Lessons learned from a rabbit newbie

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Lessons from a rabbit newbie

Hard to believe, but it’s already been about a month since we brought home our fuzzy little English Angora buns!  We are definitely newbies to the rabbit care scene, but we have already learned a lot.   Veteran rabbit keepers will get a chuckle and shake their heads at our expense – but maybe we can save other newbies by learning from our adventures!

Litter matters

Before bringing our babies home, we researched online the best kinds of litter to use in their litter box and for bedding.  After many searches, we settled on natural paper bedding as being safest for rabbits & providing great odor control.

Lessons from a rabbit newbie

Look at that cute SHORT HAIRED rabbit right on the package!

 

Now, I’m sure this bedding is wonderful stuff for mice, hamsters and other small pets.   After just one day we knew this was a horrible choice for English Angoras.

Lessons from a rabbit newbie

All those little bits of paper get stuck in their fur!  If you don’t pick them all out, mats can start to form around them (and you don’t want paper bits in your fiber).  True, it does make them look like they are always just coming from a big bunny party, but picking paper bits out of their fur is not something I want to add to my bunny chore list.  For their litter box, we have switched to a paper pellet type litter.  It is heavy enough that it doesn’t get tangled in their fur, and I haven’t noticed any difference for better or worse with odor control.

Lessons from a rabbit newbie

For the rabbit’s sleeping area, we got a small rug at a local discount store.  It fit perfectly in the sleeping area of the hutch, like it was meant to be! Yes, they chew on it, and I’m sure a couple times per year we will have to replace it, but I think it’s the best option.  Once a week, I just take the rug out and shake it off.

Lessons from a rabbit newbie

Rabbits are smart little escape artists

I had seen the wild rabbits in my yard squeeze into impossibly small holes to get under the fence, but it didn’t really dawn on me that would soon be the habits of my domestic rabbits.  Admittedly, we have been a little slow in finishing the rabbit’s yard.  Right now, they have a 10×15 fenced yard they are allowed to play in only under direct supervision.  We have installed hardware cloth wire on the bottom portion, and buried it down 18 inches to prevent predators from digging in and rabbits from digging out.  The plan is to eventually completely enclose the yard in wire so the rabbits can have free range in there all day.  Within the first week they proved they were smarter than us by figuring out how to squeeze through the small gap in the gate, and by the second week, they figured out how to scale the wire portion and squeeze through the picket fence.  The garden herbs and greens just beyond their yard are too tempting!  It is clear we need to not only fix the gate issue, but get moving on finishing their enclosure.


lessons from a rabbit newbieGOING


lessons from a rabbit newbieGOING


lessons from a rabbit newbieAnd she’s gone!  Notice the lame attempt at blocking the gate with the small crate……

Rabbits are not smelly

I have never owned rabbits before, so this one I really only had what I had heard from others to go on.  The consensus – rabbits poop a lot and they poop everywhere.  Now, I can’t argue with the first half, they do poop a lot.  But I was surprised to find they have contained their poop for the most part to their litter box.  We got them a litter box and put it in their hutch, not expecting much.  They are baby bunnies after all, we figured eventually we would teach them to use it.  We had read about positioning the hay bin over the litter box to encourage them to do their business there, and I have to say that might be the most useful advice I found on rabbit husbandry!  There was no training, no effort on our part.  They sit in that box and munch their hay and I would say 90% of their droppings are in that box and I expect that to get even better as they get older.  It’s super easy to take the box out and dump it in the compost every couple days so they never get the chance to become “smelly”.  I have since read the facts that rabbits are quite similar to cats in that they spend much of their day grooming, and they prefer to keep their waste contained to one area.  Gross as it sounds, rabbits will eat some of their own droppings, known as cecotropes, to better digest them – gross, yes, but win for less rabbit droppings to clean up!  And their poo is so tiny and inoffensive it is a million times better than scooping out the cat box.

lessons from a rabbit newbie

English Angora rabbits don’t just shed once a season

Of course before diving in with a breed like English Angoras we were prepared for the grooming chores that would come along with their care.  We had read that 3-4 times per year they would “blow” their coat and that is when you can collect the fiber.  We have had many long haired cats so we were familiar with grooming techniques and were ready for the task of grooming 1-2 times a week.  When you groom a cat, it’s mostly to keep the coat tangle & mat free.  You usually don’t end up taking much fur off her at all, so this was what I was expecting with the buns.  Rabbits are constantly shedding in small amounts however, which is one of the reasons frequent grooming is necessary.  You don’t want your rabbit to be ingesting all that loose hair.  Unlike cats, rabbits don’t have the inner mechanism to throw up hair balls.  The fur will sit in their tummies and can cause a deadly condition called wool block.  I was surprised by the amount of fur that comes off with each brushing!  I won’t be knitting a sweater anytime soon, but I thought I would have to wait until their first shed to begin collecting fibers.  I already have a lovely collection going 🙂

lessons from a rabbit newbie

 

 

Rabbits make great pets!

Ok, so this one I had kind of already guessed at, but they are SO much fun.  They are adorable and affectionate and have their own sweet little personalities.  They enjoy sitting on our laps for grooming.  We have set up benches in the rabbit yard so we can sit and watch them frolic in the grass, which is endlessly entertaining.  But the best way to interact with them is to get down on their level.  I have the luxury of working from home full time.  When I need a break I like to take a towel outside and sit in the rabbit yard for a bit.  Our black bunny, Luna, is more chill than her sister.  She will come flop down next to me, nibble the grass and enjoy ear rubs.  Willow is more of an explorer, in between escape attempts and running in and out of the bench legs, she will climb on my legs and hide inside my sweatshirt.  It is a perfectly relaxing way to take a break, but it’s tempting to spend the whole day with them!  There is something about their peaceful demeanor that relaxes you and makes you want to slow down and smell (or eat lol) the flowers.

Don't make the same mistakes as us! Learn from our lessons as a rabbit owning newbie



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6 comments

  1. Liz says:

    Such helpful hints. Thank you for this post. Couple of questions: Can the bunnies just keep climbing and climbing or is there a height that is high enough so the bunny yard doesn’t need to be completely enclosed (like an aviary)? Wondering if I could have a bun yard without human-height walls and a wire ceiling. Also, if the edge of the yard is bordered by an asphalt driveway would that eliminate the need for burying wire on that side? thanks!

    • Liz says:

      The bunnies won’t climb up wire, so a 4 foot high fence is plenty to keep them in. The reason to have the yard completely enclosed is to protect from predators (like hawks). The driveway should stop them from digging under – they are good diggers but they won’t be able to get through asphalt! We have our bunny yard bordered by our house on two sides so that kept the fencing cost down a lot.

  2. Nicole says:

    I loved reading this post. I just brought home three French Angoras. I previously had a lop eared for over 10 years and missed the bunny affection. So now three deep, and the possibility for more :), I am diving into the fibre world. I love them. I love the crazy things they do. Always puts a smile on my face. Your post made me chuckle a little, as having previous experience with rabbits, I knew some of this already. That being said, I strongly believe that there is no one size fits all with rabbits. What works for one person and their little fluff balls will not work so well for someone else. It is a matter of trial and error and eventually you find common ground with your furry friends.

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