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Pets for Poop, an outdoor rabbit run in Phoenix, AZ

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My DIL picked up two rabbits that she was told were females and put them in with her own female rabbit. A fight ensued so I took the white rabbit, built her a nice indoor pen, started adding poop to the garden and compost, and all was well in the world. Until their original rabbit had kits. Yup, the second bun was a male. So I took him as well and had him neutered. He and my female get along great, they’d lived together previously, and have been living in a pen in my house for a couple of years. It’s time for them to have some outdoor space.

At their original home the owners got rid of them because the female was digging in the yard. I anticipate having to bring them into the house in summer, but I’d like for them to have a good amount of space to be rabbits when the weather isn’t brutally hot. What to do about digging?

I’ve spent hours reading and looking at pics of outdoor runs and colonies, read countless ways to keep them cool or warm, and now the work begins.

The space is 250 to 300 square feet with two structures. One used to be my coop and is 8X12, the other is 6X6 and was storage but could be used as a second coop. There’s also a large tree in there. The area is fully enclosed with two block walls, the side of the house and a patio with a fence and gate at the entrance to the yard.

I’m trying a couple of bucket burrows in a corner of the big structure. I think the temps will be the most consistent there. I haven’t for sure decided how to complete that project yet. I’ve seen dirt and dirt with logs on top, but will have to get the buckets in and see how it looks. The rest of the floor will be covered in wire and then topped with straw with a kiddie pool in another corner for hay. Both buns are box trained so hopefully this will make poop collection easy, although I know they’ll poop all over the yard too.  

There is space between the structures and surrounding walls/fences. Behind the smaller structure I’m putting pavers down and the remaining space isn’t big enough to worry about. Between the large structure and the wall/fence I’ve run a 20’ section of corrugated pipe for a tunnel. We’re cutting a couple sections of cattle panel down to fit that we can pound into the ground, both preventing the buns from getting into the space where the tunnel is and to pin it down so it doesn’t move. We can attach to the structure and fence for stability and I’m putting down pavers at both ends to prevent digging as well.

Another feature will be a couple of heat sinks. I saw a blog where the person used cement blocks with ice and tile to make this so I’m giving that a try. Theoretically the best I can hope for is an extension of the time they can spend outside, it won’t replace the vacation condo  indoors in the heat of summer.

I have some things to put in the yard for cover and some other additions but that’s the bulk of it. Will add pics as we work on the project, but I’m hoping to get the most important parts done and move the buns outside this coming weekend.
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Location: South of Capricorn
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Your setup sounds good. They do really enjoy digging, I put mine out on alternating days when weather is good and they`ll dig mostly to have a cool spot but often just for fun. Their run is a dedicated space where I don`t have to worry about plants or twisting an ankle, but they do sometimes undermine my garden bed structures so once it reaches about 9 inches down I`ll usually put a brick down in the hole and encourage them to start anew somewhere else.
your ideas sound great, I only have a few suggestions to add:
-think about predator protection in the outdoor run, here my predators are cats and raptors, so I have fencing that gets narrow as it gets taller and I can`t see a hawk or cat getting in there voluntarily, much less getting out again.
-shade, obviously, lots of shade
-when they`re digging a lot, unless you`re putting in fluffy dirt for them to dig you need to really keep up on their nails. I`ve had one rabbit rip off a nail twice already. I keep them trimmed, but they really do get into digging.
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Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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In an absolutely perfect world,  I would dig down deep, at least 4 feet,  lay wire mesh, chain link,  ideally,  then backfill, even if this were just in one section.  This would allow for natural behavior such as digging, and the installation of an initial burrow.  Down deep they should have ample protection from heat, cold, and other weather.

Alternatively (or in addition), consider one or more big dirt mounds for  enrichment, and digging.

Ensure you wire the floor with mesh that will not rust, it totally sucks if you have to replace it due to deterioration!

Planting trees/shrubs in containers or high enough raised beds (to keep the buns from accessing/nibbling on is critical) would allow the space to do double duty, and all weeding could be tossed for food.  If done around the periphery,  these planted area would cut down on fencing,  and keep the buns safe from reaching predators getting them through the mesh. Built from metal roofing panels, 3-4 feet high, OR with a mesh lift up panel, they would be bird, deer,  rodent and rabbit proof.  A central line OR fence lines of nut/fruit trees could do double duty; provide cover/shade and crops would be protected from wildlife thieves.  Espalaied trees trained along the solid walls may also be worth considering, especially fruit trees.

Vining plants, in peripheral raised beds, could be supported by enclosure fencing/existing walls and also provide heat, shade, wind protection. The more the walls are "greened" the less they will heat up,  reflect,  and retain the high Temps.

Hanging baskets (strawberries?) could also provide shade and food production.

Do ensure it is solidly roofed, ideally, peaked, with sturdy mesh; a single aberrant snow fall will destroy a flat, meshed, roof.   Plus, it will then easily support a tarp if rain diversion or shade cloth is desired.

A water feature, and/or fountain could also be cooling,  but again, raised so no buns risk death by drowning. An outdoor fan might also be worth looking at.  

I see this as much more than a bun run, it could be a muli-use area: garden, outdoor relaxing  zone,  perhaps outdoor dining,  fish farm, water collection, fowl run...the possibilities are endless, so long as the prep work is done correctly (floors, walls, roof ALL must be. securely meshed) to keep the bunnies from escaping or becoming dinner for predators.

Seriously consider building the roof at least 6 feet high; crouching, while chasing bunnies will be miserable. Even a taut line, or single beam up high should allow for running mesh down to the side walls.

Seriously consider how much extra work it would require to make this a 4 season enclosure  - with deep enough burrows/tunnels,   they should easily handle high or low temperatures, worth considering.

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