When it comes to keeping rabbits, providing them with a safe and comfortable living space is essential. One of the most important factors to consider when building a rabbit hutch is the type of wood to use. Choosing the right wood is crucial to ensure the health and safety of your furry friends.
There are many types of wood that can be used for building rabbit hutches, but not all of them are safe. Cedar, for example, can be toxic to rabbits and cause serious health problems. Other woods may not be durable enough to withstand the wear and tear of outdoor use. Avoid using MDF as it can be toxic, especially if your rabbit chews on it. Plywood and untreated woods like pine or maple are popular choices.
In this post, we get into the intricacies of wooden rabbit hutches, and we feature some of the best wood for rabbit hutches. We also point out which wood you should NOT use for a hutch. And finally, we provide you with some guidance on how to go about designing one of the most satisfying projects – building a rabbit hutch.
Woods Not to Use for Rabbit Hutches
Be wary of the wood you choose for making a rabbit hutch. Rabbits are delicate creatures and can easily get affected by the chemicals used to treat the wood or even the natural resin within it. Here are some woods that you should not use:
Cedar in any form should be kept away from rabbits. Sometimes, people use cedar shavings for rabbit litter. But studies have confirmed that prolonged exposure to cedar shavings affected the normal functioning of the liver in rabbits. Scientists believe that the primary reason for the toxicity in cedar comes from the phenols that it produces. While these warnings are referring to loose cedar bedding, rabbits will likely try to chew wooden parts of the hutch so it’s best to avoid cedar altogether.
- Sources: (Rabbit Health News, 1991b) “Organic solvents in litter materials derived from preserved pine wood shavings or cedar chips have been reported to cause hepatotoxicity and are therefore inadvisable”
- The Dangers of Softwood Shavings.
Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)
MDF contains many toxic chemicals. The wood is toxic if ingested, and as we know, rabbits will eventually chew everything they can get their teeth on. Even when they do not chew the wood, MDF dust is toxic if inhaled. Due to the above reasons, it’s best to avoid using MDF for constructing rabbit hutches.
Pressure Treated Wood
We get various pressure-treated wood in the market, which exhibits superior properties in resistance to insects, moisture, sunlight, mold, and bacteria. But the chemicals that we use for treating this wood can play havoc on a bunny’s health.
So unless it’s outside the hutch like the legs, using pressure-treated wood for making a rabbit hutch is a strict no-no.
Other woods that are toxic to rabbits are as follows:
- Apricot (freshly cut branches are toxic)
- Black locust
- Almond (can produce cyanide)
- Balsam fir
Best Types of Wood for Rabbit Hutches
Now that we have dealt with the woods that are harmful to rabbits, let’s take a look at some of the best wood for rabbit hutches:
Other than the woods mentioned above, you can use almost any hardwood for making a rabbit hutch. With the thousands of varieties of hardwoods available, it is impossible to list out the safety of every single species. Oak and maple are common choices for their strength and resistance to weathering.
To be double sure, you can do a quick search on the internet to ensure that the wood you intend to use is safe for rabbits.
Almost every softwood is also suitable for making rabbit hutches. However, one factor about softwoods is that they tend to exude resins that might cause harm to rabbits.
*Pine shavings and green wood are known to produce phenols that are toxic to rabbits. However, solid dried pine lumber should be fine. Pine is a common wood used for hutches, however, be sure to check to make sure that the wood has been fully dried or pressure-treated. Local sawmills are often a great source of affordable untreated pine lumber.
So to play it safe, ensure that any softwood you use to make a rabbit hutch is completely dried.
Plywood is a highly durable and easy to cut wood. The issue here is that chemicals and glues that we use to manufacture the plywood can be toxic. To be on the safe side, use plywood for walls and roofs but avoid making shelves with it where chewable corners might protrude.
Things to Consider While Designing a Rabbit Hutch
Constructing a rabbit hutch is easier than you think. The first challenge, however, is what is the best wood to use. Now that we have all that sorted out, you need only to concern yourself with the basic requirements to consider.
Follow these tips to make an operational hutch that bunnies will love to move into!
There is no upper limit to how big a rabbit hutch you can make. However, the minimum area you should provide is 12 square feet, typically with dimensions of 6 feet by 2 feet. The rabbits should be able to move freely between the exercise space and living space.
To provide for bigger or more rabbits, you need to add extra space proportionately. While dealing with the space factor, also accommodate any objects you might like to add and factor it in your layout.
While dealing with the space factor, also consider the final location of the hutch. If you keep it indoors, you need to place it where it won’t cause an obstruction in the house.
If it is outdoors, you needn’t worry too much about where you place it. However, it is a good idea to place outdoor hutches in an area sheltered from the sun, rain, and snow.
We have dealt with this topic in detail above regarding the best wood you can use. But you may use non-wooden items like nails, screws, latches, wire mesh, plastic, or rubber. Ensure that the materials you use are non-toxic.
When it comes to aesthetics, we like to make rabbit hutches that look like cozy homes. It may not mean much to the rabbit, but it gives us a sense of satisfaction to build a rabbit hutch that looks smart to the (human) eye.
If you want to apply a finish to the wood after completion, ensure that the paint, varnish, or stain is non-toxic. There is a variety of pet-safe paints that you can get nowadays. Water-based paints are usually safe for use on rabbit hutches.
You would want to choose a flooring that wears well and is easy to clean daily. Linoleum is a good choice. If you want a harder material for your flooring, you can get safety flooring, which incidentally also has a better grip.
Ensure to seal the edges of the flooring material to avoid the rabbits from chewing on it. Sealing the flooring edges with a sealant also prevents liquid from accumulating below. Of course, you can use tiles as well, but the surface might become slippery.
Shelves and Ramps
Rabbits like to have ramps to climb and raised platforms or shelves to get a view of the outside world. There are no special rules for making these structures – it’s up to how creative you can get. Only take care not to use any toxic material.
Shelves also serve the purpose of providing extra floor space for a rabbit. You may not add a ramp for low shelves as the rabbits can jump easily between levels. However, higher shelves may need a ramp for the rabbit to access the shelf.
Ease of Cleaning
A final and very important aspect of a rabbit hutch is the ease of cleaning. Unfortunately, a major drawback of many commercially available rabbit hutches is that they are a nightmare to clean.
Design your rabbit hutch in such a way that you can easily detach the roof and clean the cage. When you reach into the hutch, it shouldn’t be deeper than the length of your arms to make for easy cleaning.
Do not allow inconvenient gaps that you will find awkward to clean. Also, using a tray on the flooring is a good idea. Then, when you need to clean the flooring, all you have to do is remove the tray, clean it and replace the cleaned tray after it dries.
Making a rabbit hutch is a highly rewarding project. Whether you make one for your rabbits or someone else’s, you will feel pleased seeing the rabbits scampering about in the new home that you created for them!
But as we have discussed in this post, you can’t go to the lumber yard and pick any random wood and start making a rabbit hutch. There are many considerations, especially from the toxicity angle, as rabbits are such delicate creatures.
But if you choose the right wood and follow a pattern like the steps we have outlined here, you can create a cozy rabbit hutch for a happy bunny!