Rabbits need access to clean water 24/7, including in winter when water is are prone to freezing. Water can be provided in bottles, bowls or an automatic gravity fed system. We prefer individual top fill water bottles for speed and efficiency and so we can monitor that each rabbit is drinking, and that they have a constant clean water supply.
There are pros and cons to each method for providing water, and the weather and environment are important considerations to take into account as all methods will freeze in the winter. Rabbits reportedly drink more out of bowls, but they are easily contaminated, spilled or overturned. Bottles can malfunction, leak, freeze and require work to refill and keep clean. Automatic waterers reduce the labor required, but you will not notice if a rabbit is not drinking and you do need to check frequently that the system is functioning properly and all rabbits can access water.
If you rabbit goes off its food, first check the water. If they are unable to drink they usually stop eating. Check regularly that your rabbit is deficating and urinating as expected. If there is a sudden decrease the rabbit is likely not eating or drinking normally.
Rabbits should be feed a PELLETED based feed, which is nutritionally complete and formulated specifically for rabbits. At a minimum, rabbits can thrive on just pellets. We also prefer to free feed either Timothy or Orchard grass hay to all of our animals to promote good gut health by enabling them to eat all day long if they please, and to provide some enrichment. We feed hay through feeders attached on the outside of the cage that they have to work to pull the hay through. It is important to understand that feeding hay will slow growth rates some as they are eating more hay and therefore less pellets. If growth rate is important to your stock, I would recommend limiting hay or even just providing all you can eat pellets to growouts.
We DO NOT recommend free feeding rabbits unless they are growing juniors (growouts) or lactating does nursing a litter. Rabbits are very efficient animals and they pack on internal fat very quickly. Rabbits may not look or feel overweight, and yet they may have a serious internal fat problem that may cause health problems down the road. Therefore, we recommend feeding a measured amount once daily. Please reference your individual feed bag for how much you should feed your rabbit. We feed Purina Complete which recommends 1 oz per pound of body weight. For grown Mini Rex, they usually weight between 3-5 pounds so we feed 1/2 cup (4 oz) per day. For New Zealand, Satins, and Rex, they usually weigh between 8 pounds and 12 pounds, so they are fed 1 cup (8 oz) per day. We have a couple very large does including a 12 pound NZ doe we feed more at 10-12 oz per day.
We are often asked what we supplement our rabbits. We also feed a mixture of black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS), flax seed, Calf Manna, Quaker Oats and YQ+. The specific ratios depend on the animals being fed and we tailor it specifically to an animals nutritional needs. We also supplement Kale which is high in calcium to our nursing and lactating does to help ease birth and to prevent hypocalcemia after birth, especially for large litters.
We recommend that young rabbits are not fed fruits and vegetables until they are six months old as they have fragile digestive systems and can become ill or die easily due to changes in feed. Even then, we recommend mostly leafy green vegetables in moderation and introduced slowly (with the exception of iceburg lettuce, do not feed it). We recommend only tiny amounts of fruit and even then, rarely.
I provide transition feed with newly purchased rabbits. Please feed only the transition feed the first day, after that mix 50% the feed provided and 50% the new food until gone (1 scoop new and 1 scoop old food). Specific instructions on amount of feed will be provided at the time of purchase, specific to that animal.
I recommend making all future feed changes slowly to avoid problems. Always transition animals slowly from old feed to new, throughout their life.
Nail trimming is absolutely essential for rabbits overall health, well being, and their ease of handling. I recommend trimming your rabbits nails at least monthly. If you are having trouble with this, please contact me; it really is not as hard or as intimidating as it may seem and I am happy to help you get started. I usually always demonstrate this for new owners. The far left image represents the "quick," this is the blood supply to the nail and it should never be cut. If it is cut the rabbit may bleed rather profusely. Styptic powder (right) is essential to have on hand if you do quick them to help stop the bleeding. Cornstarch or flour can also be used in a pinch. Styptic Powder can be purchased on Amazon or at any pet store. If viewed from the side you can usually see the quick, even in rabbits with dark nails. The goal is to cut as close to the quick as possible without cutting into the quick. If nails are not regularly trimmed, it is difficult to handle your rabbit without getting scratched and it also causes back pain and poor posture in the rabbit. This is especially true if your rabbit is housed on solid floors. Once rabbit nails get long and unkempt, the quick also gets long and it is very difficult to get it to recede. Please start with your young rabbit and continue throughout their life.
We raise Satins, Rex, and Mini Rex rabbits which are all low maintenance breeds when it comes to grooming. Most of the year you can just spritz your hands with water and work them both directions through the coat and most of the loose hair will come out on your hands. You can then just rub your hands together and all the hair will roll together and come right off. Rabbits molt seasonally but also may be brough on by stress, environment or diet. During a molt, the old hair will be replaced with new hair. A molt generally lasts from 2 to 6 weeks but can be longer or shorter. If your rabbit is constantly molting, consider your feed as a cause. The molt usually begins on the head, moving down the neck and back down the sides and towards the tail, but some rabbits molt in patches all over their bodies at once.
For rabbits aggressively blowing their coats, daily and weekly grooming may be necessary to prevent wool block. Rabbits are very clean animals and they groom themselves constantly. During a molt, a rabbit can ingest a lot of hair. Provide hay and/or greens to help prevent GI stasis and keep the gut moving. If you see poop balls strung by hair, please add forage to help keep the gut moving. A small piece of banana is often helpful. If you see no new poop your rabbit may have wool block. Contact your veterinarian at once.
For "normal furred" rabbits such as Satins and New Zealands, a brush can be used to help them shed out. For Rex and Mini Rex, NEVER use a brush on their coats as it damages the rex fur. Use your hands or a hacksaw blade to help them shed out. A blower can also be used if you have access to one.