Turn a Playhouse into a Giant Hutch
A wooden children's playhouse can easily be adapted as outdoor accommodation for rabbits. It has the benefit of a large floor area - even the smaller sizes (4ft x 4ft) offer a larger floor space than a standard 6ft hutch. Plus, you can sit inside to interact with your rabbits, particularly handy in winter when the weather isn't as good. They are designed to be visually appealing, so look less imposing in a garden than a full size shed. The only downside is that unlike a shed is they are usually not quite tall enough for an adult (person not rabbit) to stand up in.
Choosing a Playhouse to Convert
There is quite a variety of designs in playhouses and almost all are suitable for conversion. The decision of which is best will depend on your rabbit's needs and your garden space. Think about where the playhouse will go and which way you want doors and windows to face, and whether windows are fixed or opening. Height is another important consideration; ridge heights vary from about 4.5ft to 5.5 ft, and can influence how easy it is for you to get inside to clean and interact with your rabbit. It's also a good idea to think about where you will attach a run; the most practical option is usually to one side so the playhouse door remains easily accessible.
The dimensions quoted below exclude verandas (a common feature of playhouses). If you are tall take particular note of the height as this varies a lot.
The three main playhouse manufacturers are Mad Dash, Shire and Daltons. Here are their playhouses. In some cases each style is available in a range of sizes.
Walton Snug Playhouse (4x4)
This is one of the smaller playhouses (only 4' x 4') - although that still makes a very big hutch. It is also not very tall (4' 7" at the ridge). It has three fixed windows (one front and one each side) and a solid door with small window.
Shire Bunny Playhouse (4x4)
The Bunny Playhouse (what an appropriate name) is manufactured from smooth planed white pine from sustainable forests. There is one opening window (I'd mesh underneath and use it like a shutter) plus a fixed one in the door. Unlike most playhouses the door/window is in the side rather than the end which restricts height a bit.
Dimensions: 119L x 119W x 145H cm Convert
Floor Area: 1.4161 square metres
Shire Kitty Playhouse (5x4)
This playhouse has a veranda (30cm) and opening window. The window could be meshed on the inside and then opened/closed as the weather dictated (though at least one panel should be removed for ventilation). The door also has a window. Ridge height is 5'.
Dimensions: 119L x 149W x 155H cm Convert
Floor Area: 1.7731 square metres
Walton Poppy Playhouse
Three fixed windows (one front, one each side) and a half glazed door makes inside light and airy. Max height is 5'. The overhanging roof should offer extra protection if you swap the plastic windows for mesh.
Shire Pixie Playhouse (6x4)
This playhouse is very similar to the Shire Cubby Playhouse but has a large window in the door letting in more light. It has a veranda (18") not included in measurements and two opening windows.
Dimensions: 179L x 119W x 157H cm Convert
Floor Area: 2.1301 square metres
Shire Cubby Playhouse
This playhouse is almost identical to the pixie including the veranda (18") and opening windows. The difference is the diamond cut-out in the door and slightly smaller windows.
Dimensions: 179L x 119W x 168H cm Convert
Floor Area: 2.1301 square metres
Walton Honeysuckle Playhouse
Two fixed windows at the front and a very small 'window' in the door. The ridge height (5'8") is more forgiving to adult size people - if you're not too tall you maybe able to stand up inside. This is similar in size to a 6'x4' shed but nicer to look at.
Mad Dash Lollipop Playhouse
The Lillipop is available in Junior (5' wide) and Max (7' wide). And either 6' or 9' deep (including the veranda). All sizes have the same design - a window each side and a stable door plus two more windows at the front.
Dimensions: 158L x 150W x 165H cm Convert
Floor Area: 2.37 square metres
Playhouses are readily available second hand, and often in good condition as children have only used them a few years before out-growing them. Ebay is a good source, there are some available examples below, but look at other freead websites and local facebook selling sites.
Playhouses are usually constructed in panels and most will fit in (or on) a car when disassembled. Don't be put off by a playhouse that looks weathered; a coat of paint can work wonders. Just make sure the wood itself is not rotten and decided whether you would be willing to repair a roof when checking condition.
Converting a playhouse to a hutch
Converting a playhouse into rabbit accommodation shares many similarities with converting a shed, which I've covered here.
The outside of the playhouse will need painting or staining with pet safe wood preservative. There are a wide range of colours available so you can be as creative as you like with the colour scheme.
Most playhouses are smooth planed tongue and groove, to avoid rough edges for children. This means, unlike cheap sheds they don't generally need lining. Though you can still do this if you add insulation.
The playhouse will need a level base to sit on. Paving slabs are the easiest option and they are cheap and easy to lay. Most playhouses have a wooden floor but if not your may want to add one - construct a wood frame and then use plywood over it to create an internal floor. It's a good idea to cover the wooden floor over with lino or vinyl safety flooring to make it wipe clean and protect it from urine. Seal the edges with sealant or wooden trim.
A big benefit of playhouses over hutches is the extra height they provide. You can make the most of this by adding a second level with a shelf, low table or hutch your rabbits can sit on. Rabbit's enjoy watching the world around them so if possible position the shelf to give them access to see out through the window.
Playhouse windows are usually empty frames or Perspex. Either way it's a good idea to fit a layer of weld mesh on the inside for security. If your playhouse has opening windows then I'd suggest keeping the Perspex and fitting a layer of mesh, that way you can use the window as a shutter/vent opening and closing it as necessary. You might want to remove the Perspex in some windows for ventilation. It depends on the style of playhouse and how warm/cold it gets where your playhouse is located.
It's important that your playhouse isn't sealed up too tight, it needs ventilation. This might not be an issue if you have open mesh windows but for more enclosed playhouses you can fit vents into the walls if necessary.
You'll need to add a bolt (or several) to the playhouse door to secure it closed. If your playhouse doesn't have a lot of windows then you could consider creating a secondary mesh door that fits behind the solid one. This allows you to open the outer door when it's hot but still keeps your bunnies inside.
Don't forget your rabbits will need an exercise run to go with their playhouse. Fitting it to one side keeps access to the doorway free for you. One of the best options is having a cat flap in the side of the playhouse leading out in to the run, there are more options for linking runs to housing here.