Rabbits are kept in hutches either in a shed or in a sheltered part of the garden. Hutches are usually made of wood, preferably of tongued and grooved timber to minimise draughts. They should not be less than 36in. long, 24in. deep and 18in. high, perhaps a little smaller for the smallest breeds but about 12in. Longer for the largest. Most hutches are divided into two compartments, one for day-time activities and the other for sleep or nesting. The former will have an all-wire door while the latter has a wooden door.
The nesting compartment may be between 12in. to 18in. Wide, formed by a partition extending the width of the hutch. The partition can either have a square entrance (about 9in. by 9in.) at ground level at the back or stop short of the back wall by about 9in. Both doors should be of the same size as their respective compartments, apart from the jambs, of course. This allows the maximum access for cleaning.
A shed suitable for housing rabbits should have vindows and be well ventilated. It should also be draught and damp proof. Rabbits can tolerate quite severe conditions, provided they have dry and snug quarters. There is no need for artificial heating. The windows should be covered with wire netting on the inside. These may then be left open without the fear of prowling cats entering the shed and terrifying the inhabitants. Even if the cat cannot get at the rabbits, they induce fright, and nursing mothers have been known to desert their young because of such incidents. In the summer, the windows may be left open night and day but, in the winter, it is usually advisable to open the windows for only a brief period in the middle of the day.
A hutch may stand by itself in the garden, for preference in the lee of a wall or building. It is strongly recommended that it be soundly built with tongued and grooved timber. It is essential that it is both draught and water proof. A rabbit hutch will be almost identical except that it will be larger and a nesting compartment is desirable if you intend to do any breeding. If you do not, a nesting compartment is less vital but still a good idea because it gives the rabbit somewhere to retreat. The rabbit is a burrowing animal and it appreciates somewhere to “hide”. A favourite resting place of many rabbits is just inside the nesting compartment, with its head and fore paws extending into the run. It can see what’s going on in the world at large, yet back into the nesting department should danger threaten.
The hutch will probably require cleaning once a week. Many rabbits use the same one or two corners as a lavatory and this makes the job of cleaning easier. The sleeping department rarely needs cleaning as often as the run. Dry sawdust or peat may be used as a covering for the floor. This will absorb the urine and be soft for the animal’s feet. Woodwool, straw or meadow hay may be used as bedding material. Meadow hay is certainly the best because it is a food as much as a cushion. In fact, it may have to be replenished daily.
Any soiled material should be promptly removed although the rabbit is usually sensible enough not to eat dirty hay.
All rabbits love exercise but if allowed to romp freely in the garden can be destructive to the borders and grass by burrowing, as well as eating the flowers. Light wooden frames, covered with lin. By 1 in. or 2in. By 2in. Mesh wire netting, can be used as outdoor pens. Some people have raised wooden flooring so that the rabbit does not have to sit on damp earth. The bottom of the remainder should be wire covered to prevent burrowing.
The pen will need shifting now and again to prevent a build up of urine and droppings in one spot. This warning applies especially if the pen is placed on a lawn. The rabbit can nibble the grass to its heart’s content if moved frequently. The pen may be of any convenient size although typical dimensions for the type illustrated are 6ft. Long, 3ft. Wide and 3ft. High at the apex.
To close on a practical note, rabbit droppings make good manure. It is a shame to throw away hutch cleanings, therefore, if you have a garden. The cleanings should not be used on the ground immediately but placed on the compost heap. The actual droppings will assist in decomposition of the other compost materials. The sawdust will mix in and rot down as any other organic substance but if you are really keen on this aspect, peat could be used instead of sawdust. The only problem with peat is ensuring that it is dry when first used, otherwise it is as good as sawdust.