After posting about moving Daphne’s pen around as a makeshift lawnmower, I had a few people ask what our outdoor setup is like. So here are a couple pictures of my bunny tractors in a typical configuration. The oldest pens are two Trixie Natura pet runs with matching nest boxes, which I bought for the first two large Finnish angoras, Daisy and Basil. All the bunnies are kept separately except for breeding couples on honeymoon (which is rather seldom). These pens are generously sized but a bit cumbersome to move around by myself, which I have to do every other day because the bunnies eat through lawn pretty fast. They have made it through a few winters outside with no noticeable ill effect, though, so I do appreciate their tough weather resistance in our northern climes.
I then got 4 packs of the Kerbl 6-sided wooden runs, which are essentially boxes of 6 panels each which can be used to build pens in all sorts of shapes and sizes, covered or not. These haven’t gone through a winter yet so we will have to see how they look next spring before I make a final call on their durability. They are much cheaper than the other ones, though, and have so many different uses that I will probably continue to get these in the future anyway. My dwarf couple (Snickers and Lily) has a double pen together at the moment and the other two smaller angoras (Daphne and Marshmallow) are in single 4-sided apartments of their own. I use the tops of enclosed cat litter boxes for their shelters. They are roomy hard plastic shells with an appropriately sized door and ventilation at the top so the buns are pretty comfortable with them.
I’m happy with my setup at the moment, though I wouldn’t mind expanding the smaller pens next summer with some additional panels so that they don’t have to be moved around as much. The panel pens are lighter and easier to drag from patch to patch but more space is always better. It also seems to deter them from digging as much, which the girls in particular seem prone to doing the minute they eat through the choice plants and are left with only boring grass :-p It seems that they are happiest when I put most of the pens right up against each other — it not only makes it harder for them to dig outside but also keeps them from getting bored since they can hang out with bunny buddies through the wires. Not that escaping is a serious thing… most domestic rabbits I have (and angoras in particular) are mellow creatures of habit that prefer to stay close to home. Half the time I just open the pen door and prod their fluffy backsides with a stick to get them to go home. The other half, we do a quick runaround the pens before I grab them and they go back in. Either way, they usually stop to nibble plants and sprawl lazily mid-chase, so you can see they are not exactly alarmed. The main reason I prefer they stay penned, to be honest, is because we have seen foxes and hawks in the vicinity. Danger from predators and weather is real out here in the countryside, so large permanent outdoor runs are out of the question for us. They pretty much stay outside from late spring to late fall, as long as the temps don’t fall very far below zero Celsius. We rotate them around the section of lawn closest to the barn, since the greenery grows back with a week and a half. Other than backfilling the occasional burrow, it’s been working out pretty well for us!