There are so many things to consider when adding a bunny to the family! Research is so important in order to help you learn how to best care for a fairly complex little critter. Here are some bunny care tips to learn about before you consider adding an adorable new pet.
Here is a brief look at our bunny care routine at the Sunshine Farm:
The first aspect of bunny care to consider is housing. The three most important things to consider when choosing the housing for your bunny or bunnies, are 1) space, 2) security, and 3) suitability for a bunny.
When thinking about space, you want to consider if the housing allows adequate room for your bunny to stay active and explore. This also depends on the size of your bunny. Holland lops are a small breed, so they need a bit less space than large-breed rabbits, but I still like to have a space that allows a minimum of 3-4ft. of length for the bunny to hop around an explore.
Also consider the security of the enclosure. If it is outside, is it off the ground and safe from predators? Digging animals can easily dig under and through an enclosure that is on the ground, so it is important to ensure that it is predator proof. Bunnies are prey animals, easily startled, so make sure there is room for the bunny to hide (often called a hidey house) when scared.
You also want to ensure the housing is secured and not easily opened from the inside, as rabbits are expert escape artists. Finally, it is important to consider the materials the enclosure is made of, are all of the materials safe for rabbits?
Suitability for a bunny
Now it is also important to consider if the housing is suitable for a bunny. You may have a great ferret cage, but it is not necessarily going to work well for a bunny. Bunnies do like levels, but they also need a lot of horizontal space to hop around. It depends a lot on the personality of the rabbit as well. One of our bunnies loves levels, and would do well in a cage with a lot of vertical space and multiple levels. Another one of our bunnies just doesn’t seem to enjoy levels really at all.
A lot of breeders and bunny owners use wire-floor cages, which is a controversial topic. Now we can’t get into the mind of a bunny, so there is no way to say what they prefer, but personally, I like using solid floor cages as it teaches litter training, and in my perspective, leads to a more hygienic and comfy environment for bunnies. I also just think it is nicer to look at.
Best options for Indoor Housing
Here are a few of the best options I have seen when it comes to bunny housing. In addition to the options below, I absolutely encourage you to let your bunny roam outside of their enclosure for a few hours every day. This will also help you bond with your bunny.
1. Exercise Pen
An easily movable Metal Exercise Pen, also called x-pen can work great for bunny housing, if the bunny is kept indoors, and you do not have predatory animals living in the house with the bunny that would pose a risk. For Holland Lops, we recommend an x-pen that is at least 30″ tall, like the one below:
Or, if you are looking for an even more sturdy, semi-permanent option, that looks really nice, something like this would work really well.
BestPet Heavy Duty Pet Playpen Dog Exercise Pen Cat Fence B, 40-Inch, Black
2. Storage cube grids
Another great option is using Wire Storage Cubes to either build your own enclosure, or attach a run to an existing enclosure (like I did). Sometimes these are called C & C Grids, or NIC grids. These are inexpensive, but do require a bit of ingenuity. There are a lot of great examples on YouTube on how to do this.
In the photos below, you can see how I’ve used the storage cubes to create pens attached to the bunnies’ cages:
3. Modified Critter Nation/Ferret Nation
In the photos above you can also see the cages I chose to use, the MidWest Critter Nation Double Unit , although I did modify them quite a bit in order to make them more spacious and suitable for bunnies. You can learn all about the cages we used and how we modified them in our blog post, Using Modified Critter Nation Cages for Holland Lop Rabbits. I changed out the floors, added wooden guards to the sides of the cages, and I extended all of the cages so that one is 6 ft. long and 2ft. wide, and the other two are 5ft. long and 3ft. wide. These cages are well-built and can be modified in a number of ways, but again, it does require some ingenuity. The cages can be purchased as a single or a double. I only recommend the double for bunnies, and then connecting them side by side and removing the inner side panels to create a long vertical cage instead of a horizontal one. If you have more than one bunny, you can continue to add on to these cages. I actually have four doubles (three are pictured above) and configured them to be triple stacked. There are a lot creative ways to make these cages work well for bunnies.
4. Living World X-Large Cage
The Living World Deluxe Pet Habitat, X-Large is another popular choice as it offers close to 4ft. of length and about 2ft. of width, plus an extra ledge, and a hiding spot. If you’re looking for a cage for one bunny, and you will be providing a few hours of daily out-of-cage time, this may be a good option for you.
The next area of bunny care to think about is food.
1. Hay, hay, and more hay!
Bunnies need a constant supply of timothy, orchard grass, or oat hay to support digestion and healthy teeth. This should be 80% of their diet. Some bunnies are picky and it may take some time to figure out the best hay. It is important to limit pellets in order to encourage hay eating. Sometimes bunnies can be just like us, wanting dessert before dinner. If your bunny is having a hard time with hay, you can try these three tips: 1) feeding the hay before you feed any pellets or greens; 2) try different types of hay; 3) sprinkle some herbs or parsley on the hay.
To find high-quality hay, look for local organic farmers selling timothy or orchard grass. This will be the most affordable and best option. 1st or 2nd cutting work well, although sometimes bunnies are pickier with 1st cutting. Next option is to buy online or in store, although this will be pricey. There are some great options like Oxbow Timothy Hay that you can find both in-store and online:
2. Supplement with high-quality pellets
Pellets should be offered in small amounts as they can quickly cause weight or other issues if the bunnies diet is primarily pellets. I feed 1/4 cup twice a day to my adult bunnies, and offer more to baby bunnies. If I notice a bunny is having any issues with digestion (e.g., soft stool) I will decrease pellets in order to increase hay consumption.
We buy Sherwood Rabbit Food and we are really happy with this product! It may be more expensive, but the quality surpasses anything else I’ve seen on the market.
3. Greens, veggies, and small amounts of fruit
Our bunnies favorite greens are parsley, carrot tops, and kale. We have a big garden in the spring, summer, and fall, and it is so easy to find a bunny salad when I go out there. There are also so many things you can find that naturally grow outside that bunnies love (as long as they are not sprayed or treated), like dandelion greens, grass, other kinds of weeds. Small amounts of fruits are great too, like banana, apple, and carrot.
The website, the Rabbit House, has great suggestions for what to feed your bunny, and how much to feed. Their image below shows you some examples of what a weekly diet for a bunny should look like.
Litter training will make the world of a difference in making your daily routine easier and more enjoyable. Some bunnies get it right away, while others might need some extra time and additional steps. There are a few things to keep in mind when starting. First make sure you have hay available near the litter box, this will help encourage bunnies to poop in their litter box, as bunnies like to eat and poop at the same time (weird, right!?) Next you will want to regularly clean accidents and sweep up poop and put it in the litter box, so they learn where they are supposed to go. Keeping the areas outside of the litter box regularly cleaned will help teach them that they are not supposed to keep using those spots. If there is a spot that they are frequently using, add another litter box in that area. At first you might want 3-5 litter boxes for your bunnies to get the idea, then you can start to slowly take them away. Mine each have at least 2 litter boxes, and I eventually remove any that are not being used regularly.
Every bunny is a bit different and one type of litter box may not work for every bunny, but I have a few favorites. For really easy bunnies, I like to use simple plastic bins from the dollar store, with a layer of pellets, and then topped with hay. They are so inexpensive, and easy to replace. I also love the Ware Jumbo corner litter boxes with the grate on top, because they tend to keep things clean, and fit nicely in the corner of the bun’s enclosure. However, these litter boxes are currently priced much higher than they used to be, and I wouldn’t purchase them again until they are less than $15.
We use the horse-stall type pellets through Tractor Supply. These are great. Low cost, low smell, easy to use, and natural. They expand quite a bit so a little goes a long way! I really don’t have an recommendations for other litter as we are so happy with the pelleted bedding. I have heard people also really like Carefresh.
There are many products that work well as bunny toys. Some of my favorites are the cat toy balls that you can get at the dollar store, as well as cardboard paper towel or toilet paper rolls. There are also some great options in store or online, that are marketed specifically for bunnies, and are safe for bunnies.
Rabbits love willow, so anything made of willow branches or leaves will be a great toy, and keep them occupied. A nice product available on the market is the Willow Ball
Rabbits also love to chew, and apple sticks are safe and fun for rabbits. You can sometimes find these in-store, but they are also available online through Amazon.
A somewhat surprising category of toys that works well for bunnies is baby toys! They love to pick up things in their mouths and throw them around, so baby keys, balls, and similar toys work great for this. We love using baby keys for our bunnies.
You may have thought of bunnies as low maintenance pets in the past, but it’s important to rethink those ideas, because they can be quite difficult to care for, and when it comes to health, they can decline very rapidly. Their delicate digestive systems make it very important that you are checking on them regularly. It is very important that you ensure your bunny is eating, drinking, and pooping frequently. If there are any changes in these categories, please schedule an appointment with a vet. You can also encourage eating and drinking by having a first aid kit on hand with some helpful items in case something comes up. Here are a few items to have available before you bring your bunny home.
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