Trent is a 9 year old rabbit who lives a hutch-free life in the back garden.

Trent is an independent rabbit. When he was young, he lived in a small hutch, but everyone felt sorry for him, so they made a chicken wire run to give him more space. When Trent escaped from this run, he couldn’t go far: the back garden was walled in on all four sides. June realised that Trent was far happier enjoying the space of the entire back garden rather than being confined to his hutch. Why not just let him get on with it? At first, she made sure that the hutch door was left open for him, so he could get back in if he felt like it. After a few weeks, this wasn’t needed any more: Trent had created his own bed area underneath the garden shed, and he stopped going into the hutch altogether.

June still worried about the rabbit: there was a big cat who used to sit on the garden wall. Surely he would pounce on Trent, and that would be the end of him? June kept half an eye on the situation, in case of trouble. She was watching the first time the cat jumped off the wall and moved towards the rabbit, and she witnessed something dramatic. As the cat drew closer, Trent rapped firmly on the ground with his hind feet: even from twenty yards away, June could hear the “thump-thump” noise. The cat ignored this warning, and moved closer still, and that’s when Trent sprang into action. The rabbit leapt towards the cat, standing up on his two back legs, boxing furiously with his front feet. The cat screeched in terror, and bolted from the garden as rapidly as possible. From that day on, the cat never again set foot in June’s back garden.

Trent has mellowed with age: when one of June’s sons brought a couple of kittens back for the weekend, they were cautiously introduced to the back garden. Trent was friendly to them, and the three animals ended up playing happily together. When the kittens went home, Trent wasn’t quite himself for a few days: he was quieter than normal, behaving as if he was missing them. June knows that she really ought to get him a long term companion – rabbits are social creatures – but he’s getting on in years now, and she reckons he enjoys human company anyway. He often comes up and sits beside her if she’s working in the garden, and he seems to enjoy being picked up and petted.

Trent has eaten most of the plants and flowers that June has tried to establish in her back garden, and hanging baskets are the only form of garden plants that are safe with him around. He helps to keep the grass short by grazing on it, but one patch of the lawn needs extra mowing thanks to him: he does all his toileting in one area, and the grass here grows at twice the normal speed. Meanwhile, June has focussed her gardening skills on her front garden, which is a rabbit-free zone.

June worries about Trent in the winter months, but the rabbit has proven his survival skills. In the deep snow one winter, he hid in a deep burrow beneath the garden shed, tunnelling out through the snow to get his food. He didn’t come out much, but June was reassured to find his footprints near the foodbowl every day.

Trent has never fallen ill. He’s an old rabbit now, and he’s beginning to show his age a little. June has considered bringing him indoors for the winter, but she knows that that would be the end of him. Trent just enjoys his free-range freedom too much.

Tips

  • Rabbits need to exercise, and the more space they have, the better
  • If you have a rabbit in a hutch, try to let him out from time to time
  • If you have a walled-in garden, it could be a rabbit’s paradise

4 Comments

  • Gill Joslin says:

    We had a rabbit that we gave the run of the garden to. He would hop back into his hutch in the shed at the end of the day and have his supper and go to bed for the night. We had urban foxes nearby so I was glad he decided this wad a good idea. We would let him out again every morning and off he would go round the garden. He lived to a ripe old age and I’m sure his freedom contributed to it.

  • Katherine says:

    I live in NZ now and near us are two rabbits who roam the garden. Their lawn in like a golf course it’s so perfect with the nibbling..plus the rabbits are huge . I think it’s a lovely idea and ensures they have a good life. There is one thing I would love you to talk about Pete Wedderburn, and that is the idea of keeping two rabbits rather than one alone. Rabbits are not meant to be solitary, it stresses them to live alone. You see too many lonely rabbits in Ireland (I’m not referring to this case study above btw. Do you agree with this? Also, the mistake of thinking adding a guinea pig will do the trick-they generally dont like each other.

  • Good point Catherine – I do try to mention the importance of companionship for rabbits as often as possible but sometimes a story of one rabbit like this one slips through without me reminding people. So thanks for bringing it up. See here for a time when I did discuss that aspect: http://www.petethevet.com/wp/pete-the-vet-podcast-rabbit-awareness-week-how-to-improve-the-lives-of-pet-rabbits/

  • Anonymous says:

    Lovely story, we have two rabbits that live in the garden. Have done freely for the last 4 years.

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