In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

So, What's This About Rabbits in My Basement?

Vain fool that I am, I like to check the stats on my blog. I also check where the hits are coming from.

Occasionally among the traffic sources (mostly The Miniatures Page, The Lead Adventures Forum  or other gaming blogs) and search words (mostly about war games or something I reviewed), I find someone searching about rabbits.

Especially "can I keep rabbits in my basement?"

OK fellow rabbit-lover and seeker of wisdom, this blog entry is for you.

So yes, I have rabbits in my basement. Four of them. Used to have five, but one died last winter. But not, I should hasten to add, from living in the basement.

We started with one. A lovely 6 or 7 month old grey doe with long ears we adopted from the Animal Shelter and named Nigella. We kept her in a roomy cage in the living room where she could be with us. My girls tried to make friends and get her slowly accustomed to us.

Two weeks into her new life I was working midnights. My wife wakes me up; "Guess what Nigella has for you?"

"No. You're kidding me right?"

"Go take a look." Why does all the weird crap happen when you're on midnights?

So I stagger downstairs and Nigella has made a nest in one corner and given birth to four squirming bundles. She's in the opposite corner looking as surprised as we are.

So we hit the books and started researching the ins and outs and how-tos of having baby rabbits. After a few hours we realize she's getting pretty frazzled being in the cage with the kittens. New mothers do need a break from their babies and mother rabbits need more than others. In the wild rabbits leave the nest unattended all day and come back in the evening to nurse.

So we made a run with some chicken wire and out she hopped, went to furthest corner from the nest and promptly lay down for a nap.

Nigella and the kids at a few months old.
 A friend came over with his circular saw and with the chicken wire, some 2x4s, some screws and a staple gun we made a couple of six foot fence sections connected by a hinge. We used these to block off the corner of the living room. The kittens grew and started exploring further from the nest. Watching the little furballs romp about was better than TV (and this was before we cut the cable). We started adding boxes, tubes, potted plants and things to give them more to play with.

The thing with rabbits is they have teeth, and anything fibrous (like carpeting) they will chew and rip. They will also nibble at anything loose (like wallpaper). Male rabbits also start spraying when they hit adolescence. (I only pee on you because I love you.) Actually it's a handy way to tell which are bucks and which aren't. So within about 5 months we had a corner of the living room with torn up, urine stained carpet and shredded wallpaper.

A few months old. When they all got along!
Well we had wanted to repaint the walls and replace the carpet with laminate flooring.

See? say the bunnies, We were helping!

So they pushed our planned redecorating ahead a few years, but I had a good job and we'd been saving for it. But we had to remove the warren to the basement so the flooring guys could do their work. We had previously moved their cages to the basement during heatwaves as well.

Our basement is dry with a cement floor. They have their cages up against one wall. The wall studs are covered over with chicken wire and then sheets of card (mainly to keep their scattered detritus from getting through the chicken wire) so they won't chew the wiring. Then the barriers are used to form a roughly 6x6 foot section that they take turns romping in. Mom and one daughter still live together and get along OK (most of the time). But the two bucks are separated and even though they've been fixed, they still fight, given the chance. 

 So everyone takes turns. Nigella and Lennier get out when I get up for work and they romp all morning. When my wife comes home after lunch they go home (encouraged by the filling of the food dish). Biggles is then let out for the afternoon. Then around dinner time Gordie takes his turn. Chloe used to be allowed out all night. She had mobility issues and we figured she needed the most opportunities for exercise. She was also the least likely to get up to mischief. But those issues finally caught up with her last winter, so now we don't have a night shift in the Warren.


They aren't left in the dark. We have a compact fluorescent light set up by the Warren. There is a communal litter pan which most of them use as sort of a Bunny Scent Network Message Board. But Nigella and Gordie like to dig. We also try to keep a couple of boxes with hay in them for nesting, nibbling, exploring and relaxing.

Nigella and Lennier relaxing.
Chloe's cage is empty now. But it is guarding a weak spot in the wire, so we 're leaving it in the Warren. Gordie's old cage is on top, also empty, to prevent Lennier from jumping up there. We moved Gordie into a more spacious cage outside of the Warren because he seemed down in the dumps. Being glared at by his homicidal brother all day wasn't terribly relaxing. Biggles lives on top of his mother's cage so that way the boys don't fight through the bars when one of them is out.

We had planned to move the gang back upstairs after the redecorating was done. We were looking at linoleum sections to protect the laminate flooring from scratching claws and urine. But during all of this we discovered that my youngest daughter is allergic to rabbits and had developed asthma. Having 5 fur producers up stairs (plus the dust from their hay) was aggravating her condition. Also the heat from the back doors during the summer months stressed the bunnies out. Staying in the basement just seemed better for everyone. On my daughter's good days she still goes down to visit and give them treats. They also get regular interaction, ear and nose scratching, pats, claw inspections and opportunities to sniff us and find out what we've been doing during shift changes in the Warren.

For diet they get Kaytee Timothy Hay which we buy in the large 96 oz. bag and they go through almost one a week. They also get a quarter cup scoop of Martins Little Friends brand Adult Rabbit Feed. It has more fiber and less protein than their rabbit pellets designed for younger bunnies. They also get spoilt regularly with slices of apple and pear, grapes and cherries, bits of lettuce etc. They got more when Gordie was upstairs regularly advocating for snacks (he would go into a very alert intense stare every time he heard me in the kitchen slicing up an apple). We also regularly bribe them with some treats from Kaytee. These are little balls of seeds stuck together with something they like. But the ball format makes the portioning easier. Also every year when we prune our apple trees we save the sticks for them and they love to chomp on those and eat the bark and (when they're fresh) the leaves.

We really need to get our rabbits an endorsement deal with Kaytee to help defray some of the costs! We also like to give them a change of pace with a mix of Oat, Wheat and Barley hay from Alfalfa King. We always leave a pile inside a box so they can munch and relax. Biggles really enjoys this product and looks forward to it when he gets his turn to romp.

We've tried various options for bedding. Cat litter, although they loved to dig in it, was too dusty, couldn't add it to the compost pile (too much clay and we live on heavy clay already!) plus Nigella was eating it which didn't seem too good. Traditional wood shavings got everywhere, were expensive and you can't sift the droppings out. We then found ground up corn cobs and have stuck with them. The corn waste material is ground into little pellets that absorb the urine but can be sifted if dry to remove the droppings and leave the bedding.

But I like rabbits as pets. Some of them are quite bright and learn behaviours and benefit from routines. If one says the word 'grape' anywhere near the Warren then four sets of ears immediately perk up! They're very quiet, pretty undemanding (except when Nigella wants her nose and ears scratched, then I've got an all day job if I wanted) and if you have to clean up animal feces (which you do with any pet), rabbit droppings are probably the least offensive.


  1. WOw, that's a lot of rabbit love. I'm more into cats my self but interesting stuff still.

  2. That is probably the most indepth article on animal husbandry i have ever read on a blog. Brilliant. They all look great but Nigella...she´s a beauty!!
    paul I know for sure...I did wonder about the titel of your blog :-D

  3. I always wondered if you had rabbits in the basement! I used to have a brown and white Dutch rabbit many years ago. My sister bought it as a small bunny for $5, took care of it for a week, then dumped the rabbit on me. He was a great pet. We built an insulated home for it next to our house and would bring him inside if it got too cold. He actually liked being outside. We often would let him roam in the yard on nice days. They are smart, as you say. He knew his limits. Our neighbor didn't like the rabbit until our neighbor realized that our rabbit loved eating dandelions. Then the rabbit was welcome in his yard at any time! We used to use a milk crate in a red wagon to 'transport' the rabbit about town. He loved it. Great memories.

    Looks like you're doing a great job giving the rabbits good food. This is so critical and really helps them live a better life.

    Now I feel I need to finish painting my Splintered Light hares! :-)

  4. @Dr. W.: yes, it is a lot of rabbity love. :^D
    @Paul: cheers. We refer to Nigella as my 'girl friend'. When they lived upstairs she'd always be trying to get my attention so I'd scratch her ears while watching TV.
    @CP: my gang like dandelions alot too. I'msure the neighbours wonder why I'm out in the yard picking big bunches of dandelions (flowers and the greens) like some 3 year old picking them for his mother!
    A good diet with lots of fiber is really essential; that and some chance for exercise and stimulation and you'll have happy, healthy bunnies for a good 12-14 years.
    My wife had a Dutchie when I met her. He was a terribly intelligent bunny that had free roam of her parent's yard. He'd go eat the fallen pears (braving all the yelow jackets), get a good drunk from the fermented fruit and then go snooze it off under some hostas! That and teasing the neighbourhood dogs were his favourite pastimes.

  5. Thanks so much for this post! I have a big beautiful French lop and we're moving house soon to somewhere with a MASSIVE insulated basement. Being a big bunny he likes to hop around and have a lot of space so we were thinking of making him a bunny kingdom in the basement but were wondering it wouldn't be fair, but this post is lovely =]

    1. You're welcome Kim. It's a couple of years further on and the bunnies are still happy in the basement. Being protected from the extreme heat in the summer has been beneficial for them.

  6. I know this article is a year old or so, but I was wondering if you happen to have a picture of your setup? I have 4 bunnies total but 3 are in the basement. My sister is a very very very lazy person and she's over protective of Bunjamin (dad), Thumbalina (mom), and Nana (son).

    Reason why she's lazy, is because our basement has been full with stupid stuff and cluttered. She made a space big enough for all 3 cages to be placed, and she lied them on the floor.

    We bring the bunnies up on sporadic times, but we visit the bunnies every day. I'm concerned they breathe dust and clutter. They deserve better! But my dad won't allow the rabbits in the house.

    I decided if they could potentially live in the basement, I'd make them a proper home. I just have no clue how this cage you speak of works, and WHERE do they even run around?

    Please respond if you can!! It's unfair to the bunnies!! My sister needs to learn and the bunnies deserve better!

    1. Hi Maui

      At the end of this entry: there is a picture of the Warren.

      A friend helped me make some roughly 2 meter long and 1 meter high frames with 2x4 lumber (if you're metric then they wold be 5 cm x 10 cm wood used fro framing houses) and we stapled wire mesh to the insides. I then stapled window screening to the outside to keep loose fur and hay from blowing out of the Warren and all over. It would get trapped in the middle of the frame where I could easily vacuum it up.

      Along the left hand side of the picture is a barrier made from some heavy plastic bolted to pieces of wood for support, those used to be against the patio doors when the bunnies were upstairs, so we could open the doors for the breeze but still have a solid barrier for safety.

      So Biggles has a roughly 2+ meter by 2+ meter area to roam about in. But he's 8 years old now and not as active.