A Hutch is Not Enough Is a Rabbit for Me?

RWACruelsticker (12K) Did you know it was the Victorians who first kept rabbits in hutches - a short term storage solution before the animals went to the pot?

We've moved on a great deal since then, but the habit of keeping rabbits in hutches has stuck.

Rabbits are not designed to live in a confined space. In the wild they cover an area equivalent to 30 football pitches. They're not designed to live alone either - wild rabbits live in large social groups, foraging, grooming each other and huddling together for warmth. Rabbits living alone experience high levels of stress.

Domestic rabbits are not fundamentally far removed from their wild cousins. They share the same need to run, jump, explore and share companionship with their own kind, so their accommodation must allow them to display these natural behaviours.

The RWAF recommends a minimum hutch size of 6' x 2' x 2', which allows rabbits some room to move, stand on their hind legs and enough space for the food, toilet and sleeping areas to be kept apart. It is commonly accepted that a rabbit should have space for 3 hops, but it is commonly underestimated just how far 3 hops is - our tests show that 3 hops from an average sized rabbit covers 6-7 feet!

A hutch should only be a shelter and not the only living space. It should be attached to a secure run of at least 8' x 4'.

Please bear in mind that these recommendations are all minimums - and like many things in life, bigger is better!

The RWAF's A Hutch is Not Enough Campaign is pitched at 3 levels. Firstly, we are encouraging retailers to consider the welfare of rabbits in all their dealings with their customers. We are aiming to achieve this through our Retailer Charter.

Secondly, we want to give advice to people who are thinking of taking on rabbits as pets. The main problem faced by domestic rabbits is lack of knowledge on the part of their owners. Many people simply do not realise that it is cruel to keep a rabbit alone in a small hutch. Through education and advice we hope to make a real difference to the perception of rabbits as pets.

Lastly, we want to get through to people who already own rabbits. We have loads of advice on how you can improve your rabbits' lives and get so much more enjoyment from them. See our Making it Right page for some great ideas.

As the name of the campaign suggests, there's more to keeping a rabbit than the accommodation, but we believe that rabbit owners who keep their pets in bigger accommodation are more likely to be able to fulfil the rabbits' other needs.

Why is this good for retailers?

All retailers benefit from ethical practices, so doing the right thing for the animals the products are designed for can only help the retailer's reputation. All outlets signing up to our 'retailer charter' will be listed on the RWAF roll of honour; the RWAF website has thousands of visits per month by owners looking to benefit their rabbits.

And there are solid economic benefits to retailers too. A larger living space means customers are more likely to take on more than one rabbit (which is something we recommend as companionship is vital for rabbits), meaning greater sales of toys, bedding and food. We are also recommending an attached run, which is another sales opportunity, notably to customers who already own a hutch. And of course if a rabbit's welfare needs are met, it will live longer, which means a longer term customer of accessories and food.

If you see a hutch for sale that is far too small then the best thing to do is to bring it to the attention of the retailer, if you want help in sending them a written complaint then use this template as a starting point:

Why is this good for rabbit owners?

Apart from being a responsible owner and doing the right thing for your pet (and adhering to the Animal Welfare Act which makes it a legal obligation for owners to show a duty of care to their pets) - it is simply much more rewarding to have a pet that has everything it needs to live a full and contented life. A rabbit on its own in a small hutch isn't much fun for anyone, but a bonded pair, living in spacious accommodation and able to display their natural behaviours, is simply a joy to watch. We have numerous testimonials from owners who have 'seen the light' and are astonished at how much more fun their rabbit is once it has been given the right formula for a proper life.

Miss S Shaw - Brighton:

"I bought a rabbit for my daughter and never saw the attraction, I always thought it was boring as it just sat in its hutch, and was aggressive when anybody tried to pick it up.

bunnyhop (207K) Since coming across the information provided by the RWAF, my husband built a much larger living enclosure for Benjy, we had him neutered (Benjy, not my husband) so we could get him a friend - Angela.

Now it's a pleasure to see them investigating their play area and snuggling together and licking each other's heads. I've realised that picking them up was for me, not for them and it's a delight just to see them being, quite literally, happy bunnies!

Anyone who has ever seen their rabbits jump for joy in the spring sunshine will know the pleasure of having a happy rabbit!"

A Hutch is not Enough

Rabbits need space to exercise!

Provide a large secure exercise area or run, this will allow you to give your rabbits toys such as tunnels and boxes so they can display their natural behaviours.

Click here to see examples

A Hutch is not Enough

Rabbits need a friend

Your rabbit should be housed with at least one other rabbit to satisfy its social nature. A rabbit living alone will have higher stress levels. For more advice on rabbit companionship see our Bunny Buddies leaflet


A Hutch is not enough

A song written and recorded by Maria Danes

The wonderful Maria Daines, has written and recorded a song for our 'a hutch is not enough' campaign. Please listen, and share. We can not thank Maria and the band enough for helping us to raise awareness of the plight that many thousands of pet rabbits face - casual neglect, or as Maria puts it... as 'garden ghosts'

http://maria-daines.com/music-118.html

A Hutch is not enough

Rabbits of both sexes should be neutered

2 happy bunnies

Neutering not only prevents unwanted litters but also reduces the risk of uterine cancer in females, reduces aggression in both sexes and enables pairs or groups to live harmoniously. See our Neutering leaflet

A Hutch is not enough

Rabbits need a natural based diet

feeding rabbit

A rabbit's diet should be at least 70% hay, 20% greens and fresh vegetables and 10% pellets such as Burgess Excel or Supreme Science Selective. 'Muesli' mixes should be avoided as they encourage selective feeding. See our Feeding leaflet

A Hutch is not enough

My rabbits live in an 8' x 4' enclosure, why do I need a large hutch?

rabbit in small hutch

In bad weather rabbits will need to stay warm and dry and won't have the luxury of exploring their enclosure. It can rain for days in the UK, so your rabbits could be confined to their hutch for long periods, so a weather-proof living area needs to be as large as possible.

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