After you buy or build your rabbit hutch, the first thing that you have to put in your mind is – ‘this is my pets home’. And just like your home, it will need regular maintenance and cleaning to stay safe and comfortable. Unfortunately, your rabbit can’t do its own home maintenance and cleaning, and cant ‘dial-a-repair’ either. So it is 100 percent dependent on you to make sure that the hutch stays in good condition.
The following 3 tips will help ensure better protection and health for your pet rabbit(s) and save you money by prolonging your hutch’s lifespan.
1. Protect your Hutch from Day-One.
Wooden rabbit hutches are mainly made of organic and biodegradable materials that need regular maintenance to prolong its lifespan. As soon as the hutch comes in your front door, and before you put in the new residents, you should immediately apply some sort of protective coating on the wood so as too waterproof it. Only then should you put it outdoors. When you buy a hutch check to see if it already comes with some type of waterproofing included.
2. Perform Regular Maintenance
As we said before, your pet depends solely on you to keep its home in good condition. To save you time, and avoid last-minute ‘help it’s coming apart’ scenarios, you should do simple maintenance checks every two months and an annual in-depth maintenance. The annual check should be done during the summer months. This is because wood is porous and takes in water/moisture during the autumn and winter months. In the summer, wood is dryer and accepts better the protective coatings that you can apply.
The majority of the protective coating products available on the market today are water based and non-toxic, but it’s an issue that you must always be sure to clarify before buying. Don’t forget that rabbits are pets that like to chew, nibble and scratch, and, as the years go by, you’ll find out that their hutch is also ‘chewable’, especially on the inside. So first of all, make sure that the coating product is non-toxic and then do not apply it on the inside. Also keep your pet far away while applying the product and allow enough time for it to fully dry before returning it to the hutch.
Normally, the roof is the section that suffers the most in a rabbit hutch. This is because it takes the most beating during the cold/wet winter months, and also during the hot summer months. These extremes make the wood constantly expand and contract, and naturally leads to cracks that will breakdown the hutch isolation from the elements. That’s why an annual maintenance is so important.
The regular two month checks that you should do, mainly involve things like checking that the latches are working properly, that the wiring doesn’t have any holes in it (or if it’s loose), that there aren’t any nails sticking out and that could hurt the animals, etc… All simple things that will only take a few minutes to check and repair, but ensure that you will have less headaches down the line.
One important thing to look out for is mildew, since it will affect not only the hutch itself but also your rabbit(s) health. So, if spotted, treat it right away.
When choosing what rabbit hutch to buy, you might also consider the future maintenance factor in your choice. A hutch with a removable roof is the most versatile. This will allow you easy access to the inside for cleaning and re-bedding. Look for a design that will require as little potential maintenance as possible other than the seasonal surface coatings. Plastic type hutches will be durable and come with an almost maintenance free ticket but make sure they are right for your animal and are planet friendly. However, wood is still the main choice, much more adapted to its function and are much better looking.
3. Keep the Hutch Clean
This is where the uh-oh’s start appearing. Yes, you have to clean the hutch. It’s like mowing the lawn. If you don’t do it regularly, it will be much harder to do in the future. The easiest way is to just set a regular day and time for the task and do it. You’ll find out that after the third or fourth cleaning the task will become a normal routine and won’t pose any hardship on your side. And in your hutch is outdoors don’t put it ‘out of sight, out of mind’ otherwise you regret it later. Indoor hutches will usually be cleaned more regularly, because it will otherwise start to smell…
Cleaning is one of the best ways to maintain the rabbit hutch in tip-top condition, because it will prevent a lot of unwanted problems like organic moisture from the animal’s droppings and even uninvited guests like insect infestations.
Use a wire brush on the exterior of the hutch, to take out all the debris, fur, leaves and twigs. Do this also on the cage wire. This will prevent rubbish to accumulate, prevent moisture to set in and will not allow the cage wire to rust. When brushing, be sure not to damage the coating that you gave to the outside of the hutch.
The cleaning of the inside of the hutch will depend a bit on what type of setup you. First of all you’ll have to remove the bedding, which will probably be shredded newspaper or wood chips (don’t use pine or cedar wood – harmful to the animals). This is a simple ‘pick up and throw away’ routine. However, this uncovers will uncover the biggest problem in your cleaning routine… bunny urine! This urine will soak into the wood flooring and develop into an ammonia smell that is harmful if not properly dealt with. For this you can use bleach or vinegar (both diluted in water, of course). Vinegar isn’t so aggressive to the animals, because its smell doesn’t stay for so long and it’s a more organic product. In any case, be sure to rinse with clean water and give time to dry before putting the rabbit(s) back in.
On the other hand if your hutch has floor fencing, then be sure to clean all feces, since accumulating means one thing… parasites.
If you follow these 3 tips, a good outdoor rabbit hutch should last you for years and years. It just takes a few minutes of your time every week, and one or two hours every year for the in depth maintenance. Nothing that won’t be fully compensated by the joy of having healthy and playful rabbits the whole year round.