rabbits


Taking home your first rabbit is an exciting time but, as with any new addition to the family, can be a little daunting to begin with.  Sometimes it feels as though there are more questions than answers.  In this article, we will try to answer some of those questions.

bunnies

Rabbits can make great pets for children

How big a hutch do I need for my rabbit?

The minimum size for a hutch should be 4′ x 2′.  If this can be divided up to provide interest, so much the better – can you make a box for him to go into?  Or a shelf to jump up onto?  Or divide off part of the hutch with a jump through hole?  Can the hutch have two levels?  The more variety you can provide for your rabbit, the more he can amuse himself and also let you know what he likes.  One rabbit we had used to spend all day jumping over the divider in his hutch – not through the hole which was made for the purpose, over the TOP of the divider.

If you can make it safe, all rabbits benefit from having a run in the garden that they can go out into during the day.  Make sure they have somewhere to shelter from the weather – either too much sun OR bad weather.  The opportunity to hop around outside and nibble the grass is a huge benefit to them.

rabbit

Rabbits love to chew

Does my rabbit have to live in a hutch?

No, your rabbit can live in your house just like a cat or a dog.  He will need a litter tray which, apparently, they soon learn to use just like a cat.  You will need to be careful of electric cables which a rabbit could chew – maybe enclose them in plastic casing – and also be aware of anything else that he might nibble at.

What should I feed my new rabbit?

First of all, ask the seller what the rabbit is eating at the moment. Whenever we sell a rabbit, we always provide the new owner with a bag of food as a starter pack. This can then be mixed with any new feed and make the transition easier and less stressful for everybody involved. Rabbits can be quite conservative in their eating habits and sometimes treat new food with suspicion – even something that you think will be a treat for them, will only be nibbled at until they are used to it. As rabbits really need to keep food moving through their stomach, a couple of days without eating can be extremely bad for a them. Mixing any new food with something they are already used to can make the move far easier.

As a rough guide, you will need to feed your rabbit either pellets or a coarse mix designed for rabbits, hay, and green food.

bunny care

Rabbits love to eat weeds like plantain

What kind of green food should I offer?

That is a personal choice for you and your rabbit (they have personal likes and dislikes just as we do). You can grow, or pick wild herbs, weeds and grasses. You can find out what he likes and feed him your carrot peelings, apple cores etc. Or you can buy veg specially for him when you do your weekly shopping. The choice is entirely yours, but he will need fresh feed to keep him healthy.

Some dos and don’ts on green food:

DON’T feed lettuce, cabbage, parsnips, frozen veg, evergreens.

DO try corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, lucerne (alfalfa), sugar beet, radishes, swede and trunips.  Carrots are good as long as they haven’t been sprayed with insecticide.  Strawberry leaves, raspberry canes and leaves, blackberry leaves, and any fruit bush or tree prunings.

From the flower beds you can try them on marigolds, asters, nasturtiums, roses, juniper, sunflowers and mallow.

Will my rabbit need vitamin supplements?

If rabbit feed is provided, then most of your bunny’s nutritional needs should be catered for, but it is always worth providing a mineral lick for him. That way he will take as much as he needs when he needs it.

rabbit care

rabbits enjoy company

What about water?

Rabbits, like all animals, should have constant access to fresh clean water. Here you have a choice between a bottle which attaches to the outside of the cage, or a bowl.

Very often a rabbit will play with his water bowl, tip it over, stand in it, poo in it etc. We have one bunny who, when he was younger, would deliberately tip his bowl over, pick it up and toss it from end to end of his hutch. So bowls need careful watching, topping up and cleaning regularly.

Bottles, on the other hand, seem a little easier but I personally find bottles harder to keep clean – they end up with a limescale deposit in the nozzle and a green film in the actual bottle that can be difficult to remove. The danger that we discovered with bottles comes from the wire with which you fasten them to the cage. We lost one rabbit very suddenly and unexpectedly and, when we had the vet do a a post mortem on her, we discovered that she had chewed off and swallowed a piece of the wire which had subsequently perforated her stomach. So we are now very careful about using bottles with those rabbits we know to be chewers.

worming rabbits

Rabbits need worming occasionally

What veterinary treatment will my rabbit need?

Your rabbit will need worming 3 – 4 times per year with an approved rabbit wormer. You can do this yourself although it might be worth asking your vet to show you how the first time if you are worried about it.

Occasionally rabbits need treating for fleas just like any other animal. You don’t need to routinely dose them for fleas, but do make it part of your regular routine to check them carefully.

Rabbits should be vaccinated against mixymatosis.

His nails will need clipping regularly. This is something else that you can do for yourself – get the vet or vet nurse to show you how, and get a pair of proper clippers and your rabbit will soon get used to letting you do them.

Occasionally rabbits also need their teeth clipping. Not all rabbits suffer from this, but look at his teeth when you check him over. Although you can do this yourself, it is probably better to let the vet have a look at them, show you how, and discuss when they should be done.

Do rabbits need toys?

A common misconception with rabbits is that they will contentedly sit in a 4′ x 2′ hutch 24/7 and stare at the walls.  Rabbits “will” do this and it says a lot for their characters that they will survive this where most other animals would pine away.

But and it is a big BUT, rabbits are social, intelligent animals who really need more from life than this.

rabbit jumping

Treacle the rabbit slinky – jumping too fast for our camera to focus

If you place an object in their hutch, many will find a way to play with it. We use old sections of stove pipe for them to run through as tunnels, objects like plastic feed bowls or hard rubber balls are popular things for them to “fiddle” with. One of our bucks loves a plastic hosepipe hanger. It is lightweight and he moves it around and around his hutch until he is happy and then jumps backwards and forwards over it to his heart’s content.

rabbits

If they are handled gently, rabbits enjoy being cuddled

Rabbit toys don’t need to be expensive, shop-bought ones. Just remember that, being rabbits, they WILL chew them so try to find things that are safe for them.

Do rabbits like being handled?

In my experience, the answer to this is a huge YES. As long as they have been handled regularly and gently, rabbits love the attention and company. When the apprentice was younger, she would sit IN the hutch of her buck “Smudge” and he would immediately hop into her lap for a cuddle. One of our current bucks, “Treacle” loves to come out of his hutch and jump over whatever obstacles the apprentice sets out for him. Rabbits are all individuals, but they are never “just rabbits” 🙂

Do you have any advice for new rabbit owners? Or are you a new owner and have a question? Click here to comment

Everything you wanted to know about baby rabbits

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and a cat!

Mischief safe after her adventure

Mischief safe after her adventure

Miffy and Mischiefare two young sisters who share a hutch. They are this years babies so are still quite young and curious. One day, a couple of weeks ago, the apprentice called me in a panic. Miffy and Mischief had escaped! We managed to recapture Miffy quite easily, but Mischief was nowhere to be seen!

After searching until we ran out of daylight we finally accepted that Mischief was gone forever.

The next day we caught a glimpse of Mischief and the hunt started again. She obviously thought this was a great game and danced in and out of the bramble bushes and the shed. Twice I had her cornered and she managed to squeeze past me, and once the apprentice actually had a hand on her and still the little devil got away! We were now totally convinced that, either she would continue to evade capture and “turn native” or the cats (of which we have 4) would find her and eat her.

After a couple of days of this I had given up on ANY hope of catching Mischief, but every time we saw her I felt obliged to at least TRY to catch her. Then on the Saturday morning, after 3 days of hide and seek, we spotted her under the bramble bush gently hopping around exploring. Now, surely, we would catch her?

Shadow

Shadow

Enter Badger and Shadow stage right. Badger and Shadow are two of this year’s kittens – Badger was born in May and is a big strong cat now, and Shadow (his younger brother who was born in August) is devoted to him and follows him everywhere – hence why he is called Shadow.

Badger

Badger

So, we watched with some trepidation as Badger and Shadow set out under the brambles on Mischief’s trail. They crept up behind her……..she spotted them and turned around………they sniffed noses………Mischief hopped a few more steps……….Badger and Shadow followed………..sniffed noses again…….Badger turned around and walked off………Shadow and Mischief followed him……they stopped for a chat. And so it continued for about an hour and all we humans could do was watch in amazement as what looked like certain bunny carnage to begin with, ended up an amazing display of inter-species trust and “something”. I hesitate to call it friendship as who knows what was really going on in the minds of either the cat OR the rabbits, but the cats certainly weren’t looking for rabbit pie, and the rabbit saw absolutely no reason to run.

Having watched this amazing scene for an hour we finally managed to persuade Mischief into a “trap” and caught her once more. I have to say that, in spite of her apparent reluctance to be caught, she was very pleased to be back in her hutch with her sister and I don’t think she stopped eating for about two days afterwards!

I can honestly say that, between all the animals in the yard, they never fail to teach me something new!

These are some photos sent in by reader Charline Fraser of her baby rabbits at around a week old.  Thank you for sharing them with us Charline, and my apologies for taking so long to post them.  They are lovely – which is the one you have kept?
photo

photo (1)

photo (2)

One of our readers sent in these photos of her litter of baby rabbits who are just 6 days old. Very cute, and they look lovely and warm and cosy in their nest – thank you 🙂

Here’s what our reader says about her babies:-

“It’s strange when I go in to the hatch my female is calm and just stands on my legs with her front legs in the air but when my husband goes in she tries to bite him. 😀

Will that change when the babies are older? Would like to take the kids to have a look but scared she tries to bite them too.”

Don’t they look great? 🙂 Yes, the mum should get a little more relaxed, about people seeing them, as they grow. It is good that she is so relaxed with you, and she will get used to your husband and the children

Enjoy 🙂

Rabbit picture

Click here to add a caption for our bunny

rabbit ate my homework

hmmm algebra – my favourite

worming for internal parasitesWorming animals is one of my least favourite jobs on the smallholding. I always make the mistake of reading the data sheet that comes with the wormer (which I am about to pour down the inside of the animal) and read how I shouldn’t get it on my skin, to “avoid skin contact”, then I start to worry. After all, a wormer is essentially a poison right?

Unfortunately, when we keep animals in domestication we are keeping them in an unnatural environment. No matter how much we might try to imitate nature, we can never recreate it entirely, and worms and other similar problems are largely a problem of domesticity.

Over the years since we had the rabbits we have read time and again that it is very rare for rabbits to need worming. It isn’t really a problem that rabbits suffer with. However, we lost two rabbits in close succession recently. The first one suffered what appeared to be a massive stroke – her co-ordination started to go one-sided and ended, very rapidly, with her having a huge fit and dying. The second one had nothing obvious wrong with him – he was just very quiet and quietly faded away. We had more time with him so we took him to the vet who tried her best with him, but he basically just lay down and died.

I explained to the vet about the “stroke victim” and it appears that there is a worm called e cuniculi which attacks the brain and can cause stroke symptoms. So, we came away with wormers for all the rabbits. Having now done some research on e. cuniculi, it appears that young rabbits can catch this one from contact with an infected mother or an infected cage mate. So, if it IS the cause of our problem, one of our original rabbits probably had it and it has just been waiting to strike! 😦

The rabbits all need a nine-day course of this wormer. It comes in a handy syringe with gradations all marked on the plunger. All you need is to know the weight of your rabbit, turn the stopper to the right dose, and administer it to the rabbit.  One thing to remember is that each mark on one side of the plunger is two gradations.  To measure one gradation, you have to take the difference between the mark on one side and the next mark on the other side .

dewormer schedule

The apprentice cuddles all the rabbits regularly so this is a comparatively easy procedure.

rabbit illneesses

Sit somewhere where you have plenty of room – if the rabbit does struggle the last thing you need is to be perched on the edge of something, trying to keep your balance, trying not to shove the syringe down your own throat, whilst juggling a rabbit.

Sit the rabbit on your lap, wrap your spare arm around the back of him and hold him with your thumb behind his ears and your fingers under his chin.

rabbit worm

With your “good hand” (right hand for us) place the syring in the corner of the rabbits mouth and gently squeeze the paste into his mouth. The easiest way to get the syringe in the right place is to put it in just behind the front teeth and then slide it back. Ideally you want to be placing the wormer on the back of the tongue – this makes it harder for him to spit it at you if he doesn’t like the taste 🙂

rabbit worm

Repeat for nine days for all rabbits in your rabbitry.

I will have to check back with the vet about re-dosing. The dreaded data-sheet says they should be wormed 2-4 times per year but, as I said before, every rabbit book we own says that rabbits shouldn’t need routine worming. Oh well, I suppose that once we have done this round we have a few months to do some research on the subject 🙂

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