When the weather turns milder, small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs love the opportunity to spend lots of time outdoors in the garden, grazing on fresh grass and enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. However, as prey animals, it’s essential that you know they are safe and secure at all times.
When it comes to rabbits, good security is particularly important during spring and early summer. The longer days and warmer weather can trigger periods of increased activity and extensive digging – and a desire to explore pastures new – even if that’s just next door’s garden.
During spring, wild rabbits are at their peak breeding time, with hormones massively heightened. This ‘spring fever’ can also affect pet neutered bunnies who may become uncharacteristically aggressive and seek to dig out new burrows. What’s more, with their curious nature and feet just made for digging, a determined bunny can tunnel, gnaw and wriggle their way through all manner of cracks and crevices.
DID YOU KNOW?
When we see rabbits digging, we usually imagine that they are trying to construct a burrow. However, there are other reasons that rabbits dig – to uncover food, to expose cool earth to rest on, to try to escape, or to try to get attention.
The outdoor kit you choose plays an essential part in keeping your rabbits or guinea pigs safe. It has to be strong, secure, durable, carefully designed to suit the housing needs of small animals and fit for purpose. Look for:
- Mesh runs with appropriately sized holes that will keep small pets safe when exploring outdoors.
- Mesh floor tunnels that provide extra security and prevent buns from digging their way out.
- Connection kits that provide a secure burrow pipe and doorsystem to safely link small animal hutches and houses to their runs and other enriching spaces.
- A dig box that you can fill with soil or compost, so your buns have a safe place to let rip with their urge to dig without the risk of escaping or ruining your garden.
Choosing a connectable kit is also well worth considering, as layouts can be made to suit the size and shape of your garden and you can gradually add to your existing small pet environment.
- You can start by simply connecting your own hutch to your own run so your pets have the choice of being in or out, whenever they like.
- Then, add on burrow pipes, mesh tunnels and run extensions to increase the distance your pets can travel.
- You could end up creating a wonderful, complete overland warren with den pipes, hutches and top boxes – adding more interesting spaces for your small furries to explore and enjoy, in complete safety.
DID YOU KNOW?
Guinea pigs are active for up to 20 hours a day and sleep only for short periods. They need plenty of space to exercise when they’re awake with lots of safe hiding places – such as willow tubes, tunnels and den snugs with some cosy bedding material and deep piles of hay inside – where they can snuggle in for a nap.
Don’t forget to check if your garden is pet friendly
If you let your rabbits or guinea pigs enjoy some free roaming time in your garden, it’s always best to remain outside with them as your presence can deter any would-be predators such as foxes, cats or birds of prey. When you can’t supervise them, pop them back into their enclosure.
Also check there’s nothing in your garden that can cause them harm:
- Have a scout around to make sure there’s nothing – such as gardening equipment propped up against fences or heavy plant pots – that could fall on them.
- Survey your plants – are there any that are dangerous to rabbits and guinea pigs? Lots of common garden plants can be harmful, especially anything growing from a bulb (snowdrops, daffodils etc) and evergreen trees and shrubs. PDSA has a comprehensive list here >>
- Pet-friendly plants you can add to your garden include camomile, lavender, yarrow and sunflowers. Many common garden ‘weeds’ are also great for buns and piggies to munch on, including clover, nettles, dock, daisies and dandelions.
- Keep bunnies and guinea pigs safely away from any lawnmower cuttings – munching on these can cause dangerous stomach upsets.
- Ditch the garden chemicals – pesticides, fertilisers, herbicides, fungicides, slug pellets, rat poisons, and other garden treatments can all be fatal to bunnies and guinea pigs. The Wildlife Trusts has lots of great tips and advice on creating a chemical-free garden.
- Make sure wild rabbits can’t get too close to your pets as they can carry harmful diseases that can be passed to pet bunnies. If you have mesh fences where rabbits could have nose-to-nose contact, build another fence half a metre beyond it to make sure wild rabbits keep their distance. Ensure your buns are fully vaccinated against myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD-1 and RHD-2).
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