1. Your Bunny’s Diet
Very IMPORTANT preface: Before making any change at all to your rabbits diet, take note as to what your rabbits diet is BEFORE you take them home. Make sure to make changes to their diet slowly as their tummies need time to adjust.
Many people have different ways to meet the nutritional needs of their rabbits, however, often times people chose convenience over optimal nutrition for a rabbit. Some people feed only pellets to their rabbits, which is okay, but NOT ideal for the rabbit. For good digestion a rabbit needs roughage, which is HAY as their main course. That roughage helps maintain a healthy bacteria count in their intestines and helps move things along for them (much like we need fiber for our own good digestion). Pelleted food is like candy to them and if pellet food is like candy, other treats like sugary fruits and sweet root vegetables are like a super candy. The PELLETS need to be limited to an 1/8 to ¼ cup a day or more if your doe is nursing kits, but not unlimited as she will just eat pellets and reject her hay. They can have a small portion of a variety of greens. This is your challenge to maintain your own diet with a healthy portion of good fresh greens everyday. You can then give the scraps to your sweet bunny and he/she will love you for it. Healthy you; healthy rabbit. One small treat of some kind of sugar fruit or root vegetable is okay as well, but sparingly.
Right now we use Naturewise, a pelleted food and compressed timothy hay cubes that we buy in 50Ib bags a Brekke's Feed here in Ames, IA.
2. Your Bunny’s Living Quarters
Most important: Clean, dry and enough space.
Where your bunny spends most of its time is important, but can be as diverse as we are people in application. What I mean by that is we could all have a different cage or living spaces and supply the needs of the bunny. As I write this, my niece has her bunny in a large tote with the lid cut mostly open with chicken wire attached to the top to allow good air flow and prevent her bunny from escaping. She then lets her bunny out to play a couple times a day. IMPORTANT NOTE: make sure they don't have access to power cords if unsupervised, as they could chew on them and could get electrocuted. Many people, that I have sold rabbits to don’t even have a cage. They have a fenced in area of floor space for their rabbit. They have a litter box with a hay and pellet feeding station in front of it, because they often like to go to the bathroom while they are eating. More on poop under bunny’s business. As for feeding and waters, two heavy glass or ceramic bowls that don't tip over very easily work best in my experience. Water bottles always start to leak on me and replacement is expensive and does not solve the problem. Check at dollar tree. I've seen star and heart shaped bowls made of glass meant for decor that I think would work very well. See photo below.
Outside living: Some have hutches outside and then move them to a lit garage in the winter when it gets bitter cold. Here in Iowa too cold would be 10 degrees or below in my opinion. They need a good place to get away from drafts, which most outdoor hutches accommodate for. As for size, the bigger the better. My bunnies are mostly in 4x2 hutches that have wire on half of their space where they like to poop and the other half I have covered with hay for them to lay on.
3. Your Bunny’s Exercises and Socialization
Often times what people don't realize is that although domesticated, rabbits still have prey animal instinct, meaning they are more uptight than a cat or dog would be. They are more tense when you hold them and will try to scratch out of your hands when they don't feel safe. That is why some say that it is not an ideal pet for a very young child. But I beg to differ, because WHAT pet is a good pet for a very young child? NONE. they need to be supervised and shown how to interact appropriately with the bunny so that both will enjoy each other. Rabbits like to hip hop around, they like to go through tunnels and be stimulated by balls and other objects they can manipulate and they enjoy food. My son loves to play on the floor with our bunnies, fetching them treats and providing them water. He'll pick them up and hold them and yes, sometimes get scratched a bit when he needs to hold them more properly. What is a proper way to hold a bunny? I often grab them by the scruff briefly and quickly scoop them into a secure holding position like a foot ball in my arms. Walk to where I want to be with them and often sit with them on my lap while petting them or on my chest petting them all the while. I notice when I stop petting they often want to explore. So note when they start to move, they may jump with their back feet to hop to a new spot and that could scratch your lap. One option is that you get a towel to put under them on your lap or anticipate them wanting to jump off your lap and move them off your lap and on to a new adventure. How much interaction do they need? I would say this depends on how much you can give them. Ideally, at least an hour a day, but if you can't play some days, that is okay. The more you interact with your bunny, of course, the more social your bunny will be. Also, when it is a nice day and you are spending time outside, by all means, let your bunny come too!. Sometimes the bunny can roam, if you keep an eye on him/her, but if you are busy too, you can buy or make a little fenced area for them to get their daily greens. They will love the fresh air and clean forage.
4. Your Bunny’s Business
People sometimes ask me if their new bunny has started to be litter trained. Depending on what cage I have them in they may or may not have a "designated" litter box, but trust me, it doesn't matter. Your rabbit will instinctively start to favor one spot over others as they reach maturity. Litter "training" is easy. Put the box in a corner area and feed them beside the box so they stand in the box while eating. They will prefer to do their business in this spot getting better and better about doing it faithfully there as they mature. Its important to monitor their droppings, because it's often the first sign that something could be wrong with their diet equalling a threat to their health. There are also two types of poop a rabbit produces. One poop they actually need to eat and another they don't. The poop that they don't eat is round and you are able to see hay matter in them. They come out slightly moist, but dry so fast they don't make a mess on your floor. If they don't make the litter box, it really isn't heartbreaking because they are so pick-up-able. I would just through them into one of your house plant pots so they can fertilize your plant. The other type is called cecotropes and these come out looking more like a blackberry. You often don't even see them because they are eaten by your rabbit right away. But if your rabbit has too many of these and leaves them uneaten you have too much nutrient dense food in their diet and need to up the amount of hay and decrease the amount of pellets or fresh greens. Rabbit droppings are one of the first indicators that your rabbit is having some kind of problem. If you do not pay attention to their bowels, then you put your rabbit at a real health risk.
5. Your Bunny Challenge
So I challenge every bunny owner to garden! GARDEN? Yes, garden. There are many benefits for your own health in gardening. Don't think to use any kind of spray, however. Using sprays as herbicides and pesticides kill beneficial insects and microbes in the soil, is not sustainable and is poison to your body. You might not be able to have a large garden, but having one helps you learn a beautiful skill and enhances your appreciation for well grown food. And believe me, it will taste better than anything you buy in the store. Where else are you going to use that beautiful rabbit manure? Rabbits have arguably the best fertilizer! People pay for rabbit manure! Just google it. Rabbit manure contains nitrogen (making plants strong, green and stimulates growth), phosphorus (helping plants to withstand stress and grow larger blossoms, also stimulating great root growth.), potassium (raising fruit quality and reducing disease), minerals and micronutrients. Also beneficial trace elements such as calcium (maintaining healthy cell walls and new growth), magnesium (helps the plant absorb the nutrients better and put them to good work), boron (helps to create new plant cells), zinc (growth regulation and elongation), manganese (helps the plants build carbohydrates and metabolizes nitrogen), sulfur (helping build organic molecules important for plant protein and hormones), copper (activating precious enzymes in plants) and cobalt( of which without would stunt plant growth and seed germination), just to name a few.
Another challenge is for you to EAT MORE GREENS. Greens are so essential for good cell production and longevity in our own bodies. When we eat fresh greens from the garden we consume more enzymes that our body needs to function well, digest well, and even contributes to more mental clarity and detoxifies our body. We haven't taken care of our bodies well. We can reverse this by deciding to eat healthier.
Lastly, and most important is knowing that God has given us good gifts and He enjoys seeing us enjoy the blessings he has for us and to share them with others. I want you to ENJOY LIFE. Don't be glued to the TV, phone or tablet, but enjoy your family and enjoy your bunny. Spend time just being. Slow down and enjoy your relationships with others and enjoy the intricate web of life all around you.
I hope you are up for the challenge. It will really change your life. Who would've thought that buying a bunny would be LIFE CHANGING!
Need a Vet?
We use Story County Vet Clinic just up the road from us. Here is a link to their Facebook page.