Keeping Rabbits…ours are pets!

I can’t even to pretend to be an expert on rabbit keeping, half the time I’m still asking questions myself however we have our second rabbit now and have already learned a lot more this time around and have seen the mistakes we made with our first. Rabbits can be as loving as cats are, but they are still a prey animal making them very skittish at times. Moving slowly, carefully and taking how they feel into consideration is a huge part of having rabbits as a part of the farm. Lots of people eat rabbit, and I don’t judge them for that, heck if Micah had it his way we would always be raising rabbits for meat, but for me personally I just can’t do it. They are cuddly and I always bond with rabbits so for me they are a pet and not a meal. Friends have said, “I thought all your animals had to have a purpose if you were going to keep them, pay their way as you say,” I have a response to that, my rabbit pays his way in fertilizer! Rabbit poo can be added directly to the beds and not composted for healthy nutrients. Basically what I’m getting at is that rabbits can be great as pets, cheap meat if you can stomach it, and always provide lots of fertilizer.

Lets talk about my first Angora rabbit Stu. I did a lot of research before deciding that I wanted an Angora rabbit. When I was younger I had a Rex rabbit who was very nice although not very cuddly. Everything I read told me that Angora rabbits were gentle buns who had wonderfully sweet personalities. Thats what I wanted more than anything. Micah and I argued over if he would be a house bunny or an outdoor bunny, I won and he was a house bunny. First mistake I made was that, he had been raised and lived with his family outdoors for the first 4 months, had little human interaction so he was shocked not only by the change of his environment but also being without his family and suddenly thrust into a family of 4 who just wanted to love on him too much from day one. That was truly a big mistake, again let me say rabbits are prey animals, they are fearful and need to be given time to warm up and do things on their own terms. Not only that but he wasn’t 8 weeks old, he was a bit older so we had already missed the best bonding time when they are growing. Did we eventually bond, yes but he wasn’t a fan of anyone but me. We made the mistake of keeping him inside and only took him outside when we could watch him because my yard wasn’t set up to keep a rabbit from eating everything I loved and the first time out he ate my entire rose down to nothing. So again, my mistake was thinking I could just prepare after we had him. No don’t think like that, get yourself totally ready and have a plan for exactly what you will do and how you will do it. You will be thankful for being prepared. Next mistake we made was his cage, we got him a big cage and put bedding in the whole thing. I read about potty training rabbits and thought oh yeah I will just put the litter box where he pees. Whoops again, he thought the whole cage was a little box because of the bedding. Again, my mistake and he was never fully potty trained. We let him out in the house but he regularly marked his territory, meaning furniture, because we didnt know at the time that he would be territorial toward the male cats and dogs, we also didn’t find out that neutering him would help with those urges until it was too late. I made so many mistakes with Stu that I was very determined not to make with our next rabbit. Sadly at 2.5 years old, Stu had to be put down due to a reoccurring case of the snuffles. The snuffles as cute as it sounds is a very serious respiratory disease for rabbits, they suffer and its really devastating. I hated myself for a long time after Stu’s passing because I blamed myself, if I had done more research, if i had paid better attention, if I let him be an outdoor rabbit and build a better immune system, geez I had so many things to blame myself for I must sound silly. After a while I felt silly, because I couldn’t protect him from getting a disease, that wasn’t my fault. Thats about the time I began looking into getting a new baby. But first heres my first Angora Stu riding in a dump truck.

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I started this article 6 months ago, things have changed so much. In April 2017, we brought home our second Angora rabbit. I sexed all the babies and thought I picked out the female, so at 8 weeks old I brought home a tiny adorable fluff ball and named her Ginger. Whoops I was wrong…someone else got my little girl and I had yet another little man. He looked identical to Stu and I kept accidentally calling him Stu because I couldn’t come up with a name, so eventually I called him Stu 2 or Bun because I’m that creative. I told you about all my mistakes with the first Stu, and I was able to correct many. We did potty train Stu 2 by laying a towel in the bottom of the cage and putting just a litter box in with bedding in only the litter box. Since he was just a baby, potty training him was super easy and within a week he figured it out. We also had him in a quiet room for months with little exposure to the animals, mostly just cuddles from me and the kids. He was very trusting of us all and allowed for brushing, toe nail clipping and belly clipping with no issues at all. When summer time hit, we let him out of the house and set up his own play area and house outside. He enjoyed roaming the yard and living outdoors from June until October. What we didn’t know was that unfixed rabbits will dig, and I mean freaking did trenches and burrows everywhere you don’t want them to, and they make quick work of their burrows too. He even dug under my kiwi planter and into it, killing my kiwi plant. So we had him neutered, which removed that urge to dig, spray, and calms them quite a bit. When the rain started we brought him inside. That was our biggest mistake yet.

Rabbits do better in the cold than the heat, they also don’t really enjoy loud noises. My house is always loud, and I mean always! Plus Stu had already been outside and loving the outdoors for months, why would he want to come back inside when he was perfectly content outside. He did what any normal rabbit would do, he rebelled. He got moody and cranky. Eventually he just never came out of his house, he would sit in there and pout all day and when i cleaned or tried to fill his food, he would attack the hand that feeds him. Just when I was ready to give him up, a friend told me to move him back outside where he enjoyed himself and get him a girlfriend. Micah and I had just agreed to rehome him so he would be happy again and now I was thinking about adding a second. I was so skeptical of if this solution would really be the answer. So I cleaned out an empty chicken house and I moved him outside. His spirits lifted immediately, he stopped attacking my hand and was letting me love on him again. I began looking for a girl for him and after a couple weeks a pretty little lady was ready to come home after weaning her kits from a local rabbit rescue. It was so nerve wrecking to go through this whole process and a lot of pressure was on this to work. I didn’t expect Stu to be aggressive but I also didn’t expect what happened to happen.

The day arrived to bring home a new rabbit, we renamed her Snow because she is snow white and beautiful. We put the two of them in a pen together and just let them be while we watched from a little ways away. I thought maybe he would try to mate her first thing, but nope he just smelled her. Stu followed Snow and around the pen, watching her, smelling her and not doing anything to her. Snow is only 4 lbs, Stu is easily 9-10lbs now. Finally after about a half hour Stu humped her head and then that was that. He wasn’t being a hormone driving freak because he is fixed and he bonded right to her.

So now we are a little urban farm with 2 little rabbits, and I’ve been asked to rescue more. Rabbits make amazing pets if you give them the love and the respect they deserve.

Stu and Snow together during Stu’s grooming session. Stu with a bow when we thought he was a Ginger.

 

Thanks for reading.

Nicole

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