Creekstone Rabbitry

Home of Dwarf Hotot, Havana, and Blanc de Hotot rabbits

RABBIT INFO

I want a place to share some information about the health, care, showing, breeding, and the genetics of rabbits.  I have found that there is a lot of information out there, but no one clear way of doing anything.  I will share with you some of what I have found to help me better understand and care for my rabbits, but  know that there could also be other ways that will work too.  Think of this info as stuff to put in your bag of tricks, if one way doesn't work for you, try another.    I will have a Table of Contents at the top of this page with links to each section, as the page is likely to get quite long.  Keep checking back as it will be a gradual process adding information.  I hope this helps give you some useful information to get you started.

                 TABLE OF CONTENTS

GENERAL CARE                                                  Feeding and Watering my thoughts                      Basic Nutrition for Rabbits                            Helpful Hints By Tonna Thomas           Poisonous Plants                                                   Herbs for Rabbits                                                Weather Safety

 

Feeding and Watering

Feeding your rabbits is easy.  You need to get fresh feed, that’s a good quality.  Good quality rabbit feed should have 16% to 18% protein and have a minimum of 16% fiber, and for small breeds you might want at least 3% fat.  Always look at the pellets when you buy the feed, it should be green and smell fresh, make sure it has no mold on it.  It shouldn't look dried out or stale.  Spoiled rabbit feed, can cause your rabbit to get sick.

I buy my feed from PenPals and Purina Feed dealers.  I recommend buying feed in 50lb bags, it will be the most cost effective way.  Buy only what you can use up within 6 months or less timeframe so it doesn’t go stale.  How much you feed your rabbit depends on a few things. I generally let my babies eat as much as they like, up to when they are 4 months old. After that a common guideline is 1 ounce per pound of bodyweight.  As a breeder I have certain weight limits for each of the breeds I raise if I want them to be able to show.  I avoid excessive treats that can make them obese, but occasional treats in moderation are enjoyed.

Pregnant does or does who need milk to feed babies are able to eat as much as they want. They constantly have enough food and water in front of them to eat whatever they need. When you have young rabbits learning to eat pellets you should also give them plenty of hay too.  You can also try mixing a little oats into the pellets.  Also, never give rabbits under the age of 6 months any kind of greens or too much carrots, or fruits. This can give them diarrhea and make them sick.  Sometimes older rabbits will get diarrhea when you give them carrots.  If this happens, take the carrot away and give them some oats.  When introducing new foods start slow and one at a time so you can see what your rabbit tolerates.  I am currently using water bottles in my small rabbitry, but an Edstrom automatic watering system can be used.  Providing a fresh clean source of water to all my rabbits, 24/7, is the goal.  Rabbits need to drink lots of water to be healthy and should never be left without water.  No matter how hot or cold it may be, they need water.  Never let your rabbit go without water if their bottle or crock is frozen over.  Give them a new one with fresh water, swap them out between days and nights.

Rabbits should have hay regularly.  I usually give mine hay at least a couple times per week. Hay reduces problems with the intestines. Timothy or Brome hay is good and cheaper if you can buy it a bale at a time.  Look for clean, green hay for your rabbits.

Basic Nutrition for Rabbits                 found on the ADHRC website

Many national commercial feed corporations, as well as local feed companies, prepare rabbit and cavy pellets that meet the National Research Council’s minimum requirements for rabbits and cavies during growth, maintenance, gestation, and lactation. It is imperative that the feed does not contain an excessive amount of dust particles as this is not beneficial to the rabbit or cavy.

Rabbit Nutrition:

The most common mistake that the majority of rabbit breeders make is they overfeed the animals.  To eliminate the problems of overfeeding, it is recommended that the owner feed the individual rabbits just the amount of feed that they will consume in twenty to thirty minutes after feeding the animals once a day. The only exception to this general rule is does that have litters nursing should be on “full feed” by the sixth or seventh day post-kindling. Just prior to kindling, just after kindling, and after weaning, the amount of feed given to the doe should be restricted to prevent the “over production” of milk that can predispose the doe to “caked breast” and mastitis. 

 

Most rabbit rations contain approximately fourteen to seventeen percent protein, two to four percent fat, and should contain at least sixteen percent fiber for the best health of the animals. Most commercial pellets contain an adequate amount of salt, vitamins, and minerals to give the rabbits adequate nutrition. However, many pet owners and commercial producers like to supplement the pellet diet with various treats for various reasons. The most common treat for rabbits is some type of fibrous hay given in small quantities. Since rabbits are nocturnal, it is suggested to feed in the evenings. Treats are generally given in the morning. The addition of fresh fruits and vegetables to the rabbits diet can cause severe gastrointestinal problems that will often times lead to fatal diarrheas. Give only dark green vegetables. Light green vegetables should be avoided as it will add an excess amount of fluid to the diet. 

 

Clean fresh drinking water is imperative. The animals must always have a fresh supply of drinking water, particularly during the warmer months and during production to meet their fullest potential.  Vitamins can be added to the drinking water to assure adequate vitamin supply. Addition of vitamins to the drinking water is most beneficial during stress periods to the animal and during heavy production. 

Animals that will not drink, or are not supplied with an ample amount of water will not eat to their potential; therefore, will not perform to their maximum. A rabbit will not eat if it does not have water.

Rabbits are sensitive to “water taste” and often times will fail to drink “strange” water. Even short durations without adequate fluid intake can cause an increased metabolism of the fur follicle and enhance the possibility of a molt.

Another common method of assessing constant consumption of water is to place substance such as jello, vinegar, or household bleach in the water at home, as well as to the strange water at as shows.  This will “cover” the flavor of the foreign water and the animals will consume nearly the same amount of water when traveling as when they are at home.

 

 

Helpful Hints    By Tonna Thomas              found on the ADHRC website

If you have raised rabbits for any length of time, you know some of the “tricks of the trade”. Let us share some of those “tricks” with others in this article. 

Everyone has had those rabbits that just do not want to eat, thus they say I am going to die, you cannot make me live, leave me alone. Well, this ole softie just does not give in too easily. I have often thought to myself, it looks like a 7 course meal in their cage. 

Offer various items to tempt them. I start out with straw. Simple but a rabbit can sustain  themselves on it for a while. I once saw a rabbit that ate only a pittance of pellets but would eat straw. After a couple of months of this, you would have thought she would have been under nourished. Wrong! Her condition and fur was great. I tend to give fescue hay and straw only because straw to me is not appealing. However, I do not eat it! Any grass hay is fine but do not give alfalfa, it is too high in protein and will tend to scour a rabbit.

If they do not eat anything for 2 days, I start them on Nutri-Cal. It can be purchased at any feed store in the dog/cat aisle. It is a high caloric paste that is given orally. I give them as much as I can squeeze into their mouth twice a day. I have saved many rabbits with this alone. Old fashion oatmeal is another temptation you can try.

Here in the Midwest we have what is called chard. It is a broad waxy leafy weed. Sometimes rabbits will eat that over anything else. Comfrey is also green herb that rabbits will eat. 

Other temptations you can try are blackberry or rose leaves. Dandelions, mustard weeds and dried oak leaves are also lures to getting rabbits to eat.

Some rabbits will also lick up yogurt. This also gets their digestive tract back in order and keeps them hydrated. If they do not eat it on their own, give it to them through a syringe.

Ok, let’s go on to fur. Did you know the best way to groom your rabbit is a little water on your hands and rub back and forth removing the loose hair. There are conditioners out there, but water is one of the best items.

Having three breeds of white rabbits is sometimes challenging keeping them white. I have tried lining them up buck/doe/buck/doe and buck, buck, buck, solid dividers and no dividers. It does not matter, if they are sprayers, you will have urine stained coats. Try using a mixture of 50% water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray it on, use washcloth type towel and work it in with your thumb and index finger. Then take a pinch of cornstarch and work that in. Make sure you brush out the extra when dried. It will surprise you how much you will remove. Of course, if it has been there for a while, you may have to wait until the rabbit molts to loose the stain.

Keeping the rabbit cool is another topic. If you have just a few rabbits, frozen 2-liter soda bottles can be placed in their cage. If you use crocks, the rabbits will lay up against them to keep cool. Bricks and/or small carpet pieces (with lots of nap) can be soaked in cold water then placed in the cage. Watch the rug pieces as they may tend to be soiled on.

If you use outside hutches, try hanging burlap bags on the front of the cage and place a soaker hose on top. The water drips on the bags thus you have an evaporative cooling system. This works where humidity is low.

More helpful hints:   

*Apple Cider Vinegar in the water helps with urine odor while traveling. Some also say it helps the does conceive.  23cc per gallon.

*Zaps It sprayed on the shavings controls odors while traveling.

*When a doe pulls too much fur in the summer, remove the excess and save it in a paper bag. Add it the nest that does not have quite enough in the winter. By then the smell is gone and the does will not mind the help.

*Ear mite – Ivomec works well. Since I am not a veterinarian, I cannot give amounts. If asked I will tell you what I give.

*Diarrhea – I use Neomycin Oral Solution. Again, I cannot give the amounts but would tell you what I do if asked. You can also try Kaopectate.

*Hairballs – Petromalt Hairball Remedy for cat fur balls works. Some breeders will give them pineapple juice.

*Nest box eye – open the eye with a moistened cotton ball. Terramycin ophthalmic ointment helps. However, most times, you will have a small spot let over if not caught early enough.

*Does won’t breed – Take them to a show or load them in your car and take them shopping/work with you if weather permits. Just the motion of moving and the warm car will usually bring them into cycle and they will be willing to breed the following day.  Beside, they like window-shopping!

*Sprinkle lime under the cages or on trays to control flies.

I know there are a lot of other “home remedies” out there. If you know of something, share it with others. I hope there is something here that helps you in the future.

 

Poisonous Plants

Aloe Vera
Aminita
Amaryllis
Apple
Apricot
Arrowhead vine
Asparagus fern
Autumn crocus
Azalea
Beginia
Bleeding Heart
Boxwood
Boston Ivy
Bunchberry
Buttercup
Geranium
Calla Lily
Carnation
Cherries
Clematis
Cocklebur
Columbine                                   Creeping Charlie                             Cutleaf Philodendron
Daffodil
Daisey
Dianthus
Dogwood
Dracaena palm

Dutchmans Breeches             Eggplant
English Laurel
False Parsley
Fireweed
Fox glove
Gladiola
Hemlock
Hemp
Holly
Horsetail
Hyacinth
Hydrangea
Impatiens
Iris
Jerusalem Cherry
Juniper
Lily of the Valley
Lima bean
Lupine
Marsh Marigold
Mesquite
Milkweed
Mistletoe
Monks Hood
Morning Glory
Mustards
Narcissus
Night shade
Paradise plant
Peach
Pear
Peony
Periwinkle
Philodendron
Plum
Poinsettia
Potatoe
Primrose
Queen Anne's Lace
Ranunculus
Rhododendron
Rhubarb
Rosemary
Rubber plant
Sage
Scotch broom
Skunk cabbage
Snapdragon
Snake palm
Sweet Pea
Sweet William
Tansey
Tiger lilly
Tobacco
Tomatoe
Trumpet Vine
Tulip - bulb

Herbs for Rabbits

These herbs listed are great for keeping up good health and curing some things.
*Note: Use at your own risk. Different rabbits may have different effects to these herbs. They are popular for curing many problems, but use at your own risk, and consult a professional  before using anything.
Also if you spray your yard for bugs, do not just go out and pick any herbs you may see growing such as berries or dandelions, or it may end up poisoning your rabbit

                                          Black sunflower seeds                                                               These are high in Vitamin E, Vitamin B1, folate, selenium, magnesium and Omega 3s and 6s.  Because of the high protein levels and healthy fat content in black sunflower seeds, they satisfy hunger and benefit health

Blackberry
This is most often used on hot days. It is said to cool the blood and is very good for pregnant does, or anyone on really hot days or in hot climates. One warning is to not feed the fruit to light colored rabbits, or it may cause diarreha.

Borage
This herb increases milk flow in does, it is also a mild laxative.

Chamomile
This herb is a great blood cleanser and calming herb. It's great to use on nervous rabbits, and it also is a good pain reducer.

Clover
This is a good sedative and rabbit's find it very tasty.

Comfrey
This is a very powerful healing herb. It is known for speeding up healing of all kinds, including bones. It is great for weak rabbits, or rabbits getting over snuffles or heat stroke.
The only problem is the leaves stick to the coats and should be shredded before given to the rabbits, and clean up anything left on the coat.

Dandelion
Great for wool block and a good blood cleaner.

Dill
Good for helping milk flow in does. Also good to fight off diarreha. The seeds are the most strong part of it.

Garlic
This is very strong in killing infectious diseases. It is very hard to get the rabbit to eat.

Mint
This cures diarreha, helps stomach problems, and decreases milk flow in does. It is used alot at weaning time. It also helps mastitis.

Nasturtium
Blood cleaner.

Oats 
It helps build strong bones, teeth, nails, and wool.

Parsley
This inriches blood and helps fight off urinary problems. It also speeds the recovery from snuffles and other respiratory infections.

Raspberry
Helps alot during pregnancy and prevents alot of the problems during kindling and during the growth of the kits.

Rosemary
Keeps away fleas and mits.

Sorrel
Cools the blood and is used alot in hot climates or days. Works wonderfully to keep rabbit at a good temputure and prevents heat exhaustion.

Strawberry
Helps prevent still born babies, and is also another cooling herb to keep rabbits at a nice temputure. It also helps if used on sores, rashes, and sore eyes.

Willow
This cures intestinal inflammations. If used on kits, it helps reduce diarreha.

 

Weather Safety

Summer Heat

The ideal temp for a rabbit is between   and   degrees.  Rabbits are more likely to die from exposure to extreme heat.  There are some easy ways short of installing cooling systems to help your rabbits out.

I have a giant fan in the rabbit shed, and on hot days I put it on high. It is loud and blows really hard, the rabbits enjoy the movement in air it gives though, and they never even reacted to the noise. I also freeze old coke bottles with water, and give it to them to lay up against and lick when it's really hot. They usually don't freeze over night after I use them, so I have to keep a couple extra ones for the ones that aren't frozen. Last year I had about 30 rabbits, and used 60 bottles just to keep everyone cool all the time. This year I'll probably have to have even more.  You can also put a cool wet piece of carpet or cloth in their cage to lay on, or drape one over they hutch in the summer.  There are also inexpensive mister systems that hook up to a garden hose.

Think of anything to circulate air through the building and cool it off, try to keep it below 65 or so if you can.   

Heat Stroke

A rabbit who has had heat stroke will die if they are not cooled down quickly. But if you cool them down too quickly they could go into shock.

   In the early stages of heat stroke, the rabbit will lay in its cage, stretched out, breathing heavy. They will often tilt their head upward and breath heavy.  I have also noticed that rabbits in heavy heat will sweat from around the nose, and it almost looks like snuffles, but it's not.


As heat stroke gets worse, they will become lazy and unresponsive. Sometimes they will turn blue around the nose. When this happens, they are very close to death.

Treatment for Heat Stroke

Take the rabbit inside, or somewhere cool immediately. Give him water with ice in it. Crush the ice if you can and try to put some of the ice water up to his mouth and bathe his ears and face in it. Don't get it up his nose though or he may become sick later on.

If this still doesn't work, fill up the sink and place him in room temperature water for a couple of seconds. Take him out and dry him off as best as you can. Try to keep the ears cool. The ears of a rabbit are like our foreheads when we have a temperature. If they are really hot, the rabbit is probably hot.

If this still doesn't work, your rabbit maybe dehydrated and will need to see a vet. If you waste time trying to use some of these steps when they are clearly not working, the rabbit’s life will slip away. For pet owners who are not experienced with animals, I would say to wet a towel, wrap the rabbit in it, bring it ice and water to drink on the way, and rush as soon as possible to the vet.

Winter Freeze

In the winter I must go through about 5-6 bails of hay. When it gets down below freezing, I give everyone enough hay to lay in to keep them off the cold cage floor. This has seemed to work very well for me. We close the tarp walls every year at about November, because that's when the Floridian winter starts. They stay closed till about March or April, to keep all the heat in from during the day. I have to clean the old nasty hay out from the cages at about every 2 days to keep them from laying in their own waste. I give them new hay and clean out the whole shed at the end of every winter.  This may take alot of time, but I haven't lost nearly as much as my fellow breeders have.  

For those who breed during the winter, you can bring the nest boxes in each night and take them back out during the day as mothers usually only feed their babies 1 or 2 times a day.  Also, for those of you who live where it goes below zero, I would say to bring your rabbits inside, over night, in carriers, just to be safe if you can.  I know a lot of people have electric space heaters, but with the hay there is a risk of fire; and unvented fuel heaters will create carbon monoxide.  Take caution with whatever method you decide.