Do you know how to create your own “line” of rabbits? Line breeding. Most of the best breeders out there line breed. Dispite what you may think, line breeding (or what those who do not do it call it, inbreeding) does not cause deformed rabbits or health issues. What exactly is line breeding? It’s when you breed a son back to his mother, or daughter back to her father. Half siblings, full siblings, grandparents to grandchildren, and so on. Your must choose carefully, though. Line breeding will set traits in your line. So don’t line breed two rabbits that have the same fault. For example, pinched hind quarters or low shoulders. That’s not something you want in your line, so if they have the same fault, so will the offspring. That is something you want to breed out of your line. Occasionally you may need to out-cross. This means bringing on a rabbit from a different line that is completely unrelated to your herd. You can do this if your line is lacking in something that line breeding won’t fix. That doesn’t mean this will fix all your problems, but then you can line breed back to your new addition. Not all species can be linebred. But rabbits can. Please keep in mind that if this is not something you agree with, there is nothing wrong with doing it and it’s a golden rule many follow. So don’t hate on the many of us that do. You are more than welcome to do as you please with your own herd. We won’t judge you.
Warning: picture of dead baby rabbit near the bottom.
Another common occurance in dwarf rabbit breeds is the peanut.
Dwarf breeds can come in different sizes, that does not make them any less a dwarf breed, nor does it change their breed. You can have “true” dwarfs, which is one true to size, and “false” dwarf, that are larger in size.
Some breeders will use a false dwarf doe (female) to a true dwarf buck (male). The flash dwarf doe, sometimes called big ugly doe, or BUD, must have good type true to the standard of the breed you are working on, with the exception of the weight. BUD to a true dwarf buck will give you the chance of a larger litter, less birthing complications, and no peanuts.
A peanut will occur when two true dwarfs are bred together. When a kit (baby rabbit) gets two copies of the dwarfing gene, one from each parent, a peanut will occur. You will recognize them by their size, being about half the size it should be. Pinched hind quarters, smaller ears, bulging eyes. Usually peanuts don’t survive more than a few days and are sometimes found dead when you find the rest of the litter. This is one good reason to check on your kits as soon as they are born. Any dead kits must be removed. You may humanely cull any peanuts you find or let them pass on their own.
Using a false dwarf buck, sometimes call a big ugly buck, or BUB, is not wise when using a true dwarf doe. It is never recommended to use a buck that is larger than the doe. This could result in larger kits that cannot be easily kindled (birthed) by the doe, this you are risking her life.
So keep in mind when using two true dwarfs, that you will need to be prepared to deal with possible peanuts.
In my hand is a deceased peanut that lived 2 days. Next to it are it’s siblings, 3 days old.
Breeding rabbits isn't as easy as everyone else thinks it is. Breeders know better. Females rabbits, called does, breed when they're ready. Males, called bucks, are usually always ready. When you want to breed rabbits, the first thing you need to do is make sure both the buck and doe are both healthy. Both animals should be of healthy weight, no fleas or mites. Check genitals for any signs of sores. If a doe is ready to breed, her genitals will be deep pink, not pale.
You'll want to take the doe to the bucks cage. Does can be territorial over their cage and may attack the buck. A successful mating will be when the buck mounts the doe, then you will hear a "sneeze" and he'll fall off. I like to make sure there are at least 3 successful fall offs, then put the doe back in her own cage. You can put the doe back in with the buck later in the day for a rebreeding.
Rabbits are induced ovulators. They do not go into heat, like cats or dogs. Rabbits will release eggs 12-24 hours after mating. Gestational period for a rabbit is 31 days.
Pictured below is a pair of rabbits. The black and white one (Vienna Marked) is the doe, the white is the buck. The doe is willing to be bred in this case. She was actually mounting him.
A doe will lift her tail when she is receptive, some will even raise their pelvis as well.
If a doe is not receptive, she may attack the buck, growl, grunt, and run away. Her tail will be firmly planted on the ground and she may back herself into a corner. Remove her immediately before she injures him. Try again later.
Rabbits seem more receptive in the spring, when days are getting longer. Sometimes you may need to table breed a pair. This is when you have to put your hand under the does hips and lift her up yourself so the buck can mount her. These breedings don't always take.
Not only is it hard sometimes to get a pair to breed successfully, but even when you do, the breeding doesn't always take. Shorter days make some does not want to breed at all. Hot weather can affect a buck's fertility. I've had one doe that carried full term, but her pelvis wasn't wide enough to kindle (give birth) to them alive. After several tries, it just got harder on her so I sold her to a pet home. Another doe had a stuck kit that she tried to remove herself. I had to help, and the remaining kits were all born dead. My very first doe actually died from a breech birth and I didn't get there in time to save her. Hidden vent disease (syphillis) can cause a doe not to convince at all and will need to be treated with antibiotics.
Rabbits don't usually abort their pregnancies, their bodies actually absorbs the fetuses. Sometimes they don't absorb completely, and will end up sort of mummified. This will cause future fertility issues.
Rabbits have two uterine horns, meaning they can get pregnant twice at the same time. If a mummified fetus is present on one side, she may very well be able to still conceive on a the other. But this is one reason you shouldn't leave a buck and a doe stay together after a breeding. Carrying two litters is very dangerous for both the litters and the mom.
There are other things to consider when breeding rabbits, like fetal giants, max factors, hippos, and peanuts. I have an article on Max Factors that you can read, I'll touch on the others in another article. Be aware that fetal Giants, and hippos may not be born alive, but max factors usually are and sometimes peanuts are as well. These will normally need to be humanely euthanized, as they won't live long or won't have any quality of life.
When it's time
About 3-4 days before the due date, you will need to give your rabbit a nest, or at the very least, nesting material. Nest boxes come in all styles, but I prefer wooden ones with solid bottoms. I put shavings in the bottom for absorbency and hay on top for the mom to use to build her nest. I give extra hay incase the doe doesn't think there's enough in the nest, or incase she wants to eat it. She may start pulling fur for her nest right away, or she may not do it until she's actually giving birth (kindling). When I see fur, I usually stick my finger down inside to see if it's warm. You'll know there are babies there. Mom usually will not need any help and will will deliver the entire litter in about 10 minutes, usually early in the morning, or some other time you're not around. After babies are discovered, pull the nest box out and remove all the babies. Check them over to see if they're all healthy and that they're bellies are fat and round from being fed. Discard any placentas she hasn't eaten, and any bloody hay. Also, a lot of peanuts are born dead, so you'll want to remove those, too. Carefully place the babies back in the middle of the fur, they will dig down themselves.
The doe will only feed her kits once or twice a day, and you may never see it. As long as the kits are fat and growing, you've nothing to worry about. She will do the rest. She may also wean them herself, or you may have to do it for her.
My next rabbit blog post will be about raising them from birth, so keep an eye out! 😊
Heck, ya! Most rabbits will go through an annual moult. Sometimes it looks awful, sometimes you'll hardly notice. Depends on the rabbit and sometimes the weather. It's the end of August here and my rabbits are in full moult!
Here's poor Chester. He moults all over, all at once. This is a picture before his second brushing.
Here is after his brushing. He's not overly impressed with me, but he looks grumpy on a good day.
Here's poor Levi before his brushing. He starts moulting from his head back. This is his first moult, he's a year old.
Here's most of the fur from Chester's brushing. Mind you, this is a two pound rabbit. Bigger rabbits, more fur.
Some rabbits don't moult so drastically. This is Luna's litter pan. Other than some loose fur strands, and this fluff in the pan, you wouldn't even know she was moulting.
Rabbits should be brushed on occasion. But when they moult, you will need to brush them. Rabbits will try to clean themselves but when they moult, it's a lot more fur. When they ingest that much fur, it can cause a blockage. Unlike cats, rabbits can't vomit. So the blockage stays there and that can be deadly. You will not be able to brush it all out at once. You may need to do it several times over the course of a week or even several weeks. Making sure the rabbit has lots of fibre is also important. Hay is great for this.
If you suspect wool block, you should consult a rabbit-savvy vet. Less interest in food, smaller droppings, less droppings, lethargy. In the mean time, you can remove pellets and feed hay. Some claim papaya and pineapple help with moving a blockage along. I have not had this issue so I have not tried it myself, so I can't comment any further. Woolly and Angora breeds are more prone to wool block.
Rex rabbits also moult but brushing them can ruin that beautiful coat. Take a damp cloth or damp hands and just run your hands over them to remove any loose fur.
Just FYI, here's my favourite brush! https://www.amazon.ca/gp/aw/d/B00VBR10K0/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1503852514&sr=8-3&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=the+furminator&dpPl=1&dpID=41LXrbTcpfL&ref=plSrch
Ive already talked about basic rabbit care. Now I want to focus on housing. Keep in mind that I am a breeder, and although many people keep rabbits as pets, they ARE considered livestock.
Size: The larger the rabbit, the larger the space needs to be. The more space you can offer, the better. I raise Netherland Dwarfs. They are fine housed in a cage 18x24. I like 24x24, myself. Flemish Giants on the other hand should be in a space 48x48. Before picking a breed to bring home, make sure you research the size of the cage needed. Also, if you only have the bare minimum for a cage size for the breed you pick, it's nice to let them out for a little play time and exercise.
Type: There are many types of housing you can use for rabbits. The number one concern would be that it is safe. I use wire cages with wire bottoms for most of my rabbits. Again, different breeds require different set ups. My cages have trays under them, but you can also get them without trays that you can hang. This way the rabbit never comes in contact with their own feces and urine, which is way more sanitary. This makes for a cleaner rabbit and helps prevent urine scald on their feet. You just dump the trays out and occasionally give them a spray and a little scrub and you're good to go!
I've tried wire cages with solid bottoms, thinking hey would be better for babies, but a had a new water bottle leak when I wasn't home in the winter and I lost half my babies. So I sold those and changed to all wire bottoms. Wire bottoms also allow for better air circulation for cooling in the summer.
You can get these from many cages builders. http://www.sunnymeadowscages.com/single-level-homes.html
I have some rabbits in pens on the floor that are attached to outside runs. These are all made with hardware cloth and even the run has hardware cloth on the bottom. DO NOT use chicken wire! Rabbits can chew through it, weasels can go through it, raccoons and rip threw it. The only thing that chicken wire should be use for is to keep chickens out of the garden. My Flemish Giant is in one of these pens. Heavier breeds may find wire bottoms hats on their feet. There are also some breeds, like Mini Rex, that have thinner fur on their feet which makes wire hard on them, resulting in sore hocks. My Mini Rex is in a wire bottomed cage, so he has a resting mat he can sit on which makes it safer and easier for him.
Some people choose to raise their rabbits in hutches. For raising outside, these usually have one or many compartments with solid roof and sides with wire front and bottom to allow for air flow and for the droppings to fall through, and you just shovel them up and dispose of it or compost it. (Rabbit manure is great for the garden!) Inside hutches usually have solid bottoms, that you will need to fill with litter (like pine shavings). Some hutches are multilevel to allow the rabbit more space and exercise without taking up more floor space. For outdoor hutches, it is wise to cover the wired front with plastic to prevent the cold wind from blowing on them. Rabbits should always have a place to get out of the wind.
Many pet rabbit owners keep their rabbits in wire cages with plastic bottoms that you can buy at any pet store. Again, you will some sort of litter for these. Many rabbits will use litter boxes, though there will still be the occasional dropping in other places, but most rabbits pick a corner to urinate it, so you can just put a litter box in that corner and dump it out every other day.
Two examples of hutches (pictures from Wayfair)
Plastic bottomed cage (Wayfair)
Large homemade hutch (google images)
My rabbits are housed in a building. They are protected from the elements. If you choose to house them in outside hutches, make sure they are protected from the elements but still have good airflow. If you have them in your house, make sure they are not just shoved in a room where you only go in long enough to feed them. Because really, what's the point of having the rabbit?
Rabbits are incredibly cold tolerant, but are sensitive to heat. Do not leave your rabbit outside in the direct sun where they can not get into shade. Rabbits can suffer from heatstroke very easily. Rabbits do not need heat in the winter, just some place that is draft free. If you have a heater in your building and the power goes out, then the shock of the temperature drop could be very hard on them. In the summer, I use large fans and frozen ice bottles to help cool them down.
If you choose to house you rabbit outside and bring them inside for the winter, do so before the temperature drops too much. Taking them from cold to a place that's heated, you cause them to have a heatstroke.
More than one rabbit?
Rabbits should be housed separately. Many rabbits are very territorial and will not tolerate another rabbit in their space. There are always exceptions, but generally they should be housed separately. Hutches can be built with separate compartments for each rabbit. If you have smaller spaces, they should each have their own cage. They can be next to each other and eventually they may be allowed supervised playtime together and you can take it from there. Some rabbit Breeders have colonies set up up that house several does (females) and one Buck (male). These spaces need to be very large with smaller compartments that each doe can use as a nesting area. I do not have much experience with colonies so I can't comment further.
Silver Fox colony
As long as your rabbit has enough space, and a place to get out of the weather when they need to. Someplace dry and draft free. Someplace safe and secure and clean, you're rabbit should be happy. Now all they need is some food, water and some love.
I wasn't really sure where to put this, (and this may turn into more of a rant) but I came across a post on a Facebook page (run by Breeders, full of Breeders) stating that everyone should have their rabbit spayed or neutered, and how we'll all overpopulating the shelters with our rabbits. That rabbits are healthier overall being fixed. It was even stated that becaue of us, there are rabbits that are dying in shelters, that the rabbits we sell are taking up homes that could go to shelter rabbits, that our rabbits won't ever be truly healthy, and that there are enough rabbits in the world to last a lifetime.
Let's get one thing straight here, if no one bred rabbits, there would be no rabbits. Certain breeds would disappear first, then the rest. For a while all we'd have is a bunch of mixed breeds from the backyard breeders who don't care and really don't know what they're doing. And then eventually, there would be none. It's the same with cattle. If people stopped eating beef, the farmers would stop breeding. Then those breeds would disappear, forever. Breeding is preserving. Breeding is bettering. (Is that a word?) Any ethnical breeder (be that rabbits, cows, chickens, dogs, etc) picks the breed they like. Or one they may find challenging. You find the best specimens you can afford or find and you work with it. Most animals have a breed standard. And that is what you work towards. You will never start out with the best, but you work towards it. And you always use healthy, well cared for animals. And they are treated wonderfully. If they are not, then you aren't bettering anything. You're just making this worse.
My rabbits aren't top notch. I've got a long way to go. And I'm still learning. It's always going to be a work in progress. But the breed I chose, I love. I don't do it for anyone else. I do it for me. Yes, I sell to pet homes, I also sell to other Breeders, I sell to people who want to be Breeders. I sell to 4H. A lot of Breeders don't sell pets. And this post accusing us is why. If a rabbit isn't good enough to breed or show, it's gets terminally culled. Is the animals life wasted? No. These rabbits are eaten or fed to their dogs, or taken to zoos for food for those animals.
I'd also like to point out that you would be hard pressed to find a purebred tattooed rabbit in a shelter anywhere. It's not us that are the problem. It's the backyard breeders. The ones who breed who knows what together just to make a dollar or to have "cute babies". I guarantee you, breeders aren't making money. We're usually in the red. All money I make from selling my rabbits goes right back into them. It goes to food, new cages, new water bottles and dishes, new trays, grooming supplies, better stock. Does it drive me nuts to see "baby bunnies for sale" for $10? Yup. It also drives me nuts to see people looking to breed their "X" dog to a "X, Y, or Z" dog. They just looking for money. They're not doing it to better any breed. It's people like that, that makes ethical breeders look bad. Because that's mainly what people see.
Why does it matter what breed a rabbit is? If you don't care, then it doesn't. But if someone is looking for a certain breed, then it does matter. You can go to a shelter looking for a dog, but you've probably got something in mind, right? Lab? Husky? Shitzu? Small, large, short haired, long haired, good swimmer, high energy, lap dog? Everything is indicative of a breed that's in it. Rabbits are no different. If there were enough rabbits in the world to last a lifetime, how old do these rabbits have to live? 60 years? 100?
I also must point out that I have a return policy. If for some reason you can no longer care for the rabbit I sold you, I will take it back. I will take care of it. I will find it a new home. I did this to ensure mine wouldn't end up in shelters. And some people like to "set them free". You can't "set the free", they're not wild hare, they're domesticated rabbits. And I'm always there. Any issues, questions, my buyers can always contact me. Always.
And let's talk for a quick minute about spaying and neutering. If you want to, go for it. But I like people to understand there are risks. Anesthesia is very hard on rabbits. Please be sure that your vet is rabbit savvy before getting them to attempt the procedure.
I also raise chickens. I don't understand why some people won't eat eggs because they think it's unethical. An egg is not a chick. You're not killing anything. No one is screaming at you because you ovulate once a month. No different. And hens are not forced to lay eggs. They will do it with or without you. If you do it because you believe the hens are not treated humanely at the Big farms that supply the grocery store, buy your eggs from your neighbors. Or the farm up the road. Or your coworker.
And just so we're clear, I'm not against shelters or rescues. In fact, I'm all for them. I think people should be able to make their own decisions. Do want you want to do. You need to what fits you. Don't let people bully you for wanting an animal from a breeder. Sometimes a shelter just doesn't have what you're looking for. I got my dog from a rescue. My barn cat is from the SPCA. And they're all fixed so I don't have to do it myself. If I was just looking for a pet rabbit, I may go to a shelter too. But they don't usually have rabbits here, at least not in recent memory. But I love my Nethies. And my Mini Rex. And my Flemish Giant.
If we don't breed animals, eventually there will be none. You can't save them by extinction. It just doesn't work like that. Please don't let the backyards Breeders out there ruin what you think of all Breeders.
Do you need a rooster to get eggs?
No, absolutely not. Hens will produce eggs as long as they are healthy. Production may slow down as they age but may continue to lay as long as they live. Chickens, like humans, produce eggs with or without a male present. Hens are actually born with all the egg yolk they will ever produce in their lives.
Can I feed my eggshells back to my chickens?
Yes. I just let them dry in a bowl and then I crush them up a bit. But you still need to feed them calcium. I use oyster shells. Egg shells are fine but they are a source of quick-release calcium. Oyster shells are a slow-release calcium which breaks down throughout the night, when the hens are making their eggs. Without a good source of calcium, hens actually pull calcium from their bones and can make their legs weak and brittle, possibly causes breaks just from jumping off the roost. Also, oyster shells should be freechoice and given in a separate feeder, as roosters don't need the extra calcium.
Can I sex my day old chicks?
Nope. Unless they are sexlinked. Sexlinks are two certain breeds that when bred together, male will be one colour, females another. You will notice differences as the age. I find pullets (young females) will usually get their tails feathers first, and cockerels (young males) will develop larger combs and wattles. Also, when I they are older, cockerels will have saddle feathers. Then, obviously, one should crow, the other should lay eggs. Some people claim you can feather sex chicks (by looking at the shapes of the feathers on the tips of the wings at about 1-2 weeks old) I've never found this to be true, and was told it really only works with certain breeds. Vent sexing is how hatcheries do it, but you must be trained properly or you could seriously injure a chick.
Is the yolk, the chick?
I used to think so, but no. You are in no way killing a baby when you eat an egg. It may have been a potential baby, if it were fertilized, but you did not kill anything. Fertilized eggs are perfectly okay to eat, and if you get them farm fresh, they may be. If you look at the yolk closely, you should be able to see a white spot. If the spot has a ring around it, like a bullseye, (blastodisc) then it is fertilized. The yolk is actually the nutrients that the chick absorbs. If you buy eggs from the grocery store, those chickens have never been in contact with a rooster (and may not have ever seen grass for that matter) so those will never be fertilized.
How long does it take to hatch chicks?
21 days. After the start of incubation, the blastodisc will form veins. It will continue to develop for 21 days, at which point the chick will poke through the membrane inside the shell to get some air. This is called internal pipping. Then the chick wil begin breaking through the shell. The first break through is called pipping or external pipping, then they will start to "zip" around the shell until they can push out. This can take up to 24 hours after the initial pip. Hatching is hard work.
Fact: They're all called chickens.
I've heard many people refer to "egg layers" as the chickens and the males are roosters. Incase you didn't know, they're all chickens. Female chickens over a year old are called hens. Male chickens over a year old are called cocks. Young males are cockerels. Young females are pullets. Until you know, its best to just call them chicks.
This post is basically an update/diary entry type thing. A lot has been going on in the past few weeks and I thought I'd just write it all out.
First we hatched out some eggs in the incubator. We've not been having great success with hatching since buying the incubator with the turner. We hatched out 9 chicks after I separated my Barred Rocks. 4 Black Copper Marans hatched, one died. 3 Barred Rocks, and 2 Chantecler mixed Barred Rock crosses. And something else I can't remember. I sold 3, keeping 2 BCM, 2 BR, 1 Chantecler cross. I also traded one BR for a frizzled Chantecler mix. Realizing both BCMs I kept were males and one BR, I gave away one BCM and the BR. So now I have 4 9 week old chicks out in the big coop with the big girls. One of my Silver Laced Wyandottes raised them for me. I'm just now getting them to stop sleeping in the nest boxes. Had to put blockers up.
Second, My other Silver Laced Wyandotte hatched some eggs out for my sister in law. She did a great job but didn't want to leave the nest during incubation. She had to be chased off and was not eating much or drinking and was actually pooping in the nest. Which, I obviously bad for the eggs. When the chicks were taken I felt so bad for her. I started looking for a couple chicks to give her. I had someone contact me about an order they were doing but the chicks wouldn't be here until the 15th. So unfortunately I didn't have any chicks to give her. It took her a few days to get over it, but she's fine now.
Which brings me to number 3, we set another hatch and tried a dry hatch. The humidity was too low at lockdown on only one chick survived. Thankfully, I did take the lady up on her offer of ordering chicks. And they're doing tomorrow. Im super excited and now my lonely hatchling won't be alone. My first Silver Laced Wyandotte became broody again 2 days ago and she will be getting all 5 of the chicks. Sorry, back to the chicks... So I've got a small order of chicks coming tomorrow. These chicks were ordered right from Murray McMurray Hatchery in the US. And I could order anything that was available for hatch this past week. Exciting, right!? I've got a Ameraucana/Araucana mix, and Andalusian, a blue Cochin, and a Lakenvelder. Eeek! The chicks were delivered to the border 2 days ago and will be transported from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia tomorrow morning and I will pick them up in town tomorrow evening. Oh gosh, I'm so excited.
And finally, I bought some BCM hatching eggs from my he guy who I bought my first eggs from, who is working with the guy who I bought my hens from. We're on day 12 of incubation, and the they're in the old incubator that I bought a new wafer thermostat for and we are hand turning them this time. Yesterday I took half of what was left after candling and transported them to my sister in laws place to put in her incubator. I'm hoping between all of us, we can finally get some Marans eggs hatched.
My last post about rabbits was about basic care. I'd like to elaborate a little bit further on feeding.
What to buy?
I buy my rabbit food from either Shurgain or CoOp. Some places will carry specialty foods like Purina, but I can't get that here. Shurgain offers 2 types. One is 15% protein and the other is 17%. I used to feed only the 17%, as more protein is good for pregnant and nursing does (mother rabbits). But recently started using CoOp feed, which is 16%. A 50lb bag only costs about $15-$18 and lasts my rabbits a month. You can also buy it by the pound. I dump it in a Rubbermaid garbage can with a lid to keep it fresh and keep out rodents. Clean, fresh food is very important. If you have a feed store nearby, please shop there. Most pet stores and grocery stores sell rabbit food with added fillers like corn, that are basically junk and fillers with no added benefit and you'll pay more for it.
I raise Netherland Dwarfs. They get a quarter cup of food a day. The larger Dwarfs and my Mini Rex get closer to a cup. My Flemish Giant gets a more than a cup. Ask your breeder what the proper amount to feed your rabbit is. A reputable breeder will know best. Over feeding a rabbit is just as bad as under feeding them. Overweight rabbits can't clean themselves well. Can't reach their bums. It also puts a lot of extra strain on a small frame. More strain on the organs, the spine, the legs. Imagine yourself being 30lbs overweight. It makes things a little tougher, right? Same as a dog that is 10lbs overweight. For a rabbit, it's only 1lb. Also, if you plan on breeding, it's harder to do when they are overweight. Overweight does will carry more fat around their ovaries, making it harder to conceive.
What about pregnant or nursing does?
Pregnant does get the same amount as they always did, right up until 3 days before their due date. They may not eat it, but I give them the option of having more food. Once they give birth, you can free feed them (keep the dish filled at all times). I normally give them a good cup, anyway. At this point she is produxing milk to feed all her babies and then the babies will start eating it, too. You can free feed the babies right up until they are about 6 months old. At which point you should cut them back to the recommended amount.
What about treats?
My rabbits hardly ever get treats. You probably grew up thinking that all rabbits should have carrots and lettuce. Well, you're wrong. Sorry. Carrots are fine on occasion, but they are very high in sugar, which leads us back to the obesity thing. Lettuce on the other hand, can cause gas. Rabbits can't pass gas and will cause bloat, leading to a potentially painful death. My rabbits may get carrots at Christmas. And maybe an apple cut up, without the seeds. Maybe some atarberries in the summer (which are cooling for them on hot days) or raspberries. These treats are few and far between. Things they do get, when available, are apple tree branches and dandelions. If you're going to feed them grass or weeds, please make sure they aren't sprayed with anything like herbicides.
What about herbs?
I'd like to do things "naturally", you can keep some herbs on hand. There's a great list on Three Little Ladies Rabbitry's blog. I myself grow lavender chamomile, and borage. And of course dandelions grow themselves. Chamomile is a great all around herb that can be used for calming. You can also make a tea out of it to make a weepy eye wash.
Yes! Hay! Hay is great to have on hand. They're feed pellets will keep their teeth filed down like they should be, but hay is always great. They can have as much or as little hay as you want to give them. Hay is also good for their gut. I had one doe that was slightly overweight and always had very soft poo (it was genetic) I cut her way back on pellets and just started giving her lots of hay and she lost a little weight and almost completely got rid of the soft poo. If you're finding that a rabbit has soft poo, give more hay. (Apple cider vinegar in the water also helps). You should always have hay on hand anyway if you are breeding, as you will need it for nests. Hay should also be given to babies as they start eating on their own.
On a last note...
If you for any reason need to switch feeds, do so gradually. Switching from one feed to another quickly will upset their digestive tract and will produce very soft poop. Mix the old feed with the new feed until the old feed is gone. I give hay at this point as well to help with the transition.
I hope this helps with feeding your rabbits. Keep it simple!
Ive had a practising broody now for a couple months. For those of you who don't know, a broody is a hen that wants to hatch eggs. You can tell when they are broody because they will stay in a nest and puff up and squalk when you get near them. Anyway, while I was on vacation she decided she was actually going to brood. We also hatch put some chicks in the incubator while I was gone. So, let's put two and two together.
This is a new hen and I don't know how she is as another. But there's only one way to find out. When the chicks turned about 5 days old, my parents decided they want to hatch more eggs. We only have the one brooder heat plate, so I thought "Why not see if the broody will take the chicks?" So yesterday I brought them all to my place. Two by two I took them out and stuffed them under her. I admit, I was concerned that they wouldn't take to her, they were already 5 days old. And also concerned that she would attack them. It's best to do it when the chicks are less than 3 days old. I checked on her last night before I went to bed and they were all still under her. And again this morning. I had my husband check on them when he got home from work and he said she had them on the floor with her. When I got home I went out to check again, and she's now in the nest with all babies safely tucked under. I couldn't be more pleased.
Will add more pictures this weekend when I catch her off the nest with them.
Update April 23:
Yea, that's a little chicken butt under a big chicken butt.
May 21: She's doing an excellent job with her babies. I'm very pleased. Yesterday I had them out in the yard with the big girls (in a dog crate) and they seem to be doing well. She wanted out and enjoyed herself. This morning she laid an egg. I guess she's ready. They're all out in the crate again, and later this afternoon I plan on opening the door to let them all out.
Update: This hen only stays with her babies for about 5 weeks. Then she's done. I gave her another batch of chicks, which she raised and then two younger ones. When she was done she started terrorizing the chicks and actually killed the two smaller ones. He sister on the other hand, hatched out a batch of chicks which then I took from her (and I felt horrible) and she wouldn't get off the nest at all. She pooped on her eggs every day. I'm not sure what's worse