LEARN ABOUT BUNNIES 

BUNNY 101

Learn about bunnies

Why foster buns or sterilise? What should they eat and drink? How do they bond with other buns? We give you the low-down below.

If there’s anything else you’d like to know, please feel free to join our Facebook page or send us a message.

STERILISATION

Why sterilise?
All bunnies that pass through Noordhoek Bunny Rescue will either be sterilized before adoption or will be in the future when they reach the appropriate age.

Female bunnies are spayed at around 5-6 months old. Male bunnies are neutered at 3-4 months old.

Benefits of sterilizing a bunny

  • Prevent pregnancies. Bunnies are fertile from 3 months of age and can have a litter of babies every month. There are so many bunnies already waiting for homes at the Noordhoek Bunny Rescue centre by not sterilizing a bunny you are adding to this overpopulation.
  • As bunnies reach adolescents, their hormones start raging. This can lead to unpleasant behaviour such as humping, lunging, attacking, aggression, fighting and biting. By sterilizing a bunny, the hormone levels reduce and you have a more relaxed and happy pet.
  • Female bunnies have an 80% chance of developing uterine cancer before the age of 5 if they are unsterilized.
  • Unsterilized bunnies are more territorial and it will be almost impossible to bond such a bunny.
  • It is easier to litter train a bunny if it is sterilized.
  • Unsterilized bunnies can spray urine.

FOSTERING

HOW DOES FOSTERING WORK?
Due to the number of abandoned or surrendered bunnies needing to find homes, Noordhoek Bunny Rescue is always in need of foster homes. This might be for an emergency situation to get a bunny in need to safety or it could be to give a particular bunny a better chance of finding a loving home.

What is fostering?
Fostering is offering a temporary home to a bunny. You are required to care for the bunny as if it were your own. This includes feeding, cleaning and taking the bunny to the vet if needed. Another important aspect of fostering is interacting with your foster bun. Although Noordhoek Bunny Rescue will help to find a suitable home for your bunny, you may also be asked to assist with networking and a home search. The bunny will be in your care until a suitable home can be found. This could be anything from a few weeks to months.

Benefits of fostering a bunny
By fostering a rabbit, you get to know the bunny’s personality and habits. This makes the job of finding a home for that particular bunny much easier as it can be better paired with its perfect forever home. Fostering also gives bunnies that are not used to people or have had bad human interaction, a chance to rebuild their trust. This stands that particular bunny in a better position to find a home.

BUNNY ILLNESSES

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT BUNNY HEALTH

Since bunnies are prey animals, they won’t show any sign of being sick or injured until it is in the very advanced stage. The best way to keep a check on your bunny’s health is to monitor their eating and pooping. A sick rabbit will stop eating and produce no poops. Alternatively, a change to the shape, size or consistency of the poops is another indication that something is not right with your bunny. Knowing your bunny’s behaviour and habits will help you to determine if they aren’t well, as they’ll be acting differently.

 

Once you’ve seen that your bunny isn’t their usual self, you need to act quickly and get treatment. Bunnies deteriorate very fast when they are ill and can die within a hours if the correct treatment is not administered.

 

Signs of illness:

  • Lethargic and not moving about
  • Not eating
  • Grinding teeth
  • Change of poop consistency or diarrhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Head tilting or swaying from side to side
  • Runny eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Aggressive or fighting

BUNNY FRIENDS

SHOULD I GET A BUNNY FRIEND?

Yes, we highly recommend finding the right friend for your bunny. They are social animals and enjoy the company of other bunnies. A bonded pair of bunnies is a wonderful sight.

Single bunnies are more at risk of getting bored, lonely and depressed.

A bunny friend will offer your bun the chance to communicate in the same language, they’ll understand each other’s body language, play and groom together. Essentially a pal who has your bunny’s back!

Would a guinea pig friend be suitable?
Although we have heard of people pairing bunnies and guinea pigs together, we don’t recommend it. Even though these isolated cases may have worked out, we know about more situations that have ended badly when mixing rabbits and guinea pigs.

Reasons not to pair a bunny and guinea pig together

  • Different dietary requirements
    Guinea pigs require high doses of Vitamin C which bunnies do not. A high dose of Vitamin C could even make your bunny sick.
  • Different body language and communication
    Although they might get along, it would be a lonely life not understanding your partner.
  • Behaviour
    Even though a bunny and guinea pig could be of a similar size; the bunny is usually stronger and can injure the guinea pig accidentally. Bunnies have also been known to bully the guinea pigs.
  • Habitat
    A bunny needs a large space to run, hop and jump. Although a large space would suit a guinea pig, they have smaller legs and don’t move as fast and would require more hiding spaces for protection.
  • Disease
    Bunnies carry bacteria which although not harmful to the bunny, it can cause a respiratory infection in a guinea pig.

adoption

Adoption at NBR
  • When you adopt an adult bunny it will already have been sterilized. If you choose to adopt a baby bunny, you will need to make a commitment to bring the bunny back to Noordhoek Bunny Recue when it is old enough to be sterilized. In males this is around 3-4 months old and in females it’s around 5-6 months old.
  • Adopting through Noordhoek Bunny Rescue offers you follow up support. Extra help, answers to your questions and advice is only a Whatsapp or phone call away.
  • Adopting allows you to be paired with exactly the sort of bunny that you’re looking for. All bunnies have their own personalities, some are shy while others are people orientated and just love to be cuddled. As the individual bunny personalities are known, a perfect match can be found for you.
  • If you’re looking to adopt a pair of bunnies, they will most likely already be bonded.

 

WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH PET SHOPS?
  • Pet shops are notorious for giving out wrong or bad advice on bunny care
  • They frequently make a mistake when determining the gender of the bunnies, thus inadvertently being the cause of mistake litters.
  • Bunnies are often mistreated and kept in poor conditions in the shops.
  • By pet shops buying in baby bunnies they are encouraging irresponsible owners to breed their bunnies for financial gain. This excessive breeding could be to the detriment of the female mother bunny.
  • Buying from a pet shop doesn’t offer you the rescue rate for sterilization of your bunny. If you take your bunny to a local vet for sterilization, the fee can be as much as 5 times that of a rescue rate.
ALL ABOUT BONDING

Although bunnies enjoy the company of other bunnies, they are territorial and don’t take kindly to new bunnies entering their space. So if you’re looking to add a new member to your current bun-family, you’ll need to be prepared to bond the bunnies. This will require patience and a calm manner as well as perseverance. 

There are many good techniques to try and a lot will depend on the personalities of the bunnies involved. Be prepared for the process to take a while and for there to be some humping, nipping and chasing before life settles down again.

Speed dating: Taking your current bunny to a rescue centre to choose their own potential friend is a great way to ensure that the bunnies are compatible and will bond easily. You might be lucky enough for your bunny to fall in love straight away, but more often than not you’ll find a friend where they tolerate each other and the love can bloom as time together progresses.

If you aren’t able to have your bun choose its partner, you’ll need to proceed with the bonding of the bunnies.

First decide on a neutral space, somewhere where neither bunny has been before. A bathroom or bath is usually a good option.  Have some oven gloves or a spray bottle of water ready in case a fight breaks out. Even a dustpan and brush is useful to separate fighting bunnies.

Both bunnies should be neutered or spayed. This reduces the aggression in them and makes it easier to bond them. You’ll want to wait at least a month after their sterilisation to try and bond them. This allows their hormones time to settle down.

Place the two bunnies next to each other (heads and tails lining up). Then stroke the bunnies from head to tail, firmly. Bunnies rely a lot on scents so it will help to rub both bunnies and then switch hands and do it again. This will rub the scent of each bunny onto to the other bunny.

Once you feel that they are calm and ready, you can step back and let them interact with each other. This must always be supervised and you will need to intervene if a fight breaks out. At this time you might see some sniffing and maybe some nipping. Possibly even a bit of chasing. As long as it isn’t a full blown fight, you should let this go on.  If you feel confident that the bunnies are tolerating each other, it would be alright to leave them for short periods while you pop out of the room. If you’re feeling unsure about the situation, you can separate them and re-do these steps the next day. Gradually building up the time they spend together unsupervised, until you feel that the bunnies are tolerating each other well.

Once they are tolerating each other in the neutral space. You’ll need to clean the bunny habitat/enclosure, toys, litter tray and bedding well, with white vinegar. This will help to remove scent from the first bunny and will make it easier to introduce the second bunny into this space which they’ll now share.

Once the bunnies are ready to be introduced in to their new shared living space, you’ll need to supervise them for a bit longer. Only intervene if there is fighting or if you feel one bunny is being repeatedly picked on and needs a break. A bit of chasing and nipping, maybe even humping is all part of the process and you can let this go on.

Indifference between the new friends is good; it means they are tolerating each other. This may go on for a few weeks or even months. But eventually they will accept each other and bond together. You may find that they don’t ever bond but tolerate each other, this is fine too. You’ll find this more in larger groups of rabbits. Just like people, they don’t get along with everyone and they have their ‘best friends’.

If you find that you have two bunnies that fight constantly and it never settles down, then you probably have two dominant bunnies. This combination is unlikely to work. You might have to consider choosing a different friend for your bun. This scenario is very unlikely, usually the bunnies will sort out their hierarchy eventually and peace will resume.

Another option which might help with bonding the two bunnies is a bumpy car ride. Place both bunnies into a bunny carrier together and set off up your closest gravel road. You may need to stop from time to time to make sure that there is no fighting going on.

Dietary Requirements

Hay

Oathay or teff and grass should make up 80-90% of the diet. A bunny should be allowed all day, unlimited access to hay. Fresh teff or oathay should be supplied every few days.

Bunnies under 6 months of age can also have lucerne added to their diet. This is high in calcium and helps with their growing bones. But after 6 months of age, the calcium content of lucerne is too high for the adult bunny and can lead to illness if given regularly.

Straw should be avoided as a food, as the nutritional content is very low.

The benefits of hay for bunnies

  • Keeps the digestive system constantly moving. This prevents blockages which can be fatal.
  • Helps to keep their constantly growing teeth at the correct length and prevent dental problems
  • Prevents boredom as bunnies are constantly foraging and rearranging the hay to find the best bits
  • Encourages good litterbox habits; they eat and poop at the same time.
Greens and Vegetables

These should make up 15% of the diet. This is roughly 1-2 cups per day per bunny. Have a look at the safe list to work out what you can feed your bun. By feeding a variety of greens and vegetables, you’ll give your bunny a good selection of different vitamins and minerals. You’ll also get to know which are your buns favourites.

PELLETS

Pellets are an extra supplement to a bunny’s diets. One egg cup sized portion of pellets, per bunny, per day is sufficient. If you are feeding fresh hay and a good amount of greens and vegetables, then you may find that you don’t need to add pellets as well. But if you’d like to include them, then use a standard brown pellet brand. These are often sold in bulk at your local animal feeds shop. Avoid buying any muesli mix or pellet mixes, these are not good for bunnies despite manufacturers indicating them as safe for rabbits. Feeding these mixes can lead to health problems and obesity.

TREATS

Keep treats to a minimum for your bunny. They are often high in starch or sugars which aren’t processed well by your buns digestive system. To prevent any health issues only give a small, thumb-sized portion of treats 2 or 3 times a week. Have a look at our treat list to see which items are “better” to feed bunnies as treats.

WATER

Bunnies drink a lot of water. They need unlimited access to fresh water all day and night. Some bunnies can drink from a water bottle if they’ve been taught to use it. But most bunnies prefer to have a large bowl of water to drink from.

LitTERBOX TRAINING

Dealing with the peeps and poops

 

Bunnies make wonderful pets for many reasons, but one in particular is that they are able to be trained to use a litterbox. Training your bunny to use a litterbox can make cleaning their space or enclosure much easier. It is never too late to start teaching your bunny to use a litterbox, it is often simpler to train an older bunny who has been sterilized. Bunnies tend to catch on quickly and it usually doesn’t take too long for them to get into the habit of usingit.

 

You’ll need to first set up the litterbox. Things you’ll need are:

  • Cat litter tray – the deeper and bigger the better
  • Eco-wood pellets – these are optional, but they keep the odour from the litter tray away longer as well as making the cleaning of the tray easier.
  • Hay – which ever hay your bunny is currently eating
  • White vinegar – works really well for removing odour and stains from the litterbox when cleaning.

 

Setup of the litterbox

If you’re using the eco-pellets, sprinkle a handful on the base of the tray. It doesn’t need to cover the base.

Next place the hay on top to fill the tray generously.

Your litterbox is now ready to use.

 

Training

Bunnies tend to eat and poop at the same time. The hay in the litterbox encourages them to sit in the box and eat. If you’re using a net or basket, place the litterbox directly below the hay net. Scoop up any poops which land outside the litterbox and add them into the box.

 

Bunnies also always like to urinate in the same place. If they don’t naturally use the litterbox for this, then you’ll need to encourage them to do so. When they urinate outside the litterbox, take the newspaper or a paper towel soaked with the urine and place it into the litterbox. Clean the area around the litterbox well with the white vinegar to remove the smell of the urine outside the box. You may need to persevere for a few weeks until your bunny gets the hang of using the litterbox. If they really insist on urinating elsewhere, it might be a better idea to move the litterbox to their chosen place instead.

FOOD SAFETY LIST

SAFE

  • Celery leaves and stalks
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Mint
  • Kale
  • Parsley (High in calcium so limited)
  • Spinach
  • Fennel
  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Coriander
  • Rosemary
  • Carrot top greens
  • Nasturtium leaves and flowers
  • Rocket
  • Broccoli leaves (and limited stems and tops as can cause gas and bloating)
  • Clovers
  • Dandelions
  • Dill
  • Watercress
  • Nettle
  • Peppers (red, green and yellow)
  • Willow leaves (dried or fresh and stems)

SUITABLE

  • Carrots
  • Apples (no seeds as these are poisonous)
  • Banana
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Raisins
  • Dried apples, pears, banana

HARMFUL

  • Potatoes
  • Rhubarb
  • Mushrooms
  • Legumes
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts

PREPPING for BUNNIES

BUNNY TOYS!

Bunnies love to chew. Giving them suitable items to gnaw on, helps to deter them from chewing what they’re not supposed to nibble. It also helps to prevent boredom and stimulate them mentally as well as keeping their teeth from growing too long.

A lot of toys can be homemade. Try offering some of the following to keep your bunny entertained:

Cardboard boxes
These are great for chewing and climbing in and out of. Try putting a few together to make a hide out for your bunny or filling them with shredded paper.

Toilet roll with treats
Fill an empty toilet roll with some of your buns favourite treats. Fold in the edges and punch a few holes in the tube. Your bunny will spend a lot of time gnawing away to get at the treat inside.

Pine cones
Pour boiling water over freshly collected pine cones. Soak for a few minutes to get rid of any insects or bugs inside the cone as well the sticky sap. After they’ve soaked, remove and place in a sunny place to air dry. Once completely dry, offer them to your bunny. Bunnies love to push the cone around like a ball. And they’re also safe to chew.

Wood
Untreated pine from the hardware store can be cut into large pieces and is safe for your bunny to gnaw on. Other suitable wood for chewing on are willow, apple and vine branches.

Tunnels
Use an offcut piece of plastic piping, with a wide enough diameter for your bunny to fit in, to make tunnels. Or you can also use a fabric kid’s tunnel. Bunnies love to hide and run through them.

Balls
Plastic balls with bells inside, willow balls or wire pet balls filled with treats are all options for your bun to roll and throw about.

Other toy options
Old telephone books are great for shredding. Egg boxes filled with a treat. Old carpet pieces for chewing on. Paper cups to gnaw on.

Outdoor bunnies

  • Shelter – upturned crates, empty pot plants and open hutches work well
  • Food bowl for pellets
  • Net or basket for hay
  • Water bowl – Bowls are preferable over bottles, although some bunnies do learn to drink from the bottles
  • Secure enclosure or garden to protect the bunny from escaping or from other predators such as birds, cats and dogs. As well as away from an open swimming pool.
  • Food – oathay or teff; pellets and greens
  • Litter box if inside an enclosure

 

Indoor bunnies

  • A safe area within your house for the bunny to call home – possibly with a hutch or cage
  • Bunny-proof any areas where your new bunny will roam – this includes covering wires or lifting items off the floor. Barricading off areas you don’t want the bunny to access.
  • Food bowl for pellets
  • Something to hold the hay, nets or a basket work well.
  • Water bowl – Most bunnies prefer to use a bowl over a bottle.
  • Litterbox
  • Food – oathay or teff; pellets and greens
  • Toys for entertainment.

BUNNY FACTS

Fact No.1

The average life span of a bunny is 8 – 12 years.

Fact No.2

Bunnies are herbivores.

Fact No.3

They belong to the scientific group called Lagomorphs

 

Fact No.4

Their teeth grow continuously throughout their life and need to be worn down by chewing. They have 28 teeth.

Fact No.5

Bunnies are crepuscular. This means that they are most active at dawn and dusk.

Fact No.6

A male bunny is called a buck and a female is known as a doe. Baby bunnies are called kits and collectively they are known as a litter.

Fact No.7

The female doe has a 31 day gestation period and can fall pregnant again directly after giving birth.

Fact No.8

Kits are born blind and deaf. They only begin to open their eyes and can hear around 10-12 days old.

Fact No.9

Mother bunnies only feed their young once a day. They don’t spend any time around the nest and it often looks like they are neglecting their young. They behave like this to protect the kits from predators by not drawing attention to the nest.

Fact No.10

Bunnies can turn their ears around 180 degrees.

Fact No.11

Bunnies ‘binky’ when they’re happy. This act of joy is characterised by a hop in the air, twist of the body, and kicking of the feet.

Fact No.12

They are social animals who like the company of their own species. Single rabbits can become lonely.

Q

Fact No.13

Bunnies and guinea pigs don’t make good companions. Although similar in size, the species should be kept apart. Both animals use different methods of communication, so they can’t understand each other and they need different diets. Rabbits can and do injure guinea pigs.

Fact No.14

Being a prey animal, bunnies don’t show weakness or that they are ill. So the best way to tell the health of your bun is by their poops.

Fact No.15

Bunnies cannot vomit.

Fact No.16

Bunnies need to digest some of their food twice therefore healthy bunnies eat soft “cecotropes” poops, these look like a bunch of grapes. The hard, round pellets poops you see are from the second round of digestion.

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