Rabbits need to have a well balanced diet to ensure that they stay in good health, and to maintain their immune system. Try to keep feeds & feeding habits consistent. Any changes should be made gradually (over 1-2 weeks) to minimise digestive upsets. From 3 weeks of age, rabbits can eat a combination of oaten hay, fresh vegetables and pellets. The ideal diet for your rabbit consists of:
- Fresh, clean water available at all times
- Oaten hay or meadow hay – 80% of diet (unlimited supply)
- Fresh vegetables, particularly leafy greens – 15% of diet (1-2 cups per kg of bodyweight per day)
- Rabbit pellets – 5% of diet (1-2 tablespoons per day)
Unlike humans, rabbits cannot regulate their temperature through perspiration. Rabbits should always be housed in a shaded, undercover or indoor area. For temperatures above 30 degrees, place a large frozen water bottle in their enclosure. For temperatures above 34 degrees, rabbits should be brought indoors.
You should inspect your rabbit regularly for signs of poor health. If any of these signs are present, visit your Vet without delay.
Eyes: Alert and bright. Free of any discharge.
Nose: Dry. Sneezing and/or discharge is an indication of illness such as a viral or bacterial disease.
Ears: Perfectly clean. Dirt in the ears can signify that the rabbit has ear mites.
Coat: Clean and lustrous. A dull coat indicates poor health. Patches suggest mite or flea issue.
Belly: Nice & plump but definitely not bloated. A bloated belly is a sure sign of a digestive disorder.
Genitals: Perfectly clean. Free of any of discharge.
The below table shows the relevant diseases for rabbits, the symptoms to look for and possible prevention and cure.
Desexing is generally recommended. It ensures a calm temperament and reduces the likelihood of some serious diseases. Male rabbits are usually desexed from 4-6 months of age. Female rabbits should also be desexed between 4-6 months of age. The main reason for desexing female rabbits is the prevention of uterine cancer (it’s reported that 60-80% of rabbits may develop uterine cancer if left entire).
Housing - Indoors
A suitable hutch should measure at least 1200mm x 600 mm (4ftx2ft) and be at least 600mm (2ft) high. The hutch should be of sturdy construction, impenetrable by dogs or cats.
The ideal building material is untreated Pinewood. The hutch should be designed so that all internal walls are smooth as bunny’s natural instinct is to chew. Avoid hutches made of metal. They are icy cold in Winter and unbearably hot in Summer.
A solid wood floor is best. Wire floors, whilst easy to clean, are uncomfortable for bunny to walk and lie upon. Cover enclosure with flyscreen and place in a protected area so it is not exposed to the hot midday and afternoon sun.
Several inches of bedding should cover the floor. Straw or hay is suitable and can be obtained from any pet store or farm produce shop.
About The Breed
Life span – 8 to 10 years
Average adult body weight – 1.5-2.0 kgs
Heart rate – 120-150 beats per minute
Respiratory rate – 30-60 breaths per minute
Gestation – 31 days
Litter sizes – 2 to 9
Weaning – 4 to 6 weeks
Puberty – 4 to 5 months
Female rabbit – doe
Male rabbit – buck
Young rabbit – kitten
Every rabbit should exercise daily in an area outside their hutch. Exercise will assist rabbits to maintain healthy body weight and also assists to wear down their nails.
- Water bottles are more hygienic than bowls as bunny cannot foul the water.
- Rabbit’s teeth are constantly growing and they need to wear them down. Give your rabbit a piece of untreated pinewood or a fruit tree branch to gnaw on.
- Trim your rabbit’s nails regularly. Nail clippers designed for humans are ideal. Avoid cutting the quick/blood supply. A guide can be found below.
- Never leave your rabbit unattended indoors as his natural desire to gnaw may lead him to chew your furniture, electrical wiring, carpets, etc.
- Toilet train your rabbit by placing a litter tray, filled with litter, in their favourite toilet spot. Add a few of his droppings to help your bunny get the message.
- Rabbits are best kept on their own. 2 bucks will fight, as will 2 does, particularly as they reach sexual maturity. Should you wish for 2 bunnies, the best combination is a desexed buck and doe.
- Do not house your rabbit with birds or guinea pigs for company as they are chronic mite carriers and will pass on the problem to your rabbit.
- Provide your rabbit suitable toys for playtime including wooden toys to chew, tunnels, cat toys to pick up and throw and cardboard boxes.
Nail trimming is a necessary part of rabbit grooming, and will be easier if you do it on a regular basis.
Hold the rabbit gently but firmly. Wrapping the bunny in a towel will help keep them calm and restrained. Trim only the tip of the nail. It is far better to trim just a bit frequently than try to trim off a lot once the nails get too long.
Place the clippers on the nail where the cut is to be made. If you can, apply gentle pressure and if the rabbit flinches move a bit toward the tip of the nail. Make the cut in a firm, swift motion to avoid crushing the nail.