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Caring for Rabbits

Rabbits can make amazing pets, but before you decide, remember that they rely on you for its every need, 24/7 with no holidays off. Their average life span is 5 to 10 years, but have been known to live longer. 


Netherland Dwarf - Netherland Dwarfs are a genetically dwarfed rabbit. They usually weigh between 2-3lbs as adults. Netherlands are typically for rabbit owners who already have bunny experience or don't mind a bunny who isn't always up for cuddling. Netherlands are usually extremely sweet tempered, however, where they are a smaller breed, they can be a little more spooked/scared by children and loud noises much easier. Over time, they do settle in and can be just as laid back, social and affectionate as a holland. They make for great 4h/ffa/show potential rabbits if bred true to ARBA's SOP, or even just as a pet if looking for an addition to the family. 

Holland Lop - Holland Lops are some of the most laid back, gentile and sweet rabbit breeds about. They usually weigh between 3-4lbs as adults. Hollands are another dwarfed genetic breed, so are going to be on the smaller side if bred true to ARBA's SOP. Hollands are great for families, children, and usually get on with other animals. They make for great 4h/ffa/show potential rabbits if bred true to ARBA's SOP, or even just as a pet if looking for an addition to the family. 


True Dwarf/False Dwarf

This comes back to the genetics. When a Netherland or Holland (or another dwarf breed) doesn't receive that dwarf gene, they typically are going to be bigger, longer bodied and have longer ears. They usually do not possess as much show quality/potential as a "true dwarf" rabbit, but may be great to have in a breeding program. These rabbits when they don't receive the gene are called a "false dwarf", but are still a Holland Lop or Netherland Dwarf.

When one of these dwarf genes are passed on to their offspring, they are considered a "true dwarf". These rabbits are more likely to possess show/SOP qualities. They typically are more compact with smaller ears, stockier builds and other dwarf-like characteristics. 

When two true dwarfs are paired, and two of the genes are passed down (double dwarf gene), a baby called a "peanut" is born. These babies usually only last a few days - a week. They have very noticeable characteristics right away. They have bulging foreheads/eyes, usually are malformed and much smaller than a healthy (single or no dwarf-gene) baby.


Housing  - A proper house includes fresh water in a bottle or bowl (we typically use both), food, hay and toys, and should be an appropriate size for your rabbit. We find that bowls that clip onto the wire or heavy (ceramic) bowls are best, as they are harder to play with and tip over. Rabbits should also be kept in an area that is not high of activity or noise. 

There are so many different styles for houses and hutches, such as wooden, plastic or wired. Wooden hutches are lovely, however, be aware that they will very likely chew on the wood, and many woods are toxic for rabbits. They are also harder to clean as the urine absorbs into the wood and not as hygienic. Plastic hutches are another great option, but another chew toy and doesn't provide the best grip. Plastic is easier to keep clean though! Wired cages are the best option in my opinion, they are the easiest to keep clean as there is typically a drop pan that the waste falls into. However, provide enough rest places, such as ceramic tiles or plastic resting pads to prevent sore hocks. 

You can even free roam if you bunny proof the room or area that they are in! I would recommend using an X pen setup, or some sort of fence or wall (that they can't squeeze or munch through), to still keep them in a contained area.

They can be kept either indoors or outside. However, if they are kept outside, make sure that they are covered from all weather conditions, away from any direct drafts or sunlight, given enough shade and are cool enough*, and must be protected from any potential predators at all times.

*cooling blocks or fans to keep the air moving are a couple options to help keep things cooler.

Bedding - For bedding, we like CareFresh bedding. It is dust free and made from recycled paper. I also recommend using paper shreds, if you have access to a paper shredder, as this is also recycled paper and okay for the buns! (As long as no toxins or chemicals are on the paper - and remove the staples!) Try to avoid and stay away from woodchipper bedding, as many woods are toxic to bunnies. 

Clean any damp or soiled bedding daily.

Handling - Rabbits need a firm but gentle hold. They should never be picked up by their ears or the scruff of their neck. Place one hand under the chest, the front legs gripped by the fingers, and their bottom supported by the other hand. Hold them securely with against your body. Never allow a bunny to struggle, as their back is very fragile. They have very powerful back legs and strong claws, so can kick out and scratch if frightened. 

Feeding - A healthy diet consists of good-quality (or complete) pellets and fresh hay. For pellets, we currently feed Blue Seal - Home Fresh Show Hutch Deluxe 17. This can be found at Tractor Supply or Chewy (though it is cheaper at TS). We do provide enough food for transition if you would like to switch. 

We also provide combination of timothy, orchard grass and alfalfa hay (cubes are available in many of these and may help those with allergies towards hay). Fresh hay should be accessible to the bunny, unless given a complete pellet.

Complete rabbit foods are a type of pellet that provide protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients that rabbits need. A couple other complete food brands are Kalmbach, Manna Pro and Purina. 

Fresh water should always be available and provided in a clean container. 

Treats - Many bunnies love treats and sweets, unfortunately, there are so many companies and treats that are offered to rabbits but in fact are unhealthy or not good for them. Most to all treats should be given in moderation and small portions. Rabbits under 6 months should not be fed any treats, fruit or vegetables. Avoid giving any treats until they’re at least 6 months old, as this can put them into GI Stasis. Avoid any treats that are high in sugars, such as yoghurt bits. Make sure they are natural and not full of additives. 

A couple treats that our buns absolutely love are old fashioned oats, black oil sunflower seeds and timothy/alfalfa blocks.

Toys - There are so many options for toys and ideas of activities for enrichment.

Litter - If you choose to litter train your bun, Tractor Supply sells pine pellet bedding that is ideal for using in the bottom of the litter tray. Try finding a tray where the poop/pee falls through a grate and keep the pine pellets away from the bun, to avoid ingestion. To best train your bun, place hay or food above the litter box. Rabbits typically poop where they eat. We also recommend to clip the litter tray to the cage as they will likely try to throw it about. 

Spaying/Neutering - Spaying and neutering have many benefits, such as being able to keep a doe and buck together happily without worrying about babies, help with moodiness, helps does not get pyometra, and also this may help prevent spraying of bucks and any accidents from outside the litter box. However, make sure that you find a vet who is specialised or qualified with rabbits. Anesthesia alone is a lot for bunnies and must be done by a rabbit specialist. 


Please keep in mind that if you were wanting to show, rabbits must be unaltered. 


First Aid Kit 

Here are a few items that are great to have on hand in an emergency first aid kit! Some things have already been or may be mentioned, but here's an actual list (per ARBA, 2023):

  • Antibiotics: PPG (Penicillin-Procaine G), Terramycin ophthalmic ointment (oxytetracycline with polymixin B), Terramycin soluble powder (oxytetracycline)

  • Anthelmintics (Anti-parasites): Ivermectin, Fenbendazole, Corid, Piperazine

  • Anticoagulants (bleeding nails): Kwik Stop (Styptic), corn starch

  • Bandages: Gauze pads, vetwrap, ace bandage

  • Critical Care: Sub-Q (subcutaneous) fluids (LRS, Plasmalyte, 0.9% NaCl), Oxbow Critical Care, Rabbit Nutri Drops, Acid Pack 4-Way, Fast Track

  • Hypodermic needles & Syringes: 22 gauge for injections, 20 gauge for SQ fluids

  • Healing: Silver Sulfadiazene, Preparation H

  • Teeth & Nails: Toenail clippers, wire cutters


Health - We guarantee that your bunny is in 100% health upon leaving our rabbitry. With that being said, it is always good idea to take your bunny to the vet for routine check-ups and keep a close eye on your bunny's daily health. 

Diarrhea - Diarrhea can be very critical in a rabbit's health. It is possible for rabbits to get diarrhea when transitioning to their new home, make sure that you keep them with their transitioning food, and allow them to be quiet and get used to their surroundings before handling often, as this may be stressful. If they have had diarrhea longer than 24 hours, consult a vet as soon as possible.

Cecotropes - Cecotropes are nutrient packed, dietary poops that are essential for the rabbit's health. They are clusters of wet-looking poop and can be anything from a cm to a couple inches long! Rabbits typically produce these overnight, and eat them for more more nutrients, protein and vitamins that their regular poop do not have. Most of the time, rabbits eat them straight as they come out, however, you may find some in the morning. No need to be alarmed if you find these, as they are not dangerous. A diet that may be too high in carbohydrates, protein, or sugar can upset the balance of bacteria in the caecum causing the production of too many cecotropes. The rabbit ignores these extra dropping as they contain unneeded nutrients and they become stuck in the fur or squished on the floor instead. 

Do NOT bathe your rabbit! Instead, wipe them down with pet wipes or if they have a dirty bottom or are very messy, get a damp, warm wash cloth and gently remove the soiled bits as it will come off. Make sure that you properly dry them before putting them back in their cage.

Worms - Pinworms, tapeworms, flukes and coccidia are common intestinal parasites that domestic rabbits can be infected with. Per ARBA, when pinworms are present, piperazine can be mixed in the water at livestock dosages, and the whole herd should be treated. This should be done once a week for 3 weeks.


Coccidia - Coccidia (also known as Coxi) is a parasite that can only be confirmed via microscopic examination with a veterinarian and cannot be seen by the naked eye. Some visual symptoms of Coxi may be soft/mushy fecal pellets, lethargy, weakness, lack of appetite and/or weight loss, but may not always show or appear. ARBA recommends to routinely practice using coccidiostats in your rabbit(s) as symptoms are very vague. The most commonly used medication is Corid, commonly used for poultry, and can be used at a dose of 0.5cc/500mL(17oz) of water. It is recommended for the rabbits to be treated for at least 5 days (ARBA, 2023). 

Mites/Fleas - Mites and fleas are other parasites that domesticated rabbits may come across. Mites burrow through the skin and hair causing large flakes of dandruff to come off the rabbit. It is most common to occur on the nape or on the back of their neck. Per ARBA, use Ivermectin 1% at a dose of 0.02cc/1lb of body weight given orally or subcutaneously (though I recommend just at the nape of their neck). Treat two weeks after first dose to ensure mites are gone. 

For fleas/ticks, it is recommended to use kitten revolution and/or rub diatomaceous earth (food grade) all in the fur (try to be careful and not inhale the dust, both with yourself and rabbit). 

Nails - If your rabbit does not have the opportunity to wear their nails down naturally, you must take them to get their nails trimmed or do them yourself. (This can be a simple task for some, but may be a two-person job for others - just make sure not to over stress or hurt your bun). You could try cheese cloth or another type of material that pokes the rabbit’s nails through for easier access to snip the tips. 

Teeth - A rabbit's two front teeth (incisors) continue to grow throughout their life. Overgrown teeth must be consulted and may have to be operated on by a veterinarian surgeon, or they may not be able to eat and may cause other health issues. Try to avoid this by providing toys, chews or treats. Even providing a "gnawing block" made out of wood. However, be careful on what types of woods you give your rabbit as many types are toxic or harmful for them.

GI Stasis - GI Stasis is when a rabbit gets extremely unwell (without parasitic causes). They often look bloated, pass little to no stool, stop eating and look very poorly. They may display many other symptoms. It is extremely important to know the early symptoms of GI stasis as it is a very dangerous situation in rabbits and may lead to death. A rabbits digestive system can stop moving for a number of reasons, including dehydration, incorrect feedings or nutrients provided, stress, or pain from another underlying illness or disorder. Your bunny can be perfectly healthy one night, then in the morning may need to be rushed to an emergency clinic. I always suggest to have Oxbow Critical Care for Herbivores on hand (apple-banana flavour is typically preferred).

Sometimes when babies are going through their weaning stages, they may get "weaning enteritis" and can be a very difficult situation to recover from, but we always do our best on helping them recover and get through it.

Sore hocks - Sore hocks occur when there is improper housing for the rabbit in a wired enclosure. These are inflamed and ulcerative areas of the hock (back of the foot, leg or ankle that they rest on). They typically occur in the bigger breeds (heavier than 6lbs) more so than the smaller breeds, but should always be protected and kept an eye on if kept in wire cages no matter the breed. Providing resting pads or places to rest will help prevent sitting directly on wire for long periods of time that can help prevent cause them.


Daily handling will give a chance to check them over for any unusual sores, wounds, mites, etc. If anything unusual is evident, contact your veterinarian. 


Be Patient! - Lastly, be patient with your bunny. For the first few days, let them relax and get acquainted to their surroundings. You can interact and hold them, but keep it to a minimum in the first few days. They have been handled and socialised since birth, however, over handling after a transition may cause stress and may cause unwanted issues. 


Additional resources

You are more than welcome to ALWAYS reach out to me with any questions/issues that you may have regarding your bunny or if you are interested in getting into showing! 

ARBA, ANDRC, and HLRSC are amazing resources if you are interested in bettering the breed, and/or interested in getting into showing/breeding.

There are many great tutorials and overview videos on YouTube.

Several groups on Facebook that you may join.

Betty's Bunnies™
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