If you have ever seen your rabbit jumping around in the garden in a meadow, you will know that the free-range attitude is a lot of fun for your rabbit and offers a high degree of joie de vivre. Similar to an outdoor cat, this type of pose is much closer to your rabbit’s natural habits and offers a wide variety of activities and exercises. However, as with any type of husbandry, there are a few basic things to consider in order to minimize the dangers to your rabbit in the wild as much as possible.
Overnight in a Secure, Closed Enclosure
First of all, the basics. Not all freewheels are the same. Letting a rabbit jump freely in the garden without a demarcated enclosure requires a much higher level of discipline and patience on your part. If your rabbit can move around freely all day, it may not be very happy to be recaptured in the evening. A sufficiently secured, fenced free-range enclosure offers more comfort for the keeper and a connected transition to the night stable makes it easier to retreat to safety. It is important for any kind of free run: The rabbit belongs back in the barn at night. Because it is precisely then that the rabbits’ predators can strike unobserved.
Wild Animals and Predators
The wild rabbit knows some predators, but knows how to camouflage itself and, in an emergency, to flee by quickly hitting the hook. Unfortunately, your domesticated rabbit has forgotten some of these characteristics and is therefore exposed to the access of some wild animals. At night these are mainly the fox and other medium-sized predators. But also during the day, other animals can be dangerous to your rabbit. A stray hound quickly picks up your rabbit’s scent, and a fence that is too small and not adequately secured can be knocked over quickly by a larger dog. An outdoor cat can also be dangerous for young rabbits and an additional net over the fence secures your little rabbit. The net also provides effective protection against birds of prey such as the hawk. Even if a full-grown, large rabbit does not necessarily fit into its prey scheme, it can happen that it makes at least one attempt.
Not even a direct attack is dangerous for your rabbit. If the outdoor enclosure is too small and the predator comes too close, the panic that is triggered often leads to sudden death in shock. Protection therefore not only offers secure fastening and securing of the fence but also correct positioning. Opportunities to evade and hide offer your rabbit additional security and help if an unwanted visitor should turn up.
Skipping and Digging Through
Along with other pets and wildlife, the next danger to your rabbit is breaking out. A domesticated rabbit has little chance of survival in the wild but may still attempt to go for a long walk. It is therefore important to prevent the rabbit from running away when it is free. Since even tamed rabbits can jump well, a fence with a minimum height of 110 cm is recommended. You should also pay attention to whether there are houses or other objects to climb too close to the fence. Otherwise, your rabbit will use this as a jump aid.
If the way up is secured, only the way under the fence remains. Rabbits tend not to dig on a solid lawn. The sward is too tight and it is not in the rabbit’s temperament to start digging there. Loose ground or an area that has already been excavated is more dangerous. Just watch out for digging spots regularly and if your rabbit tends to do so – then simply fill up the holes that have already been dug and cover them with a stone slab.
Heat and Drought
As nice as a mild summer day maybe for you, your rabbit is extremely sensitive to heat due to its warm fur and small circulation. Long, direct sunlight and a lack of places to retreat are fatal for your rabbit and when positioning a free-range enclosure, it is essential to pay attention to shade. A weatherproof shelter or a canopy helps by providing sufficient shade and can also be very useful in the event of a sudden change in weather. Please always remember: The sun is moving and even if it looks like there is enough shade when you set it up, you should check the location every now and then during the day. If there are consistently shaded areas within the open space, there is nothing wrong with a hot summer day outdoors for your rabbit.
In addition, of course, a sufficient supply of fresh water and fresh food containing water is important in the warm summer months and must not be neglected. A secure attachment of drinking bottles and feeding bowls guarantees that your rabbit always has access to all necessary feeding stations, even in your absence.
Conclusion on the Free-Running Attitude
As you have now read, there are many dangers in free-running that await your rabbit. Of course, a rabbit kept in a cage does not have these dangers. Nevertheless, there is a lot to be said for taking this risk and not locking your rabbit away in a high-security area. A rabbit kept in the apartment can also be endangered. Because of boredom and a lack of variety, it gnaws at plastic or crawls into gaps that are too narrow, from which it can no longer free itself.
The quality of life gained and the more species-appropriate animal husbandry speak clearly in favor of free-range husbandry. So when you have enough space to make this dream come true for your rabbit, this is something you should think about. With careful construction and a good selection of the free-running area, you can minimize many of the dangers and even eliminate some. The quality and size of the enclosure should be in the foreground when making the decision, then nothing stands in the way of your rabbit’s free-running fun.