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VACTF Manual: Chapter 6: Animal Care Practices


Female - Doe
Male - Buck

Basic Animal Care Practices

  • Fresh, clean water should be accessible at all times. Water should be placed in water containers especially made to hang on side of hutch. In the winter, if rabbits are outside, water should be changed often (2-3 times daily) to prevent freezing.

  • Should have constant access to food. Should be fed pelleted rabbit food, along with small quantities of raw carrots and pieces of apple; alfalfa and other hay should also be provided. They may be fed fresh grass or lettuce, but too much may cause rabbits to suffer from severe diarrhea, which could lead to death. Rabbit pellets must be stored to prevent exposure to moisture and light which causes vitamin loss.

  • Must have access to pieces of hard wood or dog biscuits to gnaw on so that they can keep their teeth worn down to a proper size to allow them to chew properly.

  • Should be provided with shelter that protects them from snow, rain, extreme cold, and wind. Wintertime sub-freezing temperatures can cause death by freezing. In the summertime, shade is extremely important - direct sun and heat can kill rabbits quickly.

  • Rabbit hutches should be cleaned daily. Hutch should have a box approximately 12" by 12" with dry bedding. The rest of the hutch should have a wire mesh (1/2") floor. The hutch should be raised off the floor to allow the feces to fall through. This is necessary because rabbits eat their feces, and in captivity, parasite levels can become fatal.

  • To prevent overcrowding and further breeding, each hutch should only contain one adult rabbit, or two adults of the same sex if they get along, or an adult female with her litter.

  • Veterinary care as needed to check for diseases, parasites, and intestinal impaction due to hairballs or other foreign matter, also check for mal-alignment of teeth and "lumps" of the skin.

Signs of neglect/cruelty - what to look for

Appearance of animal: thin; fur in poor condition; sores from scratching; portions of ears missing because of frostbite or because they were bitten off from overcrowding.

Housing Conditions: overcrowded conditions; must be sufficient space to permit all rabbits (including smaller ones) access to food.

Behavior: dull, minimally responsive, not interested in surroundings, depressed. Most rabbits are naturally shy of strangers.

If any of the elements above are present, arrange to have a veterinarian examine animals.

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