Can A Rabbit Be Healthy Outdoors?


Many rabbit owners automatically place their rabbit hutch in the garden, or outdoor space, thinking this is a good environment for them. Experts in rabbit care give many cautions on using rabbit hutches outdoors , for practical health reasons. This article explores the ideal temperatures for their health, whether to house them in the garage or garden and whether the local climate is dangerous for them or not. This should help give you some guidelines for whether or not your rabbit is really suited to outdoor hutch living.

rabbit03 by ijansempoi

Over heating and over cooling dangers

Paradoxically, although bunnies are often seen in garden hutches, they actually can’t handle temperatures which are too hot or too cold. Their body temperature is 38.6-39.4 C in good health (1) and they need to have a cosy hutch to prevent them getting too cold – in essence, they’re hardy, but not that hardy (1, 2, 3) . Place the hutch out of the wind or draughts, and attach thick canvas to lower over the hutch as a night-time cover, and line it with substantial layers of newspaper plus untreated soft wood shavings on top for warmth. Move the hutch to the shade in hot weather. Keep the temperature ambient – some owners put the hutch in the garage instead to try to avoid extremely hot or cold conditions.

Garage Living

In colder weather, or even all year round, some try the garage. This has some advantages – it’s out of the biting winds and probably warmer than outside. However, it can still be cold and there may be fumes from the car to content with. If your garage is used for DIY projects, you need to be careful not to make your bunny breathe in fumes from any solvents or other chemicals you’ve been using. Your bunny may also get lonely in there with just the car for company. It all needs to be cosy as if it was outdoors, away from fumes and as naturally sociable animals, you may find your rabbit or rabbits crave company. Gardens may provide your rabbit with more company but hutches there need to be especially prepared for safety.

missing staircase by steve-oh

Garden Living

A sloping roof will help slough off rain but check nonetheless for mildew or mould formation. Part of the world of the garden is definitely predators, such as the urban fox. You need a very sturdy hutch to keep them out. Make sure the mesh on the front of the hutch is especially strong and exceptionally well attached. Predators such as rats are a reason to keep the hutch off the ground as well as damp. Even if predators don’t get in, bunnies have died of fright during predator attacks (2). An outdoor hutch must keep predators, rain and damp out, but may go a step closer to providing stimulation.

There are pros and cons to keeping the rabbit hutch outdoors or in the garage. Some owners simply opt to put the hutch in their house or in a porch where the door can be open to the house for more social contact. Although rabbits need their run in the daytime, at night, they must NEVER be left in an outdoor or garage run – this simply invites predators. Whilst many advice pages still talk about outdoor hutches, the safest possible option it is to ditch the traditional outdoor life and bring them in to rule out wild predator attack, bearing in mind indoor safety requirements too.

the fox by bully27

Kim Wryall

References:

1. EASE. The EASE Guide to Caring for RABBITS [online]. Available at:

http://www.link2content.co.uk/uploads/bva/rabbit.pdf

2. House Rabbit Society. FAQ: Housing. [online]. Available at:

http://www.rabbit.org/faq/sections/housing.html

Photo credits -fantastic photos by:

Blue eyed rabbit http://www.sxc.hu/profile/ijansempoi Garage – did you notice the missing staircase for the red door? http://www.sxc.hu/profile/steve-oh Fox http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Bully27

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Flystrike – A Gross and Killer Disease


This is an issue that is definitely related to any discussion of rabbit hutches. Flystrike is a frankly horrific disease which rabbits are particularly prone to. Any rabbit affected by it should be rushed to the vets as it’s 100% an emergency and can kill untreated. This article aims to briefly explain what it is, when it happens, tips for prevention and what to do if you suspect it. You should get an idea of the territory that could save your rabbit’s life.

What Is Flystrike?

It happens when flies lay eggs onto the rabbit’s skin, usually around the anus or sometimes the feet. The eggs hatch rapidly, possibly within an hour or two, into fly maggots. The maggots then need something to eat – and start to eat into the rabbit’s skin. As if this wasn’t bad enough, this action means they give the rabbit diseases, which can become serious or kill if untreated. Flies laying eggs in this way is a serious problem – and it happens more in some places than others.

in the shade by lusi

When Does It Happen Most?

The link is simple – hot weather, more flies, more flystrike. So if you live somewhere there are plenty of flies, be super aware. However, don’t assume it’s just an issue for folks who live in sunny climes, even in places like the UK with its notoriously understated summers, flies can and do still attack. It also affects guinea pigs, but is most associated with rabbits. Knowing the danger season can help, as can some preventative measures all year round.

Prevention Tips

Hang a fly-strip near the hutch – but not anywhere your bunny or other pets could have a go at nibbling it (yeuch- not to mention danger from the chemicals). Cleaning the hutch is a must, do it daily because flies are attracted to urine soaked and dropping-clad fur and hutch materials. You can ask vets to recommend a safe disinfectant cleaner for the hutch. They can also recommend specially formulated products which you apply to the rabbit to directly guard it – NEVER use household fly sprays or human insect repellents for rabbits or their houses, cages, runs or materials in them. A diet very rich in grass may cause softer, prolific droppings which attract flies. Check rabbits at least twice daily, especially feet and rear ends. Ask your vet if they have any extra tips. If you’ve done all the prevention methods you can find, but you still suspect flystrike, this is time to drop everything and take the rabbit straight to the vet.

slain syrphid fly by hejboel

Suspected Or Actual Flystrike

If you find any sore patches, or see maggots or strange looking little patches on your rabbits skin, the safest advice is rush it to the vets. You can remove maggots but we recommend getting the vet to do it – they’re very experienced, can give your rabbit a calming sedative – (and are frankly speaking much more likely to be calm than any of us here would be faced with maggots on our bunnies) making it a less harrowing procedure for the rabbit. They can treat the condition swiftly, calmly and administer any necessary antibiotics and provide good advice.

medical care by egahen

Flystrike is horrible but can be dealt with. Its usually green bottles, although other flies will have a go as well (1). Getting on top of the situation is essential and good hutch hygiene goes a long way towards this.

IMPORTANT: Please only see your vet if you have any concerns about rabbit care – this isn’t intended for diagnosis or treatment advice and can’t replace a vet’s expertise under any circumstances. Many thanks.

Kim Wryall

References

Galens Garden. Fly strike (Myiasis) [online]. Available at:

http://www.galensgarden.co.uk/herbivores/health/flystrike.php

Photo Credits

Sunny day with parasol http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lusi Fly http://www.sxc.hu/profile/hejboel Thermomiter and pills http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Egahen

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