How to help your bunnies get all the exercise they need

To encourage your bunny chums to like to move it, move it, create an exciting space where they can hop, run, jump, explore and forage

Posted: 28 May 2020

How to help your bunnies get all the exercise they need

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How much exercise do pet rabbits need?

Astonishingly, a wild rabbit would run about five miles a day. Pet bunnies differ in their exercise needs according to age and breed. Rabbit expert and author of Bunnyhugga (a non-profit website that raises the profile of rabbits as pets) Hannah E Davis says: “They are designed to run very fast in short bursts and dodge and twist to escape predators – this is why you often see rabbits ‘binkying’ (leaping in the air and racing around). Younger rabbits tend to be a lot more active and are more likely to exhibit destructive behaviour such as chewing furniture or the bars of their cage if they are bored. Older rabbits usually sleep more but still need regular exercise. Larger breeds tend to be less active than small or dwarf breeds, while neutered or spayed rabbits slow down a little. Ideally, rabbits should be able to exercise whenever they want to but a minimum of four hours free run a day is recommended, ideally split into two exercise periods morning and evening of about two hours each.”


LET YOUR BUNS COME AND GO AS THEY PLEASE

It’s much easier to provide pet rabbits with the necessary exercise if their exercise run is permanently attached to their hutch/cage, so they can come and go as they please. Rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk – they’re ‘crepuscular’ – so lifting them from hutch to run for a few hours in the daytime just doesn’t suit their body clocks and instincts. 

Source: Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund


Why is exercise so important for bunnies?

Burgess in-house vet, Dr Suzanne Moyes, advises: “Without adequate exercise, the skeletal frame of a pet rabbit suffers. Exercise helps young rabbits develop a healthy bone structure and helps adult bunnies maintain a healthy physique. If bunnies don’t have enough to do, they’ll get bored and may overeat, causing obesity. For rabbits, being overweight makes it harder for them to move about, causing a range of health problems. These can include heart problems and arthritis – and the fur on the back of their legs may get worn away, making their skin sore. And, if they can’t turn around to clean themselves properly, they can become vulnerable to flystrike (when flies lay eggs, which hatch into maggots and eat the rabbit’s flesh). Bored, inactive rabbits may also over-groom themselves, making them susceptible to hairballs.”

What sort of exercise do rabbits need?

  • As well as a chance to run, buns need an exciting space where they can hop, jump, explore and forage and do all the things that come naturally to bunnies.
     
  • To encourage them to be more active, give your bunnies plenty of things to do – tunnels to run through, toys to investigate and play with and a chance to dig. A shallow tray filled with potting compost is ideal.
     
  • As prey animals, rabbits also need constant access to safe hiding places where they can escape if they feel afraid, as well as platforms from which they hop on and off to can scan their environment for threats. 

Dr Moyes says: “Enrichment is really important. Interesting environments that encourage physical and mental stimulation will create a happy place for your buns to explore and encourage natural behaviours, which is vital to your rabbits’ health and wellbeing.” 


HEALTHY EATING IS IMPORTANT TOO

Rabbits should be fed in a way that is as close as possible to their natural diet: mostly grass or hay. We recommend providing some fresh leafy vegetables and a small amount of commercial feed. The long fibre of grass or hay is vital to their digestive, behavioural and dental health.

Source: Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund

Find out more about feeding your rabbit >> 


Hannah E Davis says: “Rabbits are very inquisitive and enjoy exploring. It’s a good idea to have a range of suitable toys – give your rabbits different ones to play with each week to keep them interested.”

Playing games with your rabbit is a great way to prevent boredom, encourage exercise and get to know them a bit better. 

Hannah E Davis shares some rabbit game tips: “One of the simplest games is to sit or lie on the ground and let your rabbits approach you. They will probably hop on and off you from every direction, investigate every bit of your clothing (watch out for nibbles!) and may even lick your face as a sign of affection. You can build an obstacle course for your rabbits out of cardboard boxes, tunnels, newspapers and so on. 

“Many rabbits love jumping so you could even create a set of jumps. Some rabbits like playing with footballs or basketballs, rolling them around the floor, digging at them or even running after them. Remember that rabbits tire quickly – so if your rabbit flops down after a few minutes, give it a chance to rest and recover. Never force your rabbits to play with you – they will let you know when they've had enough!”


BUNNIES NEED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH

Wild rabbits live in colonies, never on their own. Rabbits should be kept in neutered pairs or compatible groups. Recent scientific research has confirmed that rabbits suffer from stress and loneliness if kept alone as they value companionship as much as food.

Source: Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund

Find out more about introducing a new bunny buddy >>


How can I keep my bunnies safe?

This is a very important consideration. We’ve lots of useful advice on how to prevent a great escape, identifying and removing hazards and protecting your bunnies against predators in our guide to rabbit-proofing your garden >>

You can also find some great ideas for runs and hideaways at Runaround. This innovative, connective rabbit run system can connect any hutch to any run with a Runaround door and burrow pipe which safely transports your pets out of their hutch and into their run. You can also add on Runaround tunnels, hides and runs to increase the distance your pet can travel or go for a complete overland warren!


Would you like more top bunny advice?

Here are some useful guides you can download: 

Burgess Excel provides nutritionally-balanced rabbit nuggets for adults, juniors, dwarfs, mature and indoor bunnies – there’s even a light variety for bunnies on the tubby side. View the full range here >>


If you found this interesting, you may also like:

MAKING HAY-TIME PLAYTIME FOR BUNNIES Rabbits need to eat their own body size in hay every day to stay healthy. Our in-house vet Dr Suzanne Moyes advises on how to help your bunnies munch their way through their daily ration by making hay-time a fun experience

HAPPY BUNNIES? Find out exactly what your rabbits need to be contented cottontails

HOW TO HANDLE YOUR RABBITS The way you pick up your rabbits has a direct impact on their welfare, according to latest research. Our in-house vet Dr Suzanne Moyes explains the right ways to handle your rabbits with care

GET EVEN CLOSER TO YOUR RABBITS Getting into the habit of carrying out regular health checks can make all the difference to the health and happiness of your beautiful bunnies, advises our in-house vet Dr Suzanne Moyes

BUNNY TALK Rabbits are highly social animals with a complex language all of their own. By learning to understand their body postures, behaviours and vocalisations, you’ll uncover their individual personalities

BONDING WITH YOUR SMALL PETS Handfeeding is a great way to build a closer bond with small animals. It takes time to build trust, but when your little friend finally feels confident enough to take a treat from your hand, it’s a special moment

 

 

Sources: bunnyhugga.com, rspca.org.uk, pdsa.org.uk, rabbitwelfare.co.uk

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