Bunnies are very social animals and are only entirely happy living as a couple or in a group. So from the occasional "loner" that maybe wasn't properly socialized growing up or experienced some kind of trauma, bunnies will be happier as a couple. What we hear very often is that people are afraid that their bunny will not be as tame once he/she is bonded with a partner. This is not true. After many years of bunny experience and a lot of contact with bunny parents all over the world, I’ve never heard that a bunny didn’t want to cuddle anymore after they got a partner. There are bunnies that like to cuddle, and bunnies that don’t. This sometimes changes during their puberty stage, but if they love being pet that will not change with a bunny partner.
Bunnies need a partner of their own species to “chat with” and to groom their fur & ears, to cuddle, and to play around with. No human can really take that place. I like to think of it like spending my life among elephants…it would be fun, but extremely lonely. Bunnies that have a partner are happier and healthier. After all, they teach each other. If one bunny, for instance, doesn’t like eating a certain veggie then you will be surprised how that will change over time; it is very likely that after seeing his/her buddy munching on something yummy, the other bunny will want that exact same veggie as well. It is also a big plus to have a partner when one bunny gets ill because they do “care” for each other, and the sick bunny will have much higher ambition to get healthy again.
It is not enough for a bunny to live with a guinea pig, cat, or dog. It’s not the same species and they do not speak the same language.
Guinea pigs are rather noisy at times, which can freak out the rabbits into hurting them. Cats and dogs are also not proper buddies for bunnies. They can make good friends but it should always be kept in mind that rabbits are prey animals - and cats and dogs are predators.
First of all, most treats offered in pet stores are garbage! They're colorful and fun looking and contain all the wrong things for bunnies! Yogurt drops, alfalfa cookies and all that contain way too much sugar and oat, and make the bunnies sick and obese. They don’t have the necessary enzymes to break down the lactose in yoghurt drops. If they need some beneficial bacteria for stomach problems then choose products like Bene Bad or ProBios which are specifically made for small animals.
The most natural foods for bunnies are grass and hay. If you’re certain that your lawn is not fertilized and no raccoons visit it in the night, then you may offer your bunnies (after getting them used to it over a couple of weeks) lots of grass. Because grass usually cannot be offered throughout the year, the alternative is hay. This should be limitlessly offered at all times. Because bunnies have a digestive system that requires them to eat constantly, it is very important to offer them lots of fiber and less calories. Nutrition for small animals has very much improved over the last two decades, therefore feeding them large amounts of pellets is not only no longer necessary but will also cause them problems long term. Pellets make animals feel full quicker and therefore they will eat less hay which may very well cause all sorts of teeth problems. In addition, pellets almost contain a certain amount of molasses which the producing company needs to add to make the ingredients stick.
Pellets were an invention of the food industry to fatten up animals quicker and to get them to a certain weight faster. Since there are no pellets in nature we feed very little pellets on a daily basis, more as a treat of a little supplement for our older residents which tend to loose weight more easily.
When you offer two or three different kinds of hay, veggies & herbs, and the occasional fruity treat they will get plenty of fiber and vitamins.
The more hay they eat the healthier their teeth and gut will be. Their digestive system is very complex and is constantly moving. They are therefore considered "grazers". Not enough hay eating can disturb their digestive flora and gas producing bacteria can overgrow which can very easily contribute to G.I. stasis. G.I. stasis sadly is the number one killer in bunnies because it is often recognized too late and remains untreated.
Unless you are a very experienced rabbit owner and have the fridge full of emergency meds you will want to bring your bunny to a rabbit savvy exotic vet immediately.
Veggies daily, fruit only as treat!
Different kinds of lettuce are fine like red and green leaf, romaine, radicchio, endives in all forms, herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill and basil, dandelions if they are available where you live (not all stores carry them), a little kale (very high in calcium), bok choy, fennel root and stalks, carrot tops, celery, parsnip and the list goes on. There are also a number of cooking herbs that are suitable for bunnies to eat like mint, thyme, oregano but should be offered in a limited amount. The occasional piece of carrot is not only a fine treat but also contains tons of vitamins.
I found that some bunnies also like chinese cabbage. Broccoli has lots of vitamins but should be offered in limited amounts like a treat due to its bloating properties. Other vegetables such as onions, avocados and potatoes are not suitable.
Flowers and Herbs
They love flowers such as Sunflowers, Rosebuds, Calendulas/Marigolds, and Daisies which can be found in our shop.
They also enjoy herbs like Plantain, dried Stinging Nettle, Echinacea and Chickweed.
Twigs & Branches
If possible, and not all of us have a ranch with fruit trees in our backyards, bunnies love to eat twigs and branches to enable them to wear off their incisors - especially branches from pesticide-free trees: apple trees, hazelnut bushes, pear trees, birch (not too much), alders, willow, currant, and blueberry; some forms of fir can also be fed. But remember: everything must be free of pesticides! Thuja and yew tree are poisonous!
Fresh water must always be available to the bunnies in a non-dripping bottle or in a heavy bowl which is actually more natural because they do not have to bend their heads; they will usually drink more this way and be healthier.
Additional vitamins, salt blocks or chalk are not necessary. On the contrary, they can lead to kidney problems.
Bunnies do not do well with sudden changes in their diet. So whatever new food you’re trying, start slowly and in small amounts.
Bunnies hide illnesses well as they are afraid to be left out of the group. Therefore you should always pay close attention for possible health issues!
• Is every bunny there for feeding time? • Are they alert and interested in their surroundings? • Do they move normally and are they active?
When a bunny appears different or if you encounter signs of disease while doing the health check, a visit to the vet is vital - we do not recommend to wait for answers in forums or to try to treat your bunnies yourself!
• Their weight. A big change in their weight points to an illness (teeth problems, infections, stress).
• Search their fur for bald or scabbed spots. If you find any it points to mites or fungus infestation. Bunnies shed their fur at least twice a year if not more often. Shedding a lot is normal then but never should you find bald spots.
• Their eyes. Are they clean and clear? (Never clean their eyes with chamomile, it will dry them out and cause infection.)
• Their incisors. They must be in the right ankle so that they can wear off properly.
• Their lips. Do they have scabbed sports? It could be lip scurf, often a deficiency symptom.
• Their nails. Are they too long, they have to be trimmed. Younger bunnies typically need a trim more often like every other month. Some older bunnies only need a trim about 3 times a year. If you do it for the first time please have your rabbit savvy vet show you how so you don't cut into their quick.
• Are the ears clean and without scalls? There are so called ear mites that only settle inside the ears causing scabs and wounds from itching.
• Are the genitals clean? If it is dirty or clotted the bunny could have diarrhea. Pay careful attention! Is the bunny eating and appearing normal? If not a visit to the vet is a must ASAP!
• Check the bunny for tumors or abscesses to catch them early.
Bunnies are very social animals who live in groups. That is why they should ideally never be kept alone as a single bunny. A human or an animal of a different species like a guinea pig for example cannot replace another bunny partner. A couple usually works out best.
The male should be neutered early enough (until the 12th week) to prevent litter. If they are neutered early enough you don’t have to separate them from their female partners which is a big advantage. Two males that have been neutered early can manage to become real buddies. Females, that are not from the same litter, are often not getting along anymore once they become pubescent.
Bunnies can live up to 14 years, their normal lifespan however is more around 8-12 years. Although the oldest rabbit ever was Flopsy with 18 years from Australia. Currently the record holder is bunny Mick with 16 years living in Illinois.
Bunnies are no toys for children! Adults need to supervise the care of the bunnies at all times. Bunnies also are no calm cuddly animals. Some of them don’t like to cuddle at all and never become tame enough to pet them.
What is important when bunnies move in?
Before bunnies are moving in a big playpen should already be in place along with all necessary accessories like food and water bowl, some toys, a litter box bedding, hay and a hidey house.
It's a good idea to check all family members for possible hay, dust and fur allergies as those can get worse over time and leads in more cases then not to the bunny being returned.
Many bunny rescue organizations have babies which are looking for homes so if you want to adopt babies you can without having to buy from pet stores or breeders.
We don’t support breeders while thousands of bunnies are being euthanized and looking for homes. Don’t shop, adopt…please!
All too often the bunnies in pet stores are not healthy. They have been separated from their parents too early and their GI tracts are not fully developed yet. They are also too small to tell how big they will become.
For beginners it is best to take in an older couple from a rescue organisation or shelter. By then their character is already developed and what you see is what you get. Also, they will both already be neutered and spayed and that not only saves you money (a lot of money actually) it also saves you from a lot of headaches when having to care for them after the surgeries. After the bunnies have moved in they should be left in peace for 1-2 days.
When you speak to them, speak calmly. Show them your hands so they can get used to your smell. Treats like fresh herbs or Oxbow snackies in your hand will help the bunnies learn to trust you.
Don’t pet them from above! Bunnies are prey animals and whenever you want to touch or grab them from above they may think it could be a hawk and panic.
How to pick them up properly
Usually bunnies don’t like to be picked up. Therefore they should only be picked up if necessary. Put one hand under their chest behind the front paws, the other hand supports their bottom. If the bunny is fidgeting hold the bunny with your right hand on the back between the shoulders and with the other hand the hind paw to support them. Bunnies can be extremely fidgety and children should only be picking them up under adult supervision while sitting on the ground or kneeling.
Once the bunnies are a bit tamer they should be allowed to run around in the house/room for several hours a day.
Cables, plants or other dangerous or poisonous objects must be removed or covered. Even the occasional not so naughty bunny might find your laptop or phone cables irresistible.
Bunny friendly homes - The right to roam
We do not support cages and condos if these cages are the place where the bunnies are living all day long. Animal organizations and rabbit vets advocate a size of 22 square foot per bunny is the minimum a playpen should have. Most cages are less than half that size! The bigger the better!! Bunnies are moving around hopping and often making big jumps. Therefore it cannot be bunny friendly if they reach the fence of their cage after hopping once.
Willow, wood and cork tunnels are a good and bunny friendly alternatives to houses you buy at pet stores. If your bunnies won’t eat cardboard then you’re free to build them tunnels and houses and levels from that and it doesn’t cost a thing! Just be careful that the boxes are plain and not printed on. A good alternative to being creative on your own (and not everybody is) are the cardboard “bunny castles” which a lot of bunny rescues offer in their shops.
Change it up!
Many bunny lovers buy furniture from Ikea. Those little LACK tables covered with a blanket are perfect hideouts for the bunnies. If you want to use them as an additional level just attach some carpet on it so they won’t slip. Attach ramps or place cardboards underneath - all this makes wonderful playgrounds for bunnies and costs way less than the toys you find at pet stores.
Good houses are also big ceramic flower planters filled with hay or straw. If you are a little crafty you can build them tunnels out of wood or little high seats so they can overlook everything.
You don’t have to have everything in the beginning. Build new things over time and change the furniture. Bunnies love change and it keeps them healthy and happy as they can explore new things!
Choose the place for hay wisely…as they tend to pee and poop where they eat. If you’re using a standard cage as a litter box for the bunnies, I recommend getting a hay rack or two and place them inside the cage. That way the playpen stays clean. However, they just love eating their hay from the floor. A good way to make that work is to get some fleece bedding that can be washed.
A lot of people put the hay directly into the litter-boxes. Just be aware that hay needs to be changed daily then since they do all of their business on the hay.
The Right bedding
Aspen bedding is the best way in my opinion. It is soft enough and offers a high filling volume. I would not recommend buying paper bedding… some bunnies eat it as they eat cardboard. Needless to say that it is not very healthy. In some cases it can even lead to G.I. stasis. A good alternative to Aspen bedding is fleece. It’s washable and doesn’t leave wood chips all over the house.
Do not use cat litter! It can be poisonous and will expand in the bunnies’ tummies.
Depending on how clean your bunnies are, the playpen should be cleaned once a week; the litter box every 1-2 days - depending on how many bunnies you have and how many litter boxes.