get a rabbit, and how much rabbits cost, as well as where to put them and more.  It’s not intended to be a definitive discussion of rabbit welfare or the rabbit sales industry, but is intended for people who love the idea of having a hoppy bundle of fluff in their life.

I want a rabbit!

Are you an adult? Are you a responsible adult? Do you tidy your room/home regularly, wash up, vacuum etc? Will the addition of a mess-making critter who can crawl into the tiniest of holes cause you any problems with meeting your other responsibilities in life? Do you have time to give the rabbit all the love and attention he needs to lead a fulfilling life? Think about this carefully, take the time to introspect. Do lots of research after you finish this article. Make sure a rabbit is the right companion for you.

Rabbits are NOT good pets for children, they end up sad, lonely and unwanted as the children “outgrow” them, and unlike the Betsy Wetsy dolls, these are living things which can live up to 20 years: My aunt was 24 when her bunny, which she’d acquired at age 4, finally passed away in the 1970s; my sister in law’s childhood rabbit lived to be 17 in the 1990’s.  I can’t comment on the lives these rabbits led and I don’t condone giving rabbits to children.

Are you committing a lifetime of love and affection to your bunny, to love them no matter how your life changes over the coming two decades, for better or worse, to always put their needs first and to make sure that your home is their forever home? Children cannot make these sorts of decisions, to look after something for a period of time several times longer than they have been alive themselves, it’s unfair to blame them when you bought them a pet that you can’t be bothered to look after, as the adult, YOU are the responsible party.  They say “I want” you say “when you’re older.” Disappointment is part of growing up. Animal abuse charges don’t have to be.  If you get a rabbit and you have children, make Nibbles a whole family pet that everyone is involved with.

How do I buy a rabbit?

Generally, you walk into a pet sanctuary or pet store and say, “one rabbit please.” Unless you are trying to buy more than one rabbit (two are ideal), in which case you would change “one” for “many” to say “many rabbits please.” Specifying a number of rabbits helps the volunteer or shop assistant to match you up with the right new friend. Make sure you have met and handled your rabbit before agreeing to take them home.  Remember, just because two baby bunnies get along now, it doesn’t mean they still will when they’ve been neutered.  You will still have to work at building their relationship while hormones disperse.

Adoption centres will ask you lots of questions – more below. Some pet stores won’t let you handle the pets before purchase – it’s important to know whether that rabbit is just going to hate you every waking minute of its life, turning your happy idea of snuggly bunny fun into a rage-filled plethora of biting and scratching, stomping and ignoring. Don’t get a bunny who doesn’t like you. Yes, some bunnies take time to adjust, but if it tries to kill you straight away it’s not meant to be. Take Fifer, for example:

Fifer was an adoptable bunny. When I got Fifer, I asked if I could handle him, and the store manager gave me a Look, I wasn’t sure why, then he unlocked Fifer’s enclosure. He reached in to pull him out, Fifer stomped and ran away, the store manager didn’t back off, and dragged him out (his poor little claws were futilely raking across the sawdust and he was clearly distressed), they clearly had a grudge going on. Fifer started fighting, scratching, biting, wriggling, never stopping until he’d shown this man that he was a Free Bunny. I was dubious that Fifer would be a good addition to our herd. I asked if I could handle him. The second he passed to me, Fifer stopped struggling, snuffled my nose in greeting, and snuggled up for a very long cuddle – throughout the adoption process, Fifer was in my hands, pressed against my neck, just content to be still and to snuggle. The moral of the story? Sometimes a rabbit just loves you. Other times, they just hate you.

If a rabbit is attacking you, he doesn’t like something about either the situation or you. Try a different rabbit. Also, it might sound obvious, but if you’ve just been around your friend’s house, petting their dog, don’t go straight to get a rabbit. Rabbits are pre-disposed to fear the smell of dogs (this can be overcome if you want them to live together), and it won’t make a good first impression on a vulnerable prey animal to turn up smelling like one of their predators. It makes sense, really.

Where should I get a rabbit from?

PETA have a very hard-hitting advert from a few years ago. A “model family” brings home a brand new pedigree dog, they’re all petting and adoring it. Then a PETA worker knocks on the door with a delivery. Someone says “what is it?” The response “This is the dog you killed.” A body bag that’s dog sized is thrown on the kitchen counter.

The message they were trying to convey? They were trying to show that, every time a brand new dog from a breeder is bought, a lonely adoptable dog doesn’t get that exact home. So they get put to sleep because there aren’t enough people to rehome adoptables. The same is sadly true of rabbits; there’s too many unwanted rabbits (visit http://www.dailybunny.com/daily_bunny_d8 to see a round up of the adoptable rabbits, updated daily, with lots of links to adoption centres across the world), people buy them for Easter, for Christmas, for summer – any time a child is sad and wants a present.

I know someone who got rabbits when her parents divorced, one parent trying to buy affection. Of course, she didn’t want the rabbits, didn’t know the first thing about looking after them, and the poor things had to be rehomed. It makes me very sad to know the sheer number of unwanted rabbits in the world, and begs the question, why would you get a rabbit if you didn’t want one? But then, people think cats and dogs are more important than rabbits, and they’re unwanted all the time, and people think human babies are more important than any pet, and look how many unwanted children are in the foster care or adoption systems. This is why you need to make sure you have enough responsibility and are ready for this 20-year commitment.

Adoption Centres:

These are places where you can adopt pets. They often have a range of pets, and volunteers are often trained in looking after them, but can’t really advise you on what pet is most suitable to you; you need an idea of what you’re looking for. Do you want a giant rabbit? A tiny one? A super-fluffy one? A standard shorthair? Up ears? Down ears? Three legs? A tail? Rabbits will arrive at an adoption centre in a variety of different states, if aesthetics are important to you, don’t get a rabbit that you don’t like. In an ideal world, it really wouldn’t matter what a rabbit looked like, and every rabbit would have a loving home, but we don’t live there. Some people will only date blondes, other people will only keep pet rabbits with lop ears. If that’s you, make sure you’re happy with how your rabbit looks – you’ll be seeing a lot of each other once you move in together. It’s better to come across as picky to an adoption centre than to take a rabbit home, only to get rid of them in six months because you don’t like them. The adoption centre will ask you questions, such as “do you have any children?” “do you have any other pets?” “where will your rabbit live?” etc. Be ready to answer these so they know you’ve thought about it properly and that you have made your home ready to receive a rabbit – if all goes well, you might take a bunny home today, are you ready?

Questions that are not ok, and which should probably make you consider a different adoption centre, include anything about you being part of a Protected Group – race, gender, transgender status, sexual orientation, etc, and anything else that makes you feel uncomfortable. Do rabbits care if they’re rehomed by gay couples? I certainly don’t think so (two of my rabbits are living as a gay couple, their bond has been unbroken through nine years, I think they’d be happy to be taken out on PRIDE marches).

I think that a shared familial love between owners and pets, and an ability to meet the pets’ needs, is more important than what colour you are or what gender you are attracted to. Some people feel differently. Don’t bother adopting from these places – it’s sad for the animals that they have to be denied loving homes, but aside from litigating, I don’t think there’s a lot you can do, and even then I’m sure we all know they’ll just deny you a pet on a technicality.

When my family went to adopt a dog, back in 1996, we went to our local dog shelter. They disliked my mother on the grounds of her disability, talking to her loudly and slowly, and surprise surprise, they decided to call and say that we didn’t pass the home inspection (they didn’t even turn up). I hope that dog got the home it deserved, but the dog we adopted instead, from a woman who found him abandoned in a shed, was Dylan, who I’ll tell you about sometime. Basically he was the most awesome living being I’ve ever had the absolute privilege to spend time with, and I’m glad to have known him as my family dog for 16 years. So these things do turn out ok, even if you’re not white, middle class able and heteronormative.

Private Sellers
These come in two categories: People who have to get rid of an unwanted* rabbit and people who are actually breeding rabbits to sell.

DON’T BUY RABBITS FROM RABBIT FARM BREEDERS!! Buying them makes people believe this is an acceptable way to make a living. It is not.  It contributes to rabbit overpopulation, and breeders often keep rabbits in overcrowded, unclean conditions where every mealtime is a fight for food.  On top of that, they tend not to allow the weaker or less attractive bunnies to live long, because they won’t fetch a price worth the food they’re fed.  The ones who sell to pet stores are inspected by animal welfare and often also by the pet store, depending on the scale of the store.  Small time breeders with one pair of rabbits, and accidental litters are different, but use your judgement and ask questions.

*When I say unwanted, I don’t mean they don’t love their rabbits, because some people love their bunnies very much and circumstances have forced them to find new homes. When we got Sebastian, Neville and Cleo, the owners loved them dearly but had to move to Australia for work. You can’t take rabbits to Australia – they’re classed as a pest – so all three rabbits needed a new forever home. Other people, on the other hand, have decided their store-bought bunny doesn’t match the new wallpaper so have decided to get rid. And there’s all the permutations in between.

There are sites like Craigslist and Gumtree that often advertise unwanted rabbits, generally the genuine ones will be free or just a delivery fee. The breeders can charge stupid amounts of money. Sometimes, people with unwanted rabbits will charge for them. Meet a few bunnies, see who you like, and take them home. Sometimes they will come with all their equipment – Cleo, Sebastian and Neville all came with hutches and carry boxes for taking to the vet etc, as well as bottles and bowls, hutch blankets to keep them warm and other accoutrements. I think we paid petrol as they helped us move them.

Pet Stores

Pet stores have two ways of acquiring rabbits: The first is that people with litters of bunnies can sell them to the pet shop. The second is that people who farm rabbits can sell them to the pet shop. The difference is the scale of operation. Some pet stores only buy from particular breeders, which can mean long transportation times for the rabbits, other pet stores will buy from anyone, which can mean the rabbits are carriers of Rabbit Hemorraghic Disease which can kill rabbits. Make sure, if you’re buying from a pet shop, that they have checked the health of the rabbits, and done everything reasonable to ensure these rabbits are in good healthy happy condition from birth to now.

We bought our first rabbit from a pet store called Pets At Home, which is a huge chain in the UK. A lot of people like to denigrate them because they’re a large chain, but they’re actually a good place to get a rabbit and they vet their breeders. We wanted to adopt a rabbit, and had been searching for a bunny for two months, as we knew that buying a brand new rabbit meant denying a home to an unwanted rabbit, but there weren’t any rabbits up for adoption at all (this is common in the town we lived in at the time), and during that time we grew to love Banacek, who would greet us when he saw us by the second week. His litter had a sign saying “not available until Mothering Sunday (date)” and, although we’d been visiting weekly, we couldn’t make it back again until the Tuesday due to work commitments; I was worried that all the bunnies would be gone before we got there (every rehome we’d found and called people about had been gone before we could go to meet them). Banacek was still there, he came to greet us, and pawed at the side of the enclosure as if to say “get me out of this crazy place, anyone would think I was an animal the way they’re keeping me in an enclosure!” We took him home. While I know that buying a brand new rabbit isn’t optimum, at the same time we had taken all reasonable measures to try and adopt a rabbit, and living with Banacek over the past two years, I’ve never once regretted our decisions either to buy a store-bought rabbit or to let him live indoors as a house rabbit. Sometimes buying is the best option for your circumstances, and if you live somewhere where unwanted rabbits aren’t an issue, and can’t get an adoptable, then maybe a store bought rabbit is for you. I’m sure some people will say “wait for an adoptable to come along” but at some point you have to say “I’ve waited long enough” and get the rabbit of your dreams.

Where to put the new bunny?

So you are on the verge of getting a rabbit – where should you put them once they get home?  Have rabbit housing ready before you get the rabbit – I know this sounds obvious, but in the moment we can sometimes forget and this can be a bit embarrassing.  I would recommend getting a starter home for your rabbit if you are planning to build a big indoor enclosure, so they can acclimatise to the house and you can work out the best housing arrangements for their personality.  If you are only planning to buy them one home, don’t bother with a starter home, go for the best you can afford.  A rabbit hutch should be at least 6’x2’x2′ (6 foot width) for a small rabbit, so they can comfortably move around.  As long as they’ve got 12 feet of floor space, the length and width can be configured differently, such as two four foot floors, both two feet wide, both having a height of two feet.  The height must always allow bunny to stretch from back legs to nose in case he jumps or stretches in his hutch, so he doesn’t break his spine and die.  This is recommended at two feet for a normal size rabbit, obviously you can go a bit smaller for a Netherland Dwarf (they’re tiny) but go much bigger for a giant rabbit.  Remember there’s no rule that says an outdoor hutch can’t take pride of place in your lounge!

Conclusion:

At the end of the day, make sure you’re happy with the rabbit you’re bringing home.  If that’s an adoptible, store bought or a freebie from your friend’s litter, that’s fine. The most important thing is providing a loving, stable and nurturing home environment for your new companion (and getting them registered with a vet), and honouring the commitment to take care of them for their entire life, doing all you can to find them a new, loving home if you cannot keep them for some major life reason.