Abbey Green Rabbit Stud

Purebred Mini Lop & Netherland Dwarf Rabbits

Rabbit Care

Rabbits are delightful, intelligent and interactive critters - the more attention you give a rabbit, the more rewarding a pet it will be. They can be trained to perform simple tricks, come to their name, and use a litter box. Rabbits make excellent pets as they enjoy human company, are cheap to maintain, they have relatively small space requirements, and won't need walking or cause noise to disrupt the neighbours. I am frequently contacted by new rabbit owners who are surprised at how friendly, affectionate and interactive their new family member is!


PREPARING FOR YOUR NEW BUNNY

To prepare for your new addition, you will need the following essentials:


Recommended extras
  • Litter tray & litter (hemp/newspaper pellet kitty litter/newspaper & hay)
  • Playpen for the garden/family room
  • Pet carrier for travel, and to bring bunny inside in hot weather
  • Slicker brush
  • Hay rack

ARRIVING HOME - THE FIRST 48 HOURS

Bringing home a new pet is an exciting time, and naturally we want to spoil them with love and attention to welcome them into the family. It's important to remember that whilst we are excited, little rabbit is just a baby and the experience of leaving his mother and siblings for a new and unfamiliar environment can be stressful. Being a prey animal, they may experience more stress than pets such as dogs/cats. Rabbit will need a little time to adjust. To help a new rabbit settle, give them some quiet time alone where they can learn to feel safe and secure. I recommend setting them up with their feed, hay and water in their new hutch, and having minimal cuddles for the first night home. Give the transition feed provided by the breeder. Make sure that other pets dont harrass rabbit. Rabbits are naturally curious, and so it wont take them long to start moving around in their space, indicating that they are feeling adventurous and ready for more interaction with the family. You might like to consider having the hutch inside and leaving the door open to allow rabbit to come out when he is ready. After the first few days, its a good idea to start handling rabbit more frequently and begin introducing them to household noise, activity, and other pets (in a controlled and supervised way). Young children can benefit from sitting down and cuddling bunny inside a blanket while they get used to each other. 


FEEDING

RABBIT & GUINEA PIG MIX NOW AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE

  • Always have fresh clean oaten/meadow hay available. This provides necessary fibre for a healthy digestive system. Ensure the hay is not wet or soiled as the rabbit will not eat it. Lucerne is higher in protein and can contribute to excess weight. 
  • I recommend feeding a combination of rabbit pellets and basic chaff-based mix. Avoid mixes containing molasses, corn, nuts, seeds and dried fruit as these can be fattening and cause diarrhoea. Feed approximately 1/4 - 1/2 cup per adult rabbit per day (more for larger breeds), and unlimited amounts for growing kits up to approx16 weeks of age. Ensure your rabbit finishes its mix before providing more, otherwise he may become fussy. Be careful not to overfeed or the rabbit may not eat sufficient amounts of hay.
  • Always have fresh clean water available in a heavy-base bowl or bottle. Some rabbits may need time to learn how to drink from a bottle.
  • Rabbits have delicate digestive systems and can get diarrhoea if fed too many greens or insufficient fibre. They can get enteritis which can be dangerous in severe cases. If your rabbit's rear end is dirty, chances are that his diet is too rich.Increase the amount of oaten hay, limit greens and treats. We do not recommend 'treat bars' due to the molasses content usuing as a binding agent. 
Safe Greens
 Limit
 Avoid / Never Feed
Kale
Asian greens
Bok choy
Wheatgrass
Celery
Herbs
Apple/pear slice
Spinach
Carrot & tops
Citrus leaves & branches
Capsicum
Tomato (fruit only)
Dandelion
Fresh grass
Silverbeet
Banana


Cabbage
Brussels sprouts
Cauliflower
Broccoli
Cos / Iceberg lettuce
Avocado
Potato
Onion / chives
Tomato leaves & vines
Lawn clippings
Bread
Biscuits
Cakes
Dog biscuits
  • Avoid changing brands of food. If you must, mix the two brands gradually over the course of a week to allow the rabbit to get used to the new food. Rabbits may refuse to eat or experience digestive upset when faced with sudden diet changes.
  • Rabbits maximise the nutritional value gained from their diet and maintain a healthy digestive system by eating cecotropes (soft night-time poo). Don't confuse normal healthy cecotropes with diarrhoea. For more information check our Frequently Asked Questions page. 
  • Normal rabbit urine can range in colour from white, light yellow to a deep orange/red ("rusty" colour) due to a variety of plant pigments in the diet or pigments, called porphyrins, produced by the bladder. 


LITTER TRAINING

  • Rabbits are intelligent and can be trained to use a litter tray. Start with a small space - if the rabbit has too much room, he will forget where the litter tray is. Only increase the amount of space as the rabbit begins to use the tray consistently. Use recycled paper or wood shavings as litter, avoid any chemical or clumping varieties as they can be toxic.
  • The first few days at home, rabbit will mark his territory by leaving droppings throughout his new environment. After a few days, the rabbit will begin to concentrate its toileting, usually in a hutch corner. Place the litter tray where the rabbit has chosen and put some soiled bedding in the tray. The rabbit should start to use the tray. You may need to place a brick or something heavy in the tray if the rabbit attempts to move it. You may need to place a second tray if the rabbit changes his preferred toileting spot. After some time, the rabbit will begin to associate toileting with the tray, and you will be able to increase the amount of space he has access to. He will return to the tray when he needs to toilet.
  • Encourage litter tray use by placing a hay rack over the tray, or provide treats and praise for correct behaviour. Sterilization can also help litter training.   Extra tips are available on our Frequently Asked Questions page. 


CAGE & BEDDING

  • A rabbit should have a cage with ample room to move about; at least six times the size of your rabbit - even more if your rabbit will spend most of his time in there. The bigger the cage, the easier it will be to keep clean, and the happier your rabbit will be. Provide supervised time outside of the caqe for exercise (minimum 30 minutes per day) to allow him to stretch, explore and stay healthy.The more time your rabbit is exercising, the smaller the cage can be.  A bored bunny can become aggressive.
  •  The cage should have a solid floor. Line the floor with newspaper or wood shavings and replace it when soiled. If you provide a litter box and litter train your rabbit, you wont need to clean the whole hutch as frequently. Alternatively, use a mesh floor to allow droppings to fall through (NB Mesh floors are NOT  suitable for rex varieties). If you choose a mesh floor, provide your rabbit with a square of carpet to rest on. Monitor the rabbit's hocks (heels) to make sure the skin does not become damaged. Clean the whole cage with detergent and water regularly, and periodically with a diluted bleach and water solution (1:10) and rinse and dry thoroughly before returning your rabbit to the cage.
  • Be sure to protect the rabbit from the sun, wind, rain, and extremely hot or cold temperatures. In summer, the hutch should be well ventilated and kept in the shade. Rabbits can over-heat very quickly. Supply your rabbit with frozen water bottles and wet towels to offer some relief from the heat. You may also need to spray a mist of cool water on the rabbit's ears and bring the cage inside during the hottest part of the day. In winter, enclose the hutch with using a tarpaulin for added protection. Provide a box to hide in and line the box with hay or blankets for warmth. 


ONE RABBIT OR TWO? 

  • You may like to consider keeping two rabbits together for company, after all, rabbits in the wild tend to live in colonies. Rabbits are quite social and with correct introductions, will enjoy snuggling, grooming and playing with each other. They can provide you with many hours of amusement simply watching them interact.
  • Rabbits can be kept on their own provided they are given plenty of love and attention. They will require daily interaction, some time outside of their hutch, and a range of toys rotated through their hutch every few days to prevent boredom. 
  • Traditionally, the recommended combination has been a desexed buck/doe pair or two does. This is often the case when you bring rabbits home at different times, when closer to maturity, or if you are not wanting to desex. With desexing now being common practice, and with improved knowledge of rabbit social hierachies, it is now also common place for two bucks to be bonded closely. To increase the likelihood of success, we recommend you bring home two babies of similar age, ideally at the same time. This prevents one rabbit having opportunity to establish the home as their territory and lessens the likelihood they may perceive the new arrival as an intruder.  Bonding is also supported with early desexing - we recommend de-sexing according to the table below:
 
Recommended age to neuter/spey:
 MALE
 FEMALE
.
MINI LOP / MINI PLUSH
12weeks
  16weeks
 
 NETHERLAND DWARF
 10-12weeks
 12weeks
THE BONDING PROCESS
  • Many families are surprised that bonding rabbits can be a process. I often hear that the existing rabbit is very affectionate, interactive and calm with their owner or even other pets in the household, and hence the decision is made that the rabbit would benefit from a same species companion. The way a rabbit behaves towards any other person or animal is not necessarily an indicator of how easily they may accept a rabbit companion, and hence the bonding process comes into play.  Think about people; we tend to be very selective with our friendships and relationships with other people, but most people who identify as 'animal lovers' will enjoy the company of anything with fur or fluff. Rabbits are similar. 
  • As a general rule, introducing babies is easiest, or bringing home a baby to an existing adult. Bonding two adults can sometimes require a little more time and patience, but can also result in some strong friendships. By understanding a little about the rabbit social structure, we can plan our introductions to increase likelihood of success. Rabbits are hierarchical, meaning that in a group, each rabbit has a rank/place in the chain of command. If you are a lone rabbit, chances are you perceive that you are the dominant, unchallenged rabbit, and your home environment is your territory. For this reason, if you prefer  to keep things as simple as possible, we recommend bringing home two babies of similar age, ideally at the same time. This prevents one rabbit having opportunity to establish the home as their territory and lessens the likelihood they may perceive the new arrival as an intruder.
  • If you already have an existing rabbit, or plan to introduce a friend in the future, there are three key secrets to successful bonding: NEUTRAL TERRITORY, TIME & DESEXING ADULT RABBITS 
  • Neutral Territory: Often families are excited to bring their existing rabbit a companion, so they rush home and pop the new arrival into the existing rabbit's hutch - often with unfavourable results. Imagine if you were at home, relaxing on the couch watching a movie or sitting down for dinner, and an uninvited, complete stranger appears in your lounge room! How would you react? Chances are, you're going to feel threatened, unsafe, or at the very least - uncomfortable, even if they are minding their own business. Now imagine you are at the cinema watching a movie, or stopping at a foodhall for a meal. Someone sits down at the table next to you, again minding their own business. Totally different reaction right? The same goes for our rabbits. By starting introductions in a neutral space, one that doesnt 'belong' to any particular rabbit, we create a more acceptable foundation for the bonding to occur. The bathroom is often a popular starting choice, but any area is fine as long as your existing rabbit hasnt been there before.
  • Desexing Adult Rabbits: A word of caution - Do not put unfamiliar, unsterilized, mature rabbits together unsupervised, especially in a confined space. Same sex rabbits are territorial and can fight. Opposite sexes will attempt to breed, in which case you must be prepared for the risk posed to the doe, risks to babies (double horned uterus), the unpleasant genetic influences (eg. double dwarf inheritance, max factor gene) and potentially leaving you with unwanted babies. By desexing, we reduce the rabbits urge to establish a territory and ward off intruders. It can help a rabbit to become more relaxed and reduce any unwanted hormonal behaviours. Be mindful that it can take up to four weeks post neuter for a mature buck to become infertile - meaninghe can still impregnant a doe in the weeks after his procedure!
  • Time: Again, another human comparison. Think about your friendships; there are a few friends that you just clicked with and instantly became close, but the majority will have developed over time. Rabbits are the same. Dont expect your rabbits to become best buddies immediately (although this is fabulous if you are lucky enough to experience it!). They often need a number of shorter positive interactions to learn about the new arrival and begin to trust them. It is far better to end the session while things are going well, then to have an incident and set things back. To start, switch hutches for a few nights to allow the rabbits to safely become familiar with each other's scent; without the other rabbit actually being present. This decreases the sense of threat associated with the scent of an unfamiliar rabbit. Once they are less interested in the scent, you can begin the actual introductions by placing the two rabbits about a metre apart, facing the same direction (not looking directly at each other as this can be confronting/startling). Allow the rabbits to hop over and find each other in their own time. Dont rush things or force them to interact. You can help diffuse things by placing boxes and tunnels around the room which serve as a hiding place, a visual barrier and as a distraction. Strong smelling treats can also help,  such as mint, parsely, basil and lavender. These are a scent distraction as well as a delicious treat, so start to make the experience more enticing and positive. You can expect to see some mounting behaviour once the rabbits approach one another. Mounting allows the rabbits to establish who is the boss in the hierarchy, so as long as it is safe you should allow it to occur. By interrupting, the rabbit who wants to be dominant may feel their dominance is being challenged, and hence can prolong the bonding. The dominant rabbit may pull fur from the submissive rabbit's neck scruff, mimicking mating behaviour. Again this is ok. If your rabbits are opposite sexes but still babies (typically under 4months), you will have a window of time before they are sexually mature so pregnancy is unlikely.  Keep an eye out for aggression. This can be biting at the rump area, chasing, head down with ears back and/or hissing type sounds. Separate them immediately, give them time to relax and try again tomorrow. Once the rabbits begin to accept each others presence, you should feed them from the same bowl; especially with their treats and veggies. This creates a positive experience. You can also put a little of something sweet on the rabbits fur, which will encourage mutual grooming. Over time, gradually increase the length of time spent together. It's a good idea to share a travel cage, visit the vet together etc to help maintain the bond. If a rabbit goes out alone, its companion may not recognise them as they smell like the outside world. If this is an issue, try dabbing vanilla essence on the tips of their noses to mask any unfamiliar scents. 
  • If you arent successful after trying these techniques, you can try stress bonding. Essentially the rabbits become more focussed on the greater stressor, so they are less bothered by the unfamiliar rabbit. If you have a friend to help, try putting the rabbits in a travel cage and taking them for a drive. The fear of the car noise and sensation will usually have them snuggling together for comfort. Having a friend present is essential to ensure someone can control the interaction and intervene if needed, while the driver concentrates on the road. Always rely on an adult who is confident to handle the rabbits; as children may panic resulting in a rabbit loose under the driver's seat! This is also a great option if you take your existing rabbit for the journey when you collect your new rabbit. Another option if help isnt readily available, is to place the rabbits in a washing basket and vaccuum loudly next to the basket. Alternatively put the basket on top of the washing machine on spin cycle. 

This all might sound like hard work, but in reality it often goes smoothly. 
There are always exceptions to the rules, and I've often received photos of rabbits snuggling and relaxing together within hours of arriving home! 


NAILS

NAIL CLIPPING SERVICES AVAILABLE. Please see the Nail Trims & Other Services page for details.

  • Check your rabbit's nails each month, and clip them if needed. Rabbits have small blood vessels and nerves in their nails which appear pink. When clipping nails, you must not clip the blood vessel or else it will bleed, cause pain and be an infection risk. I use a pair of regular fingernail clippers. 
  • Many rabbits will squirm when you try to clip their nails. You may like to wrap your rabbit in a blanket to prevent him from moving around and kicking. I like to lay the rabbit on its back - by doing this from an early age they are very calm which makes nail clipping simple. I will show you how to clip your rabbit's nails when you collect him. If you are not confident in future, I am available to clip nails for a minimal cost.


TEETH

  • If you notice your rabbit is off his food, you will need to inspect his front teeth. The top teeth should overlap the bottom teeth. If the rabbit hasa malocclusion, the teeth will continue to grow and may not wear evenly, making it difficult for your rabbit to eat. The condition may be improved by visiting your vet. Abbey Green Rabbit Stud has a strong focus on health and wellbeing in the breeding program, and any rabbits displaying teeth problems, or producing kits with teeth problems, are removed from the breeding program. Through careful selective breeding, we have managed to minimise the risk of genetic malocclusion. Genetic malocclusion can be detected between 3-8weeks of age, and all our babies have their teeth checked prior to leaving for new homes. A malocclusion may also occur as a result of an injury (eg. chipped tooth) or from pulling on cage wire.


HANDLING

  • A rabbit should never be picked up by the ears as it is painful and can damage the ear tissue. You can pick up a rabbit by the fold of skin above the shoulders and one hand supporting the weight of the hind quarters. Or you can lift the rabbit from underneath, providing support to the hind quarters, simply allowing he rabbit to rest of your chest with all four feet against you. Always ensure you are supporting their weight and keeping their spine straight when handling. Hold them around shoulders and hips, and avoid the soft belly area.  Some rabbits will also be happy being held on their backs, and this is a practice Abbey Green rabbit kits will be used to by the time they are ready for their new homes. Remember, if your rabbit doesn't feel comfortable or safe it may scratch and kick out of fear.



BONDING & INTERACTING - HOW TO ENJOY YOUR BUNNY

A great starting place to help you understand your rabbit's behaviour is available here: www.wikihow.com/Bond-With-Your-Rabbit

Once you begin to recognise their body language, you will be able to respond in a helpful way to help strengthen your friendship. Getting down on their level, talking in a quiet and calm tone, and moving slowly (no sudden movements or grabbing!) will all help win their trust. Rabbits are prey animals, hence are naturally programmed to be wary. Luckily they are also super inquisitive, so with gentle interaction we can draw out this aspect of their personality and end up with a cheeky and confident friend. 



VACCINATIONS

Calici-virus (also known as RHD - Rabbit Haemorraghic Disease) is a highly contagious disease that causes internal bleeding resulting in a painful death. The good news is that rabbits can be vaccinated against two of the three strains of calici-virus in Australia. This is generally done over the age of 10 weeks. Please see our Calicivirus section for more information. You can contact me regarding discounted vaccination options. 


Myxomatosis is also highly contagious and most often fatal. This is predominently carried by blood sucking insects such as mosquitos and ticks. Whilst there is a vaccine, unfortunately the Australian government has not authoirised its use within Australia - this is because its a 'live' vaccine which means immunity can be passed on and could result in a wild population carrying immunity. At this time, the best way to protect your rabbit is to control the insects in its environment - eg. flyscreen hutches, use Coopex (a residual insecticide). 


REMEMBER

  • Rabbits usually live between 7-10 years, often even longer with good care.
  • Don't neglect signs of diarrhoea, lack of stool production, or iof rabbit refuses to eat for >12hours. Contact your vet as your rabbit may need urgent attention.
  • Don't let your rabbit run on chemically treated lawns. Be careful of fertilizers and insecticides. Cover your hutch when the area is being sprayed and bring your rabbit indoors. Even if your lawn is not treated, supervise your rabbit, they are vulnerable to predators (incl. cats, dogs, foxes, and birds of prey) and they can dig a hole in a matter of minutes and find a way out of the yard. Never leave a rabbit unsupervised with other family pets. Restrict access to swimming pools and fish ponds as these present a drowning risk. 
  • Keep your rabbit away from wild rabbits as they may carry disease and parasites. 
  • 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, 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. Advantage works for fleas but not mites. NEVER use Frontline, flea powders or collars as these are highly toxic and can be fatal. We can provide low cost mite treatment.
  • MITE / PARASITE TREATMENT NOW AVAILABLE

  • A great resource for rabbit care...
    Christine Carter: 'The Wonderful World of Pet Rabbits' book
    Available from www.petrabbitworld.com.au

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