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Rabbits have been domesticated for hundreds of years, historically for farm production/substance reasons. With the move to companion animal being only with in the last 100+ years.

With current technology the most convenient configuration for housing production rabbits is in small, wire bottom cages. Generally outdoors but in large production or scientific operations cages may be indoors. Discussions on the appropriateness of these operations are out of scope for this question/site.

Occasionally there is a crossover, a hybrid production/pet configuration, where rabbits are kept for their natural life (8 - 12 years) in an outdoor hutch. A person having been exposed to production rabbits living in outdoor hutches on a family farm, notices how cute and soft they are. With or without realizing the relatively short life span of scientific/production rabbits, they make a decision to rescue/adopt/purchase a rabbit and keep it in an outdoor hutch.

In my experience people making this choice, believe that they are making a positive choice that will ultimately be a kindness to the rabbit that is now in their care.

Is keeping a pet rabbit in an outdoor hutch for its natural life a kindness?

  • I believe looking out a window or getting to spend some time outside is mentally stimulating for cats and dogs, therefore a kindness in that respect. I had a pet rabbit as a child but really don't have a good feel for weather they have a well enough developed brain to really appreciate that kind of stimulation. They make take simple pleasure from the warm sun, a breeze, and the fresh air like a cat, dog, or human but it would be difficult to say for sure without a lot of rabbit neurology research, which I doubt anyone has done. – Beo Apr 9 '14 at 14:55
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    Can you be a bit clearer about what you're contrasting with? I've read your question a few times but am still not clear. – starsplusplus Apr 16 '14 at 16:57
  • @starsplusplus of all the choices that a human might make in regards to a rabbit other than an outdoor hutch. – James Jenkins Apr 16 '14 at 17:20
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Most domesticated rabbits are meant to live indoors.

From bunnymama.com:

Rabbits can be kept outside. MYTH. It is NOT, repeat NOT acceptable to keep a rabbit outdoors in any kind of a pen or cage. In most parts of the country the weather is too extreme for a rabbit to be safe. Excessive heat or intense cold will kill a rabbit that is not properly housed indoors. Here are some good reason why you should NOT keep your bun outdoors. Please make every effort to protect your rabbit, please house him or her in your house with you and your family!

The following links have more information:

Rabbit Rescue: http://www.rabbitrescue.com/outdoordangers.html

House Rabbit Society: http://rabbit.org/faq-rabbits-outdoors/

This in no way mean that they cannot be brought outside for exercise, if it is safe to do so (with a proper harness and a watchful eye).

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However, in my experience, bringing my two Holland Lops outside is a rather stressful experience for them, and I would never consider putting them in an outdoor hutch. My home is bunny-proofed and they are much more content to get their exercise in the house, where they are much more comfortable and safe.

  • This is extreme depending on what climate region one is living... In Germany it is well accepted to have rabbits outdoor in an appropriate stable (protected against warmth and cold, and rabbit eating animals) – Allerleirauh May 2 at 8:50
  • Which is "the country" in the referenced quote? – Flater May 23 at 15:20
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I believe it depends on what the climate is. If the outdoor hutch is located in a northern climate, the rabbits will have to be brought in during the winter to keep from freezing to death. If it is a warm climate, it might be feasible to let the rabbit live in an outdoor hutch.

I have seen rabbits kept in outdoor hutches in Florida and Pennsylvania. The Florida rabbit had a large pen and was only brought in during hurricanes. The Pennsylvania rabbits ended up spending winters in a garage, so I really don't think it is a kindness in the north.

If the rabbit is used to being inside, it may not appreciate being suddenly put in an outdoor hutch. Predators may come up to the hutch and torment the rabbit, something a scientific/production rabbit would never have experienced before and may have a heart attack. The kindest thing to do, if you want to "rescue" a rabbit, is to take it outside once in awhile to play in the clover but let it spend the rest of its natural life inside where it feels comfortable and safe.

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I'm guessing all the previous answers are from the USA. Here in the UK, where the climate is temperate, and the same species of rabbit that is kept domestically is also a wild species, rabbits are widely recommended as outdoor pets.

However, the recommendation is that rabbits should never be kept singly in a small wire-bottomed hutch (which is inhumane), but in pairs or larger groups in a larger enclosure, for example a large hutch with attached run/play area or shed.

I have kept rabbits in this way myself. They lived to the age of 12 and were happy animals, with space to run, dig, and graze. It is hard work ensuring they have enough space and their environment is safe and clean, but then that also applies indoors.

It may well be that people who keep a single rabbit in a small outdoor hutch believe that they are doing a kindness, but rabbits in this situation do often develop behavioural and health problems. Giving the animal space and companionship is widely recommended, and works so obviously well that I would hope most rabbit owners could quickly see it was worth the effort. This is distinct from the 'indoors/outdoors' thing.

See also http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/ and http://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rabbits

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My bunny died two days ago. He was at least 10 years old. He started out with us indoors bc we had no garden for him to play in outside. But we moved to a house with a screened in porch and that is where we put his hutch and a little fence so he had a large space to run around in. There was also a ceiling fan. Nonetheless, when it was very hot or cold, we brought him inside. Less than a year ago, we moved to a house with no porch and that is when some health problems started. His hutch was on a terrace in the shade and he still had plenty of room and I still brought him in during inclement weather, but the problem was, recently, flies. Without a screened-in environment, it's hard to keep them away. I have been completely grief-stricken and am having nightmares of guilt because I think he died of fly strike. I saw no evidence (maggots) of this when I found him dead but I can't think why else he would die, and his behind was messy when I found him. My husband disagrees. He believes our rabbit simply died of old age because we don't know how old he was when we rescued him. I will say this, he very much loved napping in the sunshine and smelling the breeze. However, keeping a rabbit out of doors requires much greater effort in terms of keeping their environment clean. Having gone through the last 48 hours in self-recrimination and tears, I would not recommend it. --Josie

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    I am so sorry. Please don't blame yourself. If your rabbit had died from flystrike, I am sure you would have seen the evidence. 10+ is a good age for a rabbit, and clearly yours was very much loved. – Victoria May 9 '16 at 14:45
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I keep my bunnies in the screened in porch when it’s cool & bring them inside when it’s too hot or cold. They have access from the porch to a small pen on the ground.

They can eat fresh grass when they are in the pen, dig & run a little. They seem to prefer the pen most of the day but will also frequent the porch. I think they like having the choice to be on the porch or in the pen whenever they want.

I close the pen access when it gets dark. On the porch is their hay, pellets, & veggies. I found that if I put food in the pen ants get it. When it’s hot I leave the door open so they can come inside, but my girl is not as outgoing & social as my boy. I have to force her to come inside when it’s best for her.

The porch has more room for them to run & play in the tunnels but they love digging in the dirt & napping in the Rabbit-sized dens. If it’s hot but she won’t come in, I’ll put a frozen water bottle beside her.

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This is a difficult question and there are many points to address. Implied is the question "Is a life spent in a cage outdoors, worse than death?" Lets look at some the variables and see if we can reach any conclusions.

First, how long does a pet rabbit live? Rabbits live an average of 10 years

How much space does a rabbit need? More than is in even the most extravagant outdoor hutch See related question

What impacts do weather changes have on a pet rabbit? Temperatures above 85F (29C) are potentially fatal and need to be addressed. Temperatures at or below freezing are problematic and can only be addressed by moving the rabbit inside

What happens if the rabbit escapes from the enclosure? A loose rabbit is not 'Free' it is 'Food'

Are rabbits happy in an outdoor hutch? This popular myth 4, and the answer is no

In conclusion. each person must make their own choice for what is in the best interest of the bunny in their care. The references supplied will provided further information for you to make an informed decision. Rabbits fill two roles in modern society, as food and as companion animals. Companion animals are most kindly treated if the can live in doors with you as their friend.

In some case references are supplied by posters which you are encouraged by rabbit.org to share.

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