Rabbits should always have fresh water available. From a very young age, most rabbits are introduced to a "normal" diet of some fresh foods (if mother hasn't eaten it all first) and dry food which is purchased from pet shops or produce stores. This food has been especially made for rabbits, so carries all that they need when added to some hay or chaff and fresh foods. When you purchase a young rabbit, it is important to find out how much fresh foods they have been given as it can create stomach problems if you introduce too many new things to their diet. A breeder will normally give you a sample of the dry food they have been eating so that you can wean them onto what you can get for them.
Our book, THE RABBIT GARDEN has a full list of fruits, vegetables and plants (including flowers) around your garden that you can feed them, but as a rule of thum, remember that potatoes are poisonous, so is oleander and all bulb plants (like onions, rhubarb, etc).
Beware of overfeeding your bunny. "Greed, thy name is Lop". Lops in particular can get very heavy and fat which is not good for them and they are so good at pleading and looking cute to get what they want. Just one regular cup of food a day for a lop, will keep them healthy, along with fresh water. Add some fresh trats and your company and you will have a very happy animal.
Your cage outside needs to be dog, cat, fox, etc proof. You will also need to make sure it is fly, mosquito & flea proof, as we cannot vaccinate for myxomatosis. (Myxomatosis is transmitted chiefly by mosquitoes). Vaccination against Calici virus should be done at 6 weeks by the breeder, and then at 12 - 14 weeks. This vaccination needs to be repeated every ten months thereafter. Rabbits also need protection from the weather; from cold, wet and heat. Metal hutches suitable for rabbits can be bought commercially at pet shops and produce stores, and are easier to keep clean than the wooden ones. However, these can be cold in winter so a good thick layer of paper or woodshaving should be put in the hutch area as well as straw. You can make your own wooden cages, which should ideally be several inches or even a foot off the ground to prevent damp and to allow air to circulate. Our friend, Nikki White, used to convert a child's wooden playpen into a rabbit pen by attaching aviary wire to the inside of the bars (to prevent bunny from escaping between them) and on the base to prevent him/her from burrowing).Inside she placed plastic box with a lid purchasable from Big W or K-Mart with a hole cut in one side and lined with newspaper and straw/hay which made a hutch which allowed the rabbit to jump up and sit on it as bunnies like to roost. She covered the pen with lattice or similar to keep out stray cats and put a shade cloth over it to protect the bunny from the heat. Recommended minimum sizes for hutches are: For a Dwarf Lop a cage 110-120 cm long by 50 - 60 cm wide and 50 - 60 cm high is good. A Satin should have one at least 120 by 60 by 60 and a Netherland about 90 by 50 by 50.
Rabbits can handle cold well but have problems with heat. Therefore, ideally, the pen/cage should be able to be moved about the yard so that in summer it can be put under shade and in winter moved to where there is sunshine. Moving the cage benefits the lawn as the bunny can mow it while fertilising it. In very hot weather make sure the bunny's water is cool as she/he will not drink it if it becomes hot and so can die of thirst. Ice cubes help. A bottle of water frozen in the freezer and placed next to the rabbit will give her/him something cool to lie against, simply with a wet or frozen towel or carpet. If the rabbit is in a shed, soaker hose laid over the roof and turned on low will bring down the temperature inside. Check out our 'Ten steps for coping with summer' guide.
The House Rabbit
If you intend to keep your rabbit in the house, make sure you do not leave them unattended as they love to chew on telephone cords and any electrical cords. Rabbit's teeth never stop growing so they like chewing on things (like chair and table legsand especially skirting boards!). Frequent gentle handling of your rabbit will make it more friendly and of even disposition.
Toilet training your rabbit: When you first have your rabbit, whether he is in the house or a cage, he will chose a place for his toilet. Scoop up his soiled material and place it in a litter tray, filled with either wood shavings or an appropriate paper-based litter, such as Back-2-Nature. Leave the tray in their chosen place and they should keep on using it. You may be able to move the tray later on and they will still should use it.
Rabbits should NEVER be left outside in the sun on very hot days. You can provide your rabbit with a plastic bottle with frozen water in it to lie against to keep cool. NEVER leave your rabbit without shelter in the rain as if he gets wet he will take a long time to dry.
A big thank you to Nikki White for being our mentor when we started keeping rabbits.