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Rabbit advice please!

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Dd (9) has been saving her money for months and months for a rabbit.  She has read tons of books and information on the Internet about rabbits.  She has taken complete responsibility for her two hamsters for the past year, and I have no doubt she'll do the same with the rabbit she wants.  Actually getting a rabbit is still at least 2 months away.


I thought we had the rabbit thing pretty well figured out.  Dd was given a large hutch for her birthday, and we thought the bunny could live in the hutch in the garage.  We would surround the hutch with some of those metal, moveable dog pens so the bunny could come and go and not have to be confined to the hutch when dd wasn't around or playing with it.  We thought the bunny could run around outside with our 3 chickens in our large, fenced chicken yard during the day.  WELL.  We went to the animal shelter yesterday to check out their rabbits, and my whole image of rabbit ownership was blown away.  First of all, they don't adopt out their bunnies to children.  More importantly, they absolutely do not adopt out bunnies who will live outside or in a garage.  The lady working in the small animal room was very adamant that rabbits should live in your house and be surrounded by people, but not children under 10 because that would stress them out too much (all of our 3 children are under 9 and very active and often loud).  She also said rabbits should only spend time outside in a covered rabbit run, in good weather, and NOT with chickens because they would eat the chicken food which was very bad for them.  In fact they might eat lots of stuff while outside that was bad for them.  She then gave us handouts about all the different foods that were bad for rabbits but that they would eat if given the chance.  The overall impression that I got was that rabbits are very fragile creatures that require a lot of protecting and careful treatment. 


I was amazed - is all of this true???   Can a rabbit not be happy living in a garage while provided with lots of outside time and playtime with children?  If so, I'm going to have to reconsider letting dd have a rabbit.  I want our animals to be happy, but I'm not ready for another indoor pet that requires lots of training and supervision.  Our dog died 6 months ago, and while I miss her, and I not looking for another indoor, shedding animal at this time.  I also thought rabbit were a lot tougher than the animal shelter lady let on.  My image is of wild rabbits, eating whatever they find outside, not being bothered by temperatures, and procreating like mad. 


Any advice you could give me would be much appreciated, as I really want to do right by any rabbit we may (or may not) get.

post #2 of 15

i don't think they're as fragile as the woman made them out to seem either. i'm not sure if they can eat chicken food, but my new bunny is living inside with us, and my 3 kids are NUTS, and bunny doesn't seem to mind! i can see no reason why your bunny cannot live in your garage, run around in an exercise pen in the garage, and run around the yard like a little nut too! (i would just check around about the chicken food thing.)


good luck! i got my first bunny at 8yo, and i loved her very very much!


(oh and be careful about letting her in the yard unsupervised, as bunnies dig holes in the ground, escaping the enclosure, and birds of prey can swoop down and get them.)

post #3 of 15

You went to a responsible shelter and I am happy to hear of the rules they enforced.


I am impressed that you came here to find out more and strongly encourage you to educate yourself regarding rabbit pet ownership.


I have had many pets over the years, including cats, dogs, rabbits, fish etc.


Rabbits are one of the MOST misunderstood, abused, and neglected of all standard American pets.


Please find out why it is NOT okay to keep a rabbit in a hutch in a garage. Please visit this:




I will post more links later.


There is a hotly divided rabbit community, between rabbit meat/fur farmers on the one hand and pet rabbit owners on the other. It is pretty much like what you might expect if dogs were raised both as meat and as pets in America. This would be an irreconcilable difference of opinion on the purpose of dogs, and so it is with rabbits.


HOWEVER virtually everyone on both sides agrees that a rabbit kept as a pet, should not be raised as a meat rabbit, which is typically kept with other bunnies in sheltered cages and killed at about 9 months of age. For a long time, America pet rabbit owners just did a modification of what meat rabbit owners did--kept rabbits outside in cages, viewing them as something less than a house pet--not considering the quality of life of the animal long term. A pet rabbit that will be kept alive for 8-12 years deserves to be kept in a way that reflects the emotional and social needs of that animal. It is impossible to meet those needs by keeping a rabbit alone outside. That is basically torture. A rabbit is an intensely social creature, and unlike predators, it derives absolute support and comfort from the presence of other rabbits. Everything from grooming to sleeping revolves around the presence of other rabbits (for extra help cleaning and to keep watch while the other sleeps). If you plan to have a single rabbit then you have to stand in as the source of companionship, and there is no way to fulfill that role unless the rabbit is a housepet like a dog or cat. 


If you absolutely don't want a house rabbit but absolutely do want to own a rabbit, you should get a sibling pair or trio (and have them neutered by 6 months), as this is the best match for lifelong companionship if you want a bunny and don't want to treat it as a housepet. The rabbits should have a large roomy play area, giving regular vet care, and frequently socialized.


Rabbits live a LONG time and are prone to MANY health problems. If you want a short lived animal get a gerbil or guinea pig. I have never had an animal as challenging as a rabbit because they suffer in silence until they are VERY ill yet that can live to be 10-12 years old with proper care. Thus you must be able to handle your rabbits and know all signs of illness as they age. Right now I have two elderly bunnies living in my laundry room. I have had Thumper since he was a baby, and he is now an 8 year old head-tilt survivor (a truly horrible illness rabbits get). His entire quality of life depends on his companion rabbit (he was not raised with her, I bonded them last year).


The care and keeping of PET rabbits is misunderstood by many people, resulting in misery for rabbits and often heartbreak for owners who truly want the best for their bunnies and don't know how to provide it.


I know this looks like a lot of far fetched info, but if you spend just one week regularly googling 'House Rabbits' each day, I guarantee you will learn a LOT of new information about pet rabbit ownership.

post #4 of 15

Rabbits technically aren't considered children's pets. They can be very aggressive when not fixed(sometimes it can depend on the breed, I've heard Lops are quite the opposite) . Rabbits don't like being picked up which a lot of children like to do, and rabbits can freak out - INSTANTLY - in your arms and twist and jerk around to the point they can break their spinal column. My fiance was holding our rabbit once a while ago, and she suddenly SCREAMED in fright, even though he was doing everything right. It takes a long time to earn a rabbit's trust, sometimes a time so long that children lose the patience for it. Females have a high instance of reproductive cancer by the age of 4, so it's wise to get them spayed, just like any cat or dog. Sometimes fixing can help the litter box habits, too. My female still isn't spayed yet, but she's amazingly got impeccable litter box habits. If I'm off cleaning her litter box and she has to go to the bathroom, she'll pee in the EXACT same corner that the litter box always go. She's never varied from it, EVER. They're very intelligent, clean creatures, like cats, but it is very hard to earn their trust. And if you do anything to break it, it'll take an even longer time to get it back.


I am of the mind where I see nothing wrong with keeping your rabbits outside, because mine loves it when her cage gets wheeled(yes, wheeled) outside. But if you are keeping rabbits outside 24/7, you MUST have more than one(safety in numbers), and you must be 100% sure that no coyote can break through it, no raccoon can open the hutch, and no hawks can get in. We had a raccoon try and open my rabbit's hutch when I accidentally left her outside in the dark for just a few minutes. My fiance's parents were out smoking and they heard a THUMP! Like something was trying to lift up the back or top door to my rabbit's hutch, but failed. Some pretty scary stuff...I never forgot again.


Every shelter is different, but it's true a lot of rabbits aren't treated well. Most people just throw some pellets down for their rabbits(which were originally created to fatten up meat rabbits), when rabbits need hay, above all else, and vegetable and plant material every day. Pellets come very last, and should not make up the bulk of their diet, and some rabbit owners just don't care about that. In fact, so long as you're meeting the hay or grass, and plant and vegetable part of their diets, rabbits do very well without any pellets at all.

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for your honest replies.  I really appreciate it!  I have looked through the house rabbit web site, and that is actually where the shelter got a lot of the printed information they gave me.  It's very informative, but written ONLY for rabbits who live indoors; I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to NOT raise them like meat rabbits, but more like house rabbits that are not quite in the house.  Here are my main questions:


1. Can a rabbit be happy living in an enclosed garage as long as he/she is not confined to a hutch?  Life would include regular, daily exercise outside (weather permitting) and time spent in the house.


2.  If a rabbit's primary home is in a garage and its life includes the things mentioned above, is a rabbit companion necessary? (we could do that if that's what we need to do) Heartmama, it sounds like you would say 'yes' to this if they primarily live in the garage, no matter what the level of daily social interaction with humans? 


Secondary questions re: outdoor bunny-proofing:


1.   About how long would it take your average rabbit to dig under a fence, and how motivated are they to get out of an enclosure?   (I suppose that could depend on the individual rabbit, but it seems like some animals have more escapist tendencies than others)


2.  Would you need to rabbit-proof a compost heap?  (no meat products go in the compost)


Thank you SO SO much. 

post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 

One more question, not related to actual rabbit-care:  Would a child be better off getting a baby or an adult rabbit?  Either way, dd would have to have the money to spay or neuter them if necessary.  I'm just thinking from the temperment perspective, a baby might get more accustomed to and bonded with a child.  However, I can see that with an older rabbit, you might be able to make a better match because their personality is already developed.  Which is true?

post #7 of 15

Rabbits should have a friend no matter where they're stationed - they're social, and enough human interaction just isn't enough, especially since they are so untrusting of humans for so long. Not ALL rabbits dig, either. It's kind of an individual thing. In the wild they don't even hang out in burrows like most people suspect, they hide in and give birth in brush piles. Whether your rabbit is a digger or not is completely random. Still, you'd want to make sure there was fencing underneath the run to prevent them from being able to get out, :) I watched a video on youtube of a rabbit that dug a 9 foot burrow in mere HOURS. I'd say a baby would probably be better because it would increase the chances of being able to bond thoroughly with it, while an adult, sometimes even with a lot of socializing, can still be so petrified of humans. 

post #8 of 15

wow, opened my eyes. I was totally for my son having a bunny for his birthday. I thought a hamster/guinea pig work load, just cuter/bigger. I had no idea. We are not ready for a bunny after all. Thanks :)

post #9 of 15

Hmm, that woman at the shelter was just doing her job...No shelter will give any animal to a child, that needs to be clear. They don't adopt out to anyone under 21 usually. Where I live at least.

Everyone here has given you great advice! Maybe in a couple years you'll be ready for a rabbit. They are tough, we had them when I was young and one day they "disappeared" as in my mom got rid of them because they were too much work..


The woman at the shelter honestly would have ticked me off...Rabbits can be outside more than she described. As long as they can't dig out...They won't kill themselves the minute they touch grass. They aren't stupid...They can be fine around loud kids but it totally depends on the rabbit. I am actually interested in meat rabbits myself so I can't really speak to the pet aspect as any rabbits we will be getting will actually be dinner...


If you are still looking for a new pet for your daughter, can I just preemptively steer you FAR AWAY from ferrets...My favorite critter ever, they are an insane amount of work and no child should own a ferret. They require tons of attention, get into everything and need lots and lots of interaction. Just like rabbits people get them not knowing the amount of care they need and then 2 months later you see a ferret ad on craigslist when people are sick of them...Goodluck! I hope your DD isn't too heartbroken over the rabbit thing.

post #10 of 15

I had pet rabbits from the time I was 10 until I was in my mid-twenties. I've kept rabbits outdoors, in a garage that was not used for vehicles, and in the house. In my experience, with the proper equipment and care, a rabbit kept outdoors can be just as happy and healthy as an indoor rabbit. I also disagree strongly that rabbits are not a good pet for children. They are not a good pet for some children, to be sure, but for some children they are a wonderful pet. I was naturally calm and quiet, and they were a perfect fit for me, much better than a dog would have been. This child has shown that she can care responsibly for a pet already. Rabbits might be a good fit for her, or they might not - I'm sure with all the information, the OP can help her make that decision. A child her age can certainly learn to care for it, to pick it up properly and hold it properly.


OP, when I kept my rabbits outdoors, I always kept at least 2 rabbits together in a hutch. They had a large, secure outdoor cage area that was padlocked shut, with a smaller hutch inside. The hutch had a solid floor with straw filled nest boxes and a solid floor. It was also padlocked and was cleaned daily. The rabbits had people contact daily, were litter trained, and ran around inside the house during the day when we were there to supervise. During the winter, they lived in a hutch with a run in our garage. The garage was not used for cars, which I think is a very important point, because I wouldn't want to subject them to carbon monoxide from the vehicles. Cleaning the cages daily (even during winter) and feeding and watering was a big job - definitely more work than a gerbil - but it is doable for the right child. Heck, I have cousins who were cleaning horse stalls daily at the OP's daugher's age, and that is a lot more work!


We did not let the rabbits run free outdoors, because they are not good about avoiding plants that will make them sick or kill them. (Unfortunately, I know this from experience - someone who cared for my rabbits while we were on vacation allowed them to roam outdoors in an area that had milkweed. One of my rabbits ate the milkweed and passed away. :( )


My outdoor rabbits kept this way were every bit as healthy and lived as long as the ones that were kept soley indoors (and all of my rabbits lived over 10 years).


Good luck OP on your decision!

post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks again for all the great information, anecdotal and otherwise.  Dd is still on the track to bunny ownership, but she and her grandpa are currently building an enclosure (baby-gate type things) for the rabbit's main living area, and next they will need to work on an outdoor pen.  This is definitely a big undertaking, but I think all the months of preparation and saving $$ are good. 

post #12 of 15

My advice if you keep them outside is in line with the previous post--they need a large enclosed and very well build play area with a separate sleep "hutch" and you need to get at LEAST two rabbits--the ideal would be a pair of female siblings or a neutered male/female bonded pair that the shelter already matched up. Rabbits are just so much happier with a 'buddy' and are LESS work in pairs, not more (I know this runs counter to logic but trust me, two bunnies are just healthier and happier and thus lower maintenance than a single bunny).


post #13 of 15

We got a baby bunny from a lady who raises rabbits for meat. She was great till she hit her teens,and then she bit a lot.Still does Our rabbit has done fine inside and outside. In the summer I will put the rabbit out in a fenced grassy area. We trained our rabbit to void into a small box. Makes cleaning easier.


Guinea pigs make decent pets too. Me, I like chickens best!

post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hah - I hear you about the chickens...my kind of pet to be sure.  However, this is dd's pet and will be her complete responsibility smile.gif


About the biting though, is your rabbit fixed?  Dd is set on getting her rabbit fixed, as she has read that it "helps" their behavior in many respects.  I don't know if biting is one of those behaviors that it helps or not, but maybe? 


I think I'm going to ask her to research getting a pair instead of one rabbit; sounds like most agree that a pair is better than a singleton. 

post #15 of 15

We have had three house rabbit. One spayed female and two neutered males. Please be aware that not all rabbits get along. Ours fought in any combination (biting, scratching, kicking) and we got bit and scratched pretty badly (left scars) separating them. We had to get three indoor cages and rotate their playtime out of the cages. They would still fight through the cage bars. Two loved human contact, one preferred to be left alone (growls and lunges at us). The one who wanted to be left alone we had since he was a baby and handled a lot but it didn't make a difference with his temper. Also, please be aware a fixed rabbit can live 10+ years. If your daughter is planning on leaving your home for college/training, someone is going to have to care for that rabbit. IMO, pets are part of the family and are the parent's responsibility, be it a fish, a rabbit, a cat, or a dog. 

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