One of my pet peeves is seeing the accepted practice of keeping rabbits confined in cages and hutches.
Recently I have met a 4H leader with many kids taking instruction on rabbit husbandry and keeping all of the bunnies in dinky little cages.
Rabbits are intelligent, playful, inquisitive, and active animals. They need room to exercise so their muscles don’t atrophy and their minds become dull. They should no more be stuck in a cage than you would keep a cat or dog in a cage.
But when people meet my house bunnies (for they are as easy to litter box train as a cat) they are so surprised at the personable-ness of rabbits. I have heard the comment “but they always just SIT there and do nothing” since most people have only encountered jailed rabbits. Would not your mind go to mush if that were your life?
I think everyone who takes a rabbit as a pet should get a copy of “the House Rabbit Handbook” by Marinelle Hartman, since it is the most comprehensive and humane guide out there for the understanding of these wonderful pets.
I couldn’t agree more. We adopted a rabbit a couple of months ago only to find her previous owners had kept her in a dry fish tank. Her legs were stiff and she couldn’t move about well. In the time we’ve had “Sweetie” she’s regained her ability to hop and climb. She moves pretty darned fast now. I can’t imagine keeping her cooped up in a cage.
My kids (Dolce 13 1/2 year old dwarf bunny & Bella, 7 3/4 old New Zeland) have always been house rabbits since babies. The House Rabbit Handbook and the House Rabbit Society website are excellent resources for anyone thinking to adopt a house bun. I tell anyone considering getting a bunny to think of it as having a perpetual 2 year old running around. Both of my now geriatric buns have mobility issues (Bella has a wheelie (dog wheelchair) to get around and Dolce has arthritis), but they are still expressive, happy, affectionate, healthy eating and pooping buns. Rabbits are extremely social animals with each other and with people. They become members of the family, just like a dog or a cat owner. We can’t travel without taking them because of their special needs now, but I will forever be grateful for their love and companionship. Thanks for a great article!
I, too, hate seeing bunnies just kept cooped up in cages! Once we are out in the country and have our land, we plan to get rabbits. We are all so excited! Thanks for posting this.
I couldn’t agree more. Although I am currently working on my setup to start raising meat rabbits, my primary focus will be the health and happiness of each and every rabbit in my care. Just like other livestock, I am grateful for the lives they give in order to put meat on our table. I consider it my sacred duty to ensure quality of life for as long as that may be. When it comes time to butcher, it is always done as humanely as possible. I believe in loving not just our pets but also animals intended for food. They deserve good food, fresh water, fresh air, plenty of exercise and loads of attention. Oh sure there is always the “attachment” issue but it should be an issue. Slaughter should never be easy. If we choose to eat meat, we should honor the life which provides it.
Unfortunately, rabbits are one of the more difficult livestock to keep and raise. Yes, they can be pets and are WONDERFUL pets! I have many, most of which rotate through house time with the family. I also have livestock rabbits. I find it necessary to differentiate for my own mental well-being.
Most sexually-mature, unaltered rabbits are not naturally inclined to get along well with one another. With careful personality matching, I have found it possible to raise some of my does in a colony setting, and it is my preferred way to humanely raise my dinner. They get to be rabbits, running and playing, and when they are well matched they seem to enjoy one another’s company. The males must be kept separate and in individual cages due to the fact that they either tend to fight viciously if kept together, or procreate endlessly if kept with females, but I find them to be the most friendly and personable so they are the ones most frequently brought in for play time. It balances out.
Not everyone does that, though, and I can’t judge. Wire cages are clean, sanitary, and prevent the rabbits from fighting and hurting each other, or escaping and being killed and injured by predators. Why would you be opposed to that? Not everyone raises rabbits as pets, just as not everyone raises poultry or cows or pigs as pets. As meat animals, they should be well kept and cared for, but you can’t expect great lengths to be put into developing their personalities and getting to know and love them.
I have to agree that caring for rabbits takes a special person. It is disheartening that most people think rabbits are just another rodent, when really they are unique and special creatures. My bunnies have an exciting diet of many different types of greens and herbs (that are approved by HRS!) and lots and lots of Timothy Hay! No fruity treats high in sugar (carrots are high in sugar and can make them fat and cause deadly bowel problems, along with other sugary fruits!). My bunnies are happy and healthy. They live in a very large cage made for birds that have shelves they can hop up onto and ‘perch’. They love stretching out. When they get their exercise (everyday) they run around in our bunny-proofed house through tunnels and forts that are actually toddler toy tents that used to be our son’s before he grew out of them. The rabbits love it, they run around really fast and jump up in the air (binky) and find corners with safe boxes to nibble on (they think they are getting away with secret naughty chewing but they are really chewing on what they are allowed, reverse bunny psychology!). We have had Theodore and Smoky for almost three years and look forward to keeping them much longer. Thank you for referencing HRS in this post, very important!!! 🙂
Our bunnies get to run in the house! The are alternated daily! We build muscles by letting the bunnies run stairs and the love to do that! They are about to get three play land areas! Two done like dog runs with fun adventurous things to do! One inside and one outside for when we are gardening! We are also getting a double deck play area with ramps on them too!
Our one buck got sick with his lungs and spent a month in our bedroom being taken care of as we almost lost him! Lots of love and diffused oils to keep his lungs open and he pulled through and is bigger and more muscles than before he got sick! We love on our animals! Other breeders think we are crazy!!!
We are considering raising rabbits as small livestock for meat. I’ve been reading everything I can find. There are a variety of housing possibilites but one that sounds nice is a rabbit barn.
Another homesteader has their rabbits in chicken tractor type housing, moving it from time to time to fertilize the soil. In an article taken from the summer issue of urban farm magazine by Sharon Biggs Waller wrote, “Pasturing rabbits works if you place them in movable pens with slatted floors, set about 1-1/2 inches apart, so the grass can poke through the slats and manure can roll out.” (The pen should be about 4’ wide)
I’ve purchased one issue of the magazine, “Urban Farm”. Although I’m in a rural area we only have 0.52 acre of land. We have 17 chickens and are in our second year with 2 of them, 15 are chicks. This magazine deals with small spaces. I was very happy with the summer 2010 issue which had information on raising goats in a small space. They provided the link to “The Goat Justice League” which has provided great information. Looks like a wonderful magazine I will probably subscribe to.