Rabbits/Rabbits and foxes
QUESTION: Hello, I'm interested in getting rabbits or guinea pigs to keep as pets (I always take rescued animals, never buy them). I would like to keep them in a hutch in my garden and have been looking at 2 tiered hutches and large runs. However, I know that there are foxes in my area and I did see one in my garden about a year ago. I haven't seen any foxes for a long time now and they may have moved on but I don't know. I'm concerned about the safety of my new pets if there are foxes here and I'd never forgive myself if they were attacked. Do you think I should get them knowing there might be foxes here and, if so, do you think a new hutch would be safe enough? I'm not willing to keep them in my house at all times as i don't think its fair on them and they can make me sneeze if indoors.
Thanks for any advice,
I only want the best for these little creatures!
ANSWER: Hi Carra
I'm glad you're planning properly! Predators are always a concern. In your case I would recommend looking at rabbits rather than guineas, guineas really do best as indoor pets only.
You would need to make sure your garden fencing is solid and secure. At least 6ft tall and solid at the bottom where no tunnels can be dug. Foxes can jump 6ft fences but prefer to go under, making it more difficult for them may deter them.
You would also need to make sure the enclosure the rabbits are kept in are fully predator proofed. I would forget hutches, they are designed to store animals not interact with them! Instead look at dog kennels with runs or a shed with an aviary attached. These are much easier to customise and predator proof. You would need to make sure every door is secured with sliding bolts - a fox or cat can work out how to bat open little turning catches.
Here are some examples of good rabbit housing:
Here's a bunny fortress in a garden where the owner has dogs and also visiting foxes:
Behind that wall there's a playhouse and play area for the rabbits to have constant access to.
Hope I've inspired you!
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hello, thank you for all of your advice, it was very helpful. I am definitely going to get rabbits now as I didn't realise guineas should not be kept outside. Our fence is high and new and I'm going to seal up the area underneath where I think the fox buried under before. Those photos were brilliant and very inspiring! I don't quite have enough room (or money) for a new shed and aviary but I am trying to find the biggest hutch/run I can afford and one that I could extend in the future.
As I am at work all day, I think it would be best to get a hutch with a run attached for the bunnies to use through the day and then have a second larger run that I can put them in while I am at home (or let them have the run of the garden when supervised). Do you think this is a good idea? The hutches I have seen seem to either have 1) 2 tiers with an enclosed section on top and an open section of the same size underneath or 2) a large run area with a smaller enclosed section. I think the latter might be more suitable and I have attached an image of the kind I mean. I could also extend this type later on.
ANSWER: Hi Carra
The one in the picture looks like a cheap Chinese import. These hutches are 10 a penny on larger pet shop websites and in stores. They're made from cheap wood, poorly built and won't last very long. Not to mention none of them meet the Rabbit Welfare Association minimum sizing!
Rabbits need a hutch a minimum of 6ft x 2 x 2, permanently attached to a run of at least 6ft x 4ft (but 6x8 or larger is better). I recommend the runs being at least 3ft high, much easier for you to get in and the bunnies stand up and bounce around.
I recommend these sites for buying:
The latter is happy to build to your own specifications.
For access to a larger run you could also look into the Runaround system:
Carrying a bun to a larger run every day can actually make them wary of you as they hate being picked up. Mine sulk at me for several days after I've picked them up.
Also remember this is a set up you need to have easy access to in the sun, in the rain, in the snow, in the dark, so easy access and weather proofing are other things to consider!
Hope I helped!
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
I've had a look at those websites, and I see they are much better quality and a more adequate size. I think I'm going to give this more thought! I'm still not sure I'm happy leaving them outside at night and I don't have a plan for where they would go in winter. Thanks for all your help, it has certainly given me lots to consider.
I'm very glad you're giving this a lot of thought! Too many bunnies are bought on a whim.
Mine are outside 24/7, except in the mornings when they come into the kitchen for breakfast!
In the winter their hutch is wrapped up with blankets, duvets and plastic sheeting and the hutch packed to the roof with straw and hay, the bottom of one of their runs is covered in carpet tiles and blankets. You can get snugglesafes, which are microwavable heat pads (really handy not only for bunnies but also to prevent water bowls from freezing!). I do all this, and they potter down to the end of their grass run for a nap on the frozen ground in the snow! Can't win. They are very hardy in the winter, of course they must be in at least a pair never alone. It's the 30 degree summers that worry me more!
And at night, as long as you've done your predator proofing correctly and the rabbits have a good few hiding spots, it shouldn't be too much of an issue. I do worry on windy rainy nights, have even been known to potter outside in the dark and wind to check on them to find them snuggled up and staring at me in bewilderment wondering why I'm bothering them and whether I've brought treats for this rude interruption in their usual routine. Even thunder and lightening and 60mph gales haven't really bothered them. The most worried I've seen them is when a Blackbird is flitting around the garden alarm calling!
Good luck in your decisions!