Category Archives: Rabbit Husbandry

Fluffy Bunnies & Fuzzy Chicks: Kingsbrook Animal Hospital’s Advice on Easter Pets

It’s easy to tell that Easter is approaching by the amount of advertisements containing cute bunny rabbits and fuzzy little chicks!  Often, parents looking for a first pet are inspired by these ideas, and will surprise children with a baby chick or a bunny in an Easter basket. While both species can be very rewarding pets, there is a lot more to them than meets the eye!

Rabbits can make wonderful pets, but they require more work than a dog or a cat!

Below, Kingsbrook Animal Hospital reveals some facts about rabbit and chicken care.

  1. Rabbits need to be spayed and neutered, just like dogs and cats. Intact male rabbits often

    This bunny is a lop! Lops have very long ears.

    become aggressive, and over 80% of intact female rabbits will develop invasive and fatal reproductive cancers before 5 years of age. Healthy, well-cared-for rabbits will live for 10-12 years!

  2. Bunnies require very specific housing conditions. They need solid-floor housing–wire-bottom cages and shelves can cause a condition known as “bumblefoot,” which is a painful infection and swelling of the feet. Rabbits cannot have wood shavings of any kind, and cages should be in a well-ventilated area to minimize the risk of

    Rabbits, just like cats and dogs, need to be seen by a veterinarian at least once a year.

    respiratory problems.

  3. There are “good” and “bad” veggies when it comes to rabbits.  It is important not to feed sweet or starchy fruits and veggies such as apples, sweet potatoes, or carrots, because they can actually slow down a bunny’s digestive tract and cause life-threatening GI stasis.

    Baby chicks require lots of specialized care until they are old enough to live outdoors.

    Rabbits like romaine, Swiss chard, endive, and red- or green-leaf lettuce. Even more important is a constant supply of fresh timothy hay.

  4. Baby chicks need to be kept inside until they are fully feathered–this can take around 5 months for some breeds. Chicks need a very temperature-controlled environment

    Chickens are birds, which means they will make noise and can be fairly messy!

    (~95 degrees is ideal) which means a heat lamp is a requirement. Also, chicken feces contain salmonella bacteria, so baby chicks need lots of clean-up to keep the bacterial populations to a minimum.

  5. Chickens are birds, which means they can fly (to an extent)! This sounds obvious, but it means that either the chickens will need a very tall fence, at least 7 feet, to prevent escape– or they will

    If a chicken is going to be a good pet, it needs to be handled from a young age.

    require regular wing trims to prevent flight. Keep in mind that if a chicken can’t fly, it can’t escape from a fox or raccoon!

  6. Many city ordnances and homeowners’ associations (HOAs) prevent owning chickens or any “farm” animals.  Be sure to research all laws and by-laws thoroughly!

Rabbit Husbandry


Rabbit Husbandry and Care

Housing

The physical environment inside the cage housing rabbits can be quite different from the environment in the surrounding room. Temperature, humidity and concentrations of gases and particulate matter are often higher in the animal’s cage. Because these conditions can predispose rabbits to disease, ventilation and cleanliness of the cage and the room it is housed in, is very important.

Bedding

The purpose of bedding is to keep the animal clean and dry. We recommend Tek- Fresh or Care-Fresh bedding. This is a substrate that is made from recycled newspaper. It is non-toxic and has a large water holding capacity. Wood-based substrates (cedar and pine shavings) are not recommended because the natural oils in the wood shavings can cause upper respiratory and skin problems in rabbits.

Cage Set-up

Rabbits were not designed to live on wire floors. Living on wire floors can cause a condition known as sore hock to develop on their feet. Cages with wire floors must have a piece of plywood, plexiglass or carpet that the rabbit can sit and lay on. If you try carpet and the rabbit chews it, immediately replace it with something else.

The best cages are made of a material that will be easy to clean and deodorize and is indestructible to chewing or digging. The cage floor should be solid, but should also be waterproof and easy to clean, so wood is not recommended. Any cage should provide a secure environment that does not allow escape. It should be free of sharp edges or projections that could cause injury.

The cage size for a small breed rabbit should be a minimum of 2 feet by 3 feet (864 square inches)
and for a large breed rabbit a minimum of 3 feet by 4 feet (1728 square inches).

Enrichment devices

Manufacturers have developed many enrichment items such as tinted polycarbonate (plastic) tunnels and igloos that allow the owner to see the pet, but give the pet privacy and a sense of security. Other items include: nontoxic Gumbabones and Nylabones that rabbits love to gnaw and sturdy, hollow plastic balls with holes around the outside and a stainless steel rattle inside. Untreated straw baskets (no stain or laquer) or natural wood blocks also allow the rabbit to express natural chewing behavior. Enrichment toys should be rotated every 3-4 days so that the rabbit does not get bored. You can find suitable toys at local pet stores. But if you can’t find a good variety, try www.thatpetplace.com, www.busybunny.com, or www.petdiscounters.com.

Nutrition

Grasses and hay are important in the rabbit’s diet, and we recommend a high fiber diet for oral and gastrointestinal health. A good quality timothy hay should be clean and available at all times. This can make up the bulk of the diet and provide roughage. Pelleted feed can be offered in small amounts, no more than 1 Tablespoon per pound daily. We recommend a high fiber pellet, such as Bunny Basics, made by Oxbow (http://www.oxbowanimalhealth.com). This diet is available for purchase from PetSmart. If pellets are given too freely, it may result in obesity. Clean water must be available at all times.

It is recommended that rabbits be fed plenty of fresh vegetables from the time they start eating and throughout life. Feed vegetables 1 packed cup per 5 pounds daily. Some good choices are:
red and green leaf lettuce, escarole, watercress, Swiss chard, bok choy, endive, and romaine lettuce. Dandelion, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale and parsley should be avoided due to their high calcium content.

Spaying/Neutering

Why spay or neuter? 80-95% of unspayed female rabbits will get uterine or ovarian cancer between two and five years of age, and a very high rate of males will get testicular cancer. Spaying or neutering your rabbit will give him/her the potential life span of eight to twelve (or more) years of age. Also, upon reaching sexual maturity, rabbits will also display such undesirable behavior as spraying urine, chewing inappropriate objects, fighting with other rabbits, etc. In most cases, spaying or neutering totally eliminates this behavior.

Recognizing Signs of Illness

Rabbits are prey species in the wild so they tend to hide illness to prevent being eaten by predators. If your pet rabbit shows any unusual signs (ex. anorexia, drooling, grinding teeth, reduction is stool production, etc.)it is best to get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.