This information is the opinion of the Cooley's Critters
The content of this page is to help you with basic rabbit care.
The infomation that you are about to read is just the opinion of our family based on our experience of many years of raising rabbits.
Good sanitation is what I feel the key issue in any rabbitry. It is the best way to prevent against disease and infectious problems. Do not allow hair to build up in the cages, because that is a perfect breeding area for germs. I use a hand held propane torch to burn off the hair. I then will use a wire brush to get off any build up of droppings or hair that I may have missed. After that is done, a quick wipe down with a bleach solution is always a good way of disinfecting.
Keeping nest boxes clean is another way of preventing disease and problems in your young bunnies. As far as cleaning the nest boxes, we use a
bleach and water solution to ensure that the box is completely clean, and then we allow the nest box to sit in direct sunlight for a few days before
putting it up. We also have a nest box for each and every doe with her name right on it. This helps prevent the transfer of germs that may have been missed.
Feed and Water
With so many feeds on the market it makes it hard sometimes to find the one that is right for you and your rabbits. You can ask several people which feed
they would or wouldn't use and you will get a different answer from each person, ("feed company links"). The key thing to feed is that it is fresh and of good nutritional balance. You want to make sure that the feed you are feeding is stored in a cool dry place and is not more than a couple months old from the mill date. Rabbit feed that is old, looses some of nutritional value and some rabbits will even turn there noses up at it. You want to make sure that you feed does not get moldy. Moldy feed can cause a lot of problems for your rabbits, ranging from loss of condition, loss of weight, fetal deformities, and even death of your rabbit. It is a good idea to keep feeders and feed crocks clean and free from build up of fines and dust. Fines and dust that is allowed to build up in the feeder is another good place for germs to make a home. In the summer time, these build ups is also an
invitation to bugs and flies. Some common questions about feeding your rabbits are; When can I start giving my rabbits treats? What can my rabbit eat or not eat other than pellets? Well, I would say, and these are my opinions, you can start introducing your rabbit to some different things at around 3 months, although, you can give hay from the time they are just starting to learn to eat. Hay is a great source of fiber for both the young and older rabbits. It helps keep the intestinal tract in good working order.
Some feeds that would be ok to feed would be; barley, for a firmer flesh condition, oats, for added protein, black sunflower seeds, or linseed, but not to much, (about 3-5 seeds per day is all) these are a hot feed, but very good for a rabbit that is in a molt, chickory, to aid in a glossy/shiney coat condition, parsley, given to help bring bucks and breeding does into top form for breeding, do not use in excess though, carrots including the tops, banana, yogurt, to help replenish the good bacteria in the intestines while using antibiotics or in times of severe diarreaha, blackberry leaves, raspberry fruit and leaves, have a powerful astringent properties that can save a young rabbit that has started to fail, if caught in time, ("More Grains, Treats, and Remedies")
Feeds to stay away from -
Most of the things that you would want to stay away from are in plant form. Things like Bindweed, Yew, Hemlock, Laburnum and Larkspur. Rhubarb and Potatoes have been considered by some to be poisonous, while others say that these are fine to feed. In my opinion, I would stay away from either of these to be on the safe side.
Your water supply should always be that of fresh water. A rabbit can not eat if it doesn't have anything to drink. If you notice your rabbit has gone off of its feed, check the water supply first. Keeping your water supply clean is another vital issue of importance. No matter what kind of method you use to supply water to your rabbits, wheather it is crocks, water bottles or an automatic watering system, you must keep it clean. One of the easiest ways of keeping your water system clean is to periodically add a little bit of bleach. If you use an automatic watering system, then pour a 1/4 cup bleach into your reservoir and uncap your drain/flush plug for about 5 minutes. This
will allow the bleach solution to work its way through the lines. Any tracebable amount of bleach still left in the lines will not harm your rabbits. If you have water bottles or crocks, make it a routine to wash them in a bleach solution on a monthly basis in the winter, and more often in the summer. By keeping the water systems clean, you will greatly reduce any pathogens that
might try to make a home in your system.
Cages and Equipment
Cages these days come in a large variety of sizes and construction depending on what you are looking for. I personally prefer all wire hanging
cages but at the present time have a combination of wire hanging cages and wire stacking cages with trays. You can purchase or make your own cages
in either the wire or you could make wood hutches. I am not a promoter of wood hutches though. I beleive that wood hutches are not able to be
properly disinfected or sanitized if you have had a sick rabbit in it.
The size of the cage you will need will greatly depend on the breed of rabbit you get. I feel that if you have a dwarf type breed (Netherland Dwarf,
Polish, Mini Rex, Holland Lop etc), that the cage should be at least a 24x24. I believe that if you have a medium size to large breed, ( Angoras, Mini
Lops, Silver Martens, Standard Chinchilla, etc) that the cage should be the minimum of 24x30. If you have a Meat producing animal or an extra large
breed, (New Zealand, Californian, French or English Lop,Satin, Rex, etc) then I believe the cage should be at least 30x30 if not 30 x 36 or larger. I
would rather see the rabbit have a cage that is to big rather than to small.
Some other equipment that you might want to have on hand is a first aid kit and a scale to make sure that your rabbit stays within the weight range
guidelines for the breed than you have. In your first aid kit you will want to have some Quick Stop, used to help stop bleeding, in case your rabbit looses a toenail or you clip the toenail to short. Some neosporin, for those little cuts. A small bottle of mineral oil, in case of ear mites and a small bottle of Listerine or Cat Flea Powder for fur mites. Some Q-tips and some cotton
balls. I always like to have some of those thin rubber gloves, like the ones they use in the doctors office. Peroxcide is also good to have on hand for both you and the rabbits. Depending on if you are going to be breeding your rabbit will depend on if you need a nest box or not. You can pick up a nest box at most feed stores or you can get one through a cage dealer like KW Cages, Da-Mars etc.
Extra equipment needed for showing
If you are planning on getting into showing your rabbits, there are a few more things that you might want to consider having as part of your equipment. You will probably want to have a tattoo kit. All rabbits that are being shown must have a ledgible tattoo in its left ear. You will also want some rabbit carriers. Carriers are a smaller type cage with a tray on the bottom. A portable grooming table, or at least a large carpet square, for that
last minute grooming before the rabbit is judged. A grooming brush, a water spray bottle, and nail clippers. You will also want some smaller size water
bottles and feeder cups, ( especially for the overnite trips). If you show rabbits in the summer time, you might also want to consider having portable fans that can be operated by batteries. Rabbits can die very quickly in the heat.
© Copyright Rochelle Cooley 2000