If you’ve recently purchased a commercially available rabbit hutch for the beloved bunny you have just added to your family, it probably has a wire floor. There are some hutches that offer split floors, with a wire portion and a portion with a solid surface made of wood, metal, or PVC plastic. Some have wire floors with very wide spacing and some have floors with narrow spacing, similar to traditional hardware cloth. Wire floors are great for rabbit owners, but not so great for your rabbit. Why?
From the owner’s point of view, the spacing allows both the rabbit’s urine and its droppings to pass through to a clean out pan, located directly under the floor. What could be easier for the owner? Simply remove the pan, clean it, and replace it. For owners, there are only two minor disadvantages to wire floors in rabbit hutches. Widely spaced wire allows some of the rabbit’s hay to pass through, in addition to the urine and droppings. And poor quality wire can sometimes separate and become dangerous for the rabbit, but this is a rare occurrence. Now let’s try to think like a rabbit.
From the rabbit’s point of view, wire floors can actually lead to painful results. If you’ve spent time on Internet Pet Discussion Forums, you may have come across posts from bewildered owners – most of them newer rabbit owners – who can’t understand why their pet rabbit spends most of its time huddled in the corner of the hutch. They are always told that some rabbits can develop a potentially serious medical condition called sore hocks from walking around on widely spaced wire floors. Untreated sore hocks can lead to infections. Although we can’t read what is in a rabbit’s mind, it is highly likely that walking around on a wire floor is uncomfortable, even if they don’t develop sore hocks. How would you like to walk around on a wire floor in your bare feet?
While it is impractical to consider discarding the hutch and buying one with a better floor, there are things you can do to “retro-fit” the floor of the existing hutch. First, consider how far you are willing to go with the more difficult job of keeping the floor of the hutch clean. A partial solution is to cover the existing wire floor with a tightly woven piece of hardware cloth, cut to size. The spacing between the wires is small enough to provide a semi-solid surface that will be much more comfortable for the rabbit and will still allow the urine to pass through. However, the droppings will remain, requiring more frequent cleanings.
Another option is to use a piece of suitably treated outdoor wood, or a series of wood slats to cover the existing floor. A solid piece is easier to install and you can drill holes in the floor to allow urine to pass through. Be aware, the straw may block the holes and might get caught if you don’t clean the floor often enough.
A better alternative is to use a series of wooden slats, with spacing between them that will act as a gutter, again allowing the urine to pass through. While it would be possible to use a solid piece of plastic, like a clear lexan panel, it is harder to cut and drill through plastic. All of these retro-fits would need to be secured using plastic or an appropriate wood molding around the perimeter of the floor. This is not an easy task, but if you truly care for that rabbit, it’s something you should consider.