Top tips for saving money with pet rabbits
Many people think of rabbits as cheap pets, but soon find out when they have them that that's far from the truth, particularly when it comes to vet bills. So here are some tips to help you save money where you can.
Buying your bunnies
Adopt don't shop! Adopting your pet rabbits from a rescue will instantly save you some big bills you'd have to pay yourself if you bought from a breeder or pet shop instead. This includes the first year's vaccinations (£50-125 per rabbit) and neutering/spaying (£80-250 per rabbit). They will have also been treated for any parasites if needed which saves you a vet consultation and medication costs.
Outdoor rabbit housing
Your rabbits will be living in their accommodation for 10-12 years, so you want to save money but not buy 'cheap'. Readily available hutches are a false economy, they're generally poor quality, too small and don't last, meaning you'll have to buy multiple hutches over the rabbit's lifetime. Be careful with expensive hutches too, as a high price tag doesn't mean it's big enough or even good quality. See our housing page for qualities to look for when buying. So how to buy strong, spacious, weather-proof housing for your rabbits that predators can't break into, that's also a bargain?
- Look for a shed / wooden playhouse / summer house / dog kennel
They are much better value for money and more spacious, often you'll get one for the same or less than a brand-new hutch. Then either attach a run to the side, or put it inside an aviary, so your rabbits have a nice area to live in, with an enclosed warm area away from the elements. See our housing page for ideas.
- Buying second hand is even cheaper!
Look on websites such as Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, Shpock, online adverts, newspaper adverts, and ask friends if they're selling.
Check your local tip, Freecycle, Preloved, Facebook adverts, friends getting rid of old playhouses or sheds, etc.
- Shop during the sales
When you can pick up end of line or out of season items (eg. summer houses in winter) at discount prices. Also ask for ex-display items.
- Upcycle a second-hand hutch
It doesn't matter if it's too small on its own because it will just be used as a snug, warm bedroom. Put it inside a large, secure run/aviary and either leave a door open so they can always access the run, have a catflap in the hutch, or connect a tube to it that they can get in and out of it, keeping the wind out more too.
Now your bunnies have their 'house' they'll need a permanently attached run to hop around in and stretch those legs!
You can buy aviary panels to make a DIY run, just screw the panels together. You can find these online such as eBay or independent shops.
Or buy the timber and 16G galvanised mesh separately to make your own panels, the wood and rolls of mesh can be found in DIY stores or local timber merchant.
Indoor rabbit housing
For house bunnies, don't waste money on an expensive cramped cage, simply put down a lino off-cut (minimum 3x2m) and put puppy panels or C&C grids around it to make an instant living area. Lino off-cuts are cheap in carpet shops or online, and you can often haggle to bring the price down more. You might even get some free lino if a friend is having new flooring put down in the bathroom and they want rid of their old stuff.
Puppy panels can be bought online eg. from Amazon or second-hand, and are great value, nice and tall so no escaping buns, tend to come with a door so you can let your rabbits come and go as they please if they're free-ranging, plus you can arrange them into different layouts so they can fit your house easily.
Enrichment inside housing
- Plastic under-bed storage boxes work well as toilet trays and are a lot bigger and stronger than the more expensive litter trays you find in pet shops.
- Cardboard boxes are very useful, just turn one upside down and cut two doorways (buns notice if there's only one and tend not to use it!) They can use the box for hiding and sleeping in, and jumping on top of it. If you're feeling creative you can decorate them to look like castles or houses with little windows.
- Buy second-hand children's plastic chairs or small plastic stools for sitting on and under
- Fold a large piece of cardboard in half to make a triangular tunnel for bunnies to run through
- An old wooden magazine rack works well as a hay feeder, buy second-hand online or at carboots etc
Pellets (dry food)
You'll still need to buy a good high-fibre brand of pellets (don't buy a cheaper alternative) but look at online places such as Amazon that often sell it cheaper, or buy bigger bags which last longer and work out cheaper per kg.
Setting up your online purchase as a repeat order can often save 5-10%, this works for things like pellets, boxes of hay, and even certain over-the-counter medications you may need for your rabbits. Just choose the frequency of the order and adjust if you're receiving too regularly.
Visit a farm shop that sells bales of hay for horses. They're roughly £5 for a big, compact rectangle bale which will last ages. These can be stored in a clean wheelie bin or outdoor keter box, or even indoors in a duvet cover if you have space. Find out why hay's so important on our hay page.
Vegetables and greens
- Look in the sale section of supermarkets towards the end of the day for discount greens
- Visit independent shops and markets that sell herbs and greens in larger amounts
- Go foraging for safe weeds that rabbits can eat, such as dandelion leaves and hawthorn bushes
- Why not grow your own! Herbs in a windowsill pot or an area in your garden for safe greens and weeds
- Ask at the local allotment if they have any leftover produce
- Give the buns your kitchen scraps such as broccoli leaves and cauliflower leaves, or smoothie leftovers such as spinach and kale
- See our safe foods page for a list of greens that rabbits can eat and which to feed in moderation.
Raisins are cheap and have a long shelf-life, and rabbits love them! Only 1 or 2 a day as they're high in sugar. You can also make your own batch of rabbit treats. Thinly slice some apple and dry it to make tasty, chewy apple treats.
Take a look at our treats page for more ideas for what rabbits can have and how much.
Make your own! Stuff toilet roll tubes full of hay and forage (eg. dry herbs), or peg some herbs along a piece of string so your bunnies have to reach up to get them. Have a look at our toys and enrichment page for more DIY toy ideas.
Toys made for babies such as stacking cups and plastic keys can be used for bunnies too, they like to throw them around. Just make sure it's the hard plastic and not the soft teething type as buns can chew them.
Vet care - get insurance!
Classed as 'exotics' due to their unique health requirements and complex digestive systems, vet bills for bunnies can run into the £100s or even £1,000s, so it's a good idea to get your rabbits insured! It's best to do this before they get a health issue otherwise the insurance company may not cover them for it. Shop around for an insurance company that covers elderly rabbits too.
Ask your local practice if they offer any health care 'clubs' or monthly plans. This can help to spread the cost of their routine healthcare, and often works out cheaper over the year.
Having frequent checkups (every 6-12 months) will keep your rabbit in better health, saving money on problems that may have otherwise escalated without you noticing.
Check if you're eligible for help with vet bills if you're on benefits, such as with the PDSA.
When your insurance is coming up to its renewal date, shop around and see if there are any better deals elsewhere, just be sure that they cover any existing conditions.
Another good idea is to have a dedicated savings account which you can pay into monthly, just set up a direct debit for a little a month and let the money build up in there. This extra money is useful for anything unexpected, or for yearly bills such as holiday boarding. If it never gets used then the money is still yours to do what you like with!