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Important information to read when purchasing a new bunny! Quick Health Check Your Bunny's Home Diet Bunny Checklist Number of Rabbits When You Get Home Toilet Training Handling Responsibilities Quick Tips
Quick Health Check
This should be done in front of you by the breeder selling you your new rabbit. If you have any health concerns about the bunny you are about to buy then simply don't purchase it!
Health Check List
Eyes are clear - no redness or secretions Nose is clear - no mucous coming from nostrils or excessive sneezing Teeth are aligned correctly the top teeth should overlap the bottom teeth like this:
Bottom is clean - Ensure bottom does not have diahorrea stuck to it's bottom. Rabbit droppings should appear hard and round. Tummy Feels like a balloon - Healthy baby bunnies have tummies that feel like a little round inflated balloon full of air. This ensures that their digestion is in good conditions, which is very important in rabbits! Nails are not overgrown You may also like to ask the breeder to show you how to clip the rabbits nails correctly and have them before you take your bunny home, or even showed how. I am happy to teach all new bunny owners the correct way to clip.
Double check the sex of your rabbit This should be easily achieved by 8 weeks of age. To see the openings, you should gently place your fingers and move them apart.
Just because something pops up does not mean you have a boy. Girls pop out too. Its the opening that needs to be examined rather than the height of what is popping out. Boys will have a trumpet like tube that pokes out with a rounder hole on just the tip of the tube.
Girls will have a slit that goes down to the base towards the anus.
Girl Please read our health care section for more detailed information. ------------------
Your Bunny's House
- hutch - toys - exercise - house rabbits info on making your rabbits home as comfortable as possible!
Things to consider: Is there enough space to run around in? rabbits like room to jump and stretch. Keep in mind a playpen or another safe run area such as a room in the family home should be given to give your bunny daily exercise outside his hutch and to help prevent boredom. Boredom is cruelty!
Is there enough ventilation ? a box type cage is not suitable. Is there an enclosed area to sleep?
As a rabbit would go into a burrow in the wild , rabbits like to feel safe, secure and warm when sleeping.
Is the cage safe? Is it dog, cat and fox proof? Can the rabbit easily escape or dig from it's cage? Are they going to get bit by Mosquitos?
Protected from the elements? Keep cages out of direct heat and preferably out of the cold and in a sheltered spot. Easy cleaning? An elevated hutch on legs, or wheels, is easy to hose out. Some hutches have slide or lift out floors, which also make cleaning easy. If the floor is wire, make sure that that the wire is covered with mats or newspaper. Lawn hutch? They need to have a timber nest box. Moisture rises from the ground causing damp unhygienic conditions in lawn hutches. Not really the most suitable hutch. Metal lawn hutches are definitely not suitable, as they are too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. If you are going to have a lawn hutch remember to move the hutch around the lawn to dry that area, as moisture can cause your rabbit to eat something damp thus increasing chances of developing the deadly disease Coccidiosis. Strong ultraviolet light from the sun helps disinfect the ground. It is preferable to bring them indoors at night and especially when mosquitos are about. Mozzies spread myxomatosis which there is no vaccine for in Australia. Cover cages with fly wire or mosquito netting. (Read Rabbit health section for more info)
Never house your bunny on a wire caged floor!
Place newspaper, hay or mats on cages with wire floors to protect their feet from getting sore hocks.
Seagrass Mat ------------------
To keep a rabbit shut in its hutch all day is cruel and not good for their health. In the wild, rabbits graze in an area of 2 hectares each day.
Even if the hutch area is large, a change of environment is appreciated.
A Playpen is an ideal means of exercise. Always supervise though if you have other pets such as dogs around as rabbits are good jumpers and diggers and you will be surprised how quickly they can escape. A chase from a dog no matter how it may seem friendly can be enough to kill a rabbit from shock. Chicken wire may be needed on base of pen to prevent digging, but is not ideal to be walking on wire for long periods of time. Therefore supervision is advised. Preferably buy a playpen that is quite high so that they cannot jump out of it, or a run that is covered on the top also like these ones:
Always remember to put your bunny back in it's hutch at night and to protect them from mosquitos, dogs, cats and foxes etc
Cardboard boxes, cat tunnels, flower pots, wide plumbers pipes, babies hard plastic rattles, plastic balls, towels, toilet rolls, wicker balls, pinecones, old phone books, wooden blocks, cotton rope, and wicker baskets, treat balls, wood chews, apple branches.
Apple Brach Chew Toy
Wicker Ball Toy
No rubber toys, beads, or soft plastic, which can be swallowed. Rabbits cannot vomit. Anything swallowed, continues down into the gut, which may cause a blockage.
Rabbits can be trained to live inside the family home and use litter trays as would a cat. Here are some important things to take into consideration: Safety. Rabbits nibble indiscriminately e.g. electric wires, telephone cables, and furniture. Plastic tubing or slit hoses can be placed around wires and cables. Protect treasured furniture. Many rabbits injure themselves falling off couches or stairs. Rabbit’s break bones easily. Anticipate and prevent the risks. Lead paint can also cause your bunny illness, so keep an eye out before mishaps happen. Many indoor plants are poisonous. An indoor playpen can be used to keep bunny out of taboo places.
Smell Make sure the litter tray is in each room the rabbit has access to. (read our toilet training section) Rabbits would be unable to search the house to find the bathroom.
Rabbits can be bathed occasionally, using a wool wash, no tears baby shampoo or Oleo Vera shampoo, or specially formulated small animal shampoo. Only wash the bottom and the feet in a small basin with about1-2 inches of warm water. No need for a total body wash. Rabbits clean themselves as do cats. Avoid disinfectants, deodorants, fly spray, and perfume. Parsley in the diet helps urine smell sweet. Hutch Rabbits like to have a safe place to retreat and sleep like a box of hay , a hidey house or a pet tent.
Hay Hay is messy and because of this reason sadly many house-rabbits miss out on this essential food due to its inconvenience. The Hay rack is ideal, pet tent, basket or even a cardboard box placed on a mat prevents excess mess.
Indoor Hay Basket
Sunshine Bunnies should still get some daily outdoor sun exposure, weather permitting, in a playpen or safe backyard.
Heat and cold Slate, tiles, and polished boards, are an unsuitable surface. Towels or mats need to be provided. Grass mats are good and inexpensive. Avoid exposure to excessive artificial heating, cooling, and drafts. Other Household Pets
Another animal can befriend a rabbit, however you must ensure the rabbit’s safety at all times with supervision. Most cats seem to get along ok with bunnies but its recommended that all pets are supervised as a scratch to the eye from a cat could be quite nasty. A dog may seem fine towards a bunny from the other side of the cage just as a rabbit will often come right up and stiff through the cage, but it's a different matter when both are on the same side, a rabbit would run from a dog if she were uncaged . After being harassed by a playful pup, even if it was not the dogs intent to harm it, the rabbit can go into a terminal state of shock. If you find that your rabbit has been badgered by another animal, get veterinary treatment immediately. Symptoms may not show up for several hours, and by then it may be too late. (more info)
visit the house rabbit society website
What does my bunny need? Bunny Checklist
Exercise Area Water Bottle Ceramic Food Bowl Grass Hay Hay Basket or rack Good Quality Rabbit Pellets Litter Tray - use with straw or newspaper litter Nail Clippers Comb & Brush (for long hair rabbits) Bunny Shampoo (only spot wash when dirty) Flea & Mite Prevention Mosquito Prevention
(see our recommended products)
Hay is the most important thing to consider and makes up about 80% of a rabbits diet!
There are two main types of hay - grass hay and legume hay. Alfalfa (Lucern) is a legume hay. It is much higher in calcium, which is fine for young, growing animals as the calcium is good for bone development. However, adults do not have such a high calcium requirement. Excess calcium can cause health problems such as bladder sludge and stones. Alfalfa can be fed to adult rabbits - but it should only be given as an occassional treat in small amounts. Grass Hay should be fed in unlimited quantities to both adults and baby rabbits. A rabbit fed only commercial rabbit pellets does not get enough long fiber to keep the intestines in good working order. Unfortunately most pet produce supply only seem to sell straw or green alfalfa hay (lucern). Shop around to try and find grass hay such as Oaten, Timothy, Wheaten and Pasture Hay - Rye , Phalaris & Clover . Woolworths sells compact bales of Peters - Pasture Hay. Check rural produce supplied for grass hay such as Oaten or Wheaten.
What is the difference between straw and hay? Hay is made out of grasses and legumes (plants like clover and alfalfa). Farmers grow these plants in fields; cut the plants down a couple times a summer; dry them out; then roll, wrap or cram them into bales. Hay is full of nutrients, and farmers feed it to their livestock. Straw, on the other hand, is made of the leftover stalks of plants like oats and wheat and barley. The hollow stalks are left behind when the seeds of the plants are harvested. The stalks are cut and dried and baled. The result, voila, is straw. Straw has fewer nutrients than hay but is light and warm and absorbent. It’s best for animal bedding, not food.
Always supply clean fresh water daily!
A water bottle is preferable and keeps water fresher for longer.
Rabbit Pellets give rabbits the required vitamins and minerals they need, but only half a cup per day is recommended as it can cause obesity and sometimes teeth problems and does not contain enough long fibres to aid digestion. Ensure Pellet mix contain no dried corn, seeds, nuts, molasses or dried fruit, it should look plain and uninteresting! I t's best to use a ceramic bowl as rabbits will often tip over their food bowls.
Supply a small amount of fresh vegetables and introduce them slowly after your bunny is 8 weeks old. Never feed old or rotting vegetables. If you wouldn't eat it then don't feed it to your bunny! A regular variety of fresh greens, are important for your rabbits’ health. Give greens washed and wet. Stalks as well as the leaves are enjoyed. The amount of fresh food daily should be about the
size of your rabbit’s head.
Fresh green grass lawn is initially too strong for young bunnies, so increase grazing time by 5 minutes daily until you are sure of their grass tolerance. When grass tolerance is established, a rabbit will enjoy grazing all day long.
UNSAFE FOOD Please read our rabbit food section for more detailed info and list of safe and poisonous vegetables and plants and unhealthy foods.
Number of Rabbits
Male and Female combination
Works well if the male is neutered, as the males’ constant advances can cause the female extreme distress. Likewise the female may constantly mount the male in an attempt to get pregnant. Desex males after 4 months of age, and females after 6 months.
Male and Male combination
They will fight unless both are neutered. It is believed that two males that grow up together will get along fine but rabbits are generally territorial and a rabbit fight can end quite nastily so it is advised they are neutered.
Two neutered males usually make an excellent combination (if together since young.) They need to be neutered by 4months or as early as possible after the testicles have descended.
Both get along well only if together since young. As they mature, one may become more dominant than the other and desexing of one or both may become necessary. Some rabbits are more dominant than others. But this is generally a good combination and recommended. Adding a second rabbit at a later date Two female rabbits can be slowly introduced if placed together in new surroundings at the same time. It is advised to watch and ensure as one may be more dominant than the other and will start to mount or chase and bite the other rabbit. Introducing a new rabbit; is like having an intruder from another rabbit warren. Rub both the rabbits over with parsley, or with some other strong smelling plant, to help disguise the difference in smell. Hold the rabbits together, rubbing their bodies all over each other. Place in a play pen in neutral territory, with boxes scattered around to investigate and hide in. Be quick to separate them if they fight. A squirt with a water gun may help. Wear gloves when breaking up a fight. Do not leave them together until you are sure they have bonded. Place hutches next to each other, so they can get acquainted Repeat this procedure as often as necessary. If after some days of perseverance, they still fight, unfortunately, they may not be able to live together.
Rabbits and Guinea pigs
They both generally get along well, however with maturity; the rabbit may start to mount and bully the guinea pig and it may be necessary to neuter the rabbit. Guinea pigs and rabbits can spread respiratory disease to each other such as Bordetella Bronchiseptica therefore it is not recommended. Rabbits and Guinea Pigs also have different dietary requirements. Please also check our guinea pig care information.
Male or Female?
Generally the males are better pets. Females may have a personality change with maturity. This is not always the case. Most rabbits handled gently and often will remain friendly. Males are best to be neutered for their own contentment; otherwise escape is on their mind to find a mate.
When you get your baby home
Leave bunny alone for about an hour in its new hutch to acclimatize; marking the new territory by rubbing its’ chin gland on everything. This will give the children time to settle down, and the bunny a chance to get over the shock of the car drive etc. Teach children to speak quietly. (NO fighting or screaming near the rabbit.) Loud noises will shock and frighten your bunny. Have children seated when handling bunny. A dropped rabbit will not necessarily land on its feet like a cat. Its’ back can break easily. Feed bunny only the food supplied or suggested by the breeder, gradually mixing it with the dry mix you intend to buy locally. Introduce other new foods gradually. Hay is the most important food source for your new bunny. Sudden change of diet can cause diarrhoea, resulting in death. Any change of diet should be gradual, over a period of 3 weeks Stress causes rabbits to be more susceptible to sickness and even death, so keep in mind that rabbits are timid and vulnerable.
Baby Bunnies need to be kept warm at night time and away from hot sun in the day. Handle tenderly and often, as they may be fretting for their mother and siblings. Even though when you buy your baby bunny, it will be weaned from its mothers’ milk, it is still a baby, who needs tender love and affection. Don't leave alone for long periods of time as it is very stressful for a baby rabbit to be all alone for long. The only time this would happen in the wild is if it where lost, or its family had been eaten. It’s much less stressful to have two baby bunnies together. Bear in mind that during these early days he may not "be himself." He may be too scared to show
you how affectionate he's going to be once he recovers from the shock of relocation.
How to hold a rabbit
Pick up gently with one hand under the body, and the other under its backside. Hold with the feet on your chest, one hand under the bottom and the other supporting its back. If a rabbit is held out with the feet dangling, it is as if a fox is carrying it to its den. Mother rabbits do not carry their young in their teeth, as do cats; so it’s not natural for a rabbit to be picked up by the scruff of the neck. Never pick up by the ears. A rabbit that does not feel secure may end up kicking its strong feet and end up scratching you or even injuring itself, which could be discouraging to young children. It helps to clip their nails and handle them frequently from a young age.
Encourage your rabbit to come to you
Encourage the rabbit to come to you first within his cage or confined space such as a playpen. Rustle the straw, tap the ground or hold some of its favourite food to encourage your bunny. You can even begin to call it's name whilst doing this and over time it will come to you. If you are trying to do this with a house bunny then start when it is young, by confining the rabbit to one room only and calling it to come to you before moving the rabbit to the rest of the house, it will be alot easier to pick up the rabbit if it not scared of you. Even try sitting on the floor to start, you will be surprised how quickly young bunnies will become tame if you take the time to gain their trust. Preventing frighting or loud situations will also help gain the rabbits trust. Give your rabbit a nice pat on the head and back before picking it up, as picking up suddenly can startle or scare the rabbit and it may bite you.
Avoid loud noises & frightening situations
Loud noises or sudden movements will cause fear.
Handle your bunny daily
Bunnies will become tamer the more frequently they are handled. Rabbits which are not handled can become feral and will become scared of being picked up. Try laying your bunny on his back in your lap and stroke his head and getting it to relax. I call this 'hypnotising' the bunny, it's also a good way to brush your rabbit's underbelly. Always remain calm and quite when handling your rabbit.
Rabbits don't like their feet off the ground!
It's like being picked up by a fox so always keep your bunny's feet against your body, when walking and carrying them around.
Do not chase your bunny
This will frighten the rabbit, as if a fox is after it. You may think the rabbit is enjoying the chase, but most likely it is terrified, and running for its life.
Supervise children when handling
It's a good idea to have children seated quietly when handling rabbits. Remind children to speak softly around the bunny. Clip bunnies nails and let them handle them often so that the rabbit becomes familiar with the child also.
Madeline in her litter tray
You will generally find females use the litter tray better than males for urine mess. Un-spayed males may spray to mark their territory when they become adults, especially if they can smell other rabbits around. This makes it more difficult to completely toilet train. To prevent this have your male bunny neutered when they are young. Note: Poos won't always make their way in there. Best to start litter training when they are babies. If there are other nesting or sleeping areas containing straw you may find they use these areas as a toilet instead! So don't use straw in bedding areas if you wish for successful toilet training. Line litter trays with newspaper and fill with with either newspaper cat litter such a breeders choice cat litter or straw.
Breeders Choice Cat Litter
There are other softer and lighter types of newspaper cat litter available but we find breeders choice is the best especially when some bunnies like to dig in their litter trays and it does not get stuck to their fur. We Prefer the harder pelleted types. Some rabbits will dig out the newspaper and want to tear it up so give them another piece to play with to try and prevent this when putting the litter tray back into the hutch. Wood shavings are NOT recommended as some types can cause respiratory problems. You can hang a hay rack near the litter tray for them to eat from and the loose hay can fall into it. Do not use clumping type cat litters! If they accidentally eat some it could cause a serious blockage in their digestive tract. You may require more than one litter tray for large areas or multiple rabbits sharing an area. Rabbits generally pick their own spot to go. If you see they are going in a different corner move the litter tray to that corner. Pick up any droppings you see around the cage and place them in the litter tray. Try to keep doing that daily to try and teach them where to go. Clean up other messy areas with vinegar. After the litter tray starts to get messy, empty the litter tray in the bin and just rinse with water so it still smells a little and fill back with the newspaper litter or straw and place a few of their droppings back on top .
We like to start litter training our rabbits in the few weeks before they go to their new homes and hope that they follow in their parents footsteps. Some rabbits will be more successful than others!
Responsibilities to consider
please see our heath section for more detailed info can you afford to take your bunny to the vet if required?
Female rabbits have a 60-80% chance of contracting uterine cancer by 3-5 years of age. Some vets recommend routine preventative hysterectomy by spaying if there is no intent to breed the doe. Most sexually mature male rabbits will spray urine and unmercifully mount anything that strikes their fancy. By neutering your bunny, you will help him discover life beyond sexual frenzy as well as encourage him to become a neater, more well-behaved member of the family!
Calicivirus Immunize at three months, and then a yearly booster injection is required. Myxomatosis has no immunization available at present in Australia. It spreads through contact with fleas or mosquitoes. Fly wire on the hutch may be a helpful protection. Please see our health section
Advantage is safe to use on rabbits. Ivomec -Ivermectin (1 % injectable for cattle) can be used on rabbits to prevent fleas, lice , mites & worms. Aristopet small animal spray for mites and lice and mange is good to use on younger animals. And have found helps prevent fleas also. Use flyscreen or mosquito nets on hutches. Make sure that the cage is not left damp for bacteria to grow and make your bunny sick!
Saying Good Bye
Rabbits live for an average of 7-12 years. Please consider this when purchasing a bunny. Are you going to be able to give it the home it deserves for the life time of the bunny or will you or your children get bored of it after some time? Don't let your bunny become a lonely prisoner in your backyard.If unforeseen circumstances occur and you are unable to keep your bunny, do the responsible thing and find it another good home. Please contact us if you need help finding your bunny a home and are unable to look after it anymore. Do not leave it in the bush, where it will die from fox attack or myxomatosis, not to mention the devastating effect that rabbits have on the Australian environment. If your bunny gets very ill take it to a vet immediately. It is better to have your bunny humanly euthanized than letting it suffer and die in pain.
Rabbits live for an average of 7 - 12 years. Grass Hay is most important part of a rabbit's diet. Most commercial rabbit food is unsuitable. Choose pellet mix with NO seeds, NO dried corn, NO dried fruit and NO molasses. Protect your bunnies from mosquitos and fleas to help prevent myxomatosis. There is no vaccination for this in Australia. Do not use frontline on rabbits.
Rabbits die easily from heat stroke. Remain quiet and calm around your bunny. Adult rabbits with fight if introduced, particularly males can be quite vicious to each other. Take your rabbit to a vet if you have any worrying concerns about it's health. Often it can be too late by the time visible signs occur. If you have any questions once you get your new baby bunny home from the Nibble Nursery, do not hesitate to contact me. Please read our rabbit adoption policy before adopting from us.
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