If you have ever set foot in a local pet store, you may have noticed that for every 30 shelves with items for dogs and cats there may be one for rabbits (if you are really lucky). Most of the time, that one shelf isn’t even just for rabbits, it’s for small animals in general, which includes completely different species such as hamsters, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. If that wasn’t annoying enough, they also offer us the most teeny tiny cages they could find and advertise them as the ideal housing for our rabbits. Nonsense! Rabbits are very active and love to run and jump and be entertained. They don’t want to sit in a small cage all day, where besides from eating and sleeping there isn’t much else to do. Such a cage is really only acceptable in combination with a playpen that is always accessible or with the door open (almost) constantly. When we adopted Bunny he had a small cage like that and he was used to spending most of his time in it. We didn’t want to change too much too quickly, so we kept it for a while. The first few weeks he slept all day and all night, rarely hopped around, and showed no interest in his surroundings, even though the cage was open almost constantly. Binkies never happened.
We thought that was just his personality, but after several weeks he became more active, curious, and explored the house. I am convinced now that he was simply depressed from being confined in a small, uninteresting space for too long. As a child I had a rabbit named Snuffles with similar “lazy” characteristics and I cringe when I think about how we kept him. He lived in an aquarium. Only came out when 7-year-old me wanted him around. I also remember that my rabbit’s sleeping schedule did not correlate with my school schedule, so it often happened that he simply slept through the assigned out-of-cage time. Not a good life.
When looking for the ideal housing, we have to keep in mind what a rabbit needs to be happy: They like to have space for running and jumping. They like to have a safe place to hide in (one for each rabbit) with at least two exits, such as a house made of wood or cardboard (rabbits don’t like to feel trapped; hence the two exits). They like to have food, water, and a litter box. They like to have a comfortable place for sleeping. They like to have toys for entertainment. The ideal housing must be big enough to satisfy all of these needs. 6.5 square feet per rabbit is a good number to start with. I found this online calculator that recommends even more space if you are interested: http://www.cagecalc.de/
Let’s have a look at some of our options.
Fenced In: Use a playpen or garden fence elements (held together with zip ties) to build a safe home for your rabbit. It’s a great idea to put down vinyl or plastic and top it off with a rug, cork, or piece of carpet to keep your wood floor or regular carpet clean. The fence should be at least 30″ high and all items a rabbit could climb on should be about 30″ away from it to avoid an escape.
Cubed: Wire storage cubes (available at stores like Target or Walmart) are super versatile and can be used for a variety of cages – as simple or as elaborate as you like. You can tie the elements together with zip ties and use dowel rods as leverage for wooden boards that serve as second/third stories (Did you know that home improvement stores cut wood for you for free?). You can find many more examples and ideas if you search for “storage cube cage” online. Again, placing vinyl, cork, or plastic under a rug on top of your regular flooring would ensure that it stays clean and safe.
Upcycled: Take a piece of already existing furniture and turn it into a cage! You can use an entertainment center or sideboard, for example, and replace the doors with wire and then remove the middle walls or cut holes through them, so your rabbit can hop around. You can add pieces of stick-on cabinet liner and top it off with towels or carpet to keep the wood safe and your rabbit comfortable. Especially if you combine this solution with a playpen this is a nice and stylish option. The example in the picture is great, because the wire is on both sides of the cage, which keeps the air flowing, and there is also a private space for the bun to hide in.
Rabbit Room: If you have the space, a whole room makes for a great cage! It’ll be spacious, you can decorate it in a fun, safe, and exciting way, and it’ll be easy to just close the door when you need to confine your rabbit (or hide the mess from visitors). Another option is to bunny proof one room in the house (such as the living room or a bedroom) and add baby gates, so your rabbit cannot get out. That way your bun has plenty of space while still being confined and safe. Especially for children this is a great option. After all, they’d quickly learn to consistently clean up their toys and clothes from the floor. ;)
Free-Range: Our Bunny is king of the house. We rabbit proofed just about every room and keep the door of the one unsafe room closed. He still has an area that is his, though, with a house and several sleeping spots. We love the fact that Bunny can be a part of family life not only when we allow him out of his cage, but whenever he feels like it. It’s fun to watch TV and have him come up on the couch to cuddle. I also love waking up and seeing Bunny already waiting for me.
DIY: You can make your own cage with a simple sanding tool, a hammer, hinges, and nails. Check your local home improvement store and go with the wood widths and thicknesses they have available. Get someone there to cut the lengths according to your wishes. They will also have inexpensive wire you can secure in between two pieces of wood. It definitely helps to draw it out for yourself first and decide where the nails will go and in what order the parts should be assembled. If you want to use lacquer to protect the wood or add a fun color, ask for products safe for baby/children’s toys.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for reading! We have a separate post that offers ideas for furniture options. I’d also love to add more pictures of different rabbit housings to this post, so feel free to submit yours here, on facebook, or by emailing us.
Isabella is cage free also. We no longer have the one she had for a few weeks, only a carrier. We have a couple rooms we keep closed but she doesn’t even come in when they are open unless she is running after the cat. (that is a funny sight cause then she realizes where she is and doesn’t know the area.) We love her being able to be with us when she wants.
does anyone know how to build the habitat with the little house on top of it? it is so perfect!
Hi Lindsey, This is late in the answer, but maybe you’ll still get it. The habitat with the little house on it is a premade rabbit outdoor hutch (google them) and then an add on chicken wire pen. A little pricey, but definatley doable if you have “ikea” furnitute type skills.
These are all great! We do not house cage, we have free range bunny rooms with gates or even, a door sawn shorter (much more stylish) in between, but these are nice house cages.
We went partially free range with our old bunny (a wonderful mini rex): he was caged when we weren’t home, but was out whenever we were home/awake. He hated hardwood floor so he conveniently stayed on the area rugs we left out for him and would come up on the couch to cuddle. When you go full free range, do you find the bunnies chew your wooden furniture and stairs at all or are they amused enough that they have so much freedom that they don’t bother? Our house is all hardwood floors and stairs and we have lots of wood furniture.
I think that depends on the rabbit. Bunny is not a chewer at all, so he never chews on anything besides from his food and the occasional towel. Offering plenty of alternative entertainment is always a good way to try and get them to stop unwanted behavior. I have had that work for me in the past. That way you can offer a chewing toy after saying “no” to chewing furniture, for example, so the rabbit can still fulfill his “urges” and gets trained to only chew what is allowed. Every rabbit is different, though, so you’ve got to see what works. Try to allow more freedom slowly (first only when you are there, then when you are sleeping, then when you are out…) until you know your rabbit’s behavior.
Bunny has the same aversion to hardwood floor and tiles. Keeps him out of the kitchen and bathrooms, which is convenient. :) Other rabbits don’t mind that kind of floor, though, so I wouldn’t depend on it being a natural fence.
I am looking for ideas for housing my 2 bunnies in our spare room and also for outdoor runs for fresh air and exercise, seen some great stuff so far, welcome more.
Lindsey, it looks like it is based on the chicken coop style housing for rabbits & poultry, I agree it does look fab.
[…] Space: A small cage from the pet store won’t do. Those rabbit legs are made for running and jumping. Our bunnies are cage-free and live in the house like a cat would. If you can’t offer your rabbit free range or their own (or a shared) room, make sure the cage has a playpen attached and there is plenty of additional time where the rabbit can hop around the house. Remember, a rabbit isn’t like a rat at all and you wouldn’t put your cat in a small cage while you’re at work, either. You can find rabbit housing ideas here. […]
I know being in a cage is really bad, and since I have the means to build one now, I feel awful for keeping him in one, it does make me a bad mom, yes, but I am trying to fix that now. Thank you for your article. c:
[…] need space. Keeping them in a small cage will cause depression. Research alternative housing […]
I need suggestions for a floor covering in a bunny playpen. I have been using vinyl tablecloths but our bunny is scratching them shreds. Would a rubber mat work??
It depends on your rabbit. If he’s a chewer, then I wouldn’t pick a rubber mat, because he might nibble some and that could be dangerous. The reason why your bun scratches the tablecloths is probably because they are not perfectly even and flat. Maybe you could use them and place a cheap low-pile rug over top of it. That way your room’s flooring is still protected. Some people use those puzzle foam tiles for kids, but they also only work if the rabbit doesn’t chew. Natural cork tiles might be a good option! We went with the carpet idea and it works well. The thing cleans up easily and the bunnies like to lounger on it.
Hi, thanks for all the great ideas. I have two blood brother bunnies. Their bond has been broken. So it’s a tough situation. They take turns free range through most of the house, except where we keep our t.v and electronics. I am reading all the comments about bunny cuddling. I never get that and I think it’s because when I got my bunnies the woman told me not to handle them at all. They hate it. I also had my 8 year old daughter with me. I think the woman was afraid I was going to hand the rabbits to an 8 year old, so she stressed the no handling point. I believed her until I did some more research. I should have picked them up more and carried them more as little buns, but now it’s too late. For everyone out there. Spend time loving your bunny and holding them. Don’t make my mistake or you’ll regret it. My bunnies still greet me every morning for their gourmet breakfast and nudge me all the time, but no picking up allowed. I’ll take what I can get.:).
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Hello. We have our bunny for 4 years now and his cage is always open. He is free to roam the house. We never kept him caged up, and up cycled an old buffet table as his hutch. He has a large mat leading out from his hutch and a large potty with hay 24/7 (gets new water every morning and night) Binkies happened a lot once we got him, and he was out a lot! But now, 3 years later, he only binkies when you have food for him and he sleeps all day, uninterested in us. He only comes out around meal time (we feed him twice a day). Is there anything wrong with him? He weighs 5 pounds and he is a Dutch angora.
Hello Nicole! Sounds like he’s lucky to have you! It’s not uncommon for rabbits to mellow out when they get older. Ours are the same way – they are only active around food and they are 5 years old. If you are worried, a trip to a rabbit-savvy vet can’t hurt! Try activities like playing with toys that require some movement (a treat ball or a veggie ball maybe) or playing catch (have some treats and let him run after you or jump over things to get a bite). He might enjoy having a bunny friend, too, if possible. Although that did not influence our rabbit’s activity level at all, but he seems much happier. Also, Rabbits are very much into routines, so if his routine has been sleeping all day and not interacting, then it’ll take a bit of coaxing to get him to change. Try picking a certain time that you always play with him or always watch TV while sitting near him for pets. After a few days he’ll expect it and maybe even be waiting for you. Hope this helps!
Thanks a lot! The only reason we don’t want to get him a bunny friend is that all the buns that we see are younger then him and I don’t want one to pass before the other (despression). And I was doing research on bonding and don’t want to get rid of his large hutch (we built it). I will defiantly try getting/making some treat toys and was thinking about getting a mind toy (like the ones that you can get for dogs or the ones on your store). I go out every time he comes out unless I’m studying or sleeping… Thanks again for all the tips!
Although, we were talking about maybe adopting him a bunny friend from TBHRR.org (Tampa Bay Houe Rabbit Rescue) because we can foster to adopt and make sure it works with both of them… But we’d need to do more research on bonding and taking care of 2 bunnies.
Hi I am twelve and have three bunnies two are babies and one is 3 years old, I absolutely love them to pieces however they don’t have free run of the house or a cage as big as some of the ones in those images it is about the size of my bed. They come out every day before and after school (I get up super early) to have a run around my bedroom; the only bunny proofed room in the house but reading this article has made me curious/worried as to if they have enough space. I make sure that whenever I have the time i continue thier agility training too. thankyou :)
Thank you so much for your message! I love that you care about your bunnies so much and that you read about taking care of them. Many people don’t do that and I think it’s a sign of a great pet owner.
Just for your information, if they are all together in one cage you might want to look out for fighting when the babies get a bit older. It often happens that the hormones kick in and they get very territorial. Getting them spayed or neutered and reintroduced will help (plus, it has health benefits). You might get lucky, too, and your bunnies will be fine. It just depends.
It’s hard to tell without actually seeing your space if it’s too small or okay. Bunnies are usually the most active early in the morning and in the early to late evening with little spurts of activity in between. Some people will tell you that letting them out in the afternoon doesn’t really count, because they like to sleep during that time anyway. I think most bunnies will tell you if they are bored or feel cramped. They will throw things, make noise, chew things they shouldn’t. If you can’t let them run around in your room while you are away, you might want to consider a playpen. That way the cage can stay open, but the bunnies can’t go everywhere. Here is one in plastic (metal is best if your buns love to chew):
Hope this helps!
My rabbit we have a large hitch for her and just open the door and then she can hop around, but the only problem is she isn’t going back into her cage to go to the bathroom. So I have to be in the room with her and constantly pick up her poop and put it back in the cage. Any advice?
Is she spayed? If not, then that could be the issue. In that case she is marking her territory! Most rabbits do that to some degree and picking up a bit of stray poop isn’t too bad – or does she pee on the floor as well? If so, you can litterbox train her. We have an article about that (see “Articles”).
She is litter box trained when she is in the cage. She has a litter box that she goes in 99% of the time. She does pee on the floor about every other day. She did not have this problem before we went on vacation. She stayed with a friend of ours.
It could be a bladder infection. Changes in behavior like that are sometimes an indication of a medical issue.
Hi, Me and my partner are adopting 2 rabbits and the adoption center only allows this type of housing for their animals, which is fantastic! We aren’t keen on wire fenced cages and are looking to build a wooden frame with perspex windows. My question is, how can’t we attach the perspex and wood? Can we use smooth headed nails or would something such as no nails glue be better?
You know, I am not an expert on this, but it sounds like you want to build something like the “cages” pictured on the website linked below. It says in the description that they place the windows between two layers of wood (you can see that in at least one of the pictures) and then use waterproof wood glue. Their wood also has grooves that fit together to make the whole thing more stable. Hope this helps! Here is the website: http://www.plueschnasen.de/gehegeelemente-freilaufgehege/freilaufgehege-gehege-gitter-kafig-aussenstall-stall-185.html
I tried to get my bunny cage free too but how do you deal with moulting and shedding and hair going all around the house?
I want to get my bunny be part of my family but just worried about the allegy witg hair everywhere indoor?
We don’t have any allergies, so I am not sure if it helps in that case, but regular grooming with the Furminator for small animals works well! Also, you may have to vacuum or sweep the floor a bit more often, but it’s really the hay that ends up everywhere rather than the fur. :) If you make a designated space or two for your bun (doesn’t have to be a cage, just an area that has your bun’s toys, hidey house, and such), then you may be lucky and he/she will mostly stick to that area since rabbits are very territorial. It depends on the bun, though.
Hello Fiona, my bunny is also molting and shedding quite a bit and I find that using a warm slightly damp micro fiber cloth works great. It seems to grab the lose fur wonderfully. Then use a soft brush ( I use a baby brush)
My bun also loves the grooming. You’ll be surprised how much hair you get out. As long as it’s not really wet since Bunny’s don’t like water.
Mine has shed a lot less since Ive been doing this good luck