What you have to know as a newbie
The internet offers a lot of information for beginners (often confusing and contradicting). But what do you really need to know and what is really important? What facts are useful and important for beginners?
How old do rabbits become?
Rabbits can become 8-12 years, in exceptional cases they also can die earlier or grow even older than 12 years. The lifespan rises, if the rabbit is treaten species appropriate which includes food and space needs, but also by good observation and fast reactions and right treatment of health issues.
Single-housed, pair or group?
Rabbits should never be kept alone because that is not species appropriate. That’s why it is forbidden by law in Switzerland and Austria. It is also against the German animal protection rights that determinates rabbits „should be kept according to their needs“.
A pair or a harmonic group of three (who already been adopted together) are very harmonic and the best combination for beginners. If you want to have a bigger group, you should start with a small group and get experience first before you enlarge your group. A group should contain the same amount of castrated males and females. Groups only of male or female often collapse. An exception would be two early casrated males that grow up together.
Rabbits for kids? Pet animals?
The rabbit is not an easy-care animal. Rabbits are more expensive and need more care than people think and they hate it to be lifted and be taken around. If you lift your rabbit it becomes anxious and timid. If parents support the welfare of animals, they can show their children a respectful treatment of the rabbits, by petting the rabbits on the ground and feed them from hand. Besides, rabbits are great for observation and you can build adventure playgrounds for them. As a parent you should be aware of the amount of work that a rabbit involves. The most work, like cleaning and the daily routine, is done by the parents, because children have often a lot of other hobbies.
Let the rabbits get to know each other, incompatible rabbits
Rabbits are very social animals. There is no rabbit that doesn’t like other rabbits. The problem often is part of the behaviour of the owner. A lot of owners treat their rabbits wrong while putting it to a new buddy. This is a mistake and it seems like the rabbit is not compatible with the other one.
As an owner you need to inform yourself how to integrate new rabbits into your group or how to get your rabbit a new friend.
Rabbits should never be put together in familiar territory and should be able to clear their hierarchy( fights, flying fur, mate, chasing). It takes several days until the rabbits get along with each other and are able to to get back to the normal territory.
How expensive is it to have rabbits?
Rabbits are not the cheapest pets. You may need 100€-250€ for building a proper and marten-safe enclosure for two rabbits. For the diet you can calculate 1€ per animal per day, if you buy saisonally and on a budget. In the summer you should switch to meadow plants which is very healthy and has no costs. Vet bills can’t be calculated in advance but if your rabbit gets sick you can calculate between 80€-200€. Some rabbits never get sick, some are regularly ill. It depends on the origin, the diet and how the animals are kept.
What to feed ?
It is very easy but is often done wrong. The digest system of the rabbit is the same as the one from their wild relatives and for that they need the same food. This means meadow plants, leaves, branches and twigs, buds, blossoms, roots; everything nature has to offer. The main food of the rabbit that should always be available, besides hay, is diversed fodder. You can collect it in the nature in the summer (dandelion, grasses, hogweed, ribwort..) in the winter you can choose green leafy vegetables like bitter lettuce, herbs and cabbage and add fruits. Water should be given in a bowl because rabbits don’t drink much from drinking bottles, where the water only comes in drops.
Totally inappropriate for the rabbits diet is all kind of prepared food/ rabbit food from the store. There are very few food types that do not contain pellets or colorfully clumps and are put together properly and suitable for the rabbits digestion.
How are rabbits kept?
Even though the traditional way to keep rabbits uses coves, stables and cages, it is not species appropriate and is animal cruelty. Just ask yourself: would you put your cat in such a prison? Rabbits are very active and also nocturnal. The stable should have a fundamental free run that is marten-safe. If your rabbit is house-trained, you can keep it free in your house or flat or you can fence off a part of a room for the rabbit, instead of using a cage. It is also possible to keep your rabbit on the balcony.
Two rabbits, who have daily access to a free run for several hours per day, need at least 4 m² corral. Rabbit groups without access to free run or with irregular access to free run we recommend at least 10-12 m² corral. Other organisations recommend in this case 6m² as a minimum.
Are rabbis weatherproof?
Rabbits are perfect to be kept outside in the garden or on the balcony for the whole year, or can be kept inside.
As far as the rabbits are living in a big corral with parcial roofing, they can be kept outside, regardless of weather conditions. Rabbits love to dig snow, graze in light rain and rage during all weather conditions.
If it is too wet or too cold for the rabbits, they go to a safer place on their own. Rabbits should have access to free run at all the time and during all weather conditions and should have the opportunity to decide themselves where to be.
If you want to keep your rabbits outside, they should get used to the outdoor temperature slowly by putting them outside in the summer months.
Don’t make the mistage by putting the rabbits outside into a small stand in the winter. In this case the rabbit would vegetate in a little refrigerator and could even freeze to death.
How to keep the rabbits healthy?
Rabbits are flight animals and by this they will always lay low as long as possible to keep up with the group, even when they are already very sick.
When symptoms are recognisable, the disease has already progressed. To avoid „sudden death rabbits“ it is important to do a „Short Check“ twice a day:
- Do all rabbits eat with the same appetite as usual?
- Does the rabbit behave normal as usual or does it behave different? (sitting in other places, does not come to the owner as usual, is it more trusting than usual?)
- Does th rabbit move as much as usual or is it only sitting around?
If your rabbit does not eat properly or behaves differently, it is a sign for being sick and you should visit a veterinarian as quickly as you can, for example the emergency service.
We recommend to have emergency medicine in your medicine cabinet if the rabbit refuses to eat.
This emergency medicine is made of „Sab Simplex“ (Pharmacy), cooking oil and baby tea for belly welfare.
Give a shot of Sab Simplex into a small container like eggcup, add some of the belly tea powder (do not mix the powder with water), add 5 drops of cooking oil and pull it into a 1ml- syringe (without needle) and put it into the rabbits mouth. Repeat once an hour until the rabbit starts eating again.
If the rabbit does not eat small amounts of herbs or other food (held in front of the rabbits mouth) you need to cantact the emergency service.
Do a health check regulary. Everything you need to know about it, you will find here: Health check . Part of the health check is : faecal sample once a year, cutting claws, if they are not used enough and an examination of the animal.
In spring rabbits should be vaccinated against myxomatosis, RHD and RHD2, especially in infected areas.
Where to get appropriate and healthy rabbits?
Do not buy your rabbits at a pet shop, a construction store or at a small animal market. These animals come from mass breeding. By buying a rabbit from these markets and shops, you support the mass breeders. The animals are mostly sick and have intestants-parasites and from mass-breeders you don’t get a good consultation.
You should get your rabbits from an animal shelter or an emergency station, sometimes private individuals are also a good choice. There you get healthy, veterinary checked, neutered and often vaccinated animals. Here you get a good consultation, you can give the animals back in case of an emergency and you can get help if there are problems or you have questions.
Young animals should be adopted with 10 weeks, better with 12 weeks. If you get offered animals younger than that, than the offerer is not professional and serious.
Find more information about origin here: Where to buy rabbits?