Dear Homeward Bound: Can rabbits live happily outdoors in hutches?

Dear Homeward Bound,
My friend and I have been arguing about whether rabbits can live happily outdoors in hutches. She says yes because all rabbits are meant to live outdoors anyway and they are safe from predators. I disagree because all the rabbits I see in hutches are usually just sitting there on poopy wire and I don’t see how that could make a bunny happy. Is it OK?
Dear Curious,
I am glad to know you and your friend are talking about what kind of life an animal needs to be happy. It is an important conversation!
In this case, I agree with you. It’s not so much that a rabbit shouldn’t be outdoors. In fact, supervised outdoor time is really important for bunnies to be able to run and jump and nibble. The problem with hutches is that they really don’t meet a bunny’s needs for exercise and socialization. Weather extremes can even endanger bunnies. In addition, most hutch flooring is wire and wood, both of which can be bad for a bunny’s feet.
Like all animals, bunnies will develop close bonds with their caretakers and they often show this by flopping over when getting petted or snuggled. It’s pretty hard to flop over in a wire hutch and I don’t know about you, but I would be a lot more likely to snuggle my bunny on the living room carpet then to put boots and jacket on and go outside to the hutch.
I think many bunnies end up in hutches when people get frustrated by the fact that they chew — wires, wood, carpet, books, you name it. That is frustrating and it is important to make sure you have a way to contain your bunny inside when he or she is not in the cage. A great solution is a round puppy playpen. They can run and hop and stretch out without getting access to anything they might destroy.
And, when the warm spring weather comes, you can take the puppy playpen outside and let them enjoy breezes and fresh spring grass safely.
Happy Almost Spring,
Homeward Bound

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