Compared to choosing a cage for your Bun, selecting an exercise pen is very easy. You really only have to ask yourself four questions to figure out the basics, and anything beyond that is purely a matter of aesthetics.
How tall should my pen be? Bunnies are, obviously, quite good at hopping. Some buns are mini Houdinis, and others of are the mild-mannered variety who would never dream of doing anything even remotely naughty. Most rabbits are somewhere between these two extremes. The general idea is to find a pen that will provide safety and security for your pet while not turning your home into a maximum security prison.
Consider how large your rabbit will be when fully grown. Think about the height of the litter box and whether you will provide other surfaces in the pen, like boxes or bins with which your bunny can play. Adventurous bunnies can and will use these items to their advantage if they decide to try exploring the World Beyond the Pen. We have witnessed buns push their boxes around with their noses to position them just so, and then vault themselves over the side of the pen with the greatest of ease. It’s quite amusing and rather amazing to watch them go through this process.
Usually the general rule we follow is getting a pen 2.5 times taller than the height of the rabbit when it stands on its hind legs without stretching to its tiptoes. Most of our Hollands are 10-12 inches high when they sit up to do incredibly cute things like wash their wee faces. 12 inches x 2.5 gives us a good height of 30 inches to work with. Thus far, none of our Buns have managed to escape a 30” high pen, although Half Stache is trying his hardest. We have had a few manage to find a way out of the 24” pen, but you can usually tell if your bun will be a boundary tester at a fairly young age; just look for the twinkle in the eyes and an unmistakable air of determination. If you see those signs, get the pen that is 6” higher.
Common heights of exercise pens are 24”, 30”, 36”, 42”, and 48”.
Would you like a pen with a step through gate?
Pens with walk-through/step-through gates are becoming increasingly easy to find. Some models have small pet sized-doors in one of the panels, others have no door/gate and involve removing clips or a post to open the pen and retrieve your bunny. We have all three styles in our rabbitry and have come to appreciate the benefits of the of the step through gate style above all others. When the time comes to put a squirming rabbit who doesn’t want playtime to end back into his cage, that door can make life much easier for both of you.
3. What material do you prefer your pen to be made with? Your main choices are wire or plastic. We have invested in both and, when it comes to cleaning the pens themselves, the wire wins, hands down. The plastic variety, like those made by the Iris company, have all sorts of nooks and crannies where bunny pee and poo balls like to hide and get stuck. The ewww factor definitely increases when you don’t have a power washer and you have to wash each panel by hand in your bathtub. Yes, we definitely have experience with this one.
Some of you may wonder about the fabric pop-up style exercise pens that are advertised on Amazon and other sites. They are nice to look at, but would be short-lived once a bunny takes his first nibble.
4. How much should a good, sturdy pen cost? We purchased some of our Iris pens on sale for $28 (8-panels), but have seen them regularly priced up to $75, depending on the color selected.