Is your rabbit housing predator proof? Find out how to protect your rabbits from predators
Rabbits are prey animals. This means they are hunted by other larger animals for food. In the wild, rabbits’ natural predators include foxes, birds of prey, weasels, and stoats. In the wild, rabbits are always on high alert. When they sense danger rabbits will quickly run and hide away in their burrows or tunnel down into undergrowth for protection. They’ll also thump their feet to let other rabbits nearby know that there is danger around.
Unfortunately all of these animals can and will access back gardens. Therefore, as owners we need to keep our pet rabbits safe when we keep them outdoors. Take a look at our tips to predator proof your rabbits’ outdoor housing.
Make sure their housing is structurally sound
When you complete your daily spot clean of your rabbits’ housing have a quick look around and ask yourself:
- Is the roofing secure?
- Are there any signs of damage?
- Are the door locks still working?
- If you use metal components, are they free from rust or damage?
- Is the wiring securely fastened?
- Is the floor solid and without damage?
If you spot any damage or breaks, it’s important to get these fixed as soon as you can. Predators could take advantage of any weak spots in your rabbits’ housing, so keeping on top of it is key.
Use secure locks and bolts
Any openings to your rabbits’ hutch and permanently attached exercise area should be totally secure. Good quality bolts and locks are easy to find online or in hardware stores. These will help prevent clever foxes or wiry weasels from getting in through the front door.
Check your wire is up to scratch
If your rabbits’ housing uses wire, it’s vital to make sure it’s strong enough to protect against predators. Chicken wire is not suitable for rabbit housing as it’s just too thin. Instead a 16g or 12g wire with 25mm holes is sufficient to keep foxes and rats out of your rabbits’ home. If you are concerned about smaller predators, like stoats or weasels, consider using a 13mm wire.
Where is your wire secured on your rabbits’ housing?
For extra security, make sure you attach the wire to the inside of your rabbits’ hutch or permanently attached run. Often pre-made runs will have the wire welded onto them, but if you’re doing it yourself, use high quality staples and cable ties to secure it to the frame with no gaps. For extra security, create a double wall of wire, by also attaching it to the outside too.
Stop your rabbits digging their way out – or something digging in
Rabbits love to dig. It’s a natural behaviour and should be encouraged. However, it does mean that they may end up digging their way out of their exercise area if it’s on grass. To help prevent this, dig down into the perimeter of your rabbits’ housing and bury extra wire, to create an underground perimeter. For extra security, dig up the area your run takes up and place a sheet of wire into the ground. Put the soil and turf back on top and you’ve created a fully walled rabbit enclosure.
Give your rabbits something safe to dig by providing a dig box. You can buy special dig boxes, such as this clear dig box, or fill a litter tray with soil.
Give your rabbits some cover… and privacy
If you’re particularly concerned about your rabbits’ safety and have spotted some pesky predators in your area, you could get a cover for your rabbits’ enclosure. You can use tarpaulin or a specially made cover to give a bit more protection between your rabbits and other animals. This can help to mask the smell and hide your rabbits away.
If you do decide to use a cover, this should only be for short periods of time e.g. at night, and be careful not to use it in particularly warm weather. Covers not only provide a bit of privacy, they also protect your rabbits from the wind, rain, and cold in the cooler months. But this means when there’s hot temperatures it can make your bunnies’ home too warm.
Help your rabbits feel safe in their home
We all want to feel safe in our own home. Rabbits are no different. In the wild, rabbits run for cover, in their warrens or the nearest undergrowth when danger is around. For our pet rabbits, we can emulate this by providing lots of places to hide in their sleeping and exercise area. Items like platforms and tunnels are great to provide some comfort and a place to hide away in.
How many hiding places should you have?
You should provide your bunnies with multiple hiding places in different areas of their housing. This will provide them with a couple of different options to go to when they feel threatened. You should also have at least one more hiding place than the number of rabbits. For example, if you have two rabbits, you need at least three hiding places, for three rabbits, it’s four, and so on.
Don’t forget about the exit routes!
Every hiding place you give to your rabbits should have two entry/exit routes. This will allow your rabbits to not feel trapped. Therefore, while you should pop their hiding places around their housing in different locations, they shouldn’t be up against a wall.