The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF) launched our A Hutch is Not Enough campaign a few years ago now but we would like to remind everyone why we did it and let everyone know about a welcome move by Preloved, the classified ads listing site.
What does A Hutch is Not Enough mean?
A Hutch is Not Enough was launched to make retailers and owners aware of all the things pet rabbits need to live full, contented lives.
Rabbits need to be kept in a way that allows them to display their natural behaviours of running, jumping, rearing up to their full height and digging. They cannot display most of these when kept in a hutch, no matter how large it might be.
A hutch should never be the sole or main part of rabbits’ accommodation. Rabbits must have constant access to a secure exercise area.
Our minimum recommendation for two average sized rabbits (including ‘dwarf’ breeds is an overall safe and enclosed area of 10ft x 6ft x 2 ft high. The hutch, or sleeping area, forms a part of this total space, which they must be able to access 24/7 and which should also include items of enrichment such as a digging tray, tunnels etc
Check our website: why A Hutch is Not Enough.
What’s the minimum space requirement for one rabbit?
Rabbits shouldn’t be kept alone. They are social animals and should be neutered and kept with another neutered and compatible rabbit. Having one rabbit is not an excuse for having a smaller enclosure.
What if I let my rabbits go ‘free running’?
Allowing your rabbits supervised sessions where they can explore either the whole or part of a garden is fantastic as long as they are well watched and secure. Your buns will have a blast but this should be in addition to the minimum requirements specified above.
But my garden is not safe overnight so I lock my rabbits away for safety
Rabbits are most active a dusk and dawn, so they are likely to be locked away when they are most likely to want to run around. This will be very frustrating for them. Additionally, they do not know they are safe, so if the garden is visited by a fox for example, they are unable to utilise their ‘flight’ response which can be extremely stressful and may even result in them dying of fright. The solution is to make sure that they have access to somewhere where they feel safe and not trapped. This is usually somewhere with two entrances and exits. This should be part of their safe enclosed area, which means the whole enclosure needs to be predator proof, not just the hutch.
Where has the 6 feet recommendation for a hutch come from?
This is a widely accepted measurement and the logic behind it is that the rabbits should be able to take 3 hops inside the shelter (hutch). For most average sized rabbits this is 6 feet, but of course Giant rabbits will need bigger than this. Most welfare organisations accept this as a minimum standard.
How and why are Preloved changing their policy on listings for hutches?
Preloved are immediately removing listings for hutches smaller than 6 feet that are described as ‘for rabbits’. They will eventually remove listings for any hutches smaller than 6 feet even if they are described as being for smaller animals such as guinea pigs because it is widely known that many of these get used for rabbits anyway.
We applaud Preloved for taking such a proactive stance on welfare and supporting our argument that A Hutch is Not Enough.
We hope that manufacturers and retailers follow their example.
Note on supplemental small hutches
We are aware that many owners will put a smaller hutch inside the enclosure in addition to the 6 feet sleeping area. This is extra enrichment which provides a hidey-hole inside or a lookout spot if the rabbits stand on top. It is a shame that it cannot be guaranteed that smaller hutches will only be used in this way, so we support the removal of their listings and hope owners will find alternative means of enrichment in their enclosures.
What to consider when buying a (big enough) second-hand hutch
s mentioned, any hutch should be provided as part of a larger, safe and enclosed living area. They also need to be safe, waterproof and sturdy.
Anything that is bought second hand for rabbits must be cleaned thoroughly before use. There are numerous diseases and viruses that could harm or, in the case of RVHD2, even kill your rabbits.
Always make sure you clean any second-hand item properly with an effective cleaning agent (Virkon is a good example) before use.