The Basics To Caring For Your Rabbit
By: Sarah Brandt

General Care:

    The first thing your new bunny will need is a place to live. If you are keeping your rabbit inside, I would suggest a metal cage. If you are planning to put your rabbit outside then I would recommend a wooden cage. You want to give your bunny plenty of room to hop around, especially if you won’t always have time to take them out and play with them every day. Your cage should be at least 2 ft x 2 ft per rabbit and it should be about 18-24 inches high. You should also make sure that there is a tray on the bottom to catch poop.

    Your bunny’s teeth are constantly growing, so you should considering providing fastened down pieces of untreated wood for them. Another way is to get small blocks of hay from Tractor Supply Co (TSC) and stuff some of the hay into empty toilet paper rolls.

    Another thing I recommend is that you provide your rabbit with a cage mat, this helps to prevent sore hocks. Sore Hocks are when your bunny loses the fur on the bottom part of their back legs and the skin becomes inflamed. If they get sore hocks use Bag Balm, it is a cheap and effective treatment. You can get these cage mats at TSC in the small animals section.

    Like their teeth, your rabbits toenails are constantly growing, so you should either trim them yourselves, using either rabbit clippers or dog clippers and being careful not to trim to close to the darker part of the nail which is the blood, or see about having someone else do your rabbit’s nails. 

    I’m sure you know that rabbits need lots of water, without water, a rabbit won’t eat. To be able to provide your rabbit with fresh clean water daily you first have to consider some options. If you are keeping your rabbit inside, in an area that won’t freeze, then you could get either a 32oz water bottle, or one of the bigger “coop cup” water dishes. If you are planning to keep your rabbit outside or in a place where their water dishes may freeze in the winter then you can either have a water bottle for summer or a dish for summer. For winter you can either get a heated water bottle, if you have electricity near your cage, or I would suggest that you get a second water dish so you can switch them out morning and night so the frozen water can thaw.

    Obviously your rabbit will also need food. I would recommend either a ½ cup or a 1/3 cup a day, depending on the rabbit, of 16% or 14% Rabbit Pellets (whichever is the lowest percentage where you plan to purchase your feed). I recommend that you go to your local feed mill. Also most of the things I recommend you get you can purchase either at your local feed mill or at TSC.


Helping Your Rabbit Adjust:

    When you first get your rabbit it will feel intimidated and will act shy. You can’t expect your rabbit to be friendly right away, after all, would you? The best way to help your rabbit adjust and to help develop a good relationship with it is to talk to it, but avoid yelling or exposing it to yelling. It may sound stupid, but talking to it calmly and letting it sniff your hand will make a world of a difference. For the first few days I wouldn’t recommend picking it up or even petting it too much if it looks nervous. After about three days, you can pick it up as long as you are calm and quiet when handling it. You still don’t want to scream or yell around it or try to scare it because these things often make the rabbit become mean and afraid of you. If you have small children visit it, be sure to let them know that they cannot yell or squeal.


Handling Your Rabbit:

    How you pick up and handle your rabbit is an important factor of how much they like you. I personally can’t pick up a rabbit unless it is in a certain position. I am right handed, so I line the rabbit up so its side is facing me and it is looking to my left. I then reach around the rabbit with my left hand and put my hand underneath its belly, after that, using my right hand, I pick up the rabbit’s back end and lift it into my arms. Once it is in my arms, I hold its back feet in between me and my right elbow and it’s front paws in between me and my left elbow so I am crossing my arms. If I want to pet the rabbit while I am holding it I use my left hand to do that. I would recommend that you either pick up the rabbit like this, or with the rabbit facing the other direction. When you are putting your rabbit back in its home walk up to the cage so that the rabbit can’t see that it is going back to its cage. If it sees that it is going back to its cage, then it may scratch you and try to jump into its cage, which can hurt their feet. When you get up to the cage, slide your hands back into the position they were in when you were picking it up in the first place. Then put your bunny into its cage, back end first.


Your Rabbit’s Health:

    Would you like to be cooped up in your house all the time? Well neither would your bunny. Your rabbit needs time to hop around and play. The best way to go about this is to watch your bunny as he/she hops around in the grass. Keep in mind that if your bunny eats too much grass they could diarrhea, which can lead to death. The best way to prevent them from eating too much grass is to provide them with a special toy. I recommend stopping by your local feed mill and looking for a condensed ball of hay or other toy in the small animals section.

    Your bunny also likes treats, I don’t use anything but lettuce, the standard kind that you can buy and grow, not the iceberg, or any fancy varieties. Treats should be given in moderation, before your bunny is six months, you should be especially careful and only provide small pieces. I like to think of hay as being a treat as well, even though some people who raise rabbits use hay as a daily regimen, and you can give them plenty of this, you can also get hay at TSC or you can contact me for other suggestions.


Reminder:

One of the biggest things to remember when taking care of your rabbit is to take good care of them as far as food and water and to clean up their poop and pee every day to avoid sickness. Pay loads of attention to them and just have fun!


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