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  • Writer's pictureKatheryn

Bunny Basics

Updated: Dec 6, 2020


There are so many great ways to raise rabbits out there and I'm going to tell you how we do it here on Sugarhill Homestead. If you need a little help deciding which type of enclosure to set up for your rabbitry, check out my article reviewing some pros and cons to each set up. On our homestead we raise all our rabbits in raised wire cages. We currently keep 6 breeding does and 1 buck, with 14 total cages.


Before we get into all the nitty gritty details, let me tell you why we began raising rabbits in the first place. Food security. Its that simple. we don't raise our rabbits as pets although, I like to think we still spoil them. Ultimately, we raise rabbits as a great lean and inexpensive source of protein. We love the way they taste and how easy they are to bring from the yard to the table (way easier than poultry!) Rabbits have been the quickest animal on the homestead to make a return on start up costs and then some!

This set up would work great in a small space!

I don't really think it matters what kind of rabbit you choose. What's more important is that you enjoy working with them and they can provide you with meat for the table. I haven't tried enough breeds to recommend one over the other. But I believe any pure or backyard breed will do. In the end they all serve the same purpose. Eventually I would like to try some standard rexs. Rex hides are so incredibly luxurious and I do save every hide from every rabbit we cull (just thinking of the lush throws I could make has me feeling warm and cozy).


As long as your rabbits are healthy, their care is one of the simplest on the homestead. It all boils down to water, feed, and hygiene. Whatever setup you choose, you rabbits will always need a good quality feed, hay, a clean abundant source of water, and a clean home environment.


Water

However you choose to distribute water to your rabbits, they need to have access to as much clean water as they can drink. We have tried bowls, bottles that hang on the cage, and our current gravity fed bowl system. We chose to use gravity fed bowls which you can find Here, because they simply work the best. Since installing them with our new wired enclosure, they haven't failed once. No nipples or balls getting stuck and no bunnies knocking over their bowls. This means our bunnies always have water. If you want to see how we set up our watering system you can find that article HERE. We found that every time our rabbits would stop eating in the past, 99% of the time, the cause was lack of water. No water means dehydration and an inability to digest food. So, if your rabbit stops eating, the first thing to check before you jump to drastic measures is their water! your water bottle may be full, but often times the ball or spring in the nipple will be stuck and bunny can't access water. Other times their water bowls can be knocked over or leaks can be present so bunny doesn't have access to water all the time. And sometimes rabbits can be finicky about their water. Be sure its clean, free of debris and bunny berries. Occasionally new rabbits have a tough time adjusting to water that is different from what they are used to, so I recommend bringing an empty gallon bottle or two with you when you purchase your bunny and asking the seller if it's alright for you fill them up while your there. This can make a new Rabbit's transition to your homestead easier.


Feed

We went through a lot of feeds before we found one that worked for us. We use Mana Pro Pro Health formula for rabbits. Our rabbits receive 4oz of pelleted feed a day. Too much feed and they develop fat around their organs causing their health and

productivity to decline. Along with the pelleted feed each rabbit has access to as much hay as they can consume. Although rabbits can be fed a strict pelleted diet, hay helps aid in digestion and boredom. Because their pellets are mostly made up of alfalfa we give the rabbits timothy hay or perennial peanut depending on availability. We also added a block of wood stung on the sides of their enclosures with wire. If you do this be sure it is a wood that isn't toxic to rabbits, some good woods include fruit wood, kiln dried aspen, birch, and poplar. The hay and wood will help keep your rabbit's teeth short so you wont need to trim them.


Hygiene

Ensuring your rabbits have a clean place to live and raise their young (if your breeding) is also important. Ultimately we chose wired enclosures that hang off the ground for this purpose. If the area surrounding the rabbits isn't free of accumulating feces/urine your rabbits will have issues with respiratory problems and bugs. If you don't want to breath in that stench, neither do your rabbits! There are also some pretty nasty bugs out there such as the bot fly, which can burrow itself in your rabbits skin and muscle tissue and if disturbed release a toxin that can kill your rabbit. So DO keep your trays and under your enclosure clean. Its also important to keep the wire cage clean and free of buildup to help avoid problems like hutch burn.


Along with clean cages, the rabbit also needs some monthly maintenance. On the first of every month we trim nails and put drops of mineral oil in our rabbits ears. Short nails make our rabbits easier to handle. It also reduces the likelihood a mother rabbit will damage her kits in the nest when she goes to nurse. A monthly drop of mineral oil in each ear prevents the common problem of ear mites. Preventing ear mites is a bit easier than treating, although both are done with mineral oil.

This is a basic formula to care for any rabbit, where each bunny owner can make tweaks and adjustments for their lifestyle. As long as you are diligent in these three categories you can be a successful rabbit owner.




Sweet homesteading,

Katheryn Williams

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