In many states and countries it is illegal to keep rabbits as pets. Potential pet rabbit owners should enquire from local government or Department of Agriculture offices whether any restrictions apply in their area.
Rabbits have been pets and laboratory animals for many years. They can be playful and very tame, but only rarely can they be house-trained. Despite this, they are very clean animals and are most unlikely to transmit disease to humans.
Rabbits, like mice, have been developed with many interesting and varied coat colors, but the most popular, as with mice, is the white albino. The range of colors is white albino, white with black extremities. silver with black under, silver with yellow under, black, blue, grey, red or varied.
When handling a rabbit be firm but gentle. A rabbit that feels insecure you are holding it is more likely to struggle. Young rabbits can be lifted by grasping them firmly over the loins, your fingers on one side and your on the other. Larger animals can be lifted or carried by holding it firmly over the shoulder with the right hand while the left hand is under the rump to support the animal’s weight. A rabbit’s back can break unless held firmly, if it struggle’s or is released too quickly.
Feeding a Rabbit
Under natural conditions the rabbit’s diet consists mainly of green vegetables,and other plant material. Natural diets include cereals, freshly cut lucerne, vetches, cabbage, carrots, herbs and hay according to the season and availability.
Pelleted balanced diets are produced commercially (usually going by the name of rabbit pellets) and are the most sensible form of feed for the re..owner. They have been fed for long periods with no ill effects and only need to be supplemented by green feed three to four times per week.
Rabbits can be groomed just like a dog or cat. Brush with a soft hair and smooth the hair afterwards to add extra luster. If claws are sharp annoying they can be trimmed as you would a cat.
Fresh water should be available to the rabbit at all times. This can be provided through a plastic bottle fitted with a special dewdrop nozzle or by an ordinary watering trough. Whatever type of system is used, it is necessary to change the water daily.
Rabbit feed should be placed in an all-metal container and fastened to the side of the cage. Special hoppers can be purchased from supply houses or, the homesteader may prefer to make his own from an old coffee can. Cutdown one side of the can to within two inches of the bottom, then continue cutting halfway around the body of the can. Fold this cut part flat across the opening and fasten it in place with rivets or a piece of fine wire. Crimp all sharp edges. This leaves a two-inch-deep, semi-circular dish attached to a closed, half-cylinder. It can be attached to the cage with heavy wire and, if desired, painted with nontoxic paint.
Rabbits, like all other livestock, require grains in their diet. The belief that rabbits love leafy, green vegetables and thrive on them is only a half-truth. An overabundance of water-rich, leafy vegetables will cause diarrhea. Pelletized or commercial feeds may easier to manage,. For best results mix your own rabbit feed readily available materials. In this way,can guarantee a feed that is specifically tailored to the needs of the rabbits during specific periods in their life cycles.
The tendency to overfeed is a big probing rabbit care. Each rabbit’s needs are unique are best recognized by closely watching animal’s feeding habits for a period of seven days. Remember that when root crops or feed are fed to the herd, the ration of dry should be reduced. Dry does in breeding conditions consume 3.8 percent of their live weight daily. Bucks and young does consume about 6.7 percent of their live weight daily.
Housing a Rabbit
Each rabbit should be kept in a cage made of wood or metal, measuring at least 1 meter by 2 meters by 0.3 meters in height. The cage should preferably be made of wire mesh. One end of the cage should be enclosed, with wooden roof, floor and walls. With a small doorway onto the rest of the cage, such an enclosure ensures that the rabbit has somewhere to nestle away from cold winds and rain. For long-term use, metal cages might be better than wood because the rabbit will chew at wood. However, as rabbit urine is very corrosive, iron must be galvanized in order to avoid rapid corrosion.
The whole cage can be set on the ground and periodically moved around so that the rabbit can eat fresh grass. Feces and urine will pass through the wire mesh on to the grass, leaving the cage hygienic.
Additional food should be kept in pellet hoppers affixed to the cage so that small quantities are always available to the rabbit without risk of their being soiled or spoiled. Rabbits are watered using nipples attached to 600 milliliter water bottles.
In this type of cage, bedding is not necessary except in the wooden nesting box. Sawdust and hay are satisfactory there. Cages should be disinfected with lysol each three months or between litters.
Although rabbits respond to fairly wide fluctuations in temperature, the desired range is between 10°C and 18°C.
Transporting a Rabbit
Rabbits are quite robust animals and no special care is needed when porting them. A wire cage with a raised mesh floor (1-centimeter square which allows urine and feces to fall through is ideal. A cat-carrier is perfect.
In an emergency, the rabbit can be carried in a pillowslip or a hessian bag with a small hole for the head. Always avoid carrying the rabbit loose unfamiliar places. If it is frightened, it will use its claws to make even the most determined person release it—and rabbits can run!
Rabbits show no desire to mate. Bucks and does can be first mated at four to five months of age. The gestation period of the rabbit is thirty days. One buck mated with four or five does will breed 200 or more rabbits per year.
The doe ovulates only after copulation with the male. It takes 10 hours for ovulation to occur after mating. This peculiar aspect of rabbit reproduction has made it popular as a laboratory animal because it is then possible to time fertilization within an hour. When the female is in estrus, the vulva may become swollen and slightly purple; however, there are no consistent external signs of estrus. The doe becomes listless, nervous, and rubs her head and body against the cage.
If you are not interested in breeding a large number of rabbits, it will be wise to separate the sexes. When the female is ready to breed, she can betaken to the male’s pen. The buck has defined this territory, and if he is taken to the doe he will be more interested in defining and exploring the new territory than in mating. If the doe is in estrus, mating usually occurs immediately she is placed in the cage. The mating is successful if the buck falls on his side during coitus. One mating is sufficient to ensure fertilization and the female should be removed after copulation has been completed.
Rabbits usually have their young without any problems. The newborn kittens may be handled at birth, and may be transferred to foster mothers within the first forty-eight hours after birth. The mother will suckle the young ones for up to six weeks and may then fall pregnant again. Does will mate readily shortly after giving birth, but if their feed intake is not sufficient to support lactation and pregnancy the pregnancy will fail about seven days after mating. They can have up to eight young ones per litter.
Breeding is most successful in the spring if the rabbits are kept out of doors. In some species the female may remain receptive during the cold winter months, but others will not.
All young stock should be separated into sex groups before three months of age, when males may need to be moved into individual cages. To deter-mine the sex of a rabbit, simply press open the genital opening with thumb and forefinger. If the opening is a long slit, the rabbit is female (a doe). If the opening is round with a tiny penis, the rabbit is male (a buck).
Caring for a Sick Rabbit
The sick rabbit needs a draught-free clean hutch, preferably separated from the others. Provide fresh clean water daily together with fresh rabbit pellets and a good source of greens. Carrots and green lettuce are ideal, but in excess may cause diarrhea.
Greens are essential for the sick rabbit as they are a good source of vitamins A and C. Supply them fresh in the late afternoon or evening as rabbits are more active at night. Sometimes oats will perk up a rabbit who is unwilling to eat. if the rabbit’s complaint cannot be easily diagnosed, be sure to see your vet.