Exercising your rabbit during winter

Rabbits in the wild lead very active lives. They are constantly nibbling grass, hopping, running about, jumping and of course burrowing! Anyone keeping a pet rabbit should give their bunny a suitable space and environment to exercise so they can do all of these things in captivity.

Top tips on how to exercise your rabbit 

Here are some tips on how to achieve this and really give your bunny a fun and healthy life:

  • Remember you should never keep a rabbit on its own. Wild rabbits always live in colonies so let your bunny have at least one friend. Rabbits will cuddle up together for warmth and also use up energy playing with each other. For advice on introducing two rabbits to each other >
  • A hutch should only ever be a shelter, never the sole/ main accommodation for your rabbits.
  • We would suggest you have an exercise run permanently attached to the hutch, so that your rabbits have full time access to it. The rabbits themselves can then decide when to rest and sleep and when to exercise and play.
  • If your hutch is separate from the run area, and you just put them in there for a few hours in the daytime, it probably won’t suit their body clocks as rabbits are most active at dusk and dawn. Having an “all in one arrangement” solves this problem and allows you a lie in!
  • If you choose a traditional hutch as a bedroom for your rabbits, it needs to be big enough for a rabbit to takes three hops and to stretch fully upright. We recommend a hutch no smaller than 6ft x 2ft x 2ft. It should have an attached exercise run of minimum 8ft long, 6ft wide and 3ft tall. This provides a total area of 10ft x 6ft x 3ft - a minimum area for a couple of bunnies to thrive and be happy in. It may sound large but in reality is only four average hops!
  • Think carefully about the construction of your run. Grass is okay but not ideal in winter as the ground will become cold and muddy. A concrete / paving slab area is probably preferable but adding a patch where there is grass and somewhere to dig such as a sandpit or large planter filled with earth, would make it ideal. Remember bunnies will dig out of any run if they can, so a pen on earth/turf will need to be made secure by fitting mesh quite deeply around the perimeter. Search for “Anti-dig kits”.
  • Be imaginative with your accommodation. Place platforms, ramps and tunnels on different levels so that your bunnies have fun playing and hiding. You don't have to have quite such a large footprint if you build your area “upwards”! For instance your hutch can be elevated, reached by a ramp ladder with running space underneath. This applies whether your bunnies are kept indoors or out.
  • Place toys in the area. Boxes and pipes are great for chasing and hiding. Hanging baskets (the type sold in garden centres) make great hay racks that your bunnies will stretch and reach to get at. Put in wooden balls made of wicker for them to chew and push around – all great exercise!
  • Garden sheds can be the perfect winter home for bunnies. Made of wood they are naturally insulated but can have additional roof insulation fitted if there is a cold spell. Cover windows with material curtains - out of chewing reach! The floor space is adequate for exercise even if it is so cold and wet outside that they won’t go out!
  • Except in extreme weather, it is probably best to keep rabbits outside if that is what they are used to. They will grow thick fur and will not tolerate normal house temperatures for long if brought indoors.
  • Winter rarely effects rabbits who live indoors. They should have their normal safe, warm, secure accommodation already set up. If you normally take your house rabbit outside in the summer to have a nibble of grass – you will probably just have to dedicate more time for playing indoors!

Remember

If you provide your rabbit with the right diet – mostly hay and grass, and you provide accommodation where they are safe, clean and can be as active as they would be in the wild; then your bunnies should remain naturally fit and not overweight without you having to do anything else.