How to Care for an Outdoor Rabbit

Two Methods:Practicing Proper Rabbit CareProtecting Your Rabbit Outdoors

If you choose to keep a pet rabbit outdoors either all or part of the time, proper precautions need to be taken to keep your bunny happy and healthy. Domesticated rabbits need an outdoor home that is spacious, secure, clean, dry, not too hot or cold, well-stocked with food and water, and not isolated from regular contact with humans and any rabbit friends. Help your furry friend live a life that is long enough and enjoyable enough to hop about!

Method 1
Practicing Proper Rabbit Care

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    Decide if your rabbit should stay outdoors at all. Traditionally, pet rabbits have often been kept outside in a pen or “hutch.” And, since you see wild bunnies hopping around all the time, you may assume that your pet will do fine outside as well. But there are many factors to consider.
    • Some organizations now strongly urge that you keep house rabbits indoors at all times. Domesticated rabbits have lost the instincts and skills that keep their wild companions alive, and are not creatures that are suited to isolation, extreme conditions, or surprises (from predators or otherwise).[1]
    • Others contend that it is acceptable to keep rabbits outside during the daytime, when the risk of predators is lower. Domesticated rabbits can die of shock from the mere sight of a predator, so even a secure enclosure may not keep your bunny safe from a raccoon, fox, or neighborhood cat.[2]
    • Still others still say that, with proper preparation and care, full-time outdoor living is fine. As your rabbit’s caretaker, the decision is yours.
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    Feed your rabbit more than carrots. Bugs Bunny may have done fine with a single-veggie diet, but real rabbits require lots of hay and diet diversity.
    • The staple of your rabbit’s diet should be hay, which should be available at your pet supply store. This should make up about 75% of its diet.[3]
    • Each day, add in some leafy greens and a handful of rabbit pellets, which offer important nutrients. Add various vegetables (yes, including carrots) and some fruits to the mix.[4]
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    Keep its home clean. A rabbit will typically establish one or two litter areas in its enclosure (let the rabbit decide where, and then place a bunny litter box there), but keeping the area clean in general is important for health and happiness.
    • Do some general clean-up daily, removing soiled straw, etc. Perform a more thorough cleaning at least every one-to-two months, removing and replacing bedding materials and the like.[5]
    • Soiled and/or damp bedding will encourage flies, which can bring on maggots that can infest your rabbit and cause “fly strike,” a potentially fatal illness.[6]
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    Don’t leave your rabbit lonely. Wild rabbits are sociable creatures, and that quality has not been bred out of their domesticated cousins. So, if you’re going to have a pet rabbit, spend time with it, and consider giving it a friend or two.
    • Check on your rabbit at least once or twice a day, and spend some time with it. Hold it, or let it roam free a bit (in your bathroom, for instance, or an outdoor “rabbit run” enclosure).
    • Many rabbits prefer a companion, so think about adding another compatible bunny — ideally one of similar size and age. Make sure they are spayed or neutered, especially if you have boy and girl bunnies together — you know what they say about rabbits![7]
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    Give your rabbit daily exercise and play time. Rabbits are meant to be active creatures, running and hopping about, and need at least three hours of "free range" time per day for exercise.[8]
    • "Free range," however, does not mean loose and unsupervised in the yard, unless you want your bunny pal to become lunch for your neighbor's cat. Your rabbit must either be supervised or placed in a secure "bunny run" that allows plenty of room for horizontal and vertical movement.
    • Rabbits are also curious, sociable, and intelligent, and thus benefit from play time (and so will you!). Games like "bunny bowling" (the rabbit knocking over plastic pins), "fetch" (with you doing the fetching!), and "cardboard castle" (which is inevitably destroyed) are among the many play options.[9]
    • Rabbits enjoy playing with paper, cardboard, hard plastic, or untreated wood toys as well. Avoid treated wood and some varieties such as cherry, redwood, and peach, as these may be toxic.[10]

Method 2
Protecting Your Rabbit Outdoors

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    Prepare a proper home. The days of thinking it acceptable to keep a pet rabbit in a small, isolated “hutch” are past. Rabbits need a dry, clean, ventilated, safe, well-placed, and relatively roomy home to thrive.
    • Modern outdoor “hutches,” with multiple levels and/or rooms, are suitable for pet rabbits. You can also construct your own bunny home. Look for plans online, but make sure the home will be secure and relatively weather-tight.[11]
    • As one example, you can create an exercise pen (or “rabbit run”) for your bunny to use daily out of wooden framing, rabbit fencing, and a plywood top and bottom. It should be at least 8’ L x 32” W x 32” H to give your rabbit enough room to run and hop about.[12]
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    Protect your rabbit from predators and itself. As noted, domesticated rabbits can die simply from the shock of seeing a predator, so making sure other animals can’t get in and your bunny can’t get out are essential.
    • If you’ve ever had wild rabbits invade your flower bed or garden patch, you know they’ll eat just about anything. So, especially if your rabbit ever runs free in your enclosed yard, avoid having poisonous plants around. Also, anywhere your rabbit will be, take care to secure electrical wiring and keep it out of tooth-range.[13]
    • Regarding plants that can be toxic for rabbits: the list is actually quite extensive, so consult it carefully. Just a few examples include: aloe, begonia, daffodil bulb, Easter lily, and geranium.
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    Keep things dry. When it comes to an outdoor rabbit home, dampness leads to dirtiness leads to sickness, such as the “fly strike” mentioned elsewhere here.[14]
    • Give your rabbit home a roof that resists rain — it can be plywood, corrugated panels, or even plastic sheeting or a tarpaulin. Repair and replace the roof as necessary to keep the rain out.
    • During heavy rain or snow, consider moving your rabbit (by having a mobile home or second home) to a drier location such as a porch, garage, basement, or just in the main house. A bad thunderstorm can frighten a pet rabbit to death, so bring it in if possible.
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    Beat the summer heat. If you’ve spotted wild rabbits near your home in the summertime, they’ve probably been lounging in the shade or in a hole they’ve dug in your yard. Rabbits like to stay comfortably cool year-round.[15]
    • Place your rabbit’s home in a shady area, and/or provide shade with a roof or screening material. Make sure the enclosure is well-ventilated to prevent overheating, however.
    • You can also try freezing plastic water bottles and nestling them in the straw flooring. This will provide your rabbit with some cool spots to lounge.
    • Make sure your rabbit always has a fresh water supply in warm weather.
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    Make winter warmer. With a properly insulated and protected home, rabbits can withstand the winter cold, although you may consider just keeping them inside — at least at night — during the coldest time of year.[16]
    • Before winter arrives, repair the rabbit’s home, taking special care to fix any leaks or damp spots. Damp is bad, and damp and cold is especially bad for rabbit health.
    • Add additional bedding as insulation. You can also line walls and floors with layers of newspaper. Consider covering areas of fencing with plastic sheeting, and covering the home with a tarp or blanket at night. You want to reduce drafts and hold in warmth, but make sure you allow some ventilation.[17]
    • You can purchase special heaters for a rabbit home, but make sure any electrical wiring is out of reach. There are also special bunny heating pads, or you can just nestle (securely closed) plastic bottles full of warm (not hot) water in the bedding several times per day.
    • Check on your rabbit friend more often than usual in cold weather. Make sure its water supply is not frozen, and provide extra food to give it the energy it needs to fend off cold weather.[18]


  • If the weather gets especially bad or if there's water in your rabbit's cage, then you should allow the rabbit to sleep inside the house or another protected location.
  • Scaring rabbits will cause them to jump high and possibly hurt themselves, or may even cause a heart attack.
  • If you let your rabbit inside, be careful to protect it from household dangers such as electric wires.

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Categories: Handling and Moving Rabbits