Enrichment for rabbits

Source: Dierenbescherming-utrecht.nl and Knaag&Ko
Behavioural enrichment (also called environmental enrichment) is the introduction of elements to an animal's enclosure to allow the animal to exhibit more of its natural behaviours, providing distraction and keeping the animal active and healthy.
This enrichment also benefits people. Active animals in a well-appointed pen are more interesting to watch than bored animals in an enclosure with only containers for food and water.

Materials for behavioural enrichment don’t have to be expensive; ‘free’ materials can go a long way. It’s important to keep the natural behaviour of the animal in mind. Guinea pigs, for example, live on the ground, so they don’t need climbing materials in their pens. It’s also essential to avoid filling up the enclosure with play material: the animals need to be able to run and to stretch out. Furthermore, materials used must be easy to clean or replace on a regular basis. Lastly, behavioural enrichment is only truly successful when it keeps changing. The same little box year in, year out has long stopped presenting a challenge. Cleaning the enclosure presents a good opportunity for changing things around.

For rabbits, behavioural enrichment can be offered based on the need for digging, hopping, chewing, hiding and playing. Objects that can be used for these rabbit activities are:
  • Pipes with a diameter of 20 cm
  • Container of sand
  • Wooden crates
  • Cardboard box, perhaps filled with paper or straw
  • Bunches of hay
  • Logs
  • Metal feed (‘treat’) balls or fodder racks (hang just above rabbit’s headroom)
  • Raised shelf to sit on or under
  • Willow or fruit tree branches – must be cleaned well first to prevent coccidiosis infection.