Bunnies, Wires and Barn Fires

Candy loves living outside with the chickens. First thing in the morning, I open up her hutch and she hurries down her long ramp, and then up the chickens’ short ramp to stare at the coop’s pop-door, waiting for the girls.  I go inside the coop and let the hens out. They hustle and bustle out their little door, Candy in their midst. It’s a funny sight – a calm zen-like bunny, immoveable as the hens run this way and that. Sometimes Candy plops herself on the ledge of the pop-door, blocking the chickens’ way. I’m sure she does this to cause consternation amongst the hens. A little white leghorn squeezes past, but the big hens, stuck indoors, hop up and own, peer at Candy, and squawk. I’m sure that Candy is laughing.

It’s such fun to house Candy with the hens, but it’s not something to do without thought and some construction skills. We’ve gone to a lot of trouble to keep Candy safe outside. Candy needs protection from predators. That required burying the perimeter fence 8-inches below ground, so digging predators can’t get in (and Candy can’t burrow out.) There’s hawk netting stretched overhead. At night, Candy is closed up in a secure hutch, with a raccoon-proof latch. We keep her warm in the winter by adding sides to the hutch, and cool in the summer by removing those sides and adding a shade awning.

House rabbits are renown for chewing on wires. When Candy first went to live with the chickens, we learned that bunnies can’t resist outside wires, either. She shut down the HenCam, and Steve enclosed the wires with conduit.

That’s the camera above the waterer. See the conduit?

On Saturday I cleaned out the coop. That metal base is a heater and keeps the water from freezing. Notice the wire. It’s tucked into the back of the coop and runs up the wall. In the five years that Candy has been outside with the hens that wire has been out of her reach.

Never underestimate a rabbit.

I picked up the heater and a flash of fire shot out. I’m not exaggerating. It was a flame, not a spark. The coop was dusty from my cleaning, and the dust in the air caught fire. It was dramatic, but, thankfully, very, very brief.

Candy had chewed the wire.

The electric zap shut down the HenCam for awhile. Luckily I have a live-in IT guy. The heater isn’t needed until the cold weather sets in next winter. So, there’s time to fix the wire and install yet another bunny-proof conduit.

It’s a good thing that I’m such a stickler for keeping my barn tidy and clean. Frequent barn inspections are essential. You never know what dangers lurk there.


  1. We had a rabbit when I was small that pottered in the house in the cold Northumbrian winters. It dispatched three vacuum cleaners, chewing through the wire while mum was hoovering in another room. Are rabbits fully insulated? It didn’t seem to bother Hoppity at all….

    • Someone needs to study the insulating properties of rabbits! Also, they have a “seek and destroy” mentality towards live wires. Are they tuned in to some unknown wavelength? :)

      • well apparently some cats wee on electrical appliances so perhaps some other animals can feel the electricity. Cats can sense residual current so are aware of it even when things are turned off. I think Rabbits are just plain odd. I’m sure it’s something the military could utilise!

        • My dog pauses before she goes under a fence wire to check if the electric fence is turned on or not, and she is always right. I think maybe she can hear it, but it could be smell or some other way that she senses the current.

          • I had a leopard appy (for those who don’t know, that’s a horse that has markings like a Dalmatian) that would listen for the click-click of the electric fence charger. The moment it was turned off, that horse would escape!

            • Terry,
              have a very good friend who had a horse that did the exact same thing and a goat that did care one way or the other!!!!!!

            • Lots of ponies and horses can tell if the fence is on–at least mine could! I just have one now, a 3 year old arab-haflinger cross; his daddy was our prime fence “sniffer” and he inherited the talent. He puts his nose a fraction of an inch from the wire and, I guess, just feels a little tingle if the fence is on. I check the fence often!!

  2. Good Grief Terry! So glad you noticed it before it became a worse problem! Glad everyone is OK!

  3. Terry,
    I spilt PVC pipe length wise down the middle and put that over my wire as it’s going to take a lot of work for them to chew though a piece of PVC. I use white PVC so I notice the white flakes right away. Bunnies are very sneaky little buggers.

  4. Lucky you spotted it before a fire started! My cockatiels love to chew the cords too, you need to be creative to keep the critters beaks/teeth off electrical wires. One time my son’s hamster got loose and ended up in the control panel of the washer. Needless to say we had to replace the controls at about the cost of a new washer.
    I have a question about heating a hen house. How warm would a 250W brooder heat lamp be for the hens. Is this adequate enough for them?


    • I don’t heat the hen house! Not necessary unless you have frizzles and silkies. As long as the house is free of drafts, good ventilation and dry, your hens will be comfortable in temps well below freezing. What I do heat is the water so that they always have fresh, flowing water. Chickens can die in the winter when their water freezes and they have nothing to drink.

  5. Glad you caught it early! Loved your description of her blocking the hen’s door. Bet it ruffles the chicken’s feathers when she does that. How funny!

  6. sorry if you’ve already said this, but when exactly are you getiing your chicks?