free range bunnies??

amiz5904(z8 NC)August 22, 2005

We had two really pretty rabbits turned in at Animal Control and unfortunately rabbit rescue is full (go figure). Anyway, I had the bright idea that I could take them home and let them live in my fenced-in yard. I'm just wondering if I keep them locked up in their hutch for about a week will they return to it at night (like my chickens) or am I completely delusional. I haven't had a rabbit since I was a kid and that poor thing was in a cage in the basement. My father set it "free" when us kids went away for a week. I can't imagine it lived very long. I'd like to think that I'm a little more responsible now.

Any input from you rabbit people would be really appreciated.


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I am a rabbit people...LOL...I have never tried to let them free range though so really can't give you any reliable advise. I had one escape one morning and when I found it, he came up to me so I could pick him up and put him back in his hutch.

I did see a program about some people that were buying a house and wanted an area for their rabbit to have to play on. If I remember correctly there was a small dog type house in the corner of the yard that would have been for their pet and they didn't have any dogs or cats for it must have been for the rabbit.

I don't know about letting one stay outside in a yard though. Are there any hawks or other predators in the area? Just wondering.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 8:10PM
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amiz5904(z8 NC)

Hi Jan,

Yes, I do have some predators but not very often. Of course I also have upwards of 175 chickens, turkeys and guineas so the rabbits might be hard to spot!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 8:34PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

Some things to think about...

Are these rabbits going to breed in your yard? What will you do with the offspring? Unless you are planning to raise the young for meat, please do not allow unplanned babies.

Some people do raise rabbits in "colonies"... it is more popular in Europe, by what I hear, than in North America. The rabbits will certainly enjoy the increased freedom - if they don't die of fright during their adjustment period - but it will be much more difficult to monitor their health and any disease may be transmitted right through the herd before you are even aware of it.

Have your considered the possibility of a "rabbit tractor". This way the rabbits can have a more natural life (on the ground, nibbling greens etc.) but will be contained and safe. It may be a compromise worth considering.

We have just started with rabbits. The people Brian bought them from had three does and six young in one cage - overcrowded and not very sanitary. We have separated them so each has its own cage, gradually changed their diet to include healthy things such as dandelions, plantain, clover and windfall apples and twigs. The cages are next to each other, so they can socialize, but each seems much more content with its own space. Rabbits are territorial, especially the does. Our two does are sisters but get along better now that there is wire mest between them. We are building a rabbitry for them and it will include an exercise pen on the ground, where each bunny can have a turn a few times a week running about on the ground and kicking up its heels. They love it - but they also love the security and familiarity of their own cage.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 9:52PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Here is a link to a company in the U.K. called Omlet, they make nifty little chicken or rabbit tractors which they call an 'Eglu':

I don't know if they ship outside the UK or if the product is available worldwide, but the Eglu looks well thought out and they claim it's fox proof! :)


    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 1:00AM
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amiz5904(z8 NC)

Maggie J, I share your concerns wholeheartedly!
The male bunny will definitely be neutered before he comes home - no babies. Unfortunately he probably has already bred her and with my luck she's pregnant. I guess time will tell. Either way, I'll neuter any male offspring and that hopefully will nip any further problems in the bud.

Velvet, thanks for the rabbit tractor info - I will definitely look into it. My rationale behind all of this was to not have anything else in the house that needs a cage cleaned by yours truly. I know many of you understand!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 8:08AM
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If you have any electric poultry netting you could set up an area for the rabbits with it but you would need to set it at an angle to the inside to keep the rabbits from digging under the fence. (basically the shock would get their ears if they got to close to the fence). They also will dig out of a tractor if you don't put some sort of slatted bottom in it.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 8:55AM
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lilith05(8a dfw)


You might try looking on the House Rabbit Society site. When I had a bunnie several years ago, they had lots of good information on how to house them and take care of them.

Good luck to you and your new buddies :-)


Here is a link that might be useful: House Rabbit Society - Outdoor & Indoor Hazards to Companion Rabbits

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 3:05PM
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DeweyLady(z8 TX)

Hi-I've been lurking on the forum for a few months but have never posted--but I thought I'd take a crack at this question. I've always had "free range bunnies" because it breaks my heart to keep them caged in a little hutch. My current bunny is in a dog run because we don't have a sound fence in the yard, but when I lived in town with a solid wood fence I always let them out. I kept them in the hutch for about two weeks, fed them and watered and handled them frequently. Then after about two weeks I'd just leave the door open. They rarely returned to the hutch, even in the rain--they found their own hideouts. One bunny liked it under our deck. She was particularly fond of Wheat Thins, and I could always entice her to hop over to me by calling her name and offering a Wheat Thin. I also put hay near the entrance to the "under-deck" when the weather started getting cool, and she would take it into her makeshift den. My only warning--they get less tame this way. The bunnies are infinitely happier, I think, while they're free range, but they are more wild--less likely to hop into your lap for a cuddle. My kids were disappointed, but I taught them to appreciate just watching her. Especially in the morning, my free-range bunny was a joy to watch. She'd do twirls and leaps in the air of the backyard as if she were leaping for joy! I never had a problem with predators because I always had plenty of hiding places in my yard. My cats left her alone. She would hide when my Schnauzer came outside, but they pretty much left each other alone. bunnies (I've had three this way) never tried to escape! They seemed to sense that life was sweet here and had no reason to wander.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 1:36PM
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amiz5904(z8 NC)

Thanks Lisa, that was nice to hear. I contacted the house rabbit club and of course was told that I should NOT let them out loose in the yard. No surprise there. I think that with any of these rescue groups you run across those kinds of sentiments. Of course my cats go outside too and they are much happier than when they used to be indoor only kitties. I suppose everybody has their opinions and I lean more towards giving my pets a happier life, even at the risk of possibly shortening it, rather than keeping them confined for an entire lifetime. I guess that sometimes you have to pick your battles.

I'm bringing them home tomorrow and will keep them confined for a while so that we can all get to know eachother. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks for everyone's input.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 1:49PM
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We kept a pet rabbit for a few years that had been dumped and I couldn't stand to keep it caged up. I just let her out for a little while at first and kept an eye on her and my dogs to make sure she'd be ok. I shut her up at night in a smaller dog pen for a long time but eventually quit doing that and she was ok. Mine burrowed a LOT mostly along our foundation. That's probably the biggest drawback. It's surprising how much they dig. She had a burrow that went back a few feet in sort of a u-shape that was under her house (that she did not use). She went into her burrow during the day when it was hot but would sit out in the middle of the fenced yard at night. She never tried to dig under the fence to escape however. When she started digging in new spots along our foundation, I had to fill it in and put a concrete block there so she couldn't dig it out again. She died recently and though I bawled, I am glad to own my backyard again. I didn't go get another rabbit. : )
Maybe if you keep yours shut up at night, they won't dig like mine did. They need shade and they need to gradually get used to eating more greens and less bunny food. Don't switch them over all at once. I still gave ours rabbit food year round, but she didn't eat much of it in the summer. In the winter, they will eat things that they didn't bother in the summer (like my hydrangea) no matter how much you feed them. : (
If they're loose, you can just put out a big bowl of water instead of using those drip waterers and it's easier to keep filled.
We have two shelties that shared the backyard with her and they have killed wild rabbits a couple times that ventured under the fence but they never bothered our pet rabbit. Our pet rabbit would run under their legs if she was feeling feisty but they usually ignored each other.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2005 at 6:35PM
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Just wanted to put in a plea to you to spay the female bunny, as well. The incidence of uterine cancer is very, very high in unspayed females.

I have two free-range house rabbits (yes, I'm one of *those* people) and two that live in a large pen indoors.

Life is safer for them indoors. I understand your dislike of a caged animal, but that is not the only way to keep rabbits indoors.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2005 at 10:38PM
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We had rabbits when I was a kid and put my little sisters old playpen to good use. Take the bottom out of a playpen or make some other cage out of a roll of chicken wire and just move it around. That way everybody's happy till they get acclimated. I would imagine that they might take revert and become a little wild if you turned them loose right away so if you want a really domesticated rabbit I think you need to keep it penned for a while.

I can't imagine what it costs to spay or neuter a rabbit - but its not a bad idea. My little sisters may have outgrown the playpen, but they were responsible for putting the girly bunny and boy bunny in to play together. Ahem... Every kid in my neigborhood had a rabbit by the time we grew up.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2005 at 12:40AM
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amiz5904(z8 NC)

Well, I brought the bunnies home last night. Until I figure out what kind of enclosure (if any) they will live in, I set them up in a cage inside the chicken coop. Well, stupid me hadn't counted on the fact that the chickens might not be too happy with that arrangement. Last night I went to lock them up and there were at least 10 of them still out and the ones inside weren't in their usual roosting spots. Needless to say they were less than pleased with their new visitors!

Laura, thanks for your input. I will eventually get the female spayed. I just wanted to get them home first. And just for clarification, I'm truly not criticizing "those" people! I understand where they're coming from and I was there myself once. If you had asked me 15 years ago if I would ever let my cats outside I would have said absolutely not. Changes in my living situation (i.e. living on a dead end road in a cul-de-sac) have made relaxing my standards a whole lot easier.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2005 at 4:54AM
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I had rabbits outside. I'd never do it intentionally. The link below explains why.

Here is a link that might be useful: Free Range Rabbits

    Bookmark   August 26, 2005 at 8:17AM
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That's a funny story Robin. It made me think of that commercial where the guy is waiting for his charge card to get approved (I think) and the rabbits keep multiplying.
Audrey will have hers in a fenced yard rather than running loose so it shouldn't be quite the disaster they had. You're getting them fixed right Audrey? lol
You can always get more later if you decide it's fun. Dogs or cats make better pets in my opinion. It's kind of you to adopt these since they were homeless Audrey. That's somewhat like our situation. We found our rabbit sitting beside the road in the wintertime with a hawk circling overhead so whatever we provided for her was better than the conditions she had. Someone no doubt had gotten tired of their Easter present and dumped it.
Laura mentioned uterine cancer. That's what our rabbit had. She was seven which I think is fairly old for a rabbit. Our vet said "most" female rabbits die of uterine cancer so it must be very common. We did try the litter box thing for awhile but she was full grown already when we found her and it didn't go very well.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2005 at 8:46PM
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Storrmynight(z4 VT)

I had my bunnies outdoors in a largish (for bunnies) run with a hay bale house for about a year until the male didn't come up (from underground) to breakfast one morning and I wouldn't make the female stay in the pen anymore. I let her out and kept an eye on the animals (we have 5 cats and two dogs) to see how they would react to Tulula being on their side of the fence. most didn't mind, I didn't have to break them up much as she was pretty quick to sprint away or would dish out a double barrel kick if anyone got too aggressive with her. I was proud of her for being able to take care of herself and now we get to play 'go find the rabbit' with the dogs as a training excersize. she still hops up to me all the time and will take treats and scratches sometimes. she loves almonds. Almost always when a new visitor comes to the house they ask if I know the rabbit is out. Yup, she likes it that way. a couple of people were actually scared at first. not sure what they thought she might do to them. maybe they had spoken with the dogs. :) I keep thinking I should get her a buddy but she's almost three now and has been on her own for awhile besides she has the goats and the chickens to hang out with if the cats are in a feisty mood. I've been told that rabbits are pretty territorial too so wouldn't want to make a good chesture into a nightmare for all involved. she gets grain in the winter and always has fresh water but basically Tulula is the most self sufficient animal on the place. Storrmynight in VT

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 4:58PM
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amiz5904(z8 NC)

Hi Stormy. My bunnies have been out for several weeks now and are doing great. They of course chose the vegetable garden (aka weed garden)as their home territory. I see them out every day hopping around and munching on stuff. I can still capture them if I need to so all is well thus far. And they are without a doubt the easiest pets I've ever had!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 6:31PM
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birdgardner(NJ/ 6b)

I would suggest spaying the female before letting her outside. We had one knocked up by a wild bunny. And they will mate immediately after delivery, with another litter in four weeks, so don't think the nursing period is safe.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 10:41PM
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Aunt_Net(z6 N of OKC)

I have lurked around this post for awhile, hope it is OK to add one more story.
A few years ago we had a bunny and kitten, about the same age together in the house. They shared the litter box and house and 4 kids to play with. When the bunny had chewed everything, including the electric cords on all applicances, DH built it a hutch next to all the other rabbits(can't remember why this one came in the house)anyway, it didn't like the hutch and would chew its way out and escape into the yard, unfenced and next to a highway but the back was open field.
Bunny stayed around for about 2 years, coming to visit the others in hutches and looking for treats, the cat would go out and play and the dog stayed far, far away, I have no idea why.
So we concluded that rabbits who have been free-range don't take well to being caged. I know we still get a kick out of pulling out the old pictures and looking at Bunny visiting.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 10:00AM
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I was wondering if anyone who let their bunnies free range ever had any trouble with fleas or ticks? If so what do you treat them with?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 6:31PM
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We have 14 rabbits. My husband initially got 1 male and 2 females with the intention of breeding them for meat. He is Egyptian and likes to eat rabbits. (Not me! Too cute to eat!) The hutch we have them has two separate living quarters and is plenty large for two or four adult rabbits... but now that both females have successfully birthed and weaned their babies, they are way too crowded. We have an outdoor play area (small fenced kennel) that we put them in during the day, and they love it. Because it is a very simple structure, uncovered on top and easy to dig under, we don't leave them in there at night, and we have to monitor frequently to ensure the rabbits are all there. I have suggested to my husband that we try the "free-range" approach, and he is convinced the rabbits would just leave. After reading these stories I am even more convinced that they would stay, but I can't seem to convince him. He is also worried about predators such as foxes and raccoons. Has this been a problem for anyone? Do you all live in the city? We are out in the country and we have seen foxes here before. I really want to let them run free though. He is planning to build a large dog run but I think that if a fox or raccoon does manage to get inside, the rabbits are sitting ducks. At least if they're free they have a chance of escaping predators. What do you guys think? Also, what about in winter time? For those of you who have had success with free-range rabbits, do you provide any additional heated boxes or anything during cold weather? I'm in NC so we don't get lots of snow, but we definitely have freezing temperatures and our fair share of ice and fatally cold temperatures. Suggestions?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2007 at 12:38PM
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I started out with three bunnies that we 'thought' were all female. I also have 18 chickens. We put them all in the chicken coop which has a large indoor and large outdoor area. The outdoor area is also covered on top with chicken wire. The bottom edges has the wire going under ground for a little ways inside the area. Our bunnies did mate, 'as one turned out to be female' and they all dug tunnels under the doorway of the indoor part of the coop, 'The hen house'. The tunnels lead all the way to the other side of our hen house and out into the open. We live way back in the woods in the country in northern Michigan. Our bunnies only go all the way out occasionally but mainly stay inside the caged area. They have a good 10 by 14 feet to run in the outside part and seem to feel safe there. One time a wild rabbit did make it through the tunnel to the inside and I'm sorry to say, my male rabbits killed him. Nothing else has ever come through the tunnel to the inside. My rabbits run up to me when I enter to feed them and the female stands up on her back legs looking up at me. It's so cute how they greet me when I enter the area. I realize they might not make it long with the tunnel there in case they go out and something gets to them. But the life they do have now is worth every second since they're so happy. I also will not have them neutered or spayed as I want them to live as wild rabbits would live, as I believe they should have the chance to live, breed, roam, etc. My chickens don't even seem to care that they're there and sometimes my rabbits will share the indoor area with my chickens at night as I leave their door cracked open a little for air. 'The chick coop door is open to the outside caged area'. All my animals are very happy and healthy. In face, my chickens are laying more eggs now that it's winter and everything I've read said they would slow down. They all get the right foods and plenty of treats. When my grandchildren visit, I sometimes let them go in a pet and play with the chickens and rabbits so they're used to people. They DON'T pick up the rabbits though mainly because sometimes children don't pick up animals in a correct way and I don't want them hurt. So far, all is well and I will most likely find homes that also allow some amount of free range for the baby rabbits which should be ready any time now to go. Hope all this information helps someone who would like to try some amount of free range with their bunnies.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2010 at 8:46PM
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we used to rause rabbits for several reasons when i was a teen, we kept all the rabbits in cages, except one, the buck. whose name was buck, we let him run wild alot, he was even able to get out of the yard and go out into the woods behind the house, he would always come back and he never went wild, we could go right up to him and pick him up and put him in his cage for a kuk rest, after a day or so and some alone time with a gf we let him have his freedom, we didnt worry about him, he was strong and able to take care of himself, this we know for a fact.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 8:28PM
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Hi just joined forum. Scarlet is a lion head someone was trying to give back to the pet store when I was was in there one day. No idea why, she is an amazing bunny. I kept her in a cage for about two months, then started opening the cage door during the day. She would wonder around and then I would lure her with treats back into the cage at night. Eventually I just started leaving her out at night too. She comes to me every morning when I bring her fruits and veggies. She knees her name and enjoys me petting her, even dressing her up with jewelry and etc. for a "photo shoot". She is a very happy bunny!!

I realize her life may be shortened by some tragedy at some point, but she is very good at darting clear of the dogs, and she burrows to keep herself both cool and safe. She never wonders very far from her original pen area although we have two acres and no fence. I think it was a good choice for her to be free range, and this forum helped me make that decision. Thanks to all!

This post was edited by Kellyeh on Sat, Jun 28, 14 at 9:48

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 9:46AM
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Hi I just joined group. I have 4 bunnies they live out side I have
hutches for them but doors are left open all year round and I have
large dog runs that go right round hutches so they get best
of both worlds and are safe. they have a snugle dark part
If they want it. lovely group .

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 4:58AM
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Hi I just joined group. I have 4 bunnies they live out side I have
hutches for them but doors are left open all year round and I have
large dog runs that go right round hutches so they get best
of both worlds and are safe. they have a snugle dark part
If they want it. lovely group .

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 4:59AM
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