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rabbit advice please!

(36 Posts)
lozza1985 Tue 28-Jun-11 19:42:52

hi me and my husband are looking on getting a rabbit for my dd 5th bday in august the only thing is we havnt a clue what we need or the first thing about rabbits ! has anyone got some practical advice please ?

whydobirdssuddenlyappear Tue 28-Jun-11 19:55:58

OK first off you need a big, big (well insulated, draughtproof, foxproof) hutch, with a separate sleeping area they can hide in. The biggest you can get. Rabbits do best with a lot of space. Then, you probably should get 2 rabbits, not just one, or your one might be lonely. Other than that, they eat veg (but not too much, and never, ever lettuce), dried rabbit pellets (Burgess do good ones) and hay, and they need water constantly available. And it has to be clean, fresh water, and you need to make sure it can't freeze in winter.
Rabbits are hyper-sensitive to high temperatures, so you need to make sure you've got somewhere to put a hutch that won't get too hot in summer (or too cold in winter, for that matter). An outside run is good too, but it'd need to be rabbit, and fox proof. They do need room to exercise though.
They also need stuff to gnaw to keep their teeth worn down properly. If they've got somewhere they can run/dig outside without escaping, this'll also help to keep claws worn down - if not, their claws need clipping periodically. You can buy special scissor things to do this yourself, or vets will do it.
You'd need to get immunisations against myxomatosis and VHD done annually too, plus they need worming, and if you get female rabbits, it's best to get them spayed, as uterine cancer rates are reasonably high in unspayed does. If my experience is anything to go by, too, unspayed does can also be a tad unpredictable.
Oh, and get pet insurance (voice of bitter experience there).
Other than that, just enjoy! They're lovely pets.

lozza1985 Tue 28-Jun-11 20:05:38

wow thats great thankyou where is the best place to get 2 rabbits from ?

whydobirdssuddenlyappear Tue 28-Jun-11 20:15:16

Personally, I'd go for a rabbit rescue. They'll be more invested, apart from anything else, in making sure you get two buns who actually get on.

Meglet Tue 28-Jun-11 20:15:21

IME rabbits aren't easy, cute pets. My wonderful rabbit was free range in the garden all day (she had a kennel, the cats were scared of her) and a house rabbit at night, she was very social and loved to play.

They are more like cats / dogs than guinea pigs TBH. Unless you can give them loads of space then maybe piggies would be better, even then they need a good sized run.

Sorry to put a downer on it but so many rabbits are kept in cramped hutches when they need space to hop and stretch smile.

There was a rabbit awareness week a while ago to highlight how much care and attention rabbits need.

thisisyesterday Tue 28-Jun-11 20:16:02

they need a hutch that is big enough for them to stand up in... ie, on their back legs. and preferably long enough that they can do 3 orm ore big bounces along it.
Ideally you would need to have open access to grass/outdoor area too, but if this is not possible then you would need a separate run you can put them out in each day (with a sheltered area too)

i would highly recommend having somewhere you can bring them in over winter too... not just a shed because that isn't going to be any warmer than outside really, but part of your main house.

they like company. a rabbit by itself will get lonely. it's ideal if you can get a sibling pair as they are less likely to fight. either way you would want to spay/neuter them. un-neutered males can get aggressive and if not aggressive will certainly want to "spray" their property (that includes their owner) with urine. uterine cancer is one of the biggest killers of female rabbits, so you would want to get a girl spayed regardless of whether she is in with a male or not

they need cleaning out once a week, and their toilet area will need cleaning every 2 or 3 days.

i would recommend contacting a rehoming centre. you may well be able to get some rabbits that are used to being handled and of course it's much ebtter to be able to re-home some of the many that are out there already than buying from a pet shop where they are basically bred to order.
it should cost you less to rehome than to buy from a pet shop too

TheMonster Tue 28-Jun-11 20:17:08

Rabbits aren't ideal pets for small children. They don't like being manhandled and they can bite, hiss and growl.

purplepidjin Tue 28-Jun-11 20:21:04

Hi, Lozza, my Santana is now four months old and is a house rabbit. He pretty much litter trained himself, but it's not hard for them to pick it up - rabbits naturally use certain places to wee/poo so you just have to encourage them to use a tray with sawdust instead of a corner of the house.

Overnight (roughly midnight til 7am) he has a small dog crate which has a sawdust layer then a good couple of handfuls of hay every day which he eats and uses as bedding. He has a water bottle there, then a food bowl and water bowl in the kitchen. He eats hay, dried rabbit food and veg trimmings and peelings (he also likes cardboard and bank statements hmm) and every few days I put him on his harness and we go to the park so he can have grass and fresh air.

I've heard rabbits can be clicker-trained like dogs, and I'm hoping my experienced dog-owning friend will introduce us to it soon.

A decent sized hutch will set you back a couple of hundred quid. As I don't have that kind of money, nor a garden to put it in, Santana lives with DP and I and the cat.

Look up your local rabbit rescue. Rabbits can struggle in the "teenage" stage if not neutered, and get packed off to rescues for quite minor reasons. Experienced handling and a minor operation mean that they're quite calm again by 4-6 months. Santana was snipped at 3 months and has shown no signs of spraying, aggression or moodiness. He is curious and friendly to strangers, particularly children - he plays chase around the house with DNephew (3.5), kicks toy mice back and forth with Millie the cat, and sits quietly to be stroked (on my lap with smaller kids)

I bought him aged 8 weeks from my local (independent with good reputation) pet shop, but if I'd known sooner I would have rescued smile

thisisyesterday Tue 28-Jun-11 20:21:21

i would say this is the smallest kind of hutch you'd be looking at for 2 small-medium rabbits

here or here

of course, you can have them as house pets and they can be very good. they will tend to chew stuff though and i always think that it's not so nice for them as being outside and having constant access to grass, fresh air etc like they would naturally

whydobirdssuddenlyappear Tue 28-Jun-11 20:25:10

Oh, forgot to add (this applies to piggies too), you should get an indoor cage as well as an outdoor one. If they're ill, they might need to be kept inside (they'd certainly need to be kept inside after neutering, until any stitches had healed) and having an indoor cage makes this easier. Rabbits are quite trainable too, if enough time's spent on it, and can be housetrained, or trained to only use one area of their hutch, in which you can put a litter pan, so that can be emptied every day, and the whole hutch cleaned once a week.
For cleaning out, it's essential that it's done v regularly, and that you check the rabbit's vents (anus etc) daily in hot weather, because flies will be attracted to it if it's dirty, can lay eggs on it, and then the maggots eat the rabbit's flesh. It's called fly strike, and it's often fatal. Steam cleaning the hutch periodically (doesn't need to be that often) is a good idea, and you do need to buy a pet-safe disinfectant for it too.
Bedding-wise, I used to use soft wood shavings and hay for my rabbit. Straw can be too hard. Oh, and the hay you use, whether for food or bedding, MUST be fresh, springy, sweet smelling and not dusty, or it could make the rabbit ill.
And yes, they're not always the sweetest natured things, and yes, they do require a LOT of attention, but, imo, they're worth it.

purplepidjin Tue 28-Jun-11 20:25:45

Crikey, thisis, they look tiny shock but then I'm not used to hutches wink

whydobirdssuddenlyappear Tue 28-Jun-11 20:27:55

Pidj, sorry to digress, but you take your bun for walks on a lead, don't you? I tried it with mine and she wasn't having any of it! Tried to chew through the lead and make a break for it...

katz Tue 28-Jun-11 20:28:35

if you're close to me we're selling a large outside rabbit hutch and hutch hugger. We're in Sheffield, our rabbits live indoors due to one having a rare medical condition.

thisisyesterday Tue 28-Jun-11 20:29:55

they're 4ft, which isn't too bad.

mine are in a massive 6ft thing which takes up half of the garden, plus they have the whole garden too! lol

lozza1985 Tue 28-Jun-11 20:37:52

thanks for all your help everyone im def looking at rehoming rather than buying

purplepidjin Tue 28-Jun-11 20:44:13

Yes, in a specially made (by me) harness. I did start him off at 9 weeks though...

Happy to make you one if you want to try again (pm me)? I find you need it to be close-fitting on the neck but loose round the middle. I made mine from a clip-release cat collar at smallest setting, then made a waist band from cotton with about an inch of elastic and a popper closure. Then joined them with some thick ribbon stuff I had lying around. The lead clips to a D-ring attached to the body loop.

He struggles a bit when I take too long getting him in it, but is happy to hop about wearing it. I bought a posh retractable lead (for 99p in Store21!!)

He'll over-groom any metal that touches his skin, btw...

purplepidjin Tue 28-Jun-11 20:45:21

It's only in comparison with the entire house, which is what Santana has Thisis, sorry if that came across as criticism!

whydobirdssuddenlyappear Tue 28-Jun-11 20:46:32

Mine was a specially-for-rabbits harness, with a retractable doglead, since the lead that came with it was too short, and too rigid.
I'd love one of yours, but it'll have to wait for the next bun. Truf succumbed to a combination of coccidiosis and old age last year sad

purplepidjin Tue 28-Jun-11 20:53:31

Oh sad so sorry sad

Santana loves cuddles if you're ever in the area. DNephew (the one that's 3.5) tells everyone it's his rabbit that lives with Uncle PidjDP and Aunty Pidj at the seaside grin can't wait for him to visit in the holidays!!

Lozza, you'll get lots of RL support from a rescue. The RSPCA has rabbits in need of homes, or there's a list here

whydobirdssuddenlyappear Tue 28-Jun-11 21:01:00

grin at your DNephew.
I can't wait to get my next bun, but I know that, at the minute, what with 2 children under 7, and home educating, and trying to get a music career, and constantly crocheting/sewing/knitting stuff, I really, really haven't got the time to devote to buns. Still have Truf's old hutch, which is a 2-storey monstrosity though.
Lozza, it's a good idea to check out potential vets, too. Some don't see many small animals, so aren't as good as others. The Rabbit Welfare Association has a list of rabbit vets available to their members, and iirc it's not that pricey to join.
If you're anywhere near SE London, though,I know a brilliant rabbit vet, and another who'll do bunny acupuncture.

purplepidjin Tue 28-Jun-11 21:30:12

shock Bunny acupuncture??? My parents offered to pay for the counselling when I finally break the news he's not a human, but really? Acupuncture???

whydobirdssuddenlyappear Tue 28-Jun-11 21:36:08

Don't knock it - it works! She had a cold, was feverish, snotty, miserable. I saw the vet, he offered aspirin or acupuncture. I tried the acupuncture. Her temp went right down, and she was right as rain afterwards! Weirdest thing was seeing her on the operating table out the back, totally chilled out with all the needles sticking out of her.

whydobirdssuddenlyappear Tue 28-Jun-11 21:38:30

<just realised she's admitted to goodness knows how many people that she got her rabbit's chi rebalanced>

<namechanges>

<decides that's not enough>

<runs away>

It did work though grin

purplepidjin Tue 28-Jun-11 22:07:32

I'm not denying it works, just not convinced there's that much demand shock

SELondon is definitely close enough to bring bunny for cuddles, he likes car journeys even in my old beetle!

whydobirdssuddenlyappear Tue 28-Jun-11 22:29:09

smile aw that'd be awesome!
Well the acupuncturist vet also does conventional vetting and people acupuncture, so I guess there's not massive demand really.

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