Taylor's Bunnies

What you MUST know to provide the best care for your Flemish Giant bunny...

Most people do not understand what is entailed in caring for a bunny. Like cats or dogs, bunnies make loving companions, but have specific needs that differ from other domestic pets. The following are words of advice that we have learned in our rabbitry and information that we have acquired along the way while raising bunnies, and would like to share with other potential bunny families

Housing your bunny indoors –

Bunnies can be housed indoors or outdoors and should never be kept completely confined to a cage. Exercise is vital for the health of your bunny. A cage can be used as a home base for part of the day or it can be open all the time within an exercise area. To keep a bunny as a pet in your home you will need a hutch or crate. It should be large enough that the bunny can move about freely and be able to stretch out fully. If the bunny is going to spend most of his time inside this crate, he will need space to play and exercise. Also, you must allow room for a litter box, water dish or bottle, food dish and toys. It is best to avoid a crate that has a floor where a bunny might get his feet caught or a slippery floor.

Never use carpeting to line a bunny hutch. Bunnies tend to chew things and ingesting carpeting can cause a dangerous, life threatening blockage in their digestive system.

Pet bunnies can be provided free reign, with supervision, in a bunny proofed room, such as a spare bedroom or an office. A section of the room should contain their litter boxes, hay box, and food dishes on top of a plastic chair mat to catch any spills or accidents. They will enjoy the freedom of exploring at a leisurely pace or taking a top speed run whenever they choose to. Cardboard castles can be provided for them if they feel the need to get away for a while.

A great option to consider is setting up a puppy-pen (or X-pen) in an area of your house for your bunny. A puppy-pen can be purchased at many pet supply stores.

Some people prefer cages with wire bottoms because a litter pan can be placed underneath. This is generally fine, but you need to include a piece of plywood for the bunny to stand/lie on. Standing on the wire floor alone can cause damage and discomfort to your bunny's paws.

Because of their size, Flemish Giants require a little extra consideration and care than their smaller "cousins". They need a larger cage than the average bunny. The cage should allow the bunny to stand up on its hind legs without hitting the top of the cage, provide a resting area and space for a litter box. The habitat should be at least four times the size of your bunny. To give them the space to grow and be comfortable, the cage should be minimum of 24" high, 30" deep and 48" wide. (Bigger is better!) A larger door is needed on the cage to make sure the bunny can easily be removed. We recommend a 20" tall x 16" wide doorway. The cage should be cleaned once a week with warm water and soap for your bunny’s health as well as to control urine odor.

Housing your bunny outdoors –

 

All bunnies need to be protected from direct sun, wind, rain and extreme temperatures. Most bunnies and especially the Flemish Giant do very well outdoors. The Flemish can handle cold temperatures, but don't like the heat. Temperatures above 90*F. can be difficult on them and may result in death. Direct sun can damage their fur. In very warm weather, a 2-liter soda bottles can be filled with water, freeze them and lay them in the cages. The bunnies will lay against them and even over them to cool themselves.

There is a lot of discussion about what kind of floor the Flemish Giant needs in the cage. Most bunnies are comfortable on wire floors that allow droppings to fall through. Though because of their size and weight, the Flemish can develop sores on their hocks (back feet) if left on a wire floor. Some breeders keep their Giants on solid wood floors with bedding like straw or shavings. This bedding has to be changed often (at least every 3 days) to prevent disease and eliminate any buildup of waste and odor. If you choose to use a wire cage floor, cover 3/4 of the cage floor with plywood (or 1/2" thick white sheetrock/wallboard) that can be lifted out, cleaned or replaced, this will allow your bunny to "rest" their feet.

In addition, make sure the cage is secure from predators such as dogs, cats, coyotes and raccoons and is kept clean to keep from attracting parasitic insects. To protect against predators, it is best to provide a complete second enclosure a foot away from the outside of your bunny’s cage.

Trips outdoors –

While taking your bunny outside for short, structured and supervised visits use the following tips: Know the area that you are taking your bunny. Many areas use pesticides on grass and weed killer in gardens, both of which can harm or kill your bun.

Predators are also a concern outside. Dogs, birds, raccoons and other creatures can harm your bunny. Although they may not attack your bunny, he/she may die from the stress of being frightened by a potential predator.

Heat is a big concern when taking your bunny for some outside fun. Be sure that you recognize the signs of heat stroke.

Some plants may be poisonous to your bunny.

Bugs! Mosquitoes and flies may bite your bunny and can potentially transmit diseases. Check your bun for ticks and other bugs after being outside.

Litter training your bunny –

Litter training a bunny is surprisingly easy. Bunnies will tend to choose a corner inside their new hutch to use as their toilet. Simply place the litter box in that corner, put some of the bunny's droppings in the litter box and bunny will almost always simply start using it on his own.

It is important to note that you cannot use clumping litters, like you can with a cat. As part of its digestive maintenance, bunnies consume some of their own droppings. This recycles vital bacteria they need to digest food. If they were to ingest clumping litter it could cause a blockage that would cause serious health problems or even death.

Many people choose cedar or other shavings for bunny litter. Scented litters are not recommended, as they could make bunny sick. Another problem with these kinds of litter is that it simply gets everywhere and makes a mess. Do not use corncob, walnut shell shavings or clay litters. A pelleted paper product is recommended. Litters made out of recycled newspaper, such as "Yesterday's News" are an excellent choice for bunny litter.

Water for your bunny –

Water must be made available to bunnies at all times. Some bunnies prefer drinking from a water bottle, others prefer a water dish. If you choose a dish or bowl, make sure it is heavy enough that bunny can't knock it over or pick it up to move it (bunnies like to re-arrange things in their space). In either case, be sure the water is always fresh and clean.

Feeding your bunny –

Feeding bunny is actually very simple. Timothy hay is one of the most important parts of a bunny's diet. Fresh hay should make up the bulk of your bunny's diet and needs to be readily available at all times. Adult bunnies can eat timothy, grass, and oat hays, while younger bunnies should be fed alfalfa. Alfalfa should not be given to adult bunnies because of the higher protein and sugar content. Hay is important for bunnies because it provides the essential fiber needed for good digestive health and it helps wear down a bunny's teeth (which continuously grow) for good dental health. Placing hay at one end of a litter box will also encourage the use of the litter box, as bunnies tend to eat hay and poop at the same time.

The bunny feed should have a minimum protein content of 15-17% (check the label). The Flemish do better on a 17% protein diet due to their rapid growth and large size. It is recommended to feed your bunny ¼ cup per 5 lbs. body weight per day. Treats should be fed sparingly. Don't overdo the treats. Obesity will severely shorten your bunny’s lifespan.

Feed your bunny once in the morning and once at night. In between the day, you may give it a few veggies. Though only introduce a new food item only over a 4-5 day time period and only in small quantities. Large quantities of vegetables may cause loose stools, which may be detrimental to your bunny’s life.

Your bunny may enjoy some of the following vegetables in small quantities, after being washed thoroughly:

Basil

Bok choy

Broccoli leaves (stems or tops can make bunnies gassy)

Carrot tops (carrots are high in calcium and should be given sparingly)

Celery

Cilantro

Clover

Collard greens

Dandelion leaves

Dill

Kale (sparingly)

Lettuce - romaine or dark leaf (no iceberg lettuce and no cabbage)

Mint

Mustard greens

Parsley

Water cress

**Lettuce is not a good food or treat and should never be fed to your bunny. It can cause loose stools and severe digestive problems and has no nutritional value.

**Do not feed your bunny items high in carbohydrates like breads, crackers, pasta, pretzels, cookies, chips, or cereal.

**Although branded for bunnies, many commercially-sold bunny treats are high in fat and sugar, such as yogurt chips, and should not be given.

**Never give chocolate as it is toxic to bunnies.

Fruit is the best option for a treat, but again you should give it only in small amounts because of the sugar content. It is best to purchase organic fruits, that you know are free of pesticides, and wash the fruits thoroughly.

Some fruits that bunnies enjoy include:

Strawberries

Raspberries

Bananas

Pineapple

Apples (no seeds)

 

Care and cleaning –

Clean the hutch lightly on a weekly basis. Deep clean the hutch on a monthly basis or as needed. Keep the pet bunny healthy by keeping its surroundings meticulously clean. Empty litter pans, rinse and refill daily to keep odors down.

Bunnies are clean animals by nature. They are always grooming and taking care of their fur. However, you can groom a bunny with a soft bristled brush for small animals. Use the grooming

time to check for fur loss and parasites like fleas and ticks. Trim the bunny’s toenails using small animal nail clippers. Start trimming the toenails when the bunny is young to make this process easier. Keep a bunny healthier and more social with proper grooming habits.

When your bunny sheds during a molt, you can decrease the length of time for this shedding by using a "damp-hand" technique. Many times, brushing will only get rid of some fur so, you can get a damp paper towel and run it over the bunny and then use your hand and run it over. You will find that a lot of its fur has been caught on your hand. At this time of the year, give your bunny extra hay. Because it is constantly grooming itself, it will eat a lot of its fur. Without hay, your bunny can stop eating and go into GI stasis and starve.

Unless your bunny is extremely dirty or has soiled itself, do NOT give it a bath. If it is absolutely necessary, take a large basin and place a towel underneath so the bunny can have some traction. Fill it with 1-2 inches of water and slowly wet your bunny. It will try to jump out, but just keep reassuring it. Eventually it will calm down. It won't like it no matter what, but it will calm down. Remember that cold air or water can cause the bunny to go into shock and that bunnies can develop pneumonia easily. So be cautious about drafts and keeping your bunny wet for long periods of time.Socializing with your bunny –

Socialize a bunny with other pets in the home. Bunnies are very social animals and isolation will cause stress and possible illness. Introduce other pets by rubbing the bunny then allowing the other pet to smell your hands. Move the pets closer together under complete supervision. Do not rush the process of introducing pets to each other.

Play with your bunny. The life of a bunny can be very boring and dull if it is not stimulated. Spend at least 30 minutes a day just petting it, kissing it, playing with it. Since bunnies are often shy and cautious creatures, this time will help develop a bond between the two of you. It will allow him to trust you more. Make sure you give it toys. They love unprocessed wood, paper, newspaper, empty paper towel rolls. Also, by giving them these items to chew, it will keep them away from your electrical cords.

Never hit your bunny. Sometimes, they are unforgiving creatures. If it bites or nips at you, you can make a loud noise and tell him no! Usually, he will understand that what he did was wrong. You can also use a squirt bottle filled with water and lightly spray the bunny when this nipping occurs. Most of the time, they do not know the strength of their own bite. It takes patience and a lot of hard work to create a close bond. When you do, it will be very rewarding.

Health of your bunny –

Bunnies will not tell you when something is wrong. Bunnies innately tend to hide their illnesses and injuries. This may be a good survival tactic in the wild, but for domestic bunnies, hiding their symptoms only misleads their caretakers and prevents prompt medical attention. You have to get to know your bunny, so you can see when something is a little "off", and take care of it, before it becomes an emergency.

If your bunny stops eating or drinking in their normal routine, displays any respiratory draining, sneezing with drainage, or any behavior out of their usual routine, seek veterinary guidance immediately! Bunny illnesses can be fatal if not taken care of in a timely manner by an experienced bunny veterinarian. Be sure to find a good veterinarian before your bunny gets sick. When your bunny is ill, you need help quickly and you won't have time to "shop" for a vet.

Bunnies can suffer from a range of diseases. The following list is not an alternative to seeing a qualified vet, but might help you identify some of the most common health problems that your bunny might be having. coccidiosis:A protozoan infection in a bunny's gastrointestinal tract. One of the primary symptoms of coccidiosis is severe diarrhea (in bunnies, this often takes the form of soft or jelled droppings), which can lead to dehydration, weight loss, poor weight gain, and/or liver damage. Coccidiosis is caused by coccidia, protozoan parasites, and is usually spread from one bunny to another through a bunny's excrement or through soiled food or bedding. The coccidian organism is thought by some to reside naturally in a bunny's digestive system without problem, but becomes more prolific when the bunny is under stress or in crowded conditions.

 

gastrointestinal (GI) stasis:  

A slowdown or stoppage of movement in the intestines of a bunny. A bunny's gut is generally very active, and when movement stops, it causes blockages in the intestines and the buildup of harmful bacteria in the bunny's caecum, which will likely lead to the bunny's death if not treated. Symptoms of GI stasis, or gastro stasis, include lack of appetite, small droppings, and liquidy or jell-like caecotropes, or no droppings. GI stasis can occur if a bunny doesn't get enough crude fiber (such as from timothy hay) or water or if the bunny stops eating altogether (often due to stress or pain).

parasite: A small creature that feeds on a living host. Common parasites that plague bunnies are e. cuniculi, ear mites, fur mites, pinworms, roundworms, and warbles. snuffles:

An infection of the respiratory system in bunnies. Snuffles often include such symptoms as a runny nose and watery eyes. Some bunnies with snuffles have matted fur on their front paws, due to repeatedly wiping their noses. Snuffles can be caused by a variety of bacterial infections, including some that can be treated, such as bordetella, staph, and strep. Some cases of snuffles are caused by the proliferation of pasterella bacteria and are not easily treated.

sore hocks: A condition in which a patch of fur on the legs or feet of a bunny wears away, exposing skin and in some cases bone. Often, the bunny can develop sores or abscesses on the exposed skin as a result. It's thought that sore hocks can be caused when a bunny is kept in a wire cage but doesn't have a flat surface to rest upon. Sore hocks typically occur on the hind legs or feet, but a bunny's front legs or feet can also develop sores or abscesses.

Things your "bunny medicine chest" must include –

I am not a veterinarian, and recommend that you seek the guidance of a veterinarian immediately if your bunny displays any symptoms that are out of the "usual behavior" for them. Though while you are waiting on getting your bunny in to see their veterinarian, you may try some of these recommendations at home: Ivomec – (for internal and external parasites) - comes in the injectable form, but given by mouth to your bunny, at least every six months or more often if your bunny is exposed frequently to other animals.

Corid – (for coccidiosis) – added to water to prevent or to treat the protozoan infection in a bunny's gastrointestinal tract. Important to give in times of stress or exposed frequently to other animals. Povidone-iodine – (for sore hocks) - apply to sore hocks that your bunny may get from improper cage floors or from repeated stomping of their back feet.

Pineapple juice concentrate – (for bunnies that stop drinking) - dilute with water according to guidelines on can and then mix that concentrate again with water 50/50. Many bunnies that have stopped drinking from their bottle or crock will drink this mixture. It is vital for your bunny to remain hydrated.

Critical Care by Oxbow – (for bunnies that stop eating) – this can be purchased by a veterinarian and the packet kept on hand for when needed. Mix according to directions and feed to your bunny via a large bore syringe. The smell of this mixture usually encourages a bunny to eat it. These nutrients will give your bunny the proper nutrition until you can take them to their veterinarian.

Toys for your bunny –

Don't forget the toys. Bunnies are playful and love to chew on things and tear them apart. Cardboard boxes make excellent toys for bunnies. Make sure that you remove staples, tape or any other plastic from them before giving them to bunny. The cardboard inside rolls of paper towels are also very popular with bunnies. Provide solid hardwood toys for the bunny to chew on and prevent the over growth of the incisors.

Spay or neuter –

If you do not plan on breeding your bunny, it is important to spay or neuter you bunny to allow companionship with other animals. Bunnies have a strong sex drive and will mount or become aggressive with other pets if not neutered. Find a veterinarian that specializes in small animals to perform the surgery.

Handling –

The first and most important rule of picking up a bunny is to never pick him/her up by the ears, legs or tail. The second rule to remember is that bunnies are fragile. They are quick indeed, but have weak skeletal systems. Thirdly, bunnies do not always enjoy being picked up. Some of them will tolerate it, but many will struggle when you try to lift them.

Techniques to hand ling your bunny:

Approach your bunny slowly and get down to his/her level. It will help put your bun at ease. Petting the bunny will also have a calming effect.

When you feel confident your bunny is ready to be picked up, scoop him/her up by placing a hand under the torso and pull your bunny close to your body.

Support the bunny's hindquarters. Your bunny needs to feel secure in your arms.

If your bunny struggles when being picked up, hold him/her firmly, but be ready to put him/her down. Your bunny may think the better alternative to being held is to leap from your arms, but this can cause serious injury.

When putting your bunny down, slowly squat down while holding your bunny close, and let him/her down gently.

Your bunny may respond with a thump or may kick up his/her hind legs at you while scampering away. It's nothing personal; he/she just disapproves of being picked up.

The main thing to remember is to always support the hindquarters to prevent serious spinal injury. Bunny backbones are fragile and can fracture or dislocate most often resulting in paralysis of both rear legs. These injuries can also occur when bunnies are suddenly frightened and attempt to escape from a small enclosure. When a bunny becomes frightened, it violently struggles while powerfully kicking its back legs. You should never try to overpower a struggling bunny. If your bunny violently resists physical restraint, it should be immediately released and approached later when it has calmed down.

 

Clipping our bunny’s nailsClipping your bunny's nails may seem a daunting task. And many bunny owners elect to let their veterinarian handle it. Frequent vet visits can get expensive, however. So here is some advice on trimming your bunny's nails yourself.

It is easier to trim your bunny's nails quickly and effectively when the bunny is properly restrained. If possible, ask someone to assist you and then wrap your bunny in a towel to reduce movement and to isolate each paw. Your bunny may also tolerate being turned over on their back and having their nails trimmed in that position.

Examine the claw to locate the quick, or the vein. Some bunny nails are quite dark, so you will need a small flashlight to see it. Cutting the quick will cause your pet to experience some pain, and he/she will bleed. So your objective is to cut just below the quick. If you do accidentally trim the nails too short, use flour or styptic powder to stop the bleeding.

Bunny-proofing your home -

In order to protect your house bunny, as well as your home, you need to bunny proof. Bunnies love to dig and chew but need to do so in a nondestructive manner.

Providing many toys can help dissuade your bunny from chewing on your belongings; when your bunny is occupied he/she will be less inclined to be destructive. Supervision is also the key.

Dealing with naughty behavior –

Don’t ever hit a bunny. It’s cruel and they don’t understand why they are in trouble. They can also become very angry and aggressive if provoked. Always be consistent when disciplining a bunny and don’t expect too much from them. Here are some humane things to try if your bunny is being ornery:

●Shout "no" or clap your hands.

●Thump your foot like another bunny.

Spaying or neutering, bunny proofing your house, and providing plenty of toys often reduces undesirable behavior. Instead of punishing bad behavior, it’s usually far more effective to use positive reinforcement for desirable behavior.

Bunny behavior –

Tooth grinding.Loud tooth grinding is a sign of pain. Note: This tooth grinding is different from the less-loud "tooth purring" you may hear when you snuggle and kiss Bun's face!

Bunny hop or dance.

A sign of pure joy and happiness. The bunny’s "dancing" can include leaping and/or spinning in the air, racing around, etc.

Bunny flop.

A bunny flop is very comical and indicates a contented – or tired – bunny.

Chinning.  

Bunnies rub their chins (which contain scent glands) on items to get their scent on them. This behavior indicates that the items belong to them and also defines their territory. The scent is undetectable to humans.

Thumping or stomping. 

The bunny is frightened, mad, or sensing danger (real or imagined).

Circling your feet.

This usually indicates sexual behavior (even when your bunny is neutered) but basically it means "I love you."

Playing.Bunnies like to push or toss objects around. They may also race madly around the house, jump on and off the furniture, and act like children who have had too much sugar. Bunnies love toys and will play for hours with a favorite toy.

Grunting.

 

If your bunny grunts, it usually means she is angry – and possibly feels threatened. Sometimes, grunting is followed by a nip or bite. Some bunnies do not like it when you rearrange their cages as you clean; they may grunt, charge or even nip you when you try. They are creatures of habit and once they get things just right, they like them to remain that way.

Nipping/biting.

A nip is gentler than a bite. Bunnies will nip to get your attention, or to politely ask you to move out of their way. Bunnies usually do not bite, but if one does, generally it doesn’t mean that he hates you. There are many reasons that might cause a bunny to bite; for example, he might bite if you grab at him or surprise him. A bunny may also accidentally bite

while tugging at your pant leg. Another reason bunnies bite is that they have poor up-close vision, so they may think that your finger coming toward them is food – or a predator.

To put a stop to bunny bites, immediately let out a shrill cry when you are bitten. Bunnies do this when they are hurt. Since they usually do not intend to hurt you, they will be surprised that you have cried out and will usually stop the behavior after a few times.

 

Spraying.

Un-neutered males will mark female bunnies and their territory by spraying them with urine. Unspayed females can also indulge in this behavior.

Territorial droppings. Droppings that are not in a pile, but are scattered about, are signs that this territory belongs to the bunny. This behavior will sometimes occur when the bunny enters a new environment or if another bunny is brought into the house. It may be temporary or ongoing. Droppings in piles indicate that the bunny needs more litter box training.

Bunnies make wonderful, quiet and gentle pets. Most bunnies have a docile disposition and are great family pets. If you think a bunny might be the pet of choice for your family, be sure to read all the information you can before purchasing your bunny.

TAYLOR’S BERRIES & BUNNIES

7/28/11 TBB