Looking After Rabbits

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Good food for rabbits

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Natural food is best for rabbits with lots of fresh, sweet hay given every day.   They also like brambles and twigs, make sure they are suitable and not poisonous though.   We offer rose trimmings, elderflower, silver birch, apple and pear twigs.   Ornamental shrubs aren’t safe or flowers unless you know for sure they aren’t toxic.  Dandelions are a great favourite of course and they like leaves and roots.   We offer only a small amount of grain, they don’t eat this in the wild.   The vegetables they like are broccoli stalks, carrot tops and a piece of apple for desert.

Keeping Rabbits Advice Guide

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Before you buy a rabbit make sure you know all about how to keep your new pet well and happy.

You will need lots of time – rabbits like companionship, they are intelligent and friendly when well handled.  If you don’t get to know your rabbit and hand feed him and fuss him, he will revert back to the wild.  A tame rabbit makes a wonderful pet but you have to give him lots of time.  Even if your rabbit lives outdoors most of the time he will enjoy coming into the house and might even watch a bit of television with you!  Just as your garden will have to be safe for the rabbit, so will your house.   Rabbits do like to chew!

Characteristics – Rabbits are basically timid, years of being hunted by many predators and having no defense except flight has made this a trait.   They are easy to tame however and make delightful pets.  Rabbits are vegetarian and they are gentle creatures.  They like to be stroked and petted and will bond with their carer.  These gregarious animals need their friends, it’s sad to see a rabbit on his own, although a human companion can be a good substitute.  Most rabbits don’t mind being picked up when they are accustomed to it, although this isn’t natural for them.  Put one hand under their tummy and the other under their hind feet and gently lift them up. Never pick them up by their sensitive ears which is cruel.  They like to be held close or to sit on your knee.  If your rabbit doesn’t like being picked up then leave it at that.  You might find that if you are sitting on the ground your pet will come to sit with you of his own accord.

Housing – your rabbit will need a large wooden hutch or a shed is good.  It should have a separate sleeping compartment, filled with soft, sweet smelling hay and also a feeding room and a separate toilet with either a litter tray or sprinkles of wood shavings.   This has to be cleaned out regularly, every day if possible.

Food – no, it’s not the stuff in packets that the pet food manufacturers want you to buy – rabbits need fresh natural food and hay should make up most of their diet.   As they nibble it their teeth are ground down.  If you don’t give them plenty to chew on you’ll be taking your rabbit to the vet to have his teeth cut.  Hay keeps the rabbit digestive system in good order, you can supplement with a very small amount of cereal and plenty of brambles and dandelions.  A raw vegetable or fruit treat is alright but not too many carrots as they are high in sugar.   Our rabbits like a small piece of toasted brown bread for breakfast or a piece of Ryvita which is very popular.  Best of all is a large piece of bramble, it’s very prickly so how do they eat it?   They love it.

Exercise – Rabbits sleep a lot of the day and in their natural world would dash out to feed early morning or at dusk.  They need a large run attached to their hutch so that they can come and go when they want.  If you can let then loose in the garden it is a lovely for them and you will enjoy seeing them – just make sure there are no poisonous plants and that the fencing is high and secure.  Dogs can jump and foxes can pull wire down so it has to be extra high and strong.

Friends – two rabbits are best, a singleton will be lonely.   Make sure you either get the same sex or have the male neutered.  Rabbits tend not to get on with strangers so it’s best to get members of a family or those in an established group.  Sometimes you can get two to be friends with each other but it takes time and patience and doesn’t always work.   Always remember that rabbits breed amazingly quickly!

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Friendly Rabbits for Adoption

rabbits - mabel & betty 2These friendly and very tame rabbits are best friends and need a loving home where they will be together.   They eat together, sleep together and hop around without moving far from each other.  Mabel and Betty are a charming duo, we don’t know whether they are sisters but have been told that they are around three years old.  They are dwarf rabbits and very dainty.   Mabel has more grey splodges, Betty is mostly white.   They are both very lovable.  If you can give them a good home please come and meet them.  They need a large hutch with sleeping quarters and a big run or to be free some of the time in a well fenced garden.  Rabbits also like to come in the house and can be trained to use a litter tray.

Mabel and Betty have had a load of brambles for breakfast today, they chew the thick stems and this helps to keep their teeth short.   Rabbits also need good quality hay ad lib and lots of dandelions, clover and grass.  Willow twigs are liked and provide something to nibble on, also small branches from fruit trees.  Half a slice of brown bread toast is good in the morning or a small handful of cereal.   Carrots and apples are good too but hay is the most important item in their diet.

Masbel and Betty love to be stroked and petted, they are real sweeties – if you’d like to come and meet them please get in touch.

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Mabel is very pretty.

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Betty is smaller and very dainty.

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Bluey a fine rabbit for adoption

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Bluey was found wandering around in the road – another rabbit who was dumped we think as no one in the neighbourhood had lost him.  He’s a handsome boy, quite small with little ears, he has quite a personality and is interested in everything you do and likes you to talk to him.   He’s friendly and well behaved and will make someone a lovely pet.   Please bear in mind that rabbits need plenty of room, large spaces to hop about in and lots of companionship.  Feeding them fresh hay every is essential, the more natural food the better.  It’s very easy to give them a bowl of rabbit food but this isn’t best for them.   A small amount is fine though.  Our rabbits like dandelions and clover, fresh grass and most of all, they love brambles.  Blackberry leaves are delicious rabbit food and the thick stems are good for them to gnaw on and keep their teeth short.

Rabbits should be kept in pairs for company, either the same sex or neutered as otherwise there would be a rabbit population explosion!   Make sure your rabbits are used to each other before putting them together.  Adjacent pens with wire mesh in between gives an idea of compatability.   Letting them run about together in a large space is a good trial.   If rabbits don’t like each other they will fight and be unhappy.

If you’d like to come and meet Bluey please get in touch.

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Friendly rabbit for adoption

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Pepperpot is a pretty multi-coloured girl rabbit with loving shadings of colour in her coat – there’s beige, orange, grey, black, white and all hues in between.  She’s a friendly girl who has been well handled and is easy to care for – like all rabbits, she would be best with a companion and a neutered male would be ideal.  They have to get on together and with rabbits – two females who don’t know each other sometimes find it hard to make friends.

We’re looking for a very good home for Pepper so if you are looking for a rabbit friend please come and meet her.   We’re open every day except Thursdays, between 11.0am and 3.0pm.

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Baby rabbits for adoption

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The first litter of baby rabbits are out of the nest and hopping around and eating well.  They are mostly harlequin and are very pretty – just one is a golden colour all over – just like mum.   The parents can be seen and have lovely temperaments so I would expect the babies to be the same.  They are a bit skittish when they are this small but soon became tame when they are hand fed.

Rabbits need plenty of room with a spacious hutch or a shed is even better.  They like to jump and always surprise me with their agility – they can really jump and love to sit on top of their hutch.   It must be very frustrating for them when they are kept inside a hutch and don’t have a two storey condominium.   The parents spend most of their time in their high-rise apartment.

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Natural food is best for all rabbits so you have to allow yourself time to get out there foraging and picking fresh grass and dandelions – they get through large amounts and love munching on their leaves.   Packets of cereal are not that good for rabbits, a small amount of corn is acceptable but their gut isn’t designed for maize and pellets – it’s good sweet hay and herbs and grass that is best for them.   They love blackberries and brambles and nibbling on twigs – hawthorn and fruit tree twigs and they make short work of big thick bramble stems..

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It’s a bit sad that a whole industry has grown up around the little rabbits with shelves of manufactured and factory made artificial feed.   Rabbits are becoming a high cost pet when the reality is that you don’t need to spend hardly anything on keeping rabbits.   They like porridge oats so if you have porridge for breakfast you can save a sprinkle for your pet.   Mainly it’s crisp, sweet hay and you can make this yourself – cut long grass and nettles and docks and let them dry in the sun, keep turning until the ‘hay’ is dry and crackly.   Then rake it up into rows and then a few hours or a day later (depending on the weather) stack it up into heaps.   Store in a dry shed, either loose or in cardboard or hessian sacks.   Plastic won’t do – it will go damp.   Make sure that cats or other vermin can’t get in to spoil it.  Horse hay racks are perfect, they allow lots of air to get in and you can hand them up out of the way.

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Rabbits make delightful pets, they are a member of the family and respond very well to kindness and companionship.   They do need a run attached to their hutch or a large compound where they can run about.  If you can bury a large pipe underground, with an exit and entrance, they will be in heaven.   Watership Down!

Housing your pet rabbit

Whether you are buying a baby rabbit or an adult you have to make sure that the accommodation you provide will be big enough.   Youngsters grow quickly and some rabbit breeds are very large.   As far as the hutch is concerned, the bigger the better.    The tiny, flimsy cabins that are so often on sale are only suitable for temporary accommodation.   Imagine how it would feel to be penned up in such a small space.   Whilst the sleeping quarters for your new pet can be cosy (think about a warm, dry, snug burrow), there will need to be plenty of additional space for eating, sleeping and toilet arrangements.   If it’s bad weather your rabbit may not be able to go outside.

A shed is far better than a hutch, you can make different areas inside and a ladder up to a feeding shelf (not too high though) is much liked.  You have the height to allow for fresh air and also some storage space for food etc.

If you put a wire netting inner door on the shed your rabbit can see outside, it’s double security when you shut him up at night.   A ‘pop-hole’ allowing him to go out in his run is a good way to organise the accommodation.

Where you site the shed is important.   Make sure the door isn’t in the direction of the oncoming wind, also that there is shelter from direct sunlight.   Sheds can be a bakehouse in summer and your rabbit will need some shade.

Rabbits have a fur coat which grows even denser in the winter, but they are still captive and can’t escape to a warmer place, they have to put up with what we provide.   Think about whether you would be warm enough when it’s the middle of winter.   There definitely should not be frost inside the shed and a cosy den filled with hay is essential.   It’s good to insulate the walls and you don’t have to buy anything expensive.   Left over polystyrene does a good job, also thick layers of bubble wrap, sheep’s wool or straw is ideal, even newspapers.    You will have to cover all the insulation with a cladding of timber, which could be plywood or stockboard.  This is to stop your rabbit nibbling on something he shouldn’t!    Make sure any material you use isn’t toxic to pets.   There are question marks over MDF – it’s said not to be good for humans even so I wouldn’t use that in any animal housing.

The extra thickness will give some protection from predators but bear in mind that a determined fox will rip thin timber and flimsy wire apart quite easily and get into his rabbit ready meal.   It’s a horrible fate for a pet – bear this in mind if buying one of the lightweight hutches you see on sale.   It takes no time at all for a big dog fox or hungry vixen to get in there.

We are not blaming the foxes for this – they are hungry – although please don’t feed them in your back gardens.  It encourages them into different behaviour and an urban environment putting all other pets and newborn animals at risk.   A return to traditional farming practices would do much to let the foxes settle back into their former habitats and lifestyle.  The huge manicured fields and lack of habitat for wild creatures means the foxes now have little natural food to eat.   They are scavenging animals who normally pick off the old, sick or weak.  What is there for them to eat nowadays?  The wildlife on most farms is disappearing.   Sadly, the farming industry seems set on being ever more intensive and unnatural in the way it keeps animals.   Chemicals, mechanization and profit is king.

While you are setting up your large hutch or shed, make sure that it’s easy to clean.  It’s good to have a hay rack so your rabbit has clean fodder at all times.  Hay is the most important rabbit food.   A shallow tray or liner in the toilet area keeps it clean.   Water in a nice stone ware or stainless steel dish that can’t be tipped up.    Food in secure tins with lids so that other small creatures don’t help themselves and foul the meals in the process.  Attention to detail makes rabbit housekeeping quick and easy to do – a pleasure and not a chore.

We have rabbits for adoption – please get in touch if you’d like to come and see them.   Also rabbits who are permanent sanctuary residents – you can ‘adopt’ one of our rabbits for £10 per year – and have their story, photo and updates – a Pet Samaritans badge too.   Email your name and address and send a donation by paypal.   If you’d like adoption for a gift please let us know who to send the adoption pack out to -many thanks.

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