This is the most important part in keeping your rabbit healthy.
A large, clean, water bottle should be kept full and available at all times or use a water crock.
Rabbits should be fed a rabbit pelleted feed that has a protein percentage recommended for there breed once per day at a regular time. For example a Netherland Dwarf should be fed a 15% or 16% protein feed and a New Zealand a 17% to 18% protein feed. At Silverwolf Rabbitry we feed Haystack 16% protein and supplement with hay, carrots, conditioning mix (available for purchase at the Silverwolf Rabbitry) and other seasonal organic fruits and veggies from our garden.
Until 4 months of age, rabbits may "free feed" pellets (as much as they can eat). In addition, hay should be fed daily to juniors and fruits and veggies should be avoided until free feeding has ceased. Daily treats may include 3-5 cheerios, small piece of dried toast or 1 teaspoon of conditioning mix.
After 4 months, rabbits should be fed 1 cup of pellets per day (the bowl should be empty the next day or you are feeding too much which can lead to serious health issues). This is roughly 1 ounce of pellet per 1-pound body weight.
When switching from one rabbit food to another rabbit food, mix in 1/2 and 1/2 for a week and slowly increase the amount of new food. This should be a gradual process, so monitor your rabbit's condition closely.
If you run your hand over the rabbits back you should not feel the backbone, is should be smooth and well fleshed.
Use an attached wall feeder or heavy crock, so the food won't tip over.
DO NOT OVERFEED YOUR RABBIT but DO NOT UNDERFEED YOUR RABBIT EITHER!
Store pellets in an airtight container so they stay fresh and use within two months of milling date.
We only feed Haystack 16% protein rabbit pellet at the Silverwolf Rabbitry. Pellets are available for purchase in 10,20, 40 lbs. containers. Please enquire.
Timothy, Meadow Grass or Oat Hay should be fed 3-4 times per week (a small handful). This is essential to stimulate intestinal movement and prevent fur block (which can lead to death of your rabbit).
Alfalfa is too rich and should not be fed.
Fresh hay is available for purchase at the Silverwolf Rabbitry-please enquires.
Apple, carrot & top, orange slice, banana, pear, parsley, lavender, rosemary, dried papaya or pineapple, strawberry & leaf, mesculin greens, rose petals & leaves, dried whole wheat bread, Petromalt, and conditioner mix (available at the Silverwolf Rabbitry) are all great treats in moderation! The treat should be eaten up quickly or it is too much.
Do not feed lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, or anything that's high in water content.
Rabbits may be kept indoors, outdoors or a combination of the two, depending on your location and the season.
Size: minimum 24" x 24" preferably 24" x 30+" (the bigger the better!).
A cage must have a wire bottom and allow the feces to drop through onto newspaper, a tray, or pine shavings.
Clean the cage minimum once per week. Cleanliness is the key to a healthy rabbit.
A litter box is optional, but rabbits are easily trained to use one (see litter training)
The cage or hutch must not be in direct sunlight ever! Sun will kill your rabbit!
The cage must be in a draft free, protected area, but have adequate ventilation.
A small upturned solid wood box (no plywood/particle board), with open bottom, can be used as a house. Available for purchase at the Silverwolf Rabbitry.
A small piece of untreated wood or an easy rest Board is recommended for all rabbits. We have these available also.
Rabbits are very playful and affectionate, and require toys to entertain themselves.
Some good toys are: pieces of untreated wood, rawhide balls, metal jar lids, a bell on a chain, an empty plastic bottle with a marble in it to make noise, canning lids, a small rock, small cat balls, a tennis ball on a rope hanging from the ceiling, etc. Be creative!
Rabbits also enjoy jumping up and down on a wooden house for exercise.
Plastic or cloth based toys are to be avoided because the rabbit will chew and swallow the plastic. This could cause an intestine blockage.
Untreated wooden chew blocks are necessary for rabbits to keep their teeth worn down. Failure to do this will cause overgrown teeth and major problems.
Rabbits are creatures of habit and usually will use the same corner to urinate in.
They can be easily trained to use a litter box or go back to their cage to defecate.
Use of a wire enclosure is recommended to help train the rabbit to go back to the cage.
A metal litter box, with wire bottom is best because the rabbits cannot chew on it or move it around easily.
Observe your rabbit for a few days, they will choose a corner they like to urinate in. Place the litter box with newspaper on the bottom, in that corner, add a few fresh pellets/piece of urine soaked newspaper/a few drops of ammonia on the bottom. Keep the rest of the cage very clean. The rabbit will smell where he went the last time and will use the same corner again. Patience is required, especially with younger rabbits! It can take between several days and several weeks for them to get the hang of it.
Once the rabbit is regularly using the litter box, various types of litter may be used. Pine shavings pellets and Yesterday's News (recycled paper) are best, but anything that absorbs moisture and controls odor may be used.
Note: cedar shavings smell nice to us humans, but can irritate the rabbits nasal passages, so should be avoided.
When the rabbit has been litter trained, choose a small area in the house or use a wire enclosure to limit the area and let the rabbit run around for 5-10 minutes and then put it back in the cage with a treat. This will show the rabbit that going back in the cage means a treat. It also makes the rabbit understand that it needs to go back in the cage to urinate.
FYI: Rabbit droppings are excellent compost and can be used directly in your garden without composting.
Rabbits must be treated with love and kindness. They will remember!
Handle, pet, and talk to your rabbit everyday for at least ten minutes. A bored and unhappy rabbit in a cage becomes a hyper and unpredictable rabbit when finally let out.
Do NOT pick up your rabbit by the ears! Grasp firmly behind the shoulder blades and support hind legs. Bring the rabbit to your chest quickly.
Hold your rabbit like a human baby or a football: close to your chest and facing in, firmly, but not tight, and supporting its hind legs underneath.
A rabbit will kick and squirm if it feels like it is going to fall. Wouldn't you?
Baby rabbits cannot control their bladder as well as older rabbits can. Take them out of the cage for ten minutes and then give them a five minute potty break back in the cage (see litter training).
Little children should start out by holding the rabbit on their laps while an adult supervises. A wire enclosure is also an excellent way to have your rabbit interact with children. Have the child sit in the enclosure and let the rabbit come up to the child, this will build a trust relationship and bond. Always supervise your child and rabbit.
Always have a little treat waiting in the cage when your rabbit is put away. This makes going back in the cage a positive experience rather than a punishment.
Rabbit urine can range in color from light yellow to dark red-this is normal.
Rabbit poops are either cecal (like grape clumps, which are eaten by the rabbit for nutrition) or fecal (dry and round).
Rabbits have very sensitive digestive systems. Using Petromalt or papaya chunks as a treat once a week will avoid the problems of fur blockage. This is especially important in the spring and fall when a rabbit is molting/shedding their coat. Increase hay to a daily ration at this time. Pineapple juice can also be given if a fur blockage is suspected. Some signs are: decreased appetite, no poops in the bottom of the tray or very few over a 24-hour period, lethargic behavior, and rapid loss of weight. Poop that is strung together with fur is a positive sign that fur is still passing through the rabbits system, but is also a sign that a fur blockage could later occur. Fur block is a life threatening condition for rabbits-please be aware and take preventative measures.
A folding wire enclosure is good to initially confine the rabbits freedom and encourage it to return to the cage to use the litter box. In good weather, the enclosure can also be put on the lawn for fresh air and exercise (supervised and in the shade of course!)
Hot days: a frozen water bottle in your rabbits cage is a good idea to keep your rabbit happy and cool. A cool, damp towel draped over the side of the cage/hutch with a fan gently blowing will also work to cool the air. For optimal cooling patio misters set up in front of the hutch, no on the rabbit will lower ambient air temp. by up to 25 degrees, heat can kill a rabbit within minutes.
Rabbit proof your house! Rabbits will chew on electrical cords! A diluted solution of Tabasco sauce, apple bitter, cayenne/hot sauce on the cords sometimes works to teach them this is off limits.
Rabbits get along well with cats and dogs. Introduce them gradually and supervise the animals.
Always supervise your rabbit when it is out of the cage (chewing, kids, other pets, predators etc.)
NEVER hit your rabbit. If it is being bad, blow on its face and say "no" forcefully or spray face with a water bottle. Rabbits are very smart and will remember negative punishment.
Clipping toenails: use a pair of cat toenail clippers. Only clip to before the red line in the toenail (this is the blood supply). You may file the edges after. If you cut too close, use some flour or Kwikstop to stop the bleeding.
Rabbits do not need baths. They groom themselves. You may brush your rabbit, especially when they are molting (shedding their coat).
Rabbits do not need shots. A healthy rabbit has warm ears, a dry nose, a good appetite, and is alert and active. Call your local veterinarian or me if you are unsure.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME-email is usually best!
All opinions expressed above are the opinions of the Silverwolf Rabbitry. If in doubt, please consult your veterinarian.