I am getting a lot of questions about a couple of kits that I have, people are really curious about what they will turn into as adults. They aren't exactly the same as the two below, but they seem to really close.
Watching Keeper Develop
Watching Strand Develop
With just enough colour to be a broken, not a charlie, this young broken black went to a new home today. A couple of dwarf bunnies will keep her company.
A Speck x Band kit from May 21.
Her people messaged me tonight asking how long it might take for her to settle in. Apparently she likes the man of the household but tends to widdle on the lady of the household. Why would she do that? was the question.
My best guess is the lady of the household either lacks confidence in handling a bunny, or has a perfume or odour about her that bunny can detect that bunny is not fond of.
It could also simply be information overload for a young bunny. Immediately integrated into a household with two bunnies and not allowed her own place to call her own for a while.
I hope she is doing well and will thrive in her new home. She is definitely being a submissive girl in the picture they sent.
The other day I received this message
"Since I got Lyra home, she has had at least one or two sneezing fits a day. She has no discharge and is eating drinking well. Could it be the hay? I’ve never heard a rabbit sneeze quite like that, but it’s not all the time, only once or twice a day like I said.
Any ideas or suggestions? Her cage is fairly sparse for litter training so she just has hay, wood pellets for litter in her litter box, a wood hide and a lava block to chew. Plus pellets and water."
My short response to her was "Rabbits sneeze sometimes. If you see no snot, or wet front paws it's probably just a sneeze."
I was reassured to hear that she saw no snot, and no wet front paws. A sneeze is sometimes just a sneeze.
But what about those times when a sneeze is NOT just a sneeze and is indicative of a bigger problem?
Causes of Sneezing
What can cause a rabbit to sneeze?
1. Dust and other irritants
Dust and other irritants
You get dust in your nose, you sneeze. Bunnies are no different. Irritants can be things like smoke, perfumes, air fresheners, and various dust particles. Eliminate the irritant, relieve the sneezing.
The bedding used, or the chemicals you use to clean, could be irritants as well.
I knew a girl who had a lovely bunny who one day started biting her and it was so surprising. After lots of questions we tracked it down to she changed her perfume and it was negatively affecting her bunny. She got rid of the perfume and the bunny reverted to his normal sweet self. Not sneezing...but an example of how something we don't know about can cause a problem with your bunny.
People will often say "my bunny is allergic to hay." I have a really hard time believing this one. I tend to believe rather that the hay is dusty and the dust from the hay is the issue, not the hay itself. Hay can be dusty and some rabbits are highly susceptible to dust particles. Even if you don't see it, doesn't mean the dust isn't there.
But, given the anecdotal evidence I do think that rabbits can have seasonal allergies when there is most dust and pollen in the air, or a dry summer with farmers working their fields. Some rabbits can really struggle with the dust and other irritants that are in the air.
I firmly believe that rabbits who really struggle with allergies or a sensitivity to dust particles should NOT be used for breeding. There are so many rabbits out there that don't struggle, why would you perpetuate the health issue?
BESIDES a rabbit who is struggling with dust and/or allergies, would be more susceptible to the third reason.... illness.
Respiratory infections carry a much greater cause for concern. Frequently they are associated with discharge from the nose and watery eyes. You'll also see dirty front paws from the bunny wiping their noses.
Respiratory illnesses can be very dangerous to bunnies. It can make them so ill they can't eat, drink or breathe properly. They tend to be highly contagious, therefore putting any of your other rabbits at risk.
Diseases that cause snot in rabbits generally one of:
1. Bordatella. Treat it! Rabbits usually recover.
2. Pasteurella. This one is hard. Here is Dutch Rabbit's approach.
3. Pneumonia. Often buns die from pneumonia very quickly. It can literally have them on death's door overnight.
2. Tooth issues. Drainage from the eye goes into nasal cavity.
3. Nasal Tumour.
4. Foreign body. Hay, or some particle stuck.
5. Trauma, such as a head attack by a predator.
My approach to excess sneezing or snot-laden rabbits can be found in this blog post. Always keep and use your best rabbits. If you just have one, do your best to keep them healthy, but let them go if it's time for them to go.
Hay.... love it or leave it, a lot of people love to feed hay to their bunnies. There are so many viewpoints on the feeding of hay.
The house rabbit society would have you believe that a rabbit must eat it's weight in hay every day to stay healthy.
Many rabbit breeders simply don't feed hay, finding it a messy waste, ergo a waste of money, and unnecessary as their rabbits stay healthy.
Both maintain healthy rabbits. Don't you find that incredibly intriguing? Completely opposite thought patterns, yet rabbits that are hale and hearty.
My approach is to use hay as the gut stabilizer that it is. Giving hay during times of transition and potential stress. Otherwise I find alternative sources of fibre (which is why people use hay, for it's long fibre content).
Black oil sunflower seed is one source of long fibre, as are weeds, grasses and various plants.
For people who are allergic to hay but not to grasses and various plants as well as black oil sunflower seeds, it means they can also keep a rabbit. They could also feed straw, corn stalks, and hay cubes.
Use a feeder or not?
Whether you are a daily or occasional feeder you'll find yourself feeding hay. You might choose to use a hay feeder, or simply put the hay in with your rabbits. Both have their advantages or disadvantages.
Homemade or purchased, hay feeders require rabbits to pull their hay out of the feeder. This of course means you need to stuff the hay in. I've never found a hay feeder that that didn't result in some waste simply in the process of filling it. :)
The advantage to a hay feeder though is you can put what the rabbit needs in it so they can nibble over the course of the day. Assuming that unlike MY rabbits yours will nibble over the course of the day. Anytime I give my bunnies hay they gobble it all up as fast as they possibly can. They then sit on (if they get full) and poop on any remainder. Rabbits are rather silly aren't they? :)
The advantage to just tossing it in the pen is that you don't lose hay trying to stuff it into the feeder, but rabbits are more apt to sit on it immediately. Doing so can cause them to foul it fairly quickly.
What type of feeder?
I have made loads of feeders out of those wire cutlery baskets. Just ziptie securely to the side of the cage, preferably over their litter box.
I do not recommend those wire ball feeders that are often sold inexpensively. Some rabbits are silly enough to get their head stuck in them and if that happens while you are away, your rabbit may perish due to strangulation or shock.
To be honest though, I'm not sure, outside of the 2 in 1 feeders that I would recommend most of what they have on amazon. And those ones I'd want to put up on a brick so the rabbit is eating higher up. I find they waste less feed that way. Even to hang it up beside a rectangular litter box.
The best hay feeders I've ever seen are the simplest ones. Cutlery drawers, kleenex boxes hung outside a wire cage, circular wire ones built into a corner of the cage, etc. Something that is less fancy and more functional.
Litter training baby bunnies is sometimes a matter of patience. Sometimes they get ideas in their head and it makes you wonder what is going on with them. My post Help! My bunny is not peeing in her litter box is a response to one of my customers struggling with a young bunny.
Recently one of my customers wrote to ask:
Mr. Peanut eats his food and seems excited for it in the morning. But overnight if there is anything left or even it it's empty (as we tried last night) he gets right in and pees. He was doing well for a few nights of not peeing outside his litter box but for the last five nights he seems to prefer peeing outside of it rather than in. Just looking for a little advice from an expert!"
So What is a person to do?
I will freely admit that I am not an expert with house training baby bunnies. I've trained young and adult rabbits to a litter box, but I don't claim to know all the answers. Sometimes bunnies do things that are a bit confounding.
For instance, why choose to use the food bin as a place to go pee AFTER having used a litter box? I sometimes don't understand bunnies. My guess is that one night while munching on hay, bunny had the urge to go pee, was lazy and decided to go there. Since he peed there once, it's easy to just go pee there again.
In this particular instance I suggested they move the feeder up higher so it's up off the floor. You'll generally need it to be up at least six inches for this to be effective. But if the feeder is big enough to fit an entire young rabbit that's not going to work.
So I would simply remove the feeder at night.
Any other Advice?
I found this video which I thought was fairly well done. Mute the video and just read the screen as he speaks, I THINK, Spanish? I loved his emphasis on needing patience with young bunnies.
Sometimes you need to outsmart them, or to alter their habitat to make it easier for them to learn.
I thought Celia Haddon had some good advice in her post about why a rabbit might stop using a litter box. I particularly appreciated her thought that sometimes we don't know what caused our bunny to not like their litter box.
BudgetBunny has put together a similar list as well as pointing out a possible solution. (make it impossible for bunny to NOT use their litter box). :)
For some bunnies, litter box habits are vastly improved by neutering them. One suggestion from The Rabbit house.
The question was asked "what. do I recommend for grooming"?
I thought I would list off a few that I've used, or that I've seen used by others in the rabbit world.
I will be using affiliate links to amazon.com simply because it's easy. You may need to look at your local pet store, or visit amazon.ca to avoid import duties.
I have not used all these tools. My go to is to use my fingers and slightly damp hands. I place my bunnies up on a piece of wood sitting over my compost and run my hands through their fur to remove loose hair, and then pluck whatever they are shedding out. Takes about five minutes every day for about a week and then they are done if they are shedding fast. :)
For rabbits that take their time shedding I pull them out as needed for a quick grooming session.
When it comes to grooming smooth-coated animals, I happen to really like glove style. They pick up loose hairs very easily and are a breeze to clean up afterwards. They fit most adult hands nicely. The way they contour to your hand and to shape of your bunny makes for a more natural stroke.
They also work with longer-furred animals, I find they don't get to the undercoat quite as well as with smooth-coated animals.
I find that cat and dog brushes work just fine for rabbits, the biggest difference in them is their size. Some rabbits are fairly large though, so having a bigger brush is helpful. :) For dwarf rabbits, or rabbits up to about 6 lbs, smaller cat and rabbit brushes are ideal. I find they do an excellent job of going through the undercoat.
I like combs better for longer-haired rabbits. They have a thicker undercoat that requires you to lift up the layers of coat to better access the lower coat. You may also want to hold your hand against the rabbit as you pull the comb through the coat.
Work out any mats carefully. Take your time. Rabbits have a thin skin that can tear easily. Keep your movements short and gentle.
The HairBuster for Rabbits
I've watched a few videos that use the Hairbuster for rabbits, and it looks like a helpful tool.
Do you know the importance of isolation? Of keeping animals separate and away from your herd for at least 30 days? Protect your herd, protect your new animal as well.
Rabbits are animals that are masters at hiding illness. You can have what looks like a perfectly healthy animal in front of you. Passes all your tests for an animal that you want to purchase, but hidden beneath the surface may be an illness that you don't want to bring home with you. But how would you even know?
Illnesses that hide: pasteurella, e.cunniculi, Coccidiosis, etc
Illnesses easily missed: vent disease, ear mites, sore hocks, abscesses, etc.
This is why isolation is so important. The stress of moving from one place to another is often just what is needed to bring hidden illnesses to the forefront. As well the time in isolation, when you are watching your new bunny closely, can show you things that you might have missed when you first looked over your new rabbit.
Where to place your isolation cage
You want to place your isolation area in a place close enough to get to easily, but far enough away that illness won't spread.
At least 20 feet away from other rabbits.
What to do during isolation
Feed and care for the rabbit in isolation AFTER you care for your other rabbits. Change your clothes and wash your hands before going back to your original rabbits.
Watch for any signs of illness. Snot, hunching up, weepy eyes, unusual fecal output, bloat, etc.
Give your new rabbit a thorough check over once a week. Look for contusions, abscesses, sore feet, overgrown nails, blisters around nose or vent, teeth and more.
What if your new rabbit is sick
If you discover sickness within the first 24 hours...contact the person you bought the rabbit from. Hopefully they will stand behind their rabbit and do what is right. Helping you to solve your problem, or taking the rabbit back and give you a healthy one.
Generally after 24 hours the most you can get from a breeder is helpful advice. Suggestions about how to help the rabbit, or more information about condition, and so forth.
If you have managed to "get taken", or involved with an unethical breeder, all you can is cull a serious ill rabbit (pasteurella is one such illness), or treat (most other illnesses). Only you can decide how much effort to put into helping your new purchase.
Had someone ask me a question the other day. Have I seen improvements in my bunnies over the years. Thinking about it I have to say yes I have.
Some types of improvements are easily seen. Like BushTail from SplatterBush. Oh... I had forgotten Splatter was off Bane.... I'll have to breed Bush to one Moss' new babies (hoping for a buck) in about six months. MORE CHOCOLATE!!!! But can you see the improvement over time? Lily was a flat angular rabbit with a decent head. Splatter... I kept her for temperament and colour. :) and she has more bone to her than her momma had.
Some improvements are for how the bunny will naturally sit and hold position. Part of it Might by that Light is a more malleable doe than Cinder was. BrightSong (gramma) was a low sitting doe of tight build...couldn't/wouldn't sit up for nothing. Cinder inherited her dad's sweet personality (Song was a bit of a dumpy, don't touch me doe). Light has Cinder's personality AND a better build. Total win in my eyes.
Some are not quite as apparent, but Cookie is a smaller, more solid built doe than momma. Posing is NOT her thing to do. A strong improvement over gramma who came as a dutch/lop cross. I'm looking forward to seeing what Cookie will give me.
BrookAsh will not hold a pose when I set her up, unlike her daughter Pond. Pond has a flatter face as well so it will be interesting watching her mature. An improvement over gramma as well. Interesting to watch progression eh? I kept Pond back because she sets up nice, had nice ears and is a sweetheart of a bun.
Coal sits up better than his mamma, and has more depth to him. I kept him for his personality and colour. He's a step forward. :) He is definitely an improvement over his grandma! I am curious to see what he'll throw crossed with Pond and/or Light.
One of the things I often talk about with my rabbit buyers is think like a rabbit when feeding them greens.
Rabbits LOVE fresh food, but not all fresh food is the most rabbit friendly.
My rabbits eat a lot of weeds out of my garden, and to my sister's chagrin, I'll even grow weeds for the rabbits.
This morning I was struggling with finding the right name for a common weed the rabbits love so I went searching for what it was called and discovered this great site for ONTARIO weeds.
Seriously.. it's a great site.
What do I like about this site?
It gives common and Latin name, provides plenty of images, and has a search feature. It will be a great site for me to refer people to if they don't know what prickly lettuce is.
Mind.. people will still need to research if it's safe for bunnies, but if you know the true name, it makes it easier to do the research.
Take for instance one of my favourite weeds: Prickly Lettuce.
They have the write up, with black white drawings.
Then at the bottom they have pictures taken of different stages of the plants life.
Why do I love prickly lettuce?
1. It's a thistle type plant which rabbits love
2. it's great to give to bunnies who are starting to struggle with gut issues.
3. it grows REALLY easily. I started with one plant five years ago and now it crops up everywhere. :)
4. It keeps coming back when I cut it back for feeding.
There are as many ways to feed rabbits as there are ways to house them or breeds of bunnies in the world. It's amazing to me at how versatile rabbits are.
It must be mind boggling to the average pet rabbit owner to sort out what is best for their bunny.
Therefore I thought I would tell you what I do with my bunnies in an effort to help you make some wise decisions.
This is the basis of my feed regime.
As much as i would prefer to feed my rabbits a completely natural diet I have no room or time for such an endeavor. Figuring out the balance of salt and nutrients along with protein and fibre content is something I simply choose NOT to do, plus most of my bunnies move into pet homes where they will be fed pellets, so it makes the transition easier for them if I simply feed pellets.
What to look for in a pellet? Green colour, just pellets, no grains or colourful bits.
Why no grains?
It's like giving your rabbit main course plus dessert. Rabbits (with the temperament of many toddlers) will say DESSERT!!! I WANT DESSERT!!! and forget about eating their main course.
Why no fluffy colourful bits?
Well frankly who needs extra food colouring, fat, oil, and flour in their diet??? Honestly most rabbits DO NOT need that stuff.
I am not as driven as some about giving hay. I give it (in the winter every other day and daily during times of stress/change) and in the summer once a week (again daily during times of stress/change).
I only give a good solid handful and it changes depending on the rabbit involved. Some rabbits if I give too much hay won't eat their pellets, and others will eat ALL their hay and their pellets and act like starvation is just around the corner.
My reasoning is this...
1. Rabbits need fibre in their diet and a good quality pellet will provide that needed fibre.
2. Variety is the source of life, health and enjoyment. If I feed hay daily, how can I give other variety? How can my rabbits learn they can survive without hay (for those with a hay allergy who still want to own a bunny)?
3. hay is fed primarily for the enjoyment and stabilizing factor.
The type of hay does matter.. rabbits do best on a horse quality hay.. a grass hay. I buy mine by the bale, one slice last my herd for a day for the most part. Depends on who baled it.
I talk about the grain mix I use My Grain Mix and My grain mix part two.
I want my rabbits to be as balanced and capable of surviving regardless of how a person chooses to feed their rabbits. For those who feed a more natural diet, grains are an important part of the type of feeding regime. I've purchased rabbits who simply WON'T eat greens. They just say NOPE, never seen it, won't eat it.
I strongly desire rabbits who won't do that type of stuff as it's much less worrisome to the new owners.
In winter, every other day, in summer twice a week.
I find feeding grains really helpful in the heat of summer when the rabbits are too hot to really want to eat. They will eat oats if they are used to do so. Just a scoopful in the evening when it's cooler and they will do just fine.
Green Feed - also known as veggies, grasses, fresh food etc
I DO NOT buy greens for my rabbits.
In Ontario it is SO easy to find greens for your rabbits. It's the lawn to put up signs if uses sprays on your lawn, and most places it's rather restricted to businesses only to treat, so its usually not that difficult to find greens or even to grow them in your house/apartment.
I focus on GREEN feed, thinking like a rabbit as best I can.
REMEMBER>>> start slowly. Give their guts time to develop the proper flora needed. Mixing some fresh grass in with some hay to start and gradually increasing how much they get.
In the spring I'll feed dandelions, parsley, young leaves from GREEN leafed maple trees, young thistles, clovers, various grasses etc.
In the summer I'll add produce from my garden (lettuces, kale, swiss chard, turnip and radish greens etc). Along with plantain, prickly lettuce etc from my yard.
In the fall, maple leaves again are a favourite mixed with grasses, bean plants (without any dried beans on the plant), sunflower leaves, pumpkins or squashes I'm not using, etc. I'll pick up corn leaves and silk from vendors. Melon rinds are always a favourite.. water, honeydew, and cantelope.. YUM!
Every day they don't get grains or hay they get a big handful of greens, starting them off VERY slowly in the spring until their gut flora adjusts to having greens again until they are the full course.
What Don't I feed my rabbits?
Very little in the way of sweet food.. carrots, cucumber, apple, strawberries and the like. They will get the husk, tops or rinds, but rarely the fruit itself. Too much sugar is as bad (or worse) for rabbits as it is for people. Keep your rabbits gut healthy.. avoid foods it doesn't need.
I also feed very little in the way of cabbage family plants. Some rabbits will bloat from these plants and since I cannot predict by looking at them which ones might do that, and there are SO MANY other options out there.. feed the safe foods and leave the questionable ones behind.
If you've any questions.. just ask!
I'll do my best to answer them. :)
I have been breeding rabbits for a quite a few years. I thoroughly enjoy them as animals and think they make great pets. I also like to take some of them to rabbit shows to see how they measure up to the standards.
For the BEST rabbit forum I've ever found. Go to Rabbittalk.com. Good for the pet rabbit owner as well as the breeder for meat or show.