When first asked to look after Mitsy when the owner went on holiday the small hutch was clearly inadequate.
All the rabbit hutches in garden centres and pet stores are smaller than the recommended space given by Woodgreen Animal Shelter and the RSPCA.(also see link and 10 things you need to know about your rabbit) of at least 5 ft x 2 ft x 2ft (preferably 180cm x 75 cm x 75cm) for an average rabbit. Ideally rabbits should be housed in pairs. Read the details at http://www.greenfieldrescue.co.uk/diycabin.asp on how to build a decent home for under the price of an inadequate hutch. More information at http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/ahutchisnotenough.htm who believe that hutches should be 6x2x2 ft minimum and runs 8 ft x 4ft.
The run below was £48 and the wire to prevent burrowing was an extra £17 this run is still too small at 160 x 90 x 45 cm and should be higher at 60cm. Also extra to allow it to be sunk in the ground. The small carry hutch (has a handle on the top), from Freecycle, adds to the space allowing Mitsy to get out of the rain and wind.
A big improvement over the small hutch she had at first. The only hutches available locally offered nothing better.
New Year January
It is said that you don't get to know someone until you live with them. As a complete surprise to me, this also applies to rabbits.
Mitsy had stayed with me over Christmas, two years earlier, in but remained a caged, outside rabbit. This was the condition she was used to, including that cramped tiny cage. I did let her run around the garden and brought her into the kitchen but it was then back to the rabbit run. She has a natural curiosity, most likely because rabbits like to map out their escape routes. Other than a very strong dislike to be handled and a mammoth struggle when held I had not really considered that she has a strong and very funny character.
As the run was not brought over and my neighbour had puppy proved the hedge between our houses all I had to do was secure the gap under the gate to the garden. Mitsy could now have free range in the garden.
After the first day of freedom she wasn't too hard to catch and a defied pounce pinned her to the ground and guarded against the back legs ripping my arm up. The next day however she discovered the gaps under the brush. With half a dozen exit points it was very easy for her to make a bolt for this and avoid any hope of an easy capture. So I gave up and let her stay outside. This is not altogether a good idea. Although the gap in the gate also locked out the cat patrols and the hedgehog night feeders the gate is only a little barrier from the young cats that like to chase the birds in the branches of the apple tree.
Next day capture was still impossible. She had been seen jumping into her old hutch and out again, so I know she had a choice of resting places. She largely ignored her food having the free range of the lawn and a choice of dandelions and clover. In the morning, after breakfast, she would rest up under the garden bench catching the morning sun. As the sun rose she would hide away under the brush and come out early evening for supper.
The odd dash and chase and a few rapid changes in direction and she settled back down to munching her way across the middle of the lawn.
I left the kitchen door open. Eventually this proved too temping, and she hop over the step and had a good sniff around. She had done this on her previous stay so there wasn't anything particularly strange about her behaviour. When she got into the living room this changed. The clean lines of the kitchen and only a single interesting tunnel under one of the cabinets made way for the multiple tunnels and path ways around the arm chairs, under the digital piano, the back of the sofa and around various boxes stack for my future work. She then took up residence under the digital piano, next to the radiator.
I hadn't seen her flump out before, other rabbits that we owned, when I was a child, did but not Mitsy. However after a couple of days of making this her bolt hole and possibly because I moved the cables out of her way she moving in under the arm chairs. Her nibbles lead her to the discover that the armchair has a skirt, which will lift out of the way. With a push of one hind leg at a time she is able to crawl between the mechanism of the recliners. Now this was cosy, dark, even with the room lights on, and not as hot as next to the radiator.
At about 5pm she would make a round of the living room, making sure that none of the trails where blocked and then go over to the door to the kitchen. We opened this for her. She would sniff around the kitchen furniture and either go back to base or, after another inspection of the living room furniture head for the door to the garden. Once in the garden she would dine on fresh grass shoots and then rest on the path, under the garden bench or in the middle of the lawn. A couple of hours later and she would come back in. If the living room door was closed she would push it open, inspect the living room furniture, check the trails and escape routes, fail to exit by the other door (which opens inwards), stand up on her hind legs to see what's on the tables and shelves, have a nibble at the furniture legs and any papers lying around and then crawl under the arm chair.
About 8pm she would come out and see what we were up to. Then wander into the kitchen and sometimes go outside, as indicated by heading to the outside door, which we had to open for her, otherwise it was flumping out in front of the fireplace or back under the armchair. This was then repeated at midnight, followed by a couple of hours outside in the cold night air. But then the longer rest period until 5 am and some early morning exercise at day break. By 8 or 9am she wanted to come back in.
I blocked off the gaps under the sideboard unit as I had cables, including mains cables underneath. The dark areas must have been very inviting as she several times managed to break through the barriers and tried to tunnel her way along the obstacles.
She also became infatuated with a shoe box full of old cassette tapes and spent considerable time ripping the sides off. There was very little mess from this as she seemed content in devouring the ripped up cardboard as some kind of snack. Rabbits are very clean animals and she would spend sometime after travels under the furniture wiping off the spider webs from her whiskers and ears.
I was less pleased about her assault on the armchair velvet skirt and devouring the certificate labels underneath them. At some stage she also pulled all the wires from the back of the spare computer and chopped though the specialised audio cable. It is not a good idea to have a rabbit loose with so many cables and power supplies around. Everything got the lick treatment and most things a little nibble as well. Anything she could grab was pulled on, even to pulling out a single brochure from several in a magazine box.
One evening I moved the arm chairs back, which blocked off her favourite tunnel. She came in from supper, inspected the sofa and hopped over to the arm chair and thumped. You may think Thumper was only the invention of Disney, but rabbits make you know when they are mad at you, and this was a very loud thump. In fact she would thump if any of her tunnels where blocked off or the furniture not in her preferred position.
One evening I was standing up in the middle of the room when she pushed open the door. Stretched out, hind feet vertical she paused. Then she circled me. Then again, and again, ever faster as she danced around me. One way then the other. I have seen dogs chase their tail, but rabbits dancing was news to me.
We discovered that she didn't simply push the living room door open, but would somehow grab it and push. As we had not taught her this manoeuvre we held little hope of her learning to close the door afterwards. But that is what you get when someone is born in a barn.
With the routine established it was down to putting up with letting all the warm air escape during the minutes it took her to decide if she really wanted to go out or not. For her own safety we had to put her out when we slept; although a couple of nights I simply left the doors open for her to come and go as she pleased.
With my own pet rabbits I was able to groom them and handle them and they would usually come when called. Mitsy, however, is wild. She hates to be handled and is nervous against the possibility of being caught. Over the week she would come to eat carrot from us, sniff at our socks, pull on my trousers and sniff our hands - but always with an exit plan for rapid retreat.
On her second evening as house bunny I put down a carrot for her. She ignored this for sometime, but then she picked it up and took it to the kitchen to eat. With free and open access to the garden she always went out to eat and do her other business. The only trail she left was fur; and soft bunny fur does fly up and tickle. The floor, under her favourite armchair, had a thin covering of soft white fur.
When, finally it was time to take her back I trapped her in the kitchen and with her heart pounding loud enough to hear put her in the carry cage. Boy was she mad at me; and for the whole journey had her back to the wire door.
January 2010 back and a new Christmas home, £90, 105cm x 57cm x 90cm. Mitsy arrived in cat carrier but the hutch no longer transportable was nelect and age meant it was falling to pieces. The two tier hutch was therefore needed immediately.
Enjoying the run of the back garden after the neighbour dog proved the adjacent fence.
December 2011 back again and rebuilt home as she wasn't allow to use the run for a year!
May 2013, after garden landscaping and drainage put in.
Yet another new run June 2013, Made from six 2.4m x47x100mm planks and two rolls of wire. The run is 2.4 x 1.5 x 0.9 m - about the largest I can make and still move around the garden. The wire mess only comes in 90cm wide lengths. The idea is to move it around so she never over eats the grass or digs too much in one spot. Total cost about £84.
Now with wire mess roof and canvas cover to keep off rain and snow set for winter. I strap down with bungees. The wire cover is not too much hassle, but the canvas is when strapped down to the sides to get a wind break on two sides. Mitsy chews on the green tunnel.
August 2013. The canvas tunnel she loved but also loved to attack it and rip to bits.
January 2014 connecting runs from http://www.runaround.co.uk (£84). With the run 2.4 x 1.5 x 0.9 m and the hutch 105cm x 57cm x 90cm this should be large enough for two rabbits to run around in.
February 2014 Valentine Romance for Mitsy and Chocolate her Lop Ear new friend
I took Mitsy along to Woodgreen Animal Shelter who are able
to match homeless bunnies into pairs. It doesn't always work, particularly with
rabbits 6 1/2 and 7 years old as this pair. On Valentine's Day they formed a
bond - perhaps because Mitsy grooms Chocolate all the time.
Chocolate taking advantage of the sun in the large hutch.
Chocolate being doted upon by Mitsy.
They often see what each other is up to and join in with moving the furniture around.
Setting out of the materials for construction. 8ft x 4ft 9mm plywood and 25mm thick insulation boards. Fence posts of 2400mm and 1800mm. 4ftx4ft Perspex for two of the doors.
Reflective bubble wrap for insulation of the side panels and under the roof.
Adding the doors
600mm long fence post spikes to anchor into the ground.
Tiled the floors with slate tiles and the back with standard 15x15cm white tiles.
Cut hole in the left side and fixed the tunnel that connects to the outside run. Mitsy and Chocolate take up residence on 22nd October 2015.
Ready for the winter wind and rain.
Last updated 28th October 2015