Domestic rabbits face many hazards outdoors. Even a bucolic fenced-in yard can pose threats. You would be amazed at how small of an opening even a large rabbit can squeeze through. There are also the risks of RHDv2 (endemic throughout the USA), myxomatosis (endemic on the West Coast of the USA), toxic plants, and pesticides. Not to mention dogs, raccoons, and other predators. It’s crucial to consider these factors before allowing outdoor play.
Exercise set-ups within a fenced yard
Donna Jensen, a long-time rabbit educator and fosterer, made the most of her backyard space with x-pens and custom screened-in lids. This is one of the easiest and most common outdoor exercise set-ups for rabbits.
The x-pens are the standard 8-panel octagonal ones sold in most pet supply stores and online at places like Amazon and Walmart. The yard was in a temperate climate where high temperatures and rain were not major outdoor concerns. The positioning of the house relative to the yard also meant there was no direct sunlight on the pens in the morning hours.
This set-up has the advantage that it can be completely taken down in inclement weather, or if the yard needs to be repurposed on some days. The drow-back is that a persistent rabbit can nudge and move the pens.
Bob and Marinell Harriman set up permanent enclosed outdoor spaces for their rabbits to play. These runs have sturdy wooden frames made with 2×4’s. The run itself is 8 feet long by 3 feet wide by 3′ feet tall. All sides covered with 1-inch welded wire that is stapled to the wood. The entirety of the 3’x3′ end is a hinged gate. The lids, which are attached with hinges, are secured with durable ½-inch hardware cloth. On rainy days, they place corrugated fiberglass panels over the tops to keep the runs dry.
Each run is set on a slab of loose bricks. Brick surfaces, like concrete, can be hosed down, and an additional advantage of using bricks-in-sand is that they allow drainage to nearby trees. Each playpen provides ample space for multiple large rabbits to run around, and the plastic toddler playground in the middle also provides opportunities to jump.
Bob designed the enclosures with hinged tops and large front gates. These well-thought-out features make it easy to get in and clean the pen. This design works particularly well in a very small backyard where space is at a premium.
In regions where myxomatosis is widespread, such as the coastal areas of California and Oregon, we recommend enclosing areas with screens or mosquito netting or avoiding outdoor play for rabbits altogether unless rabbits’ exercise areas can be 100% free of flies, fleas, and visitation from wild cottontails that carry myxomatosis.
The Rabbitatio: A Screened in Exercise set-up
Amy Ramnarine built a large play yard for her rabbits: The Rabbitatio. She narrates the playspace in the video above.
She also commented, “We put a clear plastic panel over the screen at the bottom of the screened door to protect the most vulnerable area. Other than that, the rest of the screening has endured (since 2017). None of the bunnies I’ve had in the Rabbitatio have paid any attention to the screen.”
“The Rabbitatio is for play and enrichment only — they don’t live there, they just play there. All my rabbits are house rabbits, which means we all live in the house together (otherwise I’d miss out on all our sweet sofa snuggles and bed cuddles that you can see in some of my other videos). Rabbits are always supervised by an adult human in the Rabbitatio.”
Exercise set-ups in an Enclosed courtyard
Margo DeMello and Tom Young designed their New Mexico home with a completely enclosed courtyard at the center. The dozens of sanctuary bunnies can go in and out and Margo can watch from her work-at-home office.
Do you have a unique custom outdoor exercise set-up for your rabbits? We’d love to hear from you.