Some good advice on housing your rabbit

Most reputable pet shops sell good quality hutches ideal for the pet rabbit in the garden. As rabbits can have a long life span, make sure you buy one which is sturdy, secure (from animals trying to get in as well as the rabbit trying to escape) and waterproof.

There are many different styles of hutch, the best is probably a free standing hutch which opens at waist height and is easily accessible for getting the rabbit in and out. At this height the rabbit can watch what is happening and is out of the view of cats, dogs and foxes which may pass through the garden.

Never stand a hutch directly on the ground as it will quickly become damp and cold so short hutch legs of 220 mm at least are a necessity.

Remember that the hutch needs to be solid and water proof and should stand seven metres away from your house. The exact size will depend upon the breed, but remember the rabbit will need room to stretch out and to stand up on its back legs should it feel the urge. The British Rabbit Council recommends a hutch size of at least 75Omm x 60Omm x 450 mm for a Netherland Dwarf.

When making decisions about your hutch, bear in mind the following:

• make sure it is out of any draughts

• make sure the rain can’t blow in

• make sure it is out of direct sunlight

• never paint the inside of your hutch with a lead-based paint.

Most hutches have a sleeping compartment so that the rabbit can get in, out of the cold and wet. However, a polythene cover suspended from the roof is advisable if the hutch is in the garden as this can be pulled down over the front in bad weather. This allows air to circulate but at the same time stops the bedding getting wet. It is important that there should be air circulating freely in the hutch at all times to stop the build up of bacteria so make sure that the polythene ‘hangs’ rather than ‘clings’.

If you are buying a second hand hutch – be careful. Always ask why the hutch is being sold. If the previous occupant passed away, bacteria can still be present despite thorough cleaning. If the previous occupant died of VHD, do not buy it as no cleaning substances can kill the dormant stages of this virus. If you put a baby rabbit in the hutch, it is likely to catch this virus and die.

Many people often like to have a run for the rabbit as well and similar rules apply. However, here the question of security is paramount as rabbits will dig and, if left unattended in a run, your rabbit will quickly escape. Have a permanent run which is sunk into the earth or to have a run which a mesh or wooden base so that the rabbit cannot dig its way out. Also, make sure with a run that cats and dogs cannot knock it over to get at the rabbit. Only let a rabbit roam in the garden if you are 100% positive there is no chance of escape remember, rabbits can squeeze through small holes and gnaw them bigger as well as dig under fences – and you can’t stay with it the entire time, just in case!