We are often asked, “Can house rabbits go outside? The answer is, “Of course they can, but it’s up to you to provide a safe environment for them.”What we have designed for our foster rabbits are playpens. These are not housing accommodations and not intended for night time use. Our first consideration is safety – from predators, poisonous plants and dirt (yes, backyard dirt can be hazardous). Because of the number of foster rabbits, our runs must be easy to build and inexpensive (your contributions are paying for them). They must be large enough for rabbits to run, play, and kick up their heels, yet small enough to move and clean.
Our basic wire over wood model was designed and donated to HRS by Dan Donahue. With the wood on the inside, are we worried that the rabbits will chew up the frame? Naturally they chew on the exposed wood. This is our intention. But for them to destroy the frame by chewing would, at their current rate, take about 75 years (our house rabbit Phoebe has been working on our bed slats for the past 5 years).
The wire floor, which sits flush on the ground, keeps them from digging out. We avoid having our rabbits’ feet on wire by covering the entire wire floor with a thick layer of straw, which the rabbits love. Clean golden straw is one of the best ingredients to have in a rabbit’s environment. They can dig into it, play in it, and chew it. We add a new top layer of straw daily, until the end of the week, when we turn the run upside down, discard the used straw, brush off the wire, and then start all over with fresh straw.
Our runs sit in a yard of solid shade. A roof or partial roof would be necessary for a sunnier location. Also, a top is necessary, even in the daytime, for rabbits who are left unattended all day while the humans are away at work. We plan to hinge plywood roofs on our runs before the rainy season, so that the rabbits can play outside when the weather is moderately wet. Each run has a little “house” (a litterbox lid), which is more of a plaything than protection from the elements.
MARINELL & ROBERT HARRIMAN
House Rabbit Journal Volume I 1989