6 Things to Consider Before Getting Backyard Bunnies
We are a family of animal lovers, and I have a soft spot for adopted animals! So when my kids first started asking for a rabbit, I started looking for rabbit rescues in our area. It turns out there were 5 in our city and one was just down the street. I grew up with a guinea pig and as a kid, I enjoyed feeding him fruit and vegetable scraps. With all the fresh produce we eat these days, I though it would be helpful to get rid of food scraps by feeding them to the rabbits. Little did I know that they would end up being backyard bunnies.
I started researching rabbits and in the end I focused on the items below. As you will see, I soon discovered that I missed several larger items!:
- Everyone was saying that rabbits need lots of room to run around – Ok, we could provide that!
- Rabbits are social so 2+ are ideal – OK, the place we were adopting from only had pairs!
- Rabbits are smart and can learn to use a litter box – Awesome!
- Rabbits can get along with Cats – we have 2 cats so this is great.
Now that we have had bunnies for over a year (it feels like 5 years), I can tell you what I actually needed to know.
Here’s what you really need to know about Raising Rabbits
1) Yes – They will eat your food scraps
My favorite thing about owing rabbits is feeding them our food scraps. They will eat almost anything! Here is just a small list of what we give them:
- Apple & Pear cores
- The peeled portion of carrots (or the whole carrot), cauliflower rinds, cantaloupe or watermelon rinds
- Beets, parsnips or other root vegetables
- Strawberry tops – almost any fruits really
- Herbs and dandelions
I have heard that every bunny is different but fortunately we got two bunnies that are not picky. I was able to get rid of the food waste bin on my counter – Yes!! I hated cleaning that thing.
2) Rabbits can Live Outside
The rescue lady gave us an awesome 2 story cage when we picked up the bunnies. So when we first brought them home, I set up the cage in a nook in our laundry room. It was perfect because we could close the room door and the bunnies could run around the room for exercise.
Well, after the first week, there was an indescribable stench in our home. The second we walked in to the house, we could smell it. It turned out that the rabbits were peeing on the wall. They had learned to used small baskets with hay, but they seemed to be missing and getting it on the wall. It was gross. It has a very strong smell, similar to cat urine. So that week I spoke to a fellow bunny owner. She told me that rabbits can live outside as long as they are out there in late spring/early summer when temperatures are mild. Then their bodies will acclimate slowly as winter approaches.
We have a large dog run in our yard that connects to a small shed. I put the rabbit cage out there and left the cage door open so they could run around.Our rabbits have officially spent an entire year outside and they made it through just fine! They seemed so much happier too. At the first frost, the rabbits started to fluff up and by winter they had a full, thick coat. They even ran around outside when it was snowing (they were protected from the snow). When spring came, they started molting and by summer they had a light coat again.
3) Rabbits can Agitate Asthma and Allergies
My daughter has both asthma and allergies. She is allergic to Cats (which we have!) and grass pollen. But she is not allergic to rabbits, so I didn’t think it would be an issue. It turns out that Hay and Alfalfa are a large part of a rabbits diet. We had to put hay in their poop baskets and also have some around for them to eat. The hay triggered my daughters allergies and she was always congested. Anytime she went into the rabbit room, she started sniffling and sneezing.
I have also heard that people who are allergic to cats are more likely to be sensitive to rabbits. I suppose it makes sense, All of this along with the smelly pee is enough to make anyone sick. If we weren’t able to move the rabbits outside, we probably would have had to take them back.
4) Rabbits Poop ALOT
When I was reading about how to care for rabbits, I knew that I would have to change their bathroom bin everyday. But I had no idea how much they were going to use it! It seriously made me gag the first few times. You can experience it for yourself, but just be prepared with rubber gloves and be sure to hold your breath! The picture above it after just one day.
Now that the rabbits are outside, they just poop where ever they want to. I didn’t try to litterbox train my rabbits, but I’m not sure they would have been able to learn anyway. I go out there in the evenings and sweep all the poop into the garden. Rabbit poop is compostable so it can go in the yard waste bin. It can also be used as fertilizer around the garden since it doesn’t smell.
5) How Long Do Rabbits Live?
Are you thinking 2-3 years, like I thought? Well, nope. They can live 9 – 11 years! At first, I couldn’t imagine cleaning up after these rabbits for 9 years, but now that we are 2 years in to it, it has just become a routine. It also forces me to get outside everyday.
Pet rabbits are surrendered all the time. To be honest, I can understand why, but it is still sad and preventable. The most important thing to consider before getting a backyard rabbit is the life span. Like I tell my children – you shouldn’t get a pet unless you plan to keep them forever. Trust me, I’m learning that lesson too.
6) Not All Rabbits Like to be Carried but They are Fun to Watch Anyway
After watching numerous YouTube videos on pet rabbits, I imagined that we would be sitting on the floor and petting our rabbits. In reality, we were mostly chasing our rabbits because they wanted to be as far away from us as possible. They have started to come to me when I go out at night, but I have stopped trying to pet them. And that’s ok, it’s still a nice relationship.
My favorite thing is watching them in their cage while we are outside. They love to lay in the sun and every once in a while they will stand on their hind legs and sniff the air. They eat all our food scraps on a daily basis, and I suppose that was their original purpose. So i’m happy! The kids barely pay attention to them, so they would have been just as happy without the bunnies.
Our dog loves to chase the rabbits from the outside of the cage, and the bunnies love to tease him by sticking their noses out and luring him over.
Do you have any tips to add? Or are you thinking of Getting a Bunny? Let me know what you think in the comments below! I’d love to see pictures of your bunnies too!