Feeding your rabbit
Correct feeding is the single most important factor in maintaining a healthy rabbit. In the wild, rabbits eat grass. They may graze for 6-8 hours per day. The whole digestive tract is adapted to this diet and eating habits.
A Rabbit's diet should consist of 80% hay or grass, 15% fresh green vegies and 5% treats. The best way to do this is to provide your rabbits with a constant supply of clean, fresh hay or grass. This must be good quality hay; Timothy, Oaten, Pasture, Paddock, Meadow or Ryegrass hays. Do not feed Lucerne or clover hays as they are too high in protein and calcium. Most hay sold at pet shops is often poor quality and is only suitable for bedding.
Vegetables should be fed daily. Feed around 2 packed cups of leafy greens per kg of body weight per day. Try to feed at least 3 varieties a day. Examples are broccoli, cabbage, celery, endive, beet/carrot tops, brussel sprouts, spinach leaves, Bok Choy, dark leafed lettuce varieties (not iceberg lettuce). You can also feed herbs such as parsley, dandelion, coriander, basil, dill and mint.
Treats such as apple, carrot, capsicum and sweet potato should be kept to minimum up to a total of 1-2 tablespoons/day.
Rabbits should never be fed cereals, grains, nuts, seeds, corn, beans, peas, breads, biscuits, sweets, sugar, breakfast cereals or chocolates. These foods can upset the normal bacteria in the rabbit's digestive system and can make them severely unwell.
Many rabbits are fed pellets or commercial rabbit mixes however most of these are not suitable for optimal health as they are too high in sugar and protein and too low in fibre. It is recommended to transition slowly onto the hay/grass diet but some rabbits will find this difficult. Spraying orange juice on the hay may help with palatability initially. Oxbow rabbit pellets are a suitable diet if pellets need to be fed as part of the diet.
Feeding habits should be kept consistent to prevent gut upsets. Any changes should be made slowly over 2-3 weeks.
Other supplements such as salt licks are not required.
Rabbits are also naturally "coprophagic" which means they eat some of their own droppings. They need to do this in order to keep their digestive tract healthy.
Make sure there is always fresh, clean water available. It is best to teach your rabbit to use a bottle type drinker; open bowls will be soiled by faeces and wet the dewlap (fur below chin) which may cause skin disease.
Rabbits can be kept as indoor or outdoor pets. They can be easily taught to use a litter tray.
If kept outdoors it is important to mosquito proof the hutch as myxomatosis is a fatal disease transmitted by mosquitos. Hutches should be made of wood and should be kept in the shade as rabbits are very sensitive to overheating.
If kept indoors it is important to keep them away from electrical cords as they love to chew.
Rabbit teeth growth continuously and they depend on their diet to help wear them down.
Items to chew on such as wooden blocks and old telephone books are a good idea. Rabbits will also enjoy rose trimmings (with no thorns) and wood from apple trees
Allow the rabbit access to unfiltered sunlight. Sunlight is important in their vitamin D metabolism.
It is not advisable to keep rabbits with guinea pigs as healthy rabbits can introduce disease to guinea pigs.
It is important that rabbits are allowed to exercise for a few hours every day. This may be in a large run in the yard or in the house out of the cage.
Rabbits should be vaccinated for Calici Virus at 8 and 12 weeks of age and then each year.
We recommend de-sexing both male and female rabbits. They can breed as early as 4 months of age depending on the breed.
Unspeyed female rabbits have a very high chance of developing uterine cancer and entire male rabbits often show marking behaviour with urine and unwanted male behaviours.
During this procedure we also recommend implanting a microchip to permanently identify your rabbit.