Do house rabbits need to go outside? From time to time, exposing your bunny to direct sunlight may be beneficial for them. Essentially, it helps with the absorption of vitamin D which helps to regulate the level of calcium in the body.
As a result, the nutrients absorbed help keep their teeth, bones, and muscles healthy. However, ensure that their outside environment is safe for them to play in, and never leave them unsupervised.
How long do indoor rabbits need to stay outside?
There’s no specific time frame on how long your bunny should stay outdoors. Nevertheless, it’s ideal for house rabbits to go outside for at least two to three hours each day. If possible try to let your rabbits outdoors at least once per week, again, only under supervision. When it comes to younger bunnies, they’re usually ready to go outside when they’re about four weeks old.
Factors to consider before taking a house rabbit outside
Before you take your bunnies outdoors to play, below are some of the safety precautions you need to consider.
There are occasions when it’s not recommended to bring your rabbits outdoors, particularly when it’s extremely cold or warm. For instance, anything warmer than 22 degrees Celsius is most likely to cause heatstroke. A bunny that’s too hot tends to pant a lot. Its inner ears are often reddish and its overall behavior is usually slow and lethargic.
During warmer days, avoid taking them outdoor when the sun is directly overhead. In other words, an ideal time to take them out is in spring, when the temperatures are below 21 degrees Celsius.
On the other hand, indoor rabbits shouldn’t go outside during winter or when the weather is chilly. Anything below 10 degrees Celsius is too cold for your pet. A bunny that feels cold is likely to lay on top of its legs. It might fluff up instead of spreading out, pay close attention to its posture. Colder weather also worsens arthritis which is usually a common ailment for older rabbits.
You also don’t want your house rabbits to go outside if you don’t have a fully enclosed backyard that is large enough. You wouldn’t want a bird swooping on your bunny or any other predator for that matter. If your backyard isn’t secure, purchase or build a large pen that’s fully covered.
Bunny owners living in the city with a closed backyard should never leave their pets unattended for long periods. It only takes a short time for a rabbit to dig underneath the fence and escape or a stray dog or cat pouncing on them. Lastly, also ensure that there are no escape holes and if you find any secure them immediately, however small they might be.
Ensure that there are no poisonous plants around the backyard that your bunny is most likely to nibble on which can be toxic. Although plants are a natural diet for wild rabbits, domesticated ones may have lost their ability to distinguish poisonous from non-poisonous plants. Some of the toxic plants to be on the lookout for include Hemlock, Azalea, Nightshade, Bittersweet, Daffodils, Poppies, Figwort, Ragwort, Foxglove, buttercups, and Meadow Saffron.
When it comes to defending themselves against predators. Bunnies are usually helpless against attacks from animals such as your neighbor’s dog, cat, or if you’re living in the countryside, foxes, snakes, raccoons, or hawks.
Fertilizers or pesticides
The other factor to consider is whether or not you treat your garden or grass with fertilizer or pesticides. Both the two are usually harmful when ingested by a rabbit. Also if you have other pets, make sure they don’t poop around the backyard or garden your bunnies are playing in. The main reason you don’t want your rabbits in the same area as other pets are simply because bunnies are natural grazers. Therefore, you wouldn’t want them to graze on grass that has other animal poop on it.
Don’t introduce your bunnies to a freshly mown lawn, especially if you’ve used a gas-powered lawnmower. You wouldn’t prefer your bunny ingesting grass clippings from a gas-powered mower. If you want to mow the grazing area for rabbits, then it’s recommended to use an electric mower especially if you have a small backyard with a plug-in switch. An electric mower is also going to give you a clean cut that won’t affect the grass clippings when ingested by your bunny.
Nevertheless, if you have a gas-powered mower, after cutting the grass in your backyard, just rake up all the grass and wait for a couple of days before you take your rabbits outside. Alternatively, it’s also convenient to avoid mowing your lawn prior to introducing your pets outside since bunnies tend to enjoy nibbling on grass that’s a little longer.
Animals such as squirrels or small birds don’t pose a threat to your bunnies. However, they often tend to carry fleas or diseases that may contaminate your pet or their outdoor space. It’s, therefore, recommended to ensure that your bunnies are enclosed in a secure area and again, don’t leave them unattended.
If you’re planning to let your house rabbits go outside regularly, you might want to consider flee prevention, as a preventative measure. Also if you’re living in the UK or Australia, always ensure that your rabbits are up to date with their annual Myxomatosis and R(V)HD vaccination. Talk to your vet about the right treatment for your rabbits.
If want to walk your bunny (literally follow them around as they hop), then getting a leash or harness is normally advisable. Just ensure that your leash or harness is comfortable on the rabbit. It’s worth pointing out however that your bunny will need time to get used to the idea of you constantly walking or standing behind it. Taking your indoor bunny outdoors is an exciting experience for them since they get to explore and play.
Setting up an ideal outdoor environment
So now that your backyard is safe and there are no escape routes or toxic plants, it’s time to make their environment more conducive. Below are some of the various ways you can do so.
Create a hiding place
Since bunnies are prey animals they are easily startled by loud noises, sudden movements, different smells, or anything foreign. Always ensure that you provide lots of hiding places or tunnels they can retreat to if they don’t feel safe. The other reason a hiding shade or tunnel comes in handy is when your bunnies want to cool off from the scorching sun. Lastly, try to avoid placing your rabbits in large open areas that can make them feel timid or exposed.
Drinking water and food
Ensure that fresh water is readily available, especially during summer. Avoid giving them fruits or vegetables if want to avoid unwanted flies or bugs around your rabbits. In other words, denying them their favorite treats will encourage them to feed on the already available fresh grass and weed in the backyard.
If your rabbits don’t come out often, get them outside for short periods to allow their sensitive digestive system to adapt to a grass diet. In other words, indoor rabbits briefly nibbling grass a couple of times will gradually allow them to get used to their new diet. They’ll equally adjust to outdoor temperature and airflow.
Also introduce them to freshly hand-picked grass from your backyard, prior to letting them out. Add some weeds and veggies to their diet a few times a week, then gradually increase the time they spend outdoors. By doing so you won’t have to worry if the grass or weeds will cause any problems when ingested.
Predator-proof your backyard
Bunnies are prey animals and just the sight of predators can stress or at times even give your house rabbits a heart attack. It’s, therefore, safe to predator-proof your backyard if you intend to take your indoor rabbits outside.
Place a high perimeter fence around your yard especially if you’re living in the countryside. These will definitely keep foxes or coyotes away. Additionally, you can also add wire mesh beneath the fence to ensure that your rabbit or predator digs through.
Tips for traveling with a house rabbit
When you want to travel with your bunny, always ensure that you carry them using a properly ventilated pet carrier. If you’re traveling by car, ensure that the carrier is well-secured using a seat belt. Also, place it away from direct sunlight or near a car heater.
Never leave your bunnies in the car trunk or unattended especially in warm weather. This can cause heat stroke which can be fatal. If you’re traveling long-distance, ensure that you carry sufficient food, water, and a litter tray.
Most indoor rabbits don’t mind going outside to nibble on grass, dig and play. Outdoor time is definitely beneficial since it keeps your bunnies happy and healthy. Lastly, your pets also get to exercise and have fun under your supervision. Hopefully, we’ve answered the age-old question of whether house rabbits need to go outside.