Rabbits

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Rabbit Husbandry

 

Rabbit Husbandry

Housing

Your rabbit should be kept in a cage or habitat which has enough room for it to exercise, eat and sleep. This space should be at least four times the size of the rabbit. It is of course best to provide the largest space possible which is escape-proof and has an area with a solid surface. If you decide to place your rabbit enclosure in the garden, please ensure that your rabbit has proper shelter against the weather (rain, direct sunlight and drafts) and protection against stray animals.

Male rabbits (bucks) should not generally be housed together as they are likely to fight.

Bedding

In a cage, always provide sufficient clean bedding in the form of straw or hay, aspen shavings or Kay Kob. You should avoid cedar and pine shavings, as these may contain toxic phenols. It is best to avoid shredded newspaper too as the newsprint may also be toxic to your rabbit.

Bedding material absorbs wet waste and should be discarded on a regular basis (especially when wet and soiled) in order to prevent a build-up of faecal matter. It is best to remove wet spots daily and change bedding material weekly or more often, if needed.

Do not forget to wash all other items within the habitat. If necessary, the habitat can be scrubbed with mild soap and water, rinsed, and allowed to completely dry before placing the rabbit back into it.

Feeding

Wrong diets are one of the greatest causes of illnesses in rabbits. Commercial diets (pellets and mixes) which are high-energy, high-protein, and low fibre may cause problems with the rabbit’s digestive system. Rabbits are designed to survive on high fibre vegetation like grass. They do not really require commercial pellets of mixes. Fresh grass in unlimited amounts and hay are by far more suitable for rabbits. Hay (eg alfalfal, Timothy), vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, spinach, carrot), and the occasional fruit (apples, pears) would do nicely. Be sure that the food and water provided are always fresh and available. Any vegetables or fruit not eaten within 24 hours should be discarded.

Ensure that you rabbit remains away from toxic house plants as well as grass or plants treated with insecticides.

Never feed chocolate, alcohol or caffeine, as these are dangerous to your rabbit.

Lastly, be sure that clean, fresh, or filtered water is provided at all times. Water containers should be cleaned and fresh water provided in them daily.

Signs of a Healthy Animal

A healthy rabbit is active, alert, and sociable. Its fur should look soft and clean, and eyes clear. Not only should it be eating and drinking regularly, but it should hop properly as well. Some rabbits communicates by making soft noises.

Common Health Issues

Many health problems can arise in rabbits. Common ones include diarrhea (loose stools caused by poor diet stress, unclean housing, or other illness), heat stroke (which is an emergency situation), mange, abscesses, tumors and malocclusion, just to name a few.

Malocclusion (where the upper and lower teeth do not meet) is most common in rabbits. It leads to overgrown teeth. Overgrown incisors can result in the rabbit starving because it cannot eat. Periodically, the incisors may need to be trimmed by your veterinarian. Low fibre, high carbohydrate diets also mean the rabbits chew a lot less, and this may lead to overgrown incisors too. Rabbits have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives hence you can provide a piece of chalk (calcium carbonate), cuttlefish bone or softwood for them to chew on so that their incisors do not overgrow.

Handling

Most rabbits are easily frightened. If improperly handled, they may struggle violently and because of the strength of their hindlegs, cause serious injury to their vertebral column, resulting in permanent posterior paralysis. For these reasons you should always be gentle when handling your pet rabbit, remembering to place your hands around the hindlegs when attempting to lift it. Never pick a rabbit up by its ears, as this may lead to injury.

BIODATA

Life span: 6 to 11 years (depending on breed)

Average Weight 2-8kg

Length of Pregnancy (days) 30-33

Litter Size 8-12

Weaning Age 4 weeks

Heart rate 150-300 beats per min

Respiratory Rate 30-60 breaths per min

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