Rabbit Digest

Rabbit Digest will be updated regularly, upon request or whenever possible. All information provided are based on personal experiences or extracted from books/web. Details are as accurate as possible and serve only as a guide which should not be relied upon as a substitute for the advice of a fully qualified veterinarian. Anyone using the information provided below does so at his or her own risk. Bitz 'n' Bunz will not accept any responsibility for, and will not be liable for the accuracy or inappropriate application of any information from our website.

Digest # 003 - Rabbit's Life Stages

Rabbits generally can live up to 5-8 years while house rabbits have a life expectancy of 10-15 years if neutered or sterilised. Rabbits are very fragile due to its light and delicate skeleton and this require some degree of supervision and extreme care. Parents who wish to get a rabbit for their young children are advise to pay close supervision to both the rabbit and children to prevent any mishap from happening.

Weaning Stage - From birth up to 8 weeks old
  • Newborn must be with its mother to ensure adequate intake of milk for immunity.
  • Some mother might not know how to take care of their newborn, hence the newborn must be hand fed.
  • Newborn learns to take in some solid food from its mother at around 5 weeks old.
Growing Stage - 2 months onwards till 6 months
  • Capable of consuming food and water independently.
  • Highly active and inquisitive. Likes to explore around.
  • Intake of food is high due to growth.
  • Alfafa based pellets and hay are recommended for them.
Matured Stage - Male 'buck' - 4 months old, Female 'doe' - 6 months old.
  • Switching to timothy based pellets and hay are advisable in order to prevent obesity. Can start with mixing of both alfafa and timothy based food before fully switching to timothy based diet.
  • Bucks start to have descending testicles and are suitable for sterilisation.
  • Bucks start to spray urine around to mark its territories and become more dominating.
  • Does do not have menstruation.
  • Does generally stay fertile till the age of approximately 5 years old and can be pregnant at any time of the year.
  • Does can have a litter after every 31 days and can be pregnant on the same day just after she give birth if it is not separated from the buck.
  • Bucks and Does are advised to be separated in order to prevent unwanted litters due to their high fertility rates.
Senior Stage - 4 years old onwards
  • Metabolism rate and activity level slows down gradually.
  • Change in rabbit habits (eg. prefer to drink from bowl or prefer to eat softer hay)
  • Chronic degeneration and other health diseases can surface (eg. cataract)
 Digest # 002 - Rabbit's Diet - Hay

Despite the iconic Bugs Bunny chomping on a carrot as shown, rabbits should not be fed carrots on a daily basis. It should only be given as a threat. In fact, the single most important item in your rabbit's diet is hay. You should feed your rabbit with fresh hay in unlimited quantities.

Why do rabbits need hay?
Rabbits need the long fiber in hay to help with its digestion. Long fiber keeps their intestines in good working order by pushing things (such as food and ingested hair) through the gut. Pellets will provide good nutrition, but they lack the long strand fiber that rabbits need.

What kind of hay should you buy?
Grasses and grains such as timothy, orchard, or tiffany are the best kind of hay for rabbits. Clovers like alfalfa, although a favorite for many rabbits, can be too rich in protein and calcium to feed in large quantities. Alfalfa should be used as an occassional treat for most rabbits. However, alfalfa can be appropriate for growing baby bunnies and nursing does (mama rabbits), both of which require a nutrionally rich diet.

Types of hay and their nutritional values

Timothy Hay

Timothy hay is probably one of the most popular hay among bunnies and their caretakers. It looks like a dried blade of grass, fairly wide and its color is a soft green to grey/brown green. Timothy hay also has "solid cattails" which distinguishes it from Orchard grass which has "broken cattails." Much of the Timothy hay is imported from Northern counties; it is not as widely available as alfalfa hay, but is an excellent hay for rabbits. It contains a good level of calcium and calories.

First cutting: Available in the summer, the first cutting is a little courser and contains more stems than the second cutting, which helps with teeth grinding. It is also higher in fiber and lower in protein than the second cutting.

Second cutting: Available in the fall, the second cutting has a softer texture, containing more leafy matter than the first cutting. Its fiber content is a lower than the first cutting, however, many animals prefer the taste and will eat it more readily.

Timothy hay is an excellent food for pet rabbits and other forgagers (guinea pigs, chinchillas, tortoises, and iguanas).

Nutritional Values
Digestible Energy (Mcal/lb) - 0.7 to 1.0
Total Digestible Nutrient (%) - 42 to 50
Crude Protein (%) - 7 to 11
Calcium (%) - 0.3 to 0.5
Phosphorus (%) - 0.2 to 0.35

Orchard Grass

Orchard grass has a very similar appearance as timothy hay but it has "cattails" that have small segments missing from them every 1/32 of an inch. Furthermore, the cattails tend to be pale brown, whereas timothy cattails are green to light yellow.
Orchard Grass has a sweet smell and taste that small animals love. This makes it a good choice for your little critters. It has a soft texture, is high in fiber, and low in protein.

Nutritional Values
Digestible Energy (Mcal/lb) - 0.7 to 1.0
Total Digestible Nutrient (%) - 42 to 50
Crude Protein (%) - 7 to 11
Calcium (%) - 0.3 to 0.5
Phosphorus (%) - 0.2 to 0.35

Alfafa Hay

Alfalfa hay is appropriate for young and growing rabbits. It is also suitable for pregnant or lactating females who need a more nutritionally concentrated hay. It can also be a good choice for rabbits with a low appetite. Alfalfa hay alone is too rich for healthy adult rabbits, but it can be mixed with other hays to encourage picky eaters.

Alfafa hay can be distinguished by their stalks, it is usually brittle and varies from flat green to brown leaves. It is very high in calcium and can cause "sludge" in bunny's urine. It is also high in calories and be sure to observe for gummy droppings, weight gain, sludge, and cecal pellets not being eaten. These are usually problems of the older (2+ yr. bunny). Hay can vary from dark lime green to yellow/green/brown depending on the season. A strict alfalfa diet for rabbits should be observed as it can lead to some of the problems listed above.

Nutritional Values
Digestible Energy (Mcal/lb) - 0.8 to 1.1
Total Digestible Nutrient (%) - 48 to 55
Crude Protein (%) - 15 to 20
Calcium (%) - 0.9 to 1.5
Phosphorus (%) - 0.2 to 0.35

Digest # 001 - Rabbits

Rabbits are often associated with hamsters and guineas pigs who belongs to the rodent family. Rabbits are members of a different group of mammals called lagomorphs. The major difference is that rabbits have two pairs of upper incisor teeth whereas the rodents only have one. The rabbit's second pair of upper incisor is very small as compared to their first. Like rodents, rabbits' teeth keep growing throughout their life and are kept chisel-sharp. The top and bottom sets of teeth need to be kept at the correct length as they will wear against each other.

It is not unusual for a rabbit's teeth to grow too long. It occurs when the teeth grow out of alightment and fail to wear against each other properly. This can cause great discomfort. The rabbit will have difficulty in eating and possible dribbling of saliva down its chin. It is usually quite easy to see whether the front teeth are overgrown whereas an overgrown back teeth are more difficult to see as the rabbit's mouth is small. A vet can cut them back to the correct length and also use a lighted speculum to check the back teeth. If they need filing down, anesthetic will have to be administered to the rabbit.