Life with a Free-Range Rabbit

Our Bunny is a free range rabbit. Which means he has no cage and he basically has access to the whole house at all times, even when we are out or asleep. Just like a cat. In fact, he has a litter box intended for cats in a corner in the dining/living room and unless the way from the bedroom to the litter box seems too tiring, he pretty consistently uses it.

Laundry

There’s no folding laundry without Bunny supervision!

There are certain habits we had to change in order to accommodate Bunny’s free-range life. We don’t throw clothes on the floor any more, because Bunny will make a nest out of them by pulling them around with his teeth. We learned that the hard way. Lots of tiny holes in jeans are not fashionable. That also means we can’t fold laundry on the floor without Bunny taking over. We don’t leave anything plastic or potentially dangerous (drier sheets!) out. Grocery bags cannot be left on the floor (he’ll find the carrots!) and items such as our laptop or vacuum cleaner have to be put away immediately after use. We have no plants in the house and fake-plants are high up. Those are small changes, though, that we don’t mind making.

When we adopted Bunny he had a tiny cage and was obviously not used to spending much time outside of it. For the first couple of weeks we let him out whenever we were home, awake, and had time to watch him. He was only allowed to be in the living/dining room, with access to the kitchen and the one bathroom if we forgot to close the door. At that point two things became pretty clear:

1. Bunny never left the carpeted area of the house. That means he does not go into bathrooms or the kitchen.

2. Bunny mainly spends his “free time” sleeping in his favorite spots around the house. He never chewed carpet, books, furniture, or anything for that matter. Except for cables.

This paper has been on the floor for over a week. Bunny has too much fun with. We'll put it away some other time.

This paper has been on the floor for over a week. Bunny has too much fun with. We’ll put it away some other time.

We saw no reason why Bunny ever had to go into his cage, especially once we litter box trained him. Of course, after two weeks you cannot know an animal (or a person, for that matter) well enough to trust them at all times with your entire house. So we started slowly. At first we left Bunny’s cage open while running small errands. Then we let him stay out over night. Eventually, we left the door of his cage open even when we were at work during the day. And when Bunny passed all those “tests” without any incident at all, we threw the cage out.

At first we only rabbit-proofed the living/dining room area. Bunny naturally took every chance he got to hop into the bedroom and hide under the bed, though. We kept on bringing him back into his dedicated area until one day we couldn’t find a good enough reason anymore why he had to leave. He just wanted to sleep under the bed. Why not?! So we rearranged some furniture to hide the few cables in that room and now it’s safe for Bunny. He even has a couple of toys in there.

Bunny's current castle made out of wood and felt (to prevent slipping).

Bunny’s current castle made out of wood and felt (to prevent slipping).

We often joke about the whole process and how Bunny slowly, but persistently took over the house. He was as restricted as he could be at first, but convinced us to let him have almost complete freedom in a very short time.

We now had one room with a baby gate in front of it, because it has too many computer cables to hide. There were 2 bathrooms and the kitchen Bunny didn’t go in because they had no carpet. He had access to the bedroom, living/dining room, the hallways, and one office (which he never entered anyway).

*UPDATE: In 2014 we added a second rabbit to our family. Bailey turned out to have a similar personality, bonded with Bunny, and they both live free-range in our home.*

The key to Bunny’s free range life is the fact that everything he could destroy or that could harm him is not accessible to him. We are very lucky, because he has a personality that doesn’t require us to remove things like books or carpet from our rooms. If you want to attempt letting your rabbit be free-range, you might have to secure certain rooms or areas more thoroughly than we had to. Your bun might show an interest in your trash can or pull the toilet paper down in the bathroom. You might have to make sure no windows are left open and accessible. You might even have to sacrifice your favorite Papasan chair or put it in a different room.

While Bunny doesn’t have a cage anymore, that doesn’t mean he has nothing to call his own. It is important to us that he has his own furniture and spots where he can hide for as long as he wants without getting disturbed. His favorite spot is under our bed, but he also has his own little bed in the living room, a wooden “castle” we built for him in the dining area (he previously had a cardboard box castle), and toys, a towel, and a box of hay in various spots. He actually has quite a few logic and chew toys, because we cannot expect him to hop around the house all day in a circle and do nothing. Having various things that are his and that he can do what he wants with means that even if he has certain urges, our furniture, baseboards, walls, and carpets are safe.

A free-range life works really well for us, but not every rabbit can be left out without supervision, even in a rabbit-proof house or room. Some rabbits need a (big!) cage/fenced area for their own safety. You might find that you can trust your rabbit in one room, but not another. Luckily, baby gates are cheap.

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Author: Bunny Approved

20 Comments

  1. Stefanie Norris
    Stefanie Norris On October 5, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I would like to know who built the bunny castle? Was it a kit?

    • Bunny Approved
      Bunny Approved On October 5, 2013 at 11:07 am

      I built it myself. No kit at all and we don’t have many tools either. I drew it out on a piece of paper and made up the length of it based on the space we have in the dining room. Then I went to Home Depot and had them cut the wooden boards for me to the correct length. The height is exactly the height the boards were when I bought them. Then I used nails and a hammer to attach the pieces. The cutout at the top was done with a coping saw and a lot of frustrated moments… A bit of sanding with a Dremel attachment, some felt, and it was all done. I later added the smaller tunnel up front, also by cutting out a piece with the saw.

  2. Saige
    Saige On October 5, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Watch out because they can suprise you one day!!
    Saige all of a sudden chewed a hole in my couch a few weeks ago when he was home alone.
    He had never tried or shown any interest in the couch before in 5 years!!
    So be prepared, as bunnies (like any animal) can be unpredictable.
    Saige still claims his innocents!! :P

  3. Sarah
    Sarah On October 6, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Great article, I love hearing about what bunny is getting up to.

  4. Kate
    Kate On October 25, 2013 at 10:30 am

    This was a great read! I have three free-range buns – a bonded trio! – and they LOVE being able to run around constantly. They get tons of exercise, as I’m sure Bunny does too, which is great for their digestion! One of mine has a couple of bad habits – picking at carpet and chewing baseboard – but it’s so minor compared to seeing them freely binky and run about!

  5. Cat Brown
    Cat Brown On November 6, 2013 at 3:02 am

    A great article! Very true how you say about different personalities of the rabbits, how some can be free roaming where as other it’s more difficult. Out of our four buns, are older pair are a dream running free in the house. They never destroy anything are very respectful. We can leave them out all the time and no issues where as our other two are nightmares! In to everything, chewing anything they can get their teeth on! They have a strict controlled area with constant supervision!

  6. Bouffe
    Bouffe On January 12, 2014 at 4:45 am

    Well done Bunny for training your staff so well in so short a time! Clearly your waiter and waitress are smarter than mine, who are quite dense most of the time. Perhaps if I leave this wonderful article lying about on the breakfast table they might get that what I really wanted for Christmas was a castle like yours!

    I see you also have a baby gate in your house. Annoying, isn’t it? It’s invariably hiding the most interesting stuff. In my case the stairs to the bedrooms where I like to play and nap under the bed as well. Or on the bed. After I have snuggled up to my waitress. I only slipped on the stairs once though and they put it in… That’s what I mean by dense!

    Anyway, nice meeting you cousin Bunny, and enjoy the fruits of your labour! It always pays off investing in training for your human staff…

    Bouffe

  7. Rose
    Rose On May 31, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    PLEASE REPLY TO THIS QUESTION, it’s very IMPORTANT!!!

    I’m getting a bunny in a few weeks and I’m bunny-proofing the house. I was wondering: my rabbit is going to be free range, what should I do about stairs?? Is it safe for a bunny to go on them???????

    • Bunny Approved
      Bunny Approved On May 31, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      Congratulations! It really depends on the rabbit and on you! Some rabbits won’t go on the stairs at all, some will hop up and down without issue. We taught our Bunny to use the stairs and he sometimes does, but other people are too scared that something might happen. In that case a simple baby gate will do. If you do let your bun on the stairs, make sure they are carpeted and the floor right where the stairs start and end is carpeted, too. Otherwise it’s too slippery.

  8. Plinus
    Plinus On June 10, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Also, please get a second bunny so the first one doesn’n get lonely :)
    They can get really depressed if they “only” have human company, and not their own too

  9. Rabbits4ever
    Rabbits4ever On August 16, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Hi I want to get a rabbit but I don’t know where to by the supplies; I have a pretty small/limited budget for cages, litter/litter boxes… So do you have suggestions? I’ve found most of the things at Walmart, though I’m only a kid and I don’t have much money to spend, and like I said I found most of the supplies but my parents still don’t want another pet and I have 2 houses but I thought I could bring it back and forth, as I have another rabbit at my mom’s house.
    I already know where u would get the rabbit. One of my 4-h leaders bread her Jersey Wooly to a Lionhead, and she said she would give me a discount on a baby because I’m in her rabbit group. Do you have any suggestions? I REALY want a rabbit that is lives indoors, but my other rabbits live in raised hutches outside and stay at one house. Do you think it is too much for a rabbit to go back and forth every week, or for it to be an indoor AND outdoor rabbit? I guess I don’t really know as much as I thought I did when comes to rabbits…

    • Bunny Approved
      Bunny Approved On August 19, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Hello! Thank you for your comment. The thing is, without your parents’ permission you can’t really get another pet. Plus, rabbits are not cheap! They need fresh greens every day, a vet visit every so often, and litter. What if the bun got sick and needed medication? Without having an income on your own, your parents would be responsible now. Why not spend more time with a rabbit you already have? Maybe it would enjoy living inside with you. Moving a rabbit back and forth every week might be a bit too stressful, too. It depends on the rabbit, though. Rabbits don’t take sudden temperature changes well, so while playing outside for a bit under supervision would work, living inside one week and outside another week would not.
      Many of the cages you see in stores are too small and overpriced. I’d go with an enclosure in a corner of the room with a rug underneath. That way your bun has more space and it would be less expensive. A metal pen would be best in case your bun likes to chew. If you google “MidWest Exercise Pen” you should find some cheap options. I saw one for $37. And we use paper-based bedding. The cheaper Carefresh alternative from Walmart.
      If you do get to have another rabbit, I’d encourage you to rescue one instead of getting a baby from a breeder. Babies are a lot more work and need to be spayed/neutered. An adult rabbit is just as cute and it’s such a great thing to give a homeless pet a home. There is a lot of information on rabbit.org and wabbitwiki, for example, if you want to read up on bunnies!

  10. Rabbits4ever
    Rabbits4ever On August 16, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I meant I know where I would get the rabbit, not you :)

  11. Rabbits4ever
    Rabbits4ever On August 16, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Also, what type of litter do you use for your rabbt?

  12. Rabbits4ever
    Rabbits4ever On September 3, 2015 at 12:57 am

    Thank you for the info:) the thing is, my aunt is our vet, all of our “visits” are free! That helps a lot. Also, if I do get to have another rabbit, it would be from my 4-h rabbit leader, who is one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met. She said that if the rabbit lives inside all the time, it shouldn’t affect it too much, and the more it was handled especially at the young age of two months, it would be since I want to show it if I get one. I was also hoping to litter train it so it coul be a one room rabbit. I really appreciate your information and opinion:) I will definitely check out those websites and exercise pens:) thanks again!

  13. NgFamily
    NgFamily On March 8, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Hi. i was wondering how you went about bonding Bunny to your second rabbit. We have a 6 year old female and we want to get her a friend but she is also free range, we don’t have a cage, and we don’t really have any neutral areas. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks.

  14. Bunny Approved
    Bunny Approved On March 8, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    It was a bit of a process. I wrote about it right here: https://bunnyapproved.com/bonding-our-free-range-house-rabbits/

  15. Olympia
    Olympia On May 10, 2016 at 2:19 am

    Hi, I love the idea of having my 2 bunnies be free range. Do your bunnies poop / leave droppings around the house? I’m trying to switch to free range but overnight or if left out my bunnies always end up leaving poops around, never pee though, they also often leave half chewed pellets around wherever theyve been lying. Would you say this is a normal trade off or is there a way to fix it? Thanks

  16. Upears
    Upears On August 13, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    I have 3 bunnies. Two are able to have the run of the house but one of them I just can’t potty train. He is the sweetest little guy in the world and I have tried everything to potty train this little guy – just can’t. I do give him the run of an entire room and vacuum it every day. Anyone got any suggestions?

    • Bunny Approved
      Bunny Approved On August 17, 2017 at 11:47 am

      Is your bunny neutered? And are they all bonded or is he separate from the others? If he’s alone he might just smell the other rabbits and feels the need to aggressively mark his territory. Have you tried putting hay in the litter box and offering him a treat every time he sits in it?

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