Is pressure treatment wood preservative safe for rabbits?
Lots of people are very confused about what pressure treatment is, and there seems an equal amount of confusion about if its dangerous to wildlife.
So just to set the record straight about our 35 years experience in woodworking, here is our experience of pressure treated products and animals.
Firstly, what is pressure treatment?
Pressure treatment for wood (often referred to as Tanalising) is a form of treatment to help give any product that is treated up to 10 years without the worry from dry rot and normal decay typical to all outdoor wooden furniture.
How does pressure treatment work?
What happens in the process of getting your Rabbit Hutch pressure treated? Basically, if you can imagine a tank that is in the shape of a submarine hull – a number of train carriages carrying stacks of timber are pushed into it on train tracks. There is a big pressure sealed door at the end that is closed after the train has gone in.
Once the tank is sealed it is filled to the brim with a preservative liquid by high pressure pumps. The liquid is continually pumped into the tanks until the pressure reaches around 180lbs PSI (per square inch).
This ensures that the preservative is pushed deep into the timber fibres. The tank is then drained and the wood is left to drip dry inside the tank.
So what is the best option for the safety of my rabbits?
Some times you often hear fellow pet owners recommend things like, “I wouldn’t buy any rabbit housing pressure treated as none are safe for rabbits if they chew it.”
We often read comments on pet forums about what it is and so we thought we would take the time to explain about the process, why we would recommend it, and why it’s going to save you money in the long run – so you can make up your own mind if you choose to include it. Before we begin, we just want to assure you that we don’t own a treatment plant and we’re not discreetly putting info out there to boost the industry’s turnover!
But when you believe in something, it’s nice to take the time to share it.
What about just using “pet safe” wood preservatives?
Pet safe wood paints and stains are a bit of a grey area in terms of what they actually mean. The industry standard for “pet safe” really means it does not give off toxic fumes that could cause harm to your pet. But while that might be relevant to preserving animal housing such as a bird aviary, hen house or chicken coop – the difference is a rabbit is known to chew on wood long after the timber has dried and the fumes have gone away. In the real world no treatments have been proven safe for anyone to eat.
What about the liquids used in pressure treatment?
Worries about harmful chemicals used in the process are certainly from the olden days and we are going back a long time – almost 16 years. There was a time that the chemicals used in the process contained arsenic (which was definitely harmful). But the EU got their hands on the recipe and all of a sudden it had to conform to a new wildlife and pet friendly set of rules. But not only wildlife – what about us humans too? In the days of old, timber that had been processed could not legally be removed from the treatment centre premises for three days to let the chemicals dry out of the timber sufficiently. Humans were very much part of the change in legislation.
What about using no preservatives at all?
The next thing some people suggest on forums is to go without any wood preservative at all. While this would result in a very short lived rabbit hutch – any hutch that is exposed to the elements for more than a few weeks will build up a layer of fungus and surface mould, which of course is also harmful to ingest. When the untreated wood inevitably becomes full of dry rot and begins to decay, it becomes soft to touch – and all this does is make an easier meal for a rabbit to eat. The end result is a hutch riddled with dry rot, severely weakened and vulnerable to predators prying their way in.
So what is the most important thing to consider?
From our experience, we believe that a far more important thing to consider is to own a hutch that will deter your rabbit from chewing at it altogether, no matter the treatment used. Rabbits gnaw at things when they don’t have the freedom to move around, hop freely, or have a companion – essentially, they will eat their surroundings when they are bored, caged up in a small space for hours on end and have nothing else to do.
What matters most is to provide a large enough rabbit hutch that will last, provide safety, where the rabbits can live comfortably and aren’t tempted to chew the timber at all!
But even if they are tempted to have a nibble every now and again – we can safely say we’ve been in business for 35 years making pet accommodation and in all that time we have never heard of a rabbit becoming ill from pressure treatment. More importantly – of all the comments we have read from all the unsure pet owners out there, we have never read about any incident online of anyone reporting an issue.
So, should I have my rabbit hutch pressure treated?
We would recommend, yes – and there is one very big reason. You have just invested quite a bit of money on your hutch, so it makes sense to get the level of security and life span that it was designed for. Pressure treating (or tanalising) will insure that, no matter what. Your hutch will last for years and years, and if you don’t get out there to re-coat it regularly, it won’t make a difference to its life.
Once upon a time we moved our workshop near to an old farmhouse building, which had a lovely dwarf sandstone wall on three sides surrounding the front garden. It was nice and wide but it was just a bit too low to feel like the garden was private so we were asked to build a 4” timber frame onto it on all sides, and bolted it to the top of the wall. The frame was about 18” high and we fastened a capping piece onto the top of the frame with a Chamfer on both sides to give it a professional look.
Then we cladded both sides of the frame vertically with tongue and groove ship lap boarding ½” thick.
Why do we even mention this? Well our two main reasons are:
- We had the timber pressure treated before we started the project but more importantly,
- That was all 17 years ago!
So, you can see where the moral of this story goes can’t you. We never painted the fence once in all this time, and it’s still as strong and sturdy as it was when it was built with no rot showing anywhere.
Just think about that when you are buying your next Rabbit Hutch!