No matter if summer or winter: The balcony is a good place to create a little habitat for your rabbits. Due to the lack of space, no own garden or any other reason the balcony is a good solution, especially for people who live in the city and cannot keep rabbits indoors.
It is important, that rabbits have enough space on the balcony. They should have the opportunity to use the entire space day and night – unless you have a balcony large enough to fence off at least 6m².
Examples of balcony-keeping with pictures: Balcony picture collection
To feel comfortable on your balcony, your rabbits need appropriate furnishing. Just like in outdoor-keeping you will need a hutch for shelter (needs to be draft- and rainproof). Rabbits also need a roofed area. If your balcony is not (partly) roofed, you have to build some sort of roofing. This will also be the area where you can place the food. Additional to the hutch, you can add little pet cabins and houses as well as other elevated areas. Closed cat toilets in the corners can be used as rabbit toilets for house trained rabbits. The rabbits need suitable furniture, so they won’t get bored.
The ground can (if it is a sensitive material) be protected with cheap PVC floor coating. This needs to be fixed with skirting board around the edges, so the rabbits won’t be able to nibble it off. Choose a rough surface PVC floor so the rabbits don’t slip. Concrete floor is also suitable for them. Even though it looks rather unhomely, they seem to like it. Carpet or artificial lawn are also an option; however, it can sometimes lead to the rabbits rubbing the feet sore.
Safety on the balcony
To protect the rabbits from potential dangers, the balcony-keeping should be well planned.
In summer it is necessary to watch the temperature. Especially on south-oriented balconies, it can get unbearably hot at midday. Shadowy places are essential for rabbits, so they are not exposed to heat. Otherwise they can suffer from a heat stroke. However, on many balconies (especially on small or closed ones) heat will gather so much – even in the shadow – that rabbits cannot live there. Balconies not facing south are therefore better suited. But even then, there have to be precautions against the heat. Wet towels hung over branches, cool pavement slabs, bottles with frozen water or cooling fans (aligned so that rabbits can also avoid the draft) are adequate measures to make summer easier for them.
In cold seasons, the same precautions should be taken as in the winter-outdoor-keeping. You can find the information here on this page.
A safe balcony railing
Rabbits fit through the tiniest cracks. If they can fit the head through, they can fit the rest of the body, too. Therefore, the railing might have to be secured with elements of metal run cages, wire mesh or wooden boards. A fall from a couple of meters is usually deadly for a rabbits. The enclosure should also be high enough, so that no rabbit can jump over. 1,20m is usually enough if there are no elevated spots near the railing.
Safe from predators
Should there be trees, cat ladders, climbing trellis or other things that could make the balcony accessible (martens can leap up to two meters), it is necessary to secure the balcony from above as well. Even a very rough exterior wall of the house can be climbable for some predators – smooth exterior walls are not climbable. Balconies that are close to the ground or terraces need to be secured as well. Downspouts can be secured with a gutter brush. Make sure that there is absolutely no way for predators to get onto your balcony. There might also be a tree near your roof from which they could get onto the roof and on your balcony.
It is possible to build a fully closed enclosure onto the balcony. It should be about 1m in height and secured with wire mash all around.
It might be easier, however, to attach hinged enclosure elements to the exterior wall of the house, so that they can be folded over and rest on the handrail of the balcony. When you feed the rabbits or clean the enclosure you can simply lift the top off and the balcony is accessible again.
Many rabbit owners use cat protection nets for their balconies. However, they don’t keep away small predators such as martens.
When you are buying the materials make sure that you consider it to be safe against martens! Many wire mashes or grids are not safe.
Translation: Nina Fromme