Thank you for buying a rabbit from Honeyville Hollands Rabbitry! You will love having a Holland as a pet!
Here are just a few tips to ensure a successful transition from our rabbitry to your home, but if you ever have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to email or contact me any time. We want this transition to be a wonderful one for both you and your new pet!
1. First they need feed.
Right now I am feeding your bunny IFA brand rabbit food. You may use a different feed, but you will need to slowly wean your rabbit off of my feed and onto yours. Do not buy a different kind each time. They need consistency with their feed. I will explain later how to wean your rabbit off their feed. (Please do not purchase feed from PETSMART. We lost an entire litter of babies off of bad feed from their store. They do not rotate their feed and feed does go bad. In fact, if you are purchasing a large bag of feed (it is cheaper to buy the big bags than the small bags), you need to watch your feed for signs of molding. If your feed starts to clump together or smell funny, throw it away and buy a new bag! You may not go through it fast enough for it to stay good. It will kill your Holland. It is important to even check new bags of feed to make sure that it is fresh.
I add a special conditioning treat to their feed every day. This treat is part of the reason for the extremely soft coat and if you would like to continue with the treat that I use, here are the ingredients:
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (This is like bird food that can be purchased at IFA)
Oats (They love the oats! These are just your regular Quaker brand oats you can buy at the grocery store)
Show Bloom (This is a pellet that gives them extra nutrients. It has to be special ordered from rabbit specialty stores online. This is not necessary for the mixture. It's just an added bonus. You can put together the treats without it.)
Wheat Germ Oil (This is purchased at IFA as well. You just pour some over the top of the mixture and stir it all together.)
This is an incredible treat that they absolutely love and it is good for them. They don't need a whole lot. I usually just sprinkle it on the top of my regular food. If you don't want to go to all of this trouble, just sprinkling the oats on top of their feed once a day will also be sufficient.
3. Timothy Hay.
They also need unlimited Timothy Hay. This is CRITICAL to their digestive system. If they start to get loose stools, you can bet they aren't getting enough Timothy hay. It can make them very ill. The cheapest way to buy this is from IFA in the compressed bale, but you can get it almost anywhere.
Straight alfalfa is usually too rich for them. If you give them too much hay on the floor, they will mess in it and it will need to be removed.
4. Vegetables and Fruit-
DO NOT FEED GREENS OR VEGETABLES to your bunny until it is at LEAST 6 months old. Baby rabbits are very susceptible to entiritis (diarrhea) since their digestive systems are so sensitive. Fiber intake is very important to preventing enteritis (hay), as is a consistent diet. You are not doing your bunny any favors by giving him 'treats' too soon.
DO NOT EVER FEED YOUR RABBIT LETTUCE! It will kill them! You should also avoid broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, or anything that's high in water or acid content.
That being said, my rabbits love bananas and kale. I try to alternate between the two about every other day after they are six months old. They will come running when they smell either of these things! Too much bananas can give them loose stools, but just a few slices every few days are good for them and they absolutely love it! They can also eat the banana peels when you strip them off in slices!
5. Salt Lick
You should also have a salt lick attached somewhere inside of the cage. This helps them with their digestive system and with keeping their teeth ground down.
Last, but certainly not least is their water! You must have a constant source of fresh, clean, water. If the water is warm or gross, your rabbit will not drink and dehydration is a serious problem. Just because their is water in their water bottle does not mean that it does not need to be changed. Make sure you give them fresh, cool water daily and that they do not run out during the summer and it doesn't freeze during the winter! I add 1/2 a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to our Holland's water every day. This has several health benefits and helps prevent wry neck in older rabbits.
How to Feed Your Bunny
First, feed your bunny at the same time every day! Rabbits need consistency and they should have a regular schedule for feeding.
How to Change from One Feed to Another Feed: Days 1 and 2 feed only the old food. Then gradually add a small amount of the new food to the old food and mix it together. Continue this process, slowly adding more of your new feed than your old feed. This should take about 5 days. Do not change over too quickly! Watch your pellets for any signs of mold. Throw it away if it starts to clump or smell funny. Mold will kill your rabbit!
Store your feed in air tight containers. This is CRITICAL for maintaining good feed. I use food storage buckets with the turning lids that keep all moisture out of the feed at all times. It will save your bunnies and your pocketbook since your food will never go bad.
Some people choose to free feed their rabbit, meaning that pellets are always available. Others feed once or twice a day. A rule of thumb is 1 oz of pellet per pound of rabbit. If your rabbit is skinny or too fat, adjust accordingly. In my rabbitry, I measure the pellets, giving about 1/3 to 1/2 a cup to each rabbit. I free feed does with litters.
Remember, rabbits do eat their night feces. This is a normal and vital part of the rabbit's diet, which ensures the animal gets the correct vitamins and bacteria for healthy digestion. You may see your rabbit doing this in the early morning. These droppings look a little different. They are called cecatropes. These can stick sometimes to the bottoms of your babies. This is NOT the same as diarrhea. You can clean it off with a little toilet paper if you need to.
A constant supply of fresh, clean water is vital to your rabbit's health. If your rabbit lives outside in the winter and the water freeze, you must make sure to remove the ice. Also, make sure that the ball at the bottom of your water bottle does not freeze. The water may look fine, but the ball will freeze first, making the water unavailable to the bunny. Licking the ice will not quench your rabbit's thirst! Water bottles are good for keeping the water clean. All of my babies have been trained on the water bottles. I have found that the dishes just tend to spill and then they go without. However, there are many breeders that prefer the crocks and that is just fine too.
Shelter: Your bunny has been very spoiled at our rabbitry. We have had them in an air conditioned/ heated barn since the day they were born. They can survive outside of this environment, but you will need to take precautions against the weather here in Utah. As long as your hutch provides shelter from cold winds, drafts, heat, and rain, your rabbit should be fine. There is a huge danger to rabbits in the summer from overheating. If it is a hot summer day, make sure your bunny is kept somewhere shady and cool. A frozen 2 liter pop bottle can be put in the cage to help keep the temperature down. I recommend having two available per cage. One should always be in the freezer so you can switch them out. They will lay next to the bottle to keep themselves cool. However, this might not be enough. They have to have shade as well, and if it's a particularly hot day, keep a close eye on them. The signs that they are overheating are: moisture under the nose, strange noises or behavior, being too lethargic. If your bunny is exhibiting these signs, you must move quickly! Get them out of the heat! Lightly spray them down with cool water! Change out their water for cold water. They cannot sweat, so overheating can happen VERY quickly! Please take proper precautions. You should NEVER have your Holland exposed to the elements in an all wire cage. They must have a cage that will provide shade and shelter from wind and rain and sun.
Your rabbit can be kept in a wire floor hutch if it is inside a shelter like a barn or your home. (Make sure it is 1x2cm rabbit wire on the floor!) I personally prefer the wire cages. They clean and sanitize much easier than the wood and the rabbits can't chew on them. This helps them smell better and last longer. You also want urine guards around the edges to avoid accidents with spraying. Then, you want nice, deep trays below for the feces and urine to drop into. Anything with a Duratry is ideal!
If your cage has a wire floor, you should have a resting mat somewhere in the cage. This will help keep your rabbit from getting what we call "Sore hocks." Standing all day on the wire can cause your bunny pain. A resting mat can be as official as a store bought one or as simple as a piece of tile or plyboard in a corner of their cage.
No matter what kind of cage you have, you must keep it clean! Keep the cage cleaned a few times a week or it will start to smell and could cause health problems for your rabbit. I prefer the wire bottom cages myself, as it lets the droppings and urine fall through so the rabbit stays clean.
Some rabbits can be litter trained but I can't say I've tried this myself. When your rabbit is loose in the house, watch him at all times. Rabbits love to chew on wires, which obviously are extremely dangerous. My bunnies love to kick up their feet in the house from time to time.
Please be extra cautious when introducing rabbits to other pets. Many dogs regard rabbits as a prey animal and will not hesitate to kill them.
Your rabbit will get bored, not unlike any other pet you might have. When they are bored, they can form bad habits like chewing on the cage or throwing their food around! It is always a good idea to have toys or safe items in their cages for them to chew. There are all kinds of things out there that can be used for your bunny. A simple piece of wood for them to chew on is always a good idea. This will also help them keep their teeth the appropriate length. They also love to chew on cardboard, and it does not hurt them. They will love having a toilet paper roll filled with Timothy hay that they can roll around and munch on! My Hollands also enjoy soft balls that they can push around and even throw around! You can purchase mobiles or hanging toys that are either wood or food. There are several edible toys you can purchase online or at local stores as well.
Bunnies are not like cats and dogs. They are friendly, but don't often demand attention. They have sharp claws and will use them if they don't feel they are being held securely. I find it easiest to pick up my rabbits with one hand under the front arms and the other supporting the rear. Never leave the rear of a rabbit hanging loose, because if it struggles, it could easily twist and break it's own back. (This is also how you or your children will get scratched.) They feel like they are falling if their hind legs are not being supported and they will kick and struggle. It took a while for my kids to get the hang of how to properly hold their baby bunnies. When they are held correctly, they will settle right in and not struggle at all. They do tend to do a leap whenever you try to put them back into their cages. I have been scratched in this process before, but it is never intentional with my rabbits! If you try backing them into their cages so they can't see where they are going, it can eliminate this problem. That way they don't do the flying leap to get back home!
Tipping them on their back in your lap is what they call "putting your rabbit to sleep." It is the calmest position for your bunny if it is done correctly. This is another fun way to snuggle with your bunny.
Once you pick up your Holland, quickly tuck the rabbit close to your body. If the rabbit struggles, tuck it's head under your arm and it will settle. The rabbit should be held firmly, but not so tight that it can't breathe or is uncomfortable.
Your babies have been held and held often from the day they were born. They are very tame and enjoy the company of people. As long as you continue to give them attention and love, they will be wonderful little pets for you and your children.
Your Holland should have time and space to move around. I recommend a good sized cage and then a supervised area for stretching their legs as often as possible. We have a covered dog run that we spread hay around the ground and we give our rabbits turns for exercise. We also let them run loose in our yard when we are outside and we can watch them. Just make sure that they have shade when you are giving them run around time. Being out in the direct sunlight can kill them very quickly. We usually reserve our exercise time for early morning or evening when it is a bit cooler outside and the danger of heat is not as extreme.
You can also take your bunny for walks on small animal leashes. They won't walk by your side like a dog, by any means, but you can follow your bunny around without fear of them taking off. My daughter thoroughly enjoys taking her bunnies for "walks!"
It is always a good idea to keep your rabbit's nails trimmed. You probably won't need to do this for your Holland until it is around 4-6 months. After that, it might need them clipped every couple of months. You can use dog clippers and take off the sharp points. On a white toenail you can see the pink 'quick'. Don't cut this or the nail will bleed! On a dark bunny, this line can be a bit tougher to see. Just be careful not to trim too deep. If you do cut the quick by accident, styptic powder or blood stop can be put on the spot. This can be purchased at a pet store.You can also use flour and apply pressure with a tissue.
Brushing from time to time, especially during the shedding season, will help to keep your rabbit's coat healthy and prevent hairballs. Rabbits do groom themselves, but if they consume too much hair they can get sick. I occasionally use a waterless rabbit shampoo that I purchased on Amazon to clean them up as well. Your rabbit will molt about once a year and will require more grooming than usual. The treat mixture that I give use helps their coat during and after molting.
Your baby rabbit may also need to have its bottom checked for the first few weeks. Their fur grows so long and their feces is so small that it will sometimes clog up back there and need to be cleaned. I have found that just trimming the fur around their bottoms helps keep this problem from getting too big. If it is not cleared daily, it could cause infection and back them up.
Turning the rabbit onto it's back and stroking the head a bit or covering the eyes will cause your rabbit to go into a type of trance and will allow you to check it's ears, teeth, bottom, and nails. This should be done fairly regularly. Watch their teeth as they grow. Chewing on salt licks and other things should keep your rabbit's teeth at a healthy length, but if they grow in a way that is interfering with their eating, they may need to be trimmed or filed down. These can also be done with nail clippers.
When a rabbit is stressed, as yours will be on it's first car trip to new surroundings, it might get softer droppings that will stick to the fur. You can gently pull these off with a tissue or you can carefully clip away the long fur that the droppings are stuck to. An adult should do this because it is easy to catch the skin by mistake.
Check the ears for any build up. They should be clean and clear.
You do not need to have your bunny immunized. They do just fine.
If you are housing more than one bunny together, you should consider having them spayed or neutered at about 6 months of age. This will keep them healthy and happy. It will also help prevent cancer in your does.
For more information, there are many good books on rabbit care at pet stores and libraries. If you have access to the Internet, there is a wealth of rabbit information! You can also join email groups to chat about your rabbit and with other interested people. Children might also be interested in joining your local 4H club to learn more about rabbit care.
Litter Box Training
First of all, anyone who advertises fully litter box trained rabbits at 10 days old, or even 6 weeks old is not being honest with you. Litter training takes time and patience. It is just like litter training any other animal. They will need to be litter box trained at your home in their new environment with you assisting them. The color of the litter box is irrelevant, since rabbits are color blind. You will also need to get the litter box that has the wire over the top. You don't ever want your rabbit hopping in their feces. It is unhealthy for the rabbit and a mess for you to try to keep them clean. They have special litter boxes that you can purchase for rabbits that do just that. Finally, there is NO SUCH THING AS A SMELL FREE HOLLAND! All rabbits urine smells and it is a very strong smell. There are things you can do to minimize the smell, but they are definitely not smell free. If you are not litter training your bunny, you can use horse bedding in your Duratray to help minimize the smell. You can also change and clean out the tray frequently to help keep the smell down as well.
I was very curious about litter box training since I have never done it myself, but apparently my rabbits are being litter box trained by other people! I have had several people ask me how to do this, but I could not answer this question, so I have asked Kaylee Eberhard to help me out! Here is her advice! I hope this will help those of you considering keeping these pets inside your home!
Well the most important part of litter of training is having patience. If the rabbit doesn't get it the first time, don't give up. You also shouldn't get angry at your rabbit. Some rabbits take to the litter box quickly while others might have some difficulty in recognizing the litter box as a bathroom area. Patience is the key. Persistence is the next most important factor of litter training. You can't try for a week and then stop for a week. The rabbit won't learn if you stop encouraging it to use the litter box. When you first start training, find a litter box large enough for your rabbit to comfortably sit and turn around in. If you have more than one rabbit, the litter box should be large enough to accommodate both rabbits at the same time. My personal favorite litter can be found at busybunny.com. It is a large litter box with a grate insert so liquid can pass through to the bedding beneath and the droppings stay on top for easy dumping. Use a dust free litter with good odor control. Yesterday's news cat litter is a very good litter to use because of its a absorbency and odor control. Do Not Use normal cat litter or any wood shavings that have oils in them. If inhaled, the dust and oils can cause bad respiratory problems. When you first start training, try to figure out if your rabbit(s) have chosen a corner that they prefer to use. If so, place litter box there. If not, you can either pick a corner or some find it easier to place litter boxes in more than one corner and gradually remove them until you are down to one. When the litter box is in place, put some hay and/or pellets in to get rabbits to investigate. Rabbits have a tendency to eat and go the bathroom at the same time or soon after eating and so you should use that habit to your advantage. Do not force your rabbit into the litter box. They need to find out for themselves that the litter box is not something to be afraid of. Every time I grab a handful of food, my rabbit automatically jumps into the litter box and waits for me to place the food in his bowl. Rabbits are naturally clean animals and usually figure out that the litter box is there to keep the rest of their home clean. Like I said before, all rabbits are different and some will take to the litter box faster than others. Be patient, have persistence and just love them. Having your rabbit fixed can help your rabbits litter habits to greatly improve. The major cause of rabbits going outside the box is the fact that their hormones are causing them to mark their territory. Spraying can become a problem for unaltered males as well as females. I know that having a rabbit fixed is undesirable for pedigreed show rabbits but it causes certain hormones to die so they aren't territorial and have the urge to mark their territory. Spaying females is also a good idea because 80% of all females develop uterine cancer by age 2 and spaying almost completely eliminates that chance. I hope my info has helped. Good luck!
Also, I've had several people ask me about a good vet who spays and neuters rabbits for a reasonable price. I have had a recommendation for a Dr. Justin Manning. He charges $60 for a neuter or $85 for a spay. He wants the Holland to be at least six months old, maybe older. He only works out of the shelters in Cache Valley and Davis county. He came very highly recommended from my neighbor's friend who works at the Cache humane shelter.
Breeding/ The Peanut Gene
Ok, I'm going to attempt to explain how the peanut gene works and why we seem to get so many here at our rabbitry. First, for my young readers, let me explain that each parent has a genetic code. They have some dominant genes and they have some recessive genes because they get one from each parent. The one that is dominant is the one that you see. So, for example, chocolate is dominant over lilac, so if a baby gets one chocolate gene from mom and one lilac gene from dad, they will end up chocolate but they will carry that lilac color as a recessive gene! The only way they will be lilac is if they get a lilac gene from both mom and dad because lilac is a recessive gene. Well, the peanut gene is very similar to this scenario. Every Holland carries a dwarfing gene. The name for the is dwarfing gene is "Dw or dw." That means that every rabbit carries two of these (one from mom and one from dad.) So, the IDEAL gene is Dwdw for Hollands that stay small and are showable. That means that they get one big D little w from one parent and a little d little w from another parent.
So, ideally if you wanted a litter of 100% ideal showing babies out of 2 parents, you would want to breed a rabbit with the genetic code DwDw to a rabbit with the genetic code dwdw. That means that every baby would get one Dw from one parent and one dw from another parent and they would all be showable! That would be great except for one small problem. If a bunny gets the genetic code DwDw, they are peanuts and they never live long enough to breed!
So, how do breeders get around this problem? There are two solutions. The first one is to breed two "Ideal" Hollands together. This means you cross a bunny with the genetic code Dwdw to another Holland with the genetic code Dwdw. That means you will have the following results in your babies:
dwdw (This is the code for a non showable rabbit- a brood buck or doe. These will exceed the size allowable for showable Hollands.)
Dwdw (This is the code for the Ideal or showable Holland that will stay within the weight limits)
DwDw (This is the code for peanuts and it is a lethal gene. This babies will not survive.
This means that you will lose at least 1/4 of your babies to the lethal gene, but out of those remaining babies, you have the highest probability of having the Ideal Holland.
Solution number 2 is to breed a "Brood" doe or buck to an "Ideal Holland". This would look like this: Dwdw to DwDw. That means you will have the following results in your babies.
Dwdw (This is the code for ideal or showable Hollands that will stay within the weight limits.)
dwdw (This is the code for a non showable rabbit- a brood buck or doe. These will exceed the size allowable for showable Hollands.)
*Notice: There is NO possible way to have peanuts with this combination, so all of the babies will survive, but you will have a higher percentage of "brood" babies born.
Solution number 3 (Which is NEVER recommended) is to breed two "Brood" rabbits together. This would look like this dwdw to dwdw. This means you would have the following results in your babies:
100% brood stock with no chance of showable or peanuts.
So, how do you know what genetic code your Holland is? You won't know until you breed them. You can take a guess based on the size and weight of your full grown Holland, but unless they produce a peanut, you won't know for sure. However, once they produce a peanut, you will know that BOTH your buck AND your doe are true "Ideal" dwarfs.
In our rabbitry, we know that every one of our rabbits is a true dwarf. This means that all of those are showable and will produce around a high percentage of beautiful, showable offspring. We also know that we are going to lose a minimum of 25% of our litters to the dreaded peanut. Some breeders choose to always have at least one of their Hollands be brood stock so they don't have to deal with this issue, but we are all about quality as well as quantity. Even our Blue is incredible type and she pulls those great traits into her babies. There are other people out there breeding two brood Hollands together and giving their babies pedigrees and they call them "showable" when there is no way any of those offspring will ever be able to be shown after they reach full growth. If you are considering breeding, these will be issues you will want to address. If you never want to bury peanuts, you will want to buy half of your rabbits as showable and half as brood so you never deal with peanuts. If you want a higher percentage of showable stock and babies, you can breed two ideal Hollands together, but hold on for heartache! It's not an easy road!!