Caring for Big Rabbits As Pets (Hutch, Food, Exercise, and Health)

Forget tiny balls of fluff and cotton tails – big bunnies are taking over as the most popular pet rabbits! Giant rabbit breeds like the Flemish Giant can grow over 2 feet long and weigh 15 pounds or more. Who wouldn’t want an adorable oversized friend to cuddle and play with? But these jumbo-sized rabbits need special care and handling. From building mega-hutches to preventing health problems, properly caring for a big rabbit is serious business. Read on to learn everything you need to know about exercise needs, safe handling techniques, housing options, diet, and keeping giant bunnies healthy and happy. Get ready for thumping big love and flopping big fun – giant rabbit ownership is an adventure like no other!

How to Care for Big Rabbits

Big rabbits, often referred to as giant breeds, require specific care and housing considerations compared to average sized rabbits. Proper care is essential for these large bunnies to live long, healthy lives as pets. Some tips for caring for big rabbit breeds:

  • Provide plenty of space – Big rabbit enclosures should be a minimum of 10 square feet, but larger is always better. Flemish Giants for example can weigh 15 pounds and be over 2 feet long when full grown.
  • Avoid wire flooring – Wire bottoms on cages can lead to sore hocks in big rabbits. Provide solid flooring or place mats over wire floors.
  • Litter train – Big rabbits can be litter trained like cats. Use a large cat litter box or cement mixing tray filled with rabbit-safe litter.
  • Unlimited hay – Big rabbits need constant access to timothy or other grass hays to support their digestive health.
  • Frequent nail trims – Their nails grow quickly and need trimming every 4-6 weeks to avoid injury.
  • Weekly brushing – Helps reduce shedding and hairballs which big rabbits are prone to.
  • Heavy food dishes – Use ceramic crocks or weighted bowls that can’t be tipped over easily.
  • Ramps & stairs – Allow access between levels without jumping which can stress their joints.
  • Special handling – Support their full body weight when lifting. Don't let them jump off furniture.

With proper housing, diet, grooming and veterinary care, big rabbit breeds like Flemish Giants, Checkered Giants, and French Lops can live for 5-10 years. Their size makes them better suited as house rabbits compared to smaller breeds. Take the time to rabbit proof any area they have access to and provide enrichment toys to keep them stimulated.

Hutch Requirements

Hutches are a common housing choice for pet rabbits kept outdoors. But big rabbit breeds have some specific hutch requirements:

  • Minimum dimensions – At least 6 feet x 2 feet for smaller big breeds, up to 10 feet x 4 feet for giants like Flemish.
  • Double compartments – Allows separating sleeping and bathroom areas.
  • Weather protection – Thick wood construction with waterproof roofing material.
  • Raised off ground – At least 6 inches for airflow and freeze protection.
  • Latching doors – Prevents escape but allows easy human access for cleaning.
  • Wire walls – For ample ventilation while limiting chewing risk.
  • Solid floor – Wire flooring can lead to painful sore hocks.
  • Window screening – Keeps out insects while allowing airflow.
  • Safety ramp – Low rise ramps reduce injury and joint stress.

Ideally any hutch should connect to a large outdoor run space. Big rabbits require at least an hour of exercise in a spacious run daily. Avoid housing them full-time in small cages or bare hutches. Even with access to a run, big rabbits benefit from being allowed supervised time in a rabbit proofed room indoors as well.

Converting a Shed for a Big Rabbit

Converting a garden shed into housing for a giant rabbit breed is an optimal solution. This provides plenty of space along with protection from predators and extreme weather. Key steps include:

  • Choose a shed a minimum of 8 x 6 feet in size. Bigger is always better.
  • Add latching doors or screen doors for ventilation and easy cleaning access.
  • Cover any windows with hardware cloth to prevent chewing and escape.
  • Add pest proof 1⁄4” wire mesh around the lower 2 feet of walls to keep rodents out.
  • Install a raised floor to prevent dampness. Plywood over 2x4s framed 16 inches off the ground works well.
  • Include a litter box and hay feeder secured to the floor.
  • Provide water in heavy ceramic bowls that cannot be tipped over.
  • Install a pet safe heat source if needed for winter months.
  • Make sure any electrical cords are covered and out of reach.
  • Provide ramps for easy entry/exit and between raised floor levels.

Sheds allow big rabbits more room to move around. Make sure to rabbit proof latches, doors, and any hazards. Allowing access to an outdoor run is ideal. Supervise the rabbit when letting them roam in the run until you are sure they cannot escape.

Dog Cages for Giant Rabbits

While cages alone are too small for housing big rabbit breeds long-term, large dog crates can be a good option for short-term containment.

The benefits of using a dog crate include:

  • Easy to clean plastic pan bottom
  • Slide out plastic tray under pan to remove waste
  • Better ventilation than solid wood hutches
  • Can be folded down for transport
  • Rabbits feel more secure in enclosed crate
  • Allows containment during house training
  • Provides temporary housing during shed conversion

Look for crates designed for extra large dog breeds when housing big rabbits. The minimum recommended crate size is 48 inches long x 30 inches wide x 33 inches high. Make sure any crate has a solid floor with no wire bottom which can hurt rabbit feet. Add a layer of puppy pads and soft bedding over the plastic tray. Include a litter box, toys, and hay rack for enrichment. Limit crate use to no more than a few hours at a time, providing regular exercise breaks.

Housing a Big Rabbit Indoors

Big rabbit breeds often make ideal house rabbits since their size and playful nature craves human interaction. Here are some tips for keeping giant breed rabbits inside:

  • Rabbit proof any area they have access to by removing cords, toxic plants, and other hazards.
  • Try limiting access to one rabbit safe room until trained to avoid accidents.
  • Provide a large litter box with rabbit-safe litter in their main living area.
  • Set up an exercise pen or dog crate for necessary confinement periods.
  • Make sure they have a nest box or cardboard box to hide in when scared.
  • Give them cardboard boxes, tunnels, and toys to play with.
  • Install baby gates to block off unsafe areas like kitchens and staircases.
  • Keep electrical cords out of reach and block any furniture they may get under.

Monitor the rabbit's behavior closely at first to identify any problem chewing or litter box accidents. Providing consistent exercise time in a rabbit proof room allows them to stretch their legs and burn energy in a constructive way. Big rabbits kept exclusively in small cages will often exhibit destructive behavior out of frustration. Working giant rabbit breeds into family life by housing them mainly indoors provides the best quality of life for these intelligent, energetic animals.

Exercise Requirements

Big rabbit breeds require significant daily exercise to stay healthy and avoid behavior problems. Key exercise needs include:

  • At least 1 hour in a spacious pen or rabbit proof room per day.
  • Frequent opportunities to run, jump, and play at top speed.
  • Access to climb on platforms and tunnels if housed in pen.
  • Rotation of toys to keep mentally stimulated.
  • Outdoor run time in fair weather supervised.
  • Avoiding limited movement in small cages.
  • Watching for signs of decreased mobility as they age.

Young big rabbits especially will become destructive if their high activity needs are not met. Provide progressively increasing exercise as they grow to adulthood between 6-8 months old. Jumping off furniture and having free run of an entire room should wait until growth plates have closed around 1 year old. Monitor for lameness or reluctance to move which may indicate arthritis developing. Adjust exercise plans for an aging big rabbit's mobility limits.

Handling Tips

Properly handling a large rabbit breed requires supporting their full body weight differently than smaller rabbits.

Key tips include:

  • Scoop up the rear while supporting the chest with your other hand.
  • Make sure to fully support the hindquarters, spine, and head.
  • Avoid letting them dangle with pressure on their abdomen.
  • Place one hand under the chest and another under the rear when transferring between handlers.
  • Bend knees when lifting instead of straining your back.
  • Set them down gracefully on their rear end rather than dropping.
  • Let them jump down off furniture vs carrying to avoid injury.
  • Begin regular handling sessions as youngsters to get them comfortable.

Proper handling will gain their trust with humans. Forcing interaction with a nervous or reluctant big bunny can cause them to become fearful and bite or scratch. Building a strong relationship through gentle handling, especially when young, ensures lifelong bonds with giant breed rabbits as calm, friendly pets.

How to Safely Carry a Big Rabbit

Transporting a large, heavy rabbit breed takes some practice to master safely. Avoid compressing their chest cavity or letting them struggle midair. Some tips:

  • Wear a sturdy shirt for them to rest against if held to your chest.
  • Keep their head tucked in near your body to provide security.
  • Support hindquarters under one arm and place other hand against chest.
  • Alternatively cradle their full body across both arms for short distances.
  • Bend knees and keep back straight when lifting.
  • Move slowly and avoid sudden jerky motions.
  • If they become distressed, stop and calmly lower to the ground.
  • Use an enclosed pet carrier for car travel or long distance transport.

Young big rabbits can be hard to hold due to wigglyness. Place them on the floor or ground if they begin violently kicking or scratching to avoid injury. Practice carrying techniques during calm playtime sessions to reassure your rabbit while they are small. Proper handling from a young age results in well-adjusted big bunnies that enjoy being picked up.

Grooming Advice

Big rabbit breeds need regular grooming to keep their thick coats free of shedding fur and debris. Key grooming tips include:

  • Daily: Inspect fur and feet for anything stuck.
  • Weekly: Brush out loose fur with slicker brush.
  • Bi-weekly: Trim nails using clippers designed for cat/dogs.
  • Monthly: Clean inside ears gently with cotton swabs.
  • Every 4 months: Sanitary trim of genital area and tail.
  • Twice a year: Shedding brush out and bath if needed.

Always support big rabbits fully when grooming. Place them on a non-slip surface or groom with them in your lap. Introduce grooming tools slowly and use treats to reward cooperation. Avoid placing pressure directly on the spine and watch for signs of discomfort. Seek help restraint from a second person if needed for nail trims. Regular grooming strengthens your bond and helps keep giant rabbit breeds looking their best.

Food and Nutrition Requirements

The dietary needs of large rabbit breeds differ from average sized rabbits. Their bigger size requires specially formulated diets and frequent monitoring of body condition.

Key nutritional guidelines include:

  • Free choice grass hay at all times – Makes up bulk of diet.
  • Limited pellets – No more than 1/4 cup per 5 lbs body weight daily.
  • Fresh greens – At least 1 packed cup daily of leafy greens and herbs.
  • Unlimited fresh water – Check multiple times daily.
  • Limited fruits – Timothy hay based treats preferred over sugary fruits.
  • Monitor weight weekly – Adjust food if gaining or losing.

Overweight big rabbits quickly develop mobility issues and health complications. Underweight rabbits can suffer hepatic lipidosis and other problems. Weigh weekly and adjust pellet rations and exercise to maintain optimal body condition. Feed a locally sourced timothy hay based diet. Avoid sudden food transitions which can upset sensitive digestive systems.

Health Problems

Sore Hocks

Sore hocks is a common condition seen in giant rabbit breeds involving irritated, inflamed tissue on the rear feet. Caused by pressure and abrasion, it is often seen in rabbits housed on wire floors. Prevention and treatment includes:

  • House big rabbits on solid flooring not wire cage bottoms.
  • Place mats or rugs over any wire floor sections.
  • Keep flooring clean and dry – Disinfect weekly.
  • Inspect feet daily for any redness or blisters.
  • Use antibiotic creams on any raw spots.
  • Restrict activity if very inflamed to allow healing.
  • Cover sore spots with medical wrap.

Sore hocks results from continuous pressure and friction. Providing soft flooring and preventing obesity minimizes risk in giant rabbits. Treat any raw spots promptly to prevent infection. Restricting movement may be needed to allow hocks to fully heal.

Arthritis and Spondylosis

Big rabbit breeds prone to musculoskeletal conditions like arthritis and spondylosis as they age. Signs include:

  • Reluctance to move or run
  • Lagging behind family members
  • Difficulty grooming hind regions
  • Irritability or aggression when touched
  • Sitting instead of lying down to rest
  • Weight shifting between feet frequently

Prevention involves maintaining a healthy weight, proper nutrition, and avoiding excessive jumping from an early age. Treatment options include pain medications, anti-inflammatories, and joint supplements. Provide padded resting areas and limit time on slippery floors. Consider physiotherapy exercises and mobility aids. Severe cases may require x-rays and surgery. Manage arthritis through a combination of medical care, lifestyle adjustments, and supportive devices to maintain the best possible quality of life.


Flystrike occurs when flies are attracted to soiled fur and lay eggs which hatch into flesh burrowing maggots. Prevent flystrike by:

  • Keeping the hindquarters clean and dry
  • Promptly removing soiled bedding from living area
  • Applying rabbit safe repellent compounds
  • Securing mesh screens over windows and doors
  • Checking fur along the back end twice daily

Treat minor cases by removing maggots with tweezers and flushing the area with sterile saline. Seek emergency veterinary care for heavy infestations. Flystrike can be rapidly fatal if left untreated. Prevention through sanitation and repellents is crucial to protect giant rabbits from this dangerous condition.

Heart Problems

Larger rabbit breeds are prone to heart conditions including heart murmurs, cardiomyopathy, and aortic stenosis. Signs include:

  • Rapid breathing or panting
  • Sudden onset lethargy or weakness
  • Weight loss and poor appetite
  • Enlarged abdomen from fluid accumulation
  • Congestive heart failure

Discuss heart testing with your vet for high risk breeds. Address any murmurs or arrhythmias quickly before complications develop. Manage heart disease through medications to control fluid buildup and support heart function. Provide supportive care at home with rest, reduced stress, and high calorie supplements. Life expectancy varies based on severity and response to treatment.


Caring for a big rabbit breed requires understanding their unique needs for housing, exercise, handling, and preventative health measures. But giant rabbit breeds can make wonderful, engaging pets for families when properly cared for. By providing the right diet, environment, veterinary oversight, and training from a young age big rabbits develop into gentle friendly companions with lifespan potentials over 5 years. Their larger size and curiosity lends itself well to indoor life integrated as part of the family. Big rabbits bring years of enjoyment and entertainment when cared for responsibly based on their needs as giant breed animals.

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