When choosing your rabbit's new hutch, it is always best to view it, as quite often internet order hutches can be disappointing. You will need to ensure it is sturdy, wind and water proof with no sharp edges.
The hutch should be large enough for the rabbit to do at least three consecutive hops from side to side and tall enough for it to stand up on its hind feet at least. There should be an enclosed sleeping area and an exposed living area. Rabbits also like to jump and climb so if you can provide a shelf in the hutch this would greatly contribute to the rabbit's fitness and stimulation. Bedding
The aim is to provide a comfortable and dry environment for your rabbit.
There are many different materials that can be used for bedding all with their own pros and cons.
Straw - is favored by many as a good bedroom material as it is great for the rabbit to burrow in to, especially in the cold of wintertime. In my opinion wheat straw is slightly more absorbent but barley softer. Nowadays you can buy chopped, clean, dust extracted straw that is ideal. However, it is not the most absorbent bedding material.
Hay - is not ideal as it remains too wet, flattens easily and is more likely to be consumed by your rabbit which he would have soiled, thus putting his health at risk.
Branded Wood Shavings - should be relatively dust free. Do not buy from sawmills as the shavings may contain flakes of treated wood that could be dangerous should your rabbit eat it.
Hemp - (Hemcore or Aubiose) is not much more expensive than wood shavings but is far more absorbent if a little sharp and it will rot down on the compost heap much quicker.
There are a variety of modern bedding materials available that rely on using waste cardboard and newsprint which are particularly ideal if you or your rabbit have a dust allergy.
Megazorb - is a dried wood fibre pulp, is four times more absorbent than wood shavings and has a pleasant smell. It is lightweight which may pose a problem as it could get kicked around or out of the cage fairly easily.
The list goes on! Just remember if you are trying a new product make sure it is safe for use with rabbits, as some products can swell in their stomachs if eaten. Be sure to always have a fresh supply of hay available so that your rabbit is less tempted, if bored, to eat his bedding. The only really safe bedding if consumed is straw though of little nutritional value is high in roughage.
Mixing different bedding materials seems the best way to combat varying levels of absorbency whilst creating comfort.
Our preference is to use wood shavings or hemp as a deep base with straw on top.
If you are showing your rabbits, please note some bedding stain the feet, particularly hay and straw.
Ensure you have a good scraper and some sort of hand held shovel or dustpan to clean your cage out. The hutch should be thoroughly cleaned out weekly, and in the summer months the poo corner should be done daily so as not to encourage flies and maggots. It is best to avoid any food or droppings from falling on to the floor area outside the hutch as this will encourage vermin.
After you've cleaned out try to put your rabbits' belongings back in the same place as you found them. Rabbits are creatures of habit and like things to be organized correctly!
A good scrub out with some watered down household vinegar just to freshen it up (particularly a good idea for bucks' hutches) is helpful to maintain a healthy environment.
A daily job must be to remove uneaten greens and hay that have fallen on to the floor of the hutch.
You should buy a wire fitted water bottle and bottle cleaner, do not allow the water bottle to get dirty. It's worth buying a good bottle cleaner too.
A heavy based bowl will also be needed; ceramic bowls that you can by from most pet shops are normally adequate. The important thing is that your rabbit can not knock it over.
You will also need something to put the hay in daily; you can either buy a fitted rack (or if you're clever build one into the hutch). Alternatively you could try stuffing the hay inside a toy, not only will your rabbit be satisfying his basic daily dietary need but be having fun in the process!
Teeth and nails can be maintained by use of a mineral stone which your rabbit will chew and scratch at. However a cheaper alternative is natural chalk, next time your out on a walk or dig up a large bit of chalk in the garden pop in your rabbits' cage.
Exercise is a fundamental requirement for rabbits. Just imagine yourself confined to a 6’ x 6’ room for your whole life.
Lack of exercise can lead to obesity, osteoporosis (thinning of the bone), poor muscle tone, fur pulling and other behavioural problems.
Bored rabbits can become listless, aggressive and destructive.
The best way to provide exercise for your rabbit is in a secure partly covered run on grass for several hours a day. Partly covering the run allows him to shelter from the elements (wind, rain and hot sun) and from predators (dogs, cats, birds of prey etc). Always have his water available in the run. Adding a few toys such as a cardboard box, a pipe he can run through or hide in and other toys as mentioned in the housing section, will further improve his well- being. Then stand back and enjoy watching your bunny express himself.
In short, by allowing your rabbit exercise and not just keeping him confined to a cage will allow him to maintain a healthy and happy life.