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Nutrition Team Blog

A hutch is not enough!

Published: Monday, December 12, 2011

A few weeks ago myself and my colleague Becka attended the RWAF (Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund) annual conference.

There were two streams of lectures – one for owners and one for vets and those with a little more rabbit knowledge. We attended the latter and it was extremely informative including lectures about anorexia, skin and ear disease.

However, we were very interested to listen to Sharon Redrobe’s lecture

A Hutch is not enough, Really??

A scientific study at last.

A comparison of hutch, pen and runaround systems.

The RWAF has been running a campaign called ‘A Hutch is not enough’ http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/pdfs/HutchisnotenoughLft.pdf trying to highlight the fact that rabbits who are frequently left neglected at the end of the garden also need SECS (space, exercise, companionship and stimulation). This campaign also draws attention to the small and inadequate hutches which are still for sale.

Sharon spoke about a study that a student undertook regarding rabbits and their behaviour. They looked at three different systems and measured activity levels and behaviour:

A hutch on its own – but it did adhere to minimum welfare standards (6 x 2 x 2 foot)

A hutch with a run attached and permanent access to the run

A hutch with the Runaround system attached  http://www.runaround.me

All the hutches were the same size and all the rabbits were in pairs. Each pair were allowed time in every system twice and they were observed at times when they are naturally more active (dawn and dusk).

Just before this conference I had decided to get a walk in aviary/run built so my own four rabbits could have permanent access to their run but get back into their hutch when they wanted. However, as the lecture progressed I started to wonder whether I had made the wrong choice as the Runaround system looked more in keeping with a rabbit’s natural behaviour.

BUT to our surprise when the behaviours were compared there was a different winner. The hutch on its own came last with less activities displayed by the rabbits and there was little difference between the hutch with the run and the Runaround system – however the hutch with the run was just ahead than the Runaround system. Of course this may change if the study was repeated or done during a different season so more research is needed. The conclusion is though that both a run or a Runaround system are better than a hutch alone – so a hutch is definitely not enough!

So I went ahead with my aviary. In total it is 15 foot by 12 foot. It is 6 foot high so I don’t have to bend to get into it. As my two pairs of rabbits will fight if they even see each other the middle panel has a screen to stop any such issues. At the moment the run is on a patio to allow my grass to grow back but in the summer each pair will get daily access to the grass (during the winter they have plenty of hay and greens to make up for the lack of grass).

I hope they like it! And I hope this gives you some ideas of things you can try with your rabbits. Many people buy a shed instead of a hutch these days to allow maximum space to live. If this seems like a lot of expense for ‘just a rabbit’ then perhaps you need to consider if a rabbit is really the right pet for you.


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