to Keep Your New Bunny
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Wild rabbits – the kind that run around your back yard at night – are tough little cookies. They can slice you with their sharp front claws. They will not hesitate to bite you. If you find a nest of baby bunnies in your back yard (possible nearly any month without snow), you can probably raise a batch of these evil-tempered cootie carriers. Wild rabbits make poor pets. Bottle-feeding a litter of baby bunnies is, however, lots of fun. Baby bunnies do great on canned puppy milk.
Tame bunnies – the kind you find in pet shops – come from a long line of tame captive rabbits reared by actual friends of rabbits. There is little comparison between wild rabbits and tame rabbits except at breeding time.
“Mad as a March hare” probably refers to the antics of some male rabbits during breeding season. Two males in the presence of an estrus female usually results in flying fur. In small quarters death can result. Backyard rabbits can run away when one beats the other. In a cage, the tougher male often just keeps on beating on the loser. The winner usually emasculates the loser.
Food rabbits – usually white – are grown for their meat not their personalities. Some will grow too large (20+ pounds) and too heavy to carry. Tame bunnies are little bitty guys in comparison. Most weigh less than five pounds.
Bunny Foods. In nature,
rabbits eat seeds, grains, roots, assorted bits of vegetation and the tops
off every green bean and pea you plant in your garden.
They like the same things in captivity.
However, our pelleted diets are better nutritionally than what they
can find on their own. During hard winters, rabbits will even eat the bark
off trees. Rabbits thus live
healthier and longer lives in captivity.
All they need in addition to their pellets is water – lots of
water -- which they squirt out in copious quantities.
Chris Griffin, DVM, DABVP, Kannapolis, NC, July 19, 2008
Hi. I came across your web site while surfing today and
found your rabbit page.
I enjoyed seeing what you had to say but noticed a glaring and potentially problematic omission from your diet section. All hind gut fermenting
animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, require hay as large portion of the diet. Pellets are fine but actually much less
necessary for adult rabbits than hay (Timothy or Orchard Grass) because of the extremely high fiber content the stomach and intestines (and cecum)
require to stay healthy and functioning.
Also, the pellets fed to rabbits over six months of age (depending on the breed) should be timothy based as well, to decrease the amount of calcium
that will be excreted via the urine.
I hope this information is seen as being helpful. I have treated too many rabbits over the past 10 years on diets too low in fiber (Hay). Prevention is the key, and it is easy enough -- unlimited timothy or grass hay.
The information at www.oxbowhay.com is excellent. I do not work for them, but am very satisfied with their products for rabbits (and other
animals) and think the educational materials they have are great.
Best of luck -- and I hope you find this information helpful.
A: Thanks for the info. I found it helpful.
I'm adding your letter to our rabbit, guinea pig, and chinchilla
Treat Foods. You can find several types of rabbit treat foods – canned rabbit treats as well as honey-coated rabbit treat sticks. If you want your bunny to run up to you every time you get close, always have a treat or green leaf in your hand.
Diggers. Rabbits use their sharp front paws to defend themselves in the wild and to dig burrows. Most people keep their bunny rabbits over wire floors, so their nails just keep growing. You will probably need to trim these often sharp front nails -- to make your bunny easier to pick up and carry. Use the cat nail trimmers and avoid the quick -- the part that bleeds if you cut it. Have a blood stop product handy. Or, take him out to your concrete driveway and pull him backwards with his nails on the concrete. This will dull the tips of his nails. If you want his nails clipped, bring him in. We clip critter nails FREE. This offer good only in Iowa and contiguous states.
Water. Water bottles are the best way to go. Or you can use a heavy ceramic (untippable) water bowl. Mount your bottle on the outside of the cage, so your bunny won’t think it’s a chew toy.
Hidey Holes. Wild rabbits live in small crawl spaces and crannies. Please don’t throw yours in the brier patch. Your bunny needs a security box to hide in. Even a small cardboard box will work. A wood box would work better over the long haul. They chew up cardboard quickly, but so what?
Litter. You need a urine “absorber” on the floor of your cage. We recommend most litters except cedar. Cedar works alright, since good cages keep bunnies over wire -- not touching the cedar. We still recommend nearly any other litter. You can even shred paper and make your own. We much prefer pine, aspen, or ground corn cobs. You need to change their litter at least weekly. Dirty litter encourages disease problems and cooties. Change it weekly even if it doesn’t stink. Throw the litter in your garden. It makes an excellent nutritive mulch.
Cooties. If your bunny gets mites, you need to clean your cage more often. Any of the cage sprays with pyrethrins zap mites mighty fast. Pyrethrins don’t bother warm-blooded critters, but cover his eyes and mouth when you spray him. Those paper cootie catchers you made in third grade will not work.
Gnawers. As with rodents (rabbits aren’t really rodents, they are lagomorphs), bunnies must continually gnaw on hard substances to keep their teeth ground to workable size. A diet of soft foods could kill them. Rabbits will destroy anything plastic in their cage – plastic wheels, plastic houses, plastic tubes, plastic toys, and plastic cages. They need wooden gnaw toys. Their favorites include chair legs and woodwork.
Salt Licks? Bunnies and guinea pigs both like the salt/mineral wheels. Both squirt large quantities of urine. They need the extra salt.
Hands off the Ears. Cartoon magicians pick up rabbits by their ears. If you want your bunny to like you, never pick him (or your kids) up by the ears. Scoop him up with both hands and support him carefully. Don’t let your kids handle your new bunny until they can pick it up correctly. Limit them to petting only. Dropped bunnies can break their spines.
How Many? Rabbits rarely run in herds. Older male rabbits (bucks) never get along very well. The favorite activity of many bucks is to remove the scrotum of other males. This means you can not keep two bucks together. Over-aggressive bucks can also beat the tar out of young bunnies and females (does). Does usually get along – but not always.
What to Look for: Pick out a bunny that looks good to you. Everyone likes something a little different. Pick a breed that fits your cage (and your pocketbook). The little bitty guys cost the most. Lops get along with kids best. They put up with as much abuse as golden retrievers.
How to Sex: Testicles descend on bucks much later than the date they are sold. So sometimes you get the wrong sex. We check out their plumbing by looking for the tiny penis which indicates a young buck.
How to Examine: Not all bunnies allow you to view their private parts without a struggle. Cover their eyes with one hand, push their legs apart, and have them turn their head and cough. Remember to cover their eyes any time you want to calm a rabbit. Scared bunnies get great big eyes. They calm down as soon as they realize you won’t drop them or eat them.
Do They Like Toys? You bet. Bunnies like to knock around harder ball-type toys. They also enjoy anything they can chew. Wood chews and even natural bark-covered branches fill the bill. Don’t give them rubber or plastic items unless you want them destroyed. Particles of indigestible toys probably won’t hurt them if they ingest them. However, there’s no point in looking for trouble.
An Unfortunate “Toy”: For some reason unknown to modern science, rabbits cannot resist chewing on electrical cords. Sooner or later little Sparky will get a bigger jolt than he can handle. Don’t leave your bunny unattended in a room with exposed electric wires. At the very least, he will destroy your wires. Also, keep him away from all house plants, and your woodwork, and your wooden chair legs.
Breeding: Move your doe to the buck’s cage, not vice versa. This way he concentrates on his “job” not on exploring the new cage. Expect your buck to bite her neck during the breeding process. She accepts this rough treatment better than you will. Assorted loud noises you may hear are usually from the buck. Any high-pitched screams come from the female. Remove her after they mate. His work is done. Give him two or three days to recharge his batteries before you try to breed him again. Unlike the Energizer™ bunny, male bunnies need to re-charge their batteries.
Avoid Stress: Maintain a stable environment for your pregnant doe. No MTV. Regular feeding habits. No scary visitors (such as your neighbors’ kids). Provide a “nesting box” and toss in a towel for her to use in her nest.
What about “Nest Boxes?” Nowadays you can find commercial nest boxes. You used to have to build your own. In a pinch, you can use a small cardboard box. She’ll destroy it fairly fast.
Do Bunnies Need a Bath? If you keep them on top of litter instead of on top of wire, your bunny will develop yellow feet. Not many people want a white rabbit with yellow feet. Your bunny needs a bath. Do not use people shampoo. Do not dry your bunny in your microwave.
Are Bunnies Nocturnal? Wild rabbits run around at night as a means of avoiding predators. Tame bunnies adapt well to your daytime schedule.
More Info: Elizabeth
Reitzer of the House Rabbit Society has provided additional information
for you below in
Bunnies II. LA
Gae Weber, Atlantic Beach, FL, July 27, 2010
Hi there, me again--
Still tooling around your site and enjoying all the info. You have a
great writing style!
As I went thru your bunny pages, I did not see anything about two
important bunny issues--night poop and "poopy butt syndrome" (I am
not kidding, this is a real diagnosis used by vets -- check the
Google). It is very important for rabbits to re-ingest a particularly
gluey stool they usually have at night. It carries certain proteins
and vitamins necessary to good health and is usually eaten as it is
excreted. HOWEVER, bunnies that live in wire-bottom cages often do
not get this stool (or don't get enough). That's one reason wire
cages should have a litter box. Another is that once your rabbit is
litter trained (easiest with female rabbits), it's a lot nicer to let
them run around the house. I didn't believe it was possible until I
got my rabbit, a female lop who is most fastidious and will come from
across the room to hop in her cage and use the litter box. She still
sometimes leaves little rabbit raisins around when she gets excited,
but the dogs think they're after-dinner mints, so it all works out.
As for poopy butt syndrome, this is exactly what it sounds like--a
rabbit has wet stools that stick to its hair and make big clumps on
the underside of your bunny. Very yucky and most comfortably removed
in the bath, but still no fun for anyone. Poopy butt syndrome is a
direct result of bad diet -- most notably an overindulgence in the stuff
sold as rabbit "treats" which many rabbits have no tolerance for at
all. Treating poopy butt syndrome mostly consists of getting your
rabbit back on a strict diet of hay, pellets and fresh green veggies
until the poop clumps finally disappear. Then, because who can refuse
that adorable, hopeful face, you can re-introduce a VERY small helping
of his or her favorite treat. (My bunny LOVESLOVESLOVES banana yogurt dips--I think of them as bunny crack--so she gets 2 every night and a tiny bit of another commercial treat in the morning.)
Another bunny diet fact -- rabbits love books. And newspapers. And
magazines. And your mail. Rabbits eat paper. My rabbit lived in a
bookstore for almost a year and when she was at liberty had to be
constantly shooed off the tables and out of the bookshelves because
she kept eating the merchandise. (Fortunately it was a used
bookstore, so I could just knock .50 off the price and everyone was
happy.) Even now I have to hide the paper from her.
I also once had a box turtle I rescued form the side of the road after
she'd been half-squashed by a car. She had several splits in her
shell, but eventually (with a little Bondo to help) she got herself
back together. Two things about her: One, there is nothing cuter
than a box turtle eating a dog biscuit. When I found her I wasn't
sure what to give her and my vet agreed that dog biscuits were an
acceptable stopgap. As it turned out, she loved them so she always
had them available. Two, if you do not have e perfectly mowed lawn
and you want to let your turtle out for a stroll, but you don't want
to have to spend an hour hunting her up later, duct tape a helium
balloon's string to her. If nothing else it will give your next door
neighbor something to talk about.
Thanks for taking the time to read all this,
A: Poopy-butt syndrome reminds me of the old joke where a bear asks a nearby rabbit if fecal matter sticks to his fur. But that's a different story. Thanks for the info. I will add it to my bunny page. Then I'll add your turtle tip to my turtle page. LA
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