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Rabbit husbandry

 

Is a rabbit a good pet?

Rabbits are easy to keep and usually live for 6–8 years. They don't require a lot of care, but if they are not handled frequently they may be frightened of people and bite or scratch. Rabbits enjoy company, so consider getting two.

What sort of housing do I need for my rabbit?

A rabbit enclosure should:

  • Be big enough to allow the rabbit to walk around and get some exercise
  • Be enclosed on all sides to keep predators such as dogs and cats out
  • Be made of wood and wire rather than plastic, since rabbits like to chew
  • Have a wire base to let the rabbit eat the grass underneath and to stop it from burrowing out
  • Have plenty of straw to allow the rabbit to engage in burrowing behaviour
  • Have some shade and access to water, since rabbits are prone to heat stress
  • Have a warm, enclosed area for shelter from the cold
  • Be cleaned every second day (not every day)

What should I feed my rabbit?

The most important part of a rabbit's diet is unlimited hay. Rabbits' teeth grow constantly throughout their lives, and tend to overgrow unless they constantly chew on roughage. You can also provide some sticks or untreated wood for your rabbit to chew on.

Rabbits should also receive fresh fruit and vegetables. Some rabbit pellets are okay, but they should not compose the majority of the diet.

Rabbits need to eat their own soft faeces to maintain a healthy gut – it is for this reason that you should only clean out the hutch every second day, rather than every day.

What medical care does my rabbit need?

A healthy rabbit should have an annual checkup. At this time, we will give a vaccination against calicivirus, a highly contagious and often fatal disease of rabbits that causes formation of blood clots throughout the body. Baby rabbits require vaccination at 8 and 12 weeks of age. Birds and insects can carry the disease, so even if your rabbit is not in contact with other rabbits, it is still possible that he or she could become infected.

Another frequently fatal disease of rabbits is myxomatosis, which causes facial swelling and ocular discharge. This is spread by mosquito and flea bites. Speak to us about a monthly spot-on product that can be used to prevent mosquito and flea bites – do not use over-the-counter medications without consulting us, as some of these can be fatal to rabbits.

When should I breed my rabbit?

Rabbits reach sexual maturity at 4–6 months of age. Pregnancy lasts 30–32 days and the average litter size is about 4 to 6.