Care for Beginners
First of all, congratulations on your new (or upcoming)
rabbits! I'm sure you'll find them as fun and rewarding
as I have.
first thing to consider when buying a pet rabbit
or beginning to show rabbits is breed. Over
40 different breeds are accepted by the ARBA (American
Rabbit Breeders Association). A description and standard
of these breeds can be found in the Standard Of Perfection,
which is available for purchase on the ARBA site. Some things
to think about when deciding which breed is best
for you are:
Rabbits can be small (2-4 pounds), medium (4-8 pounds),
or large (8 pounds & up). If you are getting rabbits
for a 7 year old, a large rabbit may not be the best
thing. Also, if you have limited room on your property,
smaller rabbits may be a better choice. So keep size
in mind when picking a breed.
I'd love to tell you that there is no such thing as a mean rabbit,
but I'd be lying. Some breeds are just more...aggressive than others.
These breeds tend to be the running breeds, such as Tan or Britannia
Petite. If you're looking for a gentle breed, then a Mini Lop, Netherland
Dwarf, or Florida White may be the one for you.
This may not be important for pet owners, but if you plan
on showing your rabbit, it's a big deal. In some areas of the country,
certain breeds are more prevalent than others. If you like a lot
of competition, buy a breed that has a lot of breeders and exhibitors
in your area. If you like winning rosettes and ribbons, but don't
need competition, then a less common breed is for you.
This ties into the last item. If you plan on buying quite a few
rabbits or want the possibility of adding to your stock later
on, you don't want to have to ship rabbits from 2,000 miles
away. It's better to get a breed that is well-known and common
in your area.
You Want a Rabbit:
Different rabbits are for different things. Some breeds are better
suited for, let's say, fur production. If you want to have a side
business besides showing and breeding, then you might want to get
a meat breed or a wool/fur breed. Meat breeds include New Zealands,
Californians, Palomino, or Champagne D'Argent. Wool breeds include
French Angora and English Angora. Fur breeds are Rex, New Zealands,
and Californians. Some breeds, such as the Netherland Dwarf, Mini
Rex, and Holland Lop, are just for showing and possibly for pets
(although pretty much any breed can be a pet.)
Once you've figured
out what type of breed of rabbit you want, you should make sure
that you have the proper equipment and supplies. You need to
The type of housing you needs depends on whether you have one rabbit
for a pet or whether you want more than a few rabbits. The more
rabbits you have, the more accommodating your space must be. A
cage size for a small rabbit is 30" X 30" X 14". This will give your
rabbit plenty of room to run around and be a rabbit, while providing
room for a nest box in the future. Larger rabbits should have around
36" X 30" X 18".
Wire is the best
material for cages because it's the easiest to clean and sanitize.
Wood will get messy quickly, and rabbits tend to chew on it.
An all-wire cage is best, but if wood is needed, try and keep
the amount of wood available to the rabbit inside the cage or
hutch at a minimum.
be kept out of drafts, away from predators, and out of the weather.
Also, they should be kept in the shade, because rabbits are very
susceptible to heat and can get ill if they are not well-cooled.
A sitting board
should be provided for larger breeds and for rabbits which have
a thinner hair surface of their feet. This is to prevent sore
Pellets are the best bet for pet and show animals alike. They contain
most if not all of the nutrients a rabbit needs to stay healthy.
Several different brands and formulas exist, so ask your pet
shop employee or feed store worker to help you choose the correct
feed. In my experience, pellets are cheaper in feed stores,
and if you have quite a few rabbits, it may be helpful to buy
in bulk. Just be warned that feed does go bad, so watch for
mold that can make your bunnies sick. The amount to feed a
rabbit depends on size and situation. If you have smaller rabbits,
such as a Netherland Dwarf, 3 ounces a day is plenty. For larger
breeds, the recommended formula is one ounce of pellets per
pound of body weight. If a rabbit is pregnant, lactating, or
is still growing, they can have full feed, which is unlimited
food in front of them all day.
Along with pellets,
a rabbit's diet can be supplemented with roughage (hay) of some
sort. Rabbits love alfalfa, but it's very rich and should
be fed only in moderation. Grass hay such as timothy hay is best
and less expensive. Give them all grass hay they want.
Food dishes should
be heavy and not easily tipped or have some sort of device to
hold them down. Lord knows how much money has been wasted in
any rabbitry because of spilled feed.
Water is the most important thing your rabbit needs in his daily
diet. Unlike humans, rabbits cannot get water from their food,
so we must provide them with clean, fresh water daily. If you
notice that the crock or dish is dirty, please take five minutes
and clean it out very well. Especially in warmer weather, you
should be sure your rabbit has a constant supply of water.
should hold plenty of water and be heavy ceramic crocks or large
Croc-Locks. Water bottles work also, but some rabbits don't know
how to use them. Just make sure all of your equipment is clean
Although a lot
more goes into keeping rabbits, this article should get get you
started on the right path. Good luck!