Rabbit Care and Feeding
Housing your rabbit
Rabbits can live indoors or outdoors
House rabbits: Should have a secure cage in which they can be kept when you are absent. Your home should be rabbit proofed to prevent hazards like electrocution from chewing electric cables. Ideally house rabbits should still have access to the outdoors to exercise and graze.
Hutch rabbits:Shop bought hutches are often too small. They should be as large as possible but at the very least should allow the rabbit at least 3 ‘hops’ from one end to the other.
Hutches must be raised off the ground and protected from the wind and rain. Direct sunlight must be avoided- heat stroke occurs easily. Over winter shelter can be provided in a garage or shed.
Exercise: This must be in addition to the exercise area of the hutch. Obesity in the rabbit is very common, exercise is important to maintain good body condition, maintain strength in limbs and prevent boredom.
Mobile runs or permanent fenced areas of grazing are ideal. Remember that rabbits can jump well and dig!- grazing areas need to be secure. Contact with wild rabbits must also be prevented, and fly and mosquito control is necessary to prevent spread of disease
Rabbits can also be taken for ‘hops’ on a harness
Hygiene: wet soiled bedding causes ulcerative skin lesions on the hind limbs, urine scald and attracts flies, predisposing to fly strikes. High levels of ammonia in urine soaked bedding causes respiratory disease.
Companions: rabbits are social animals and should be provided with a companion whenever possible, littermates can be kept together. Neutering is advised in same sex pairings to prevent aggression and in opposite sex pairings. All introductions should be supervised. Rabbits will bully guinea pigs and often carry bacteria that are harmful to them.
It’s All About the Fibre: the truth about what rabbits should eat.
There is a huge amount of misunderstanding about what should be on your pet rabbits menu. Wild rabbits are essentially grazers, but also forage on shoots and levels. How closely does the diet you feed you rabbit resemble this?
The fibre in grass and hay, stimulates gut motility. Diets that are low in fibre and high in carbohydrate, such as concentrate foods, cause the gut to slow down and as a result, adverse alterations in gut bacteria and pH, leading to digestive disturbances.
Feeding concentrates can lead to:
- Boredom associated problems such as aggression and stereotypic behaviours
- Dental disease through lack of wear
- Suboptimal gut health
The best diet is grass and good quality hay, as much as your rabbit will eat! In addition to this, offer your rabbit a MAXIMUM of 25g/kg bodyweight/day of a high fibre pellet food and a pile of dark leafy green vegetables twice the size of your bunny’s head a day.
Fruit and root vegetables such as carrots should only be offered as treats.
Dairy and sugary treats are not allowed!
Most hays sold for pets are described as meadow hays and are a mixture of grass hays.
Always check the freshness of hay- it should be dust free, still green and smell fresh. Sharing hay with a horse owner is a good way to source excellent quality. Store hay in a cool dry place away from sunlight.
Ways to encourage your rabbit to eat more hay:
- Refresh hay often
- Try different hays
- Place hay in multiple locations
- Experiment with presentation, e.g. hay balls, filling cardboard boxes, hay plaits or dollies