Abbey Green Rabbit Stud

Purebred Mini Lop & Netherland Dwarf Rabbits

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS...

Over the years, I have found that new rabbit owners tend to have similar questions regarding their new family member. This section of the site includes some answers and suggestions that may be of assistance.

Please see also RABBIT CARE for general rabbit keeping information. 

So you want to bring home a bunny -  Have you thought about the following...?

Is a rabbit the right pet for my family?

While they don't require walking, and wont bark to disrupt the neighbours, there are still important care requirements to ensure your rabbit has a long and happy life.  Read our care information to get a sense of whats involved. A happy rabbit is one that has social interaction and stimulation (eg. playtime and cuddles) in addition to it's basic needs being met (safety, a clean shelter, appropriate diet and fresh water, vet care as needed). The more love and gentle attention you give a rabbit, the more friendly and interactive it will be. If you have young children, supervision will be needed to ensure the rabbit is handled safely. Rabbits can make great pets if you understand their requirements.

Which rabbit breed is suitable?

Abbey Green produces mini lop, netherland dwarf and mini plush lops. From time to time, we may have adult rabbits available for re-homing (rescue/rehome or retired from breeding). On each breed's For Sale page, we have some information about the physical description and usual personality type. Mini lops and mini plush lops are generally well suited for children as they are naturally inquisitive, and fairly robust for their size.   They are super intelligent and great fun for all ages. The mini plush lop is also great for families who are more prone to allergies due to their unique hypo-allergenic velvet coat. 

Mini plush lops are a relatively new breed, which combines the best traits of the mini lop and mini rex, to create a friendly, interactive and visually appealing rabbit with lopped ears and a soft, short, hypoallergenic velvet coat. It was a breed in development since the 1990's, until the hard work and persistence of devoted breeders paid off and they were accepted in Australia in 2014. 
Netherland dwarf is a smaller variety and hence a little more fragile in bone structure. Better suited for older children and adults, or children who are very gentle.


Is this the best timing?

Our rabbits are very precious, and its important to us that they find long term responsible homes. We simply aren't interested if you are seeking a 'holiday fad', dont want to spend the necessary time and expense for upkeep and health care, or are going to forget about poor bunny if the novelty is going to wear off. We remain selective about the homes that adopt our precious babies, so please don't be offended if we ask a few questions to help us ensure our bunnies are a good fit. Our bunnies are not  'throw-away' gifts. Some considerations are:

- Are you commited to care for the pet for the next 7-10years?
- How will you help the pet feel safe and secure once they come home?
- Who will care for your new family member if you have a holiday planned?
We reserve the right to refuse sale if we consider it in the best interests of the bunny.  

So how do we make it happen?

Look for details of available babies on the website under the For Sale section. This includes photos, colour and sex. If you see a baby bunny that you might like to meet, proceed to the Purchase Information page for relevant information. 


Why choose an Abbey Green bunny?

Put simply, we have the experience and knowledge you and your new family member deserve. All kits bred at Abbey Green come from quality, purebred parentage, and are cared for to a high standard.  The health, quality and temperament of my rabbits is always the primary focus of my hobby.  I aim to breed rabbits that are a happy, healthy and true representation of their breed. Buying from an experienced breeder with purebred quality breeding stock ensures your new family member has predictable characteristics - including size, shape and nature. 


Over the past twelve years of breeding rabbits, I have acquired a wealth of knowledge regarding the various health issues rabbits may encounter, and have worked hard to minimise the risk within my breeding lines. 


Maintaining a rabbitry is a significant commitment and I spend many hours each day caring for my rabbits and researching to ensure I can provide the best care standards and follow up support. I frequently receive positive feedback regarding the level of follow up support I provide, and many people contact me after being recommended. 


This is my commitment to my hobby, and your new pet.


Buck (male) or Doe (female)?

Temperament based on sex varies with breed, with greater differences noted in breeds produced for meat or fur rather than companionship.

Iit often comes down to individual personality rather than sex.  Handling and interaction in early life plays a significant role in temperament. 

If I were to choose my ten most friendly mini lops, half would be bucks and half would be does. The main consideration is if you plan not to desex, as a percentage of bunnies may develop unwanted hormonal behaviour; fortnuately this is not all rabbits. In a buck, this would be spraying and sometimes circling your feet when you are nearby. In a doe, it may be hutch protectiveness; which can vary from hiding in the corner grunting to express their displeasure of you invading the space they intend to raise babies in (regardless of actual pregnancy), to boxing or nipping behaviour. Remember, if your rabbit begins to display these behaviours, it is not that they are nasty or mean; they are simply doing what their hormones are telling them to do. 

Both buck and doe hormonal behaviour is unpleasant, but the good news is it can be reduced or eliminated with desexing. Fortunately the vast majority of mini lops are interactive and affectionate despite remaining intact. If you plan to house two bunnies together; if you desex than any combination can be paired. If you dont want to desex then you would need to have two girls (as boys will fight), however you may find a need to desex once they reach maturity regardless. I find that sex makes very little difference in my netherland dwarf rabbits and handling and interaction is a better pedictor of temperament. 




Is my rabbit a healthy weight?

Possibly the most important considerations to keep your rabbit happy and healthy relate to maintaining a healthy weight.


WHY

* Greater Lifespan & Quality of Life

By increasing your rabbit’s general health and wellbeing, he will likely enjoy a greater lifespan and quality of life; meaning more time for you to love, snuggle and enjoy his company! A happy rabbit = a happy owner!

* More Active

An overweight rabbit tends to be more reluctant to move. Have you ever noticed that when you let your fat rabbit out for some exercise, he tends to find the nearest bush and take a nap in the shade? Ideally, rabbit will spend more time exploring the garden, providing mental stimulation and exercise. Exercise and activity reduces the risk of intestinal stasis and increases muscle mass and tone, as well as preventing boredom.

* A clean rear end!

Overproduction of cecotropes/chronic diarrhoea

An overweight rabbit is often the result of an inappropriate or unbalanced diet. This is problematic for several reasons. An incorrect diet will impact on the rabbit’s balance of digestive bacteria; often causing overproduction of cecotropes and chronic diarrhoea. This is further compounded when the rabbit can’t reach around to eat their cecotropes due to reduced mobility or fatty folds of skin (consuming cecotropes is a normal behaviour essential to allow maximum absorption of nutrients).

Urine scald/hutch burn

An overweight rabbit may experience difficulty positioning itself to urinate; hence the urine may contact the skin causing issues ranging from stained or wet fur, to a painful skin burn and loss of fur.

A dirty rear end is no fun for anyone. The rabbit is at increased risk of fly-strike, the hutch becomes much more work to keep clean, and a dirty, smelly bunny doesn’t tend to be handled and cuddled as much as a clean bun.

* Dental Health

A healthy balanced diet is high in fibre, which encourages chewing to keep the teeth in check. Rabbit teeth grow continuously, approximately 5inches per year. Rabbits with insufficient hay and tough fibrous materials in the diet are more susceptible to molar spurs – a painful and expensive condition.

* Poor Coat & Skin Disease

An overweight rabbit will often develop a dewlap (a small dewlap is permissible in does, but not acceptable in bucks). An excessive dewlap brings a raft of concerns; the rabbit may have difficulty grooming resulting in a dull or dirty coat, water provided in a bowl may accumulate in the folds of skin increasing risk of fungal infection and skin disease, or it may interfere with the ability to eat and drink comfortably.


WHAT

So what is a healthy weight?

The breed standards provide a general guide for the weight range for various breeds. That being said, the range can be significant and a small example of a particular breed would be significantly overweight if it were close to the maximum acceptable weight. The breed standard outlines the standard for show quality stock, and its not unusual for pet quality stock to fall outside the weight range. It has limited use for cross-bred rabbits. Hence, it’s important to know what is healthy for your individual rabbit. To check your rabbit’s weight, place him on a level surface (making sure he has sufficient grip to sit in a relaxed posture – not sprawled out or scrambling for a footing). Run your hand up and down his back. You should be able to feel the hip bones, and a little of the spine. An overweight rabbit will have layers of fat making the bones difficult to feel. An extremely overweight rabbit may have a ‘skirt’ (rolls of fat towards the rump, tail, and hind legs) or even pads of shoulder fat. A buck rabbit should never have a dewlap, while a small dewlap is permissible in a doe. When you pick the rabbit up, you should be able to feel a waist; distinction between the ribs and pelvis. An overweight rabbit will often feel very solid through the body.


It’s just as important that your rabbit is not underweight. The bones should not feel too obvious, sharp or angular, and there should be no significant depression behind the last rib. An underweight rabbit will often have a dull, rough coat and produce fewer, smaller, droppings. In more severe cases he may exhibit signs of pain – ie. hunched appearance, teeth grinding. An underweight rabbit may be the result of inadequate diet, but more often an underlying health issue; in which case a vet check is recommended. In some cases, insufficient access to water can also be a cause, so ensure your rabbit always has fresh, clean water available and is comfortable with the method its provided (bowl vs bottle).


HOW

So how do we maintain a healthy weight?

* Balanced Diet

To assist pet owners, Abbey Green Rabbit Stud has quality feed and hay options available for purchase. These are the same feed options we provide our rabbits. Click here for details.

A good quality hay such as oaten/timothy should comprise 70-80% of the diet. Hay is high in fibre, but also contains nutritional elements, which are lacking in straw. Lucerne (also known as alfalfa) can be fed in limited amounts, but is higher in protein than oaten hay and tends to cause weight gain and over production of cecotropes; hence really only a good option for underweight rabbits.

A limited amount of pellets; quality pellets are a convenient way to ensure your rabbit receives adequate nutrition. It is very difficult to ensure your rabbit receives a correct balance of vitamins and minerals through feeding hay and vegetables alone. At Abbey Green, we have developed a quality chaff based mix with a good balance of pellets and other ingredients to ensure nutritional needs are met, while keeping the diet interesting. We have several options, depending on your rabbit’s taste preferences and activity levels. There is also a pellet free option for rabbits with sensitive digestive systems that can’t be settled with a quality balanced diet inclusive of pellets. Click here for details.

Fresh vegetable matterProvide fresh leafy greens such as kale, bok choy, celery, carrot tops, wheatgrass etc. Limit vegetables high in natural sugars such as carrots, apples, bananas etc. You can allow your rabbit lawn time, as long as no fertilizers or pesticides have been applied, but don’t give lawn clippings as these tend to ferment quickly and cause gut problems. I also like to give my rabbits herbs (mint, parsley, basil, rosemary, lemongrass) and citrus leaves.

Limit treats; Many commercial treats are high in sugars and fats. These are often labelled as molasses, sucrose and fructose; although most pet products don’t require an ingredient listing. Many commercial feed mixes also contain high amounts of seeds, nuts, dried fruits, and an array of colourful biscuit type pieces; while these look delicious, they are not good food options for a rabbit – regardless of what the packaging claims! If you feel you must provide your rabbit these foods, offer it as a treat (i.e. a flat teaspoon a few times a week – but aim to avoid it completely if your rabbit is prone to being overweight).

* Be mindful that a rabbit has no knowledge of a healthy diet, and will be inclined to eat the tasty options first. For some rabbits, this means they may fill up on pellets/mix and greens and therefore consume less hay. If this sounds like your rabbit, limit the quantities, or divide the pellets/mix into two serves (am/pm) to allow him time to graze on hay during the day. You can also make hay fun by stuffing it in a hay rack, hay wheel, or in cardboard boxes or tubes to make it a game for rabbit to pull out.


Is the diet right?

A good gauge is to examine your rabbit’s droppings. They should be relatively large, round shape, firm and dry consistency, and a medium brown colour. It should crumble easily if squashed. The cecotropes should have some form and look like a collection of small balls (similar to a miniature

bunch of grapes). They should have a slightly darker colour, look shiny and be somewhat sticky to the touch. If the droppings are small or hard, the rabbit needs more fibre in the diet, so try increasing the hay. If your rabbit needs to fine tune his diet, be sure you make gradual changes. Never completely remove all food sources as a rabbit needs to graze throughout the day (hay is a good option). Don’t suddenly cut out pellets as the rabbit will be at increased risk of hepatic lipidosis (liver damage).


* Exercise

Ensure your rabbit has sufficient time and room for exercise. Give them time outside the hutch each day to run, stretch and explore. This allows the burning of excess calories, mental stimulation to prevent boredom, increased muscle mass and tone, and improved gut motility. You might encourage rabbit to be more active by changing the environment; offer boxes, tunnels and obstacle courses with different levels for him to play in, or consider a buddy as many rabbits are more active when they have a rabbit companion to interact with.


Using the Litter Tray - Trouble Shooting

Toileting everywhere: My perfect rabbit has forgotten how to use a litter tray!

A quick checklist:

* How old is the rabbit? A rabbit approaching maturity may experience a rush of hormones, increasing their desire to mark their territory. This may settle with time as the hormones settle down (think teenage angst!) or you may like to consider desexing.

* Has there been a new addition to the household (new pet or family member)

* Has the routine changed

* Has the hutch, litter tray or litter material changed

* Have you redecorated or rearranged the furniture

If none of these apply, which might suggest rabbit is feeling insecure and wanting to mark his territory, it may warrant a vet check to ensure there is no medical cause. If rabbit is still learning how to use a litter tray, you may need to restrict the space he has access to. Limit him to a playpen or one room, and only expand the space accessible once he demonstrates consistent litter tray habits.


Urinating next to the litter tray

* Choose a litter box with high sides / with a hood to help make a clearer distinction between toileting and non-toiletting areas. Check that the tray is a comfortable size and not too small.

* Put a handful of hay in the litter tray or hang a hay rack above the tray to encourage the rabbit to sit in the right place

* Don’t be too thorough in litter tray cleaning. If you disinfect or give a thorough scrub, place a small amount of soiled litter material or sweep up droppings into the tray to provide a clear signal to the rabbit.


Why has my perfectly litter trained rabbit just urinated on the couch?!

Uh-oh, this is not pleasant! The couch and bed can be victim to inappropriate toileting, as these are areas where human scent becomes more concentrated. Often the cause is territory marking when they reach sexual maturity. See the above section: ‘Toileting everywhere: My perfect rabbit has forgotten how to use a litter tray!’ for tips. Restricting access, placing a litter tray (as a temporary fix) to strengthen the association with the tray, or covering the couch with a waterproof sheet may help.



Bunny Behaviour 
- Why does my bunny nibble/nip? (And how to curb the behaviour)

Rabbits are prey animals, and hence their best defence and preference is to run and hide when confronted or frightened. (Think flight in the fight or flight response). Temperament is an important consideration when selecting potential breeding partners, particularly with companion breeds such as lops and netherlands, and hence we always aim to produce rabbits with relaxed natures. That being said, rabbits use their teeth when interacting for different reasons. Recognising the type of behaviour will guide the most useful response.

1. Investigation / gentle nibble - like a human baby they explore by mouthing. This is generally preceded by rabbit licking and grooming your skin (which is a big compliment in bunny language!), before getting a little overzealous and nibbling. It tends to tickle, and won’t break the skin. You can respond by redirecting the rabbit’s attention. Give a toy or hay to chew, change the position you’re holding rabbit in, or change the activity.

2. Warning nip - usually to indicate they want to go to the toilet if they are being held. Often associated with digging/pulling at clothing. Can also be if they are trying to assert themselves, but you would not expect to see assertiveness in very young rabbits. You will definitely notice this one, but it won’t usually break skin. You can ignore it, but I recommend putting him in his litter tray unless you want to clean up a mess!

3. Aggressive bite – this tends to be rare as prey animals will usually flee rather than use aggression. In the event that you do experience an aggressive bite, it’s important to determine the cause. There may be some situations that a bite seems somewhat reasonable; eg. If you are coming to the rescue of a cornered, terrified rabbit that has been tormented by a dog, or a rough/noisy child. Given that the rabbit is unable to run, aggression is its only defence, and being highly stressed they may not recognise that you are coming to offer assistance. It may be that the rabbit was sleeping and you have inadvertently startled him by suddenly grabbing him for a cuddle. Another example may be if you are breaking up a rabbit fight. Rabbits protect their eyes with their third eyelid when fighting, hence vision is impacted. Chances are the bite will have been intended for the opposing rabbit and not your hand.

How to respond?
If you feel the biting behaviour is aggression related, you can discipline him by gently pressing his head and shoulders to the ground and hold him there a few seconds (to mimic natural rabbit mounting behaviour which communicates dominance). Note: Be gentle! Don’t push the rabbit’s face into the ground. Ouch! Combine this with using a loud deep voice to say no. You can also give the rabbit a short period of time out. If a rabbit is usually friendly, and suddenly bites, a vet check may be warranted to ensure there aren’t any underlying health issues causing pain. If the rabbit is a particularly hormonal doe, she may be displaying ‘hutch-protectiveness’ – this is when she tries to protect her space (usually the hutch) as she thinks she may be pregnant. You may consider desexing to help settle her hormones and make her more happy and comfortable, as discipline alone may not resolve the behaviour.


How do I keep my rabbit clean?
Why does my rabbit's poo vary?
Help! Poo is sticking to my rabbit's coat.
Does my rabbit have diarrheoa? What can I do?

A. This is a question I frequently hear, usually after the rabbit has been home for a few weeks. You will notice that when rabbit first comes home, he has a beautiful soft clean coat. So where do things go wrong? Most commonly, these issues are diet related. For an informative article with clear pictures of what to look for, see http://imgur.com/a/5N4lD


Remember, a baby rabbit has a very delicate digestive system which can easily be upset. A rabbit with the correct balanced diet will not be dirty around his rear end and won't need washing as they will groom themselves. They self groom like a cat - licking the coat for light debris and natural oils, but they arent able to clean heavy mess or poop which sticks to the coat. What I suggest is giving him a good wash to get the coat clean initially, then feed lots of oaten or timothy/meadow hay (not lucerne), with a high fibre mix food like the one he came home with for the transition. Cut out any fruit or veggies for a short while to let his belly settle (and be mindful of what he is nibbling on if he has time on the lawn or garden). You can also pop some probiotics in his diet to settle things quickly, such as the Inner Health plus lactose free capsules (I empty the capsule in a few drops of water and give by syringe). Essentially what can happen when the diet is too rich (usually too many veggies - particularly sweet sugary things like carrot, apple) is they over produce cecotropes and ultimately can develop diarrhea. Some really safe veggies to try once things have settled are - 1 leaf of bok choy, a few celery leaves, herbs such as mint and parsley. Remember rabbit only has a tiny tummy, so even half a carrot at this age is the equivalent of letting your kids run wild in a candy store!


The other aspect of diet to consider is the everyday feed. The ideal feed has a good balance of fibre and protein. Avoid any mixes that have seeds, nuts, dried fruit etc as these will upset the digestive balance. I prefer my mix (as I wasnt 100% happy with those commercially available) as its high in fibre and minerals but I am also very particular! Some people do opt to get an ongoing supply from me (see QUALITY FEED & OATEN HAY). Many of the pellets that are readily available were originally designed for rapid growth and weight gain in commercial meat rabbit farms where rabbits only have a very short life expectancy so long term health and nutrition wasn't so critical. The hay I use is oaten, which is also very high in fibre. I always give a fresh handful each day as they wont eat hay that gets dirty or old. More information about a balanced diet is above under the weight section.

Once the diet is balanced for him, he will produce solid balls of dry poop during the day, and small amounts of cecotropes at night which he will eat (so you wont see them). A bunny who produces cecotropes during the day is also suggestive that the diet is too rich. A balanced diet will mean no poop sticking to the coat, a happy healthy rabbit, and no more cleaning for you!

In Summary:
1. Eliminate all greens 
2. Restrict diet to oaten / timothy / meadow hay and a small amount of high fibre mix for a few days
3. If this doesn't completely fix the problem, give lactose-free probiotics by mouth in a small syringe (eg. Inner Health Plus Lactose Free capsules)
4. Once the rabbit is back to his usual self, you can try reintroducing very small amounts of fresh greens - I recommend starting with something like wheatgrass, kale, celery leaves, bok choy or choy sum.


How do I wash my rabbit?

Some rabbits wont mind a bath, and this makes washing very simple. I find the following method easier and less stressful than washing the whole rabbit. You might like a second person to help if you arent confident to hold the rabbit safely with one hand. 

The best strategy I have found for young kits:
  1. Set the laundry tap to the right temp - tepid/luke warm (with rabbit on the floor or in a basket so the sound of running water doesnt startle him)
  2. In one hand, hold rabbit on his back and hold his back end under the running warm water to wet the dirty area. Use a rabbit or kitten shampoo and rinse thoroughly. 
  3. Towel dry and finish off with a warm (not hot) hairdryer, ensuring the rabbit is completely dry. 

Alternatively, if its just a small area needing a clean, apply corn flour to the coat. If the coat is dry and you are removing stains, make a paste of corn flour and water and apply. Allow to dry, then use a slicker brush through the coat. The corn flour will remove debris as it is brushed out, and corn flour is safe for the rabbit to consume. 


My bunny has dandruff / is scratching / losing fur. What's wrong?

  • Check your rabbit regularly for signs of mites. Ear mites (ear canker) can appear as crusty scabs on the rabbits ears, while fur mites can appear anywhere on the rabbit. Fur mites are not visible to the naked eye, and do not always cause irritation / scratching, however can cause fur loss or flakes of skin which appear as dandruff. Treat with Ivomec or consult your vet for other rabbit safe options such as Revolution. NEVER use Frontline, flea powders or collars as these are highly toxic and will be fatal to your rabbit. Low cost MITE TREATMENT AVAILABLE at Abbey Green. 


Why does my bunny always seem to molt / shed his coat?

If your rabbit seems to molt continuously, often starting a molt before the last one is complete, its a good idea to revisit their diet. Diets high in energy and fats (some brands of pellets / muesli mixes / treats) or diets that frequently change brand / type of feed often will likely impact on the condition of your rabbit's coat. We recommend a regular, high fibre diet such as our chaff-based feed mix and oaten hay. Consistency is the key!


What age do I desex?

 MALE
 FEMALE
 
.
MALE
FEMALE
 
MINI LOP / MINI REX
12 weeks
 16 weeks
 
 NETHERLAND
 10-12 weeks
 12 weeks
 
Remember, a mature (fully fertile) male can remain fertile up to four weeks post neuter.


Can you recommend a vet?

Make sure your vet is knowledgeable and experienced with rabbits! Abbey Green is not affiliated with any of the below vets, nor are we liable in any way if you access them. Please make your own assessment of suitability prior to accessing. 


Balcatta/Murdoch Unusual Pet Vet


Ian McDowell - Riseley Veterinary Centre, 113 Hulme Court, Myaree. Ph: 9329 9222


Morley Vet Centre, Rudlock Rd, Morley



How do I look after their teeth? 

Breeding for health is a priority at Abbey Green.  Genetic malocclusion can be detected between 3-8weeks of age, and all of our rabbits have their teeth checked before going to their new homes. We have a strict no tolerance policy for rabbits with teeth issues, or producing kits with teeth issues, and they are not used in our breeding programs at all. This means we have been able to minimise the risk through years of selective breeding. A rabbit with properly aligned teeth will not need any special care to maintain good oral health. A large handful of hay each day and some chew toys is sufficient to encourage chewing for normal teeth care. The diagram displays correct alignment. Note the top teeth overlap the bottom teeth. 


Unfortunately some rabbits may develop malocclusion, either a congenital condition through poor breeding, through trauma / injury, or cage / wire pulling behaviours. This is where the front teeth do not align properly and therefore do not wear evenly, causing the teeth to become overgrown. Rabbits may display poor appetite, weight loss, changes in food preferences, or develop eye problems (particularly weepy eyes) if teeth problems are present. Cases of malocclusion may need follow up by an experienced vet.