Rabbit Care & Keeping
People always ask me about my rabbit care and keeping of two bunnies so I’ve decided to make a post about it! I’ll be doing an adjoining video as well but in the meantime, I hope this helps those of you who are interested in getting your own bunny or are just curious about mine! So first, let’s meet the bunnies…
Dobby – A “blue” Flemish Giant rabbit born March 15, 2015. I adopted him from a guy on Craigslist in May 2015 who lived outside of Philadelphia. He’d breed two Pedigreed rabbit litters a year. He is named after Dobby, the House Elf from Harry Potter. He is nearly 18 pounds.
Spooner – Pennsylvania Dutch Rabbit adopted May 6, 2017! He was rescued from an overtaken garage with 70 other rabbits. He was adopted by a little girl in April 2016 but she developed allergies and had to return him. They guess he is about 6 years-old. He was named Spooner by the volunteers who rescued him. He is about 5 pounds.
I get a lot of questions asking me “Why? Why a rabbit?” Rabbits are actually considered exotic animals AKA they’re not cats or dogs. Rabbit care compared to cat or dog care is quite different!
During the summer of 2014 I went to a County Fair and saw Flemish Giants and New Zealand rabbits and was amazed! I had no idea bunnies could get so big. In May 2015, I got my own after scouring Craigslist looking for a cute Flemish to adopt.
Litter-training rabbits is difficult, but doable. I poured over countless resources to make sure Dobby would use his box! Here are some tips for litter training rabbits:
- Reinforce good behavior! Give them a dried cranberry or a little piece of fruit when they go in their box.
- If they have accidents, take the their pills (rabbit poop) and put it in their box.
- Add hay to the box! This one is huge. Rabbits like to graze and poop.
- Put their box in a private place. No one likes to do their private business out in the open!
Young rabbits have different diets than adult rabbits. Depending on metabolism and breed, numbers vary. There are lots of articles on rabbit care that cover rabbit diets. For Dobby, my Flemish Giant rabbit, his diet varies greatly from Spooner’s, who is a Pennsylvania Dutch rabbit. It’s important to know the difference between Flemish Giant rabbit care vs. smaller breed’s rabbit care.
I made the mistake of allowing Dobby to have free-access to his pellets and so right now he’s on a bit of a diet… to cut back on his excess fat I have cut back the amount of pellets he gets by one 1/2 cup (he would get 3 1/2 cups a day) and adding more leafy greens and hay. I try to give him 3 large leafy greens a day. Either 3 pieces of Romaine or two handfuls of Arugula. I will occasionally give him a fresh slice of apple or a few blueberries but not lately since he’s on a diet…
Spooner has a completely different diet. He eats more hay than pellets like a good boy! A lot of rabbits struggle with eating more hay than pellets because they find pellets so scrumptious! He has 2 large leafy greens a day. Either 2 pieces of Romaine or a handful of Arugula. Spooner cannot have fruit because it gives him diarrhea! It’s important to be aware of these things to be able to give your rabbit the care they need.
I struggled a lot with Dobby’s health. As a new rabbit owner, I had no idea that rabbits are prone to developing eye problems (I discovered this when researching rabbit care). Dobby had a congenital eye condition called entropion, which means the eyelid folds inwards with the lashes and can cause ulcerations. When his eyes flared up in pain, he would curl up in his box like he’s pictured above. Not all rabbits have tell-tale signs when they’re hurting but I always know something’s up when Dobby does this!
He received eye surgery on both eyes and although it is generally fixed, his eyelids are slightly deformed and he has chronically watery eyes. In the picture below you can see how squinty his eyes are because of this…
When Spooner was rescued, he had Syphilis in his eyes. He had it pretty badly and had to get surgery in addition to being treated for the Syphilis. His ears are torn due to rabbit fights from the garage with the 70 others.
The 12 year-old girl who had Spooner before me loved him so tenderly because he is so cuddly and friendly! I really lucked out.
It’s a common misconception that rabbits are cuddly. They don’t like to be picked up or held (Dobby) nor do they like to be bothered when they’re not in the mood (Dobby & Spooner). Both of my boys like their alone time!
Although Dobby doesn’t like to be held, he LOVES to be pet. He will also curl up beside you and snuggle into your side to allow you to pet him. Spooner, on the other hand, LOVES to be held. He will wiggle his way underneath your neck to burrow into you!
Flemish Giants commonly do not burrow like small bunnies. For example, when I have Spooner on my bed, he digs into my pile of pillows to try to find a little nook or cranny to cuddle under. When I have Dobby on my bed, he likes to “knead” into my bed to try to find a comfy spot to lie on (he likes to try to smooth out the folds in my duvet cover). Rabbits LOVE to rearrange, so this is also a way for him to make things the way he wants it.
A Guide to Rabbit Language
This video above demonstrates all of the actions I will be listing below!
FYI, Spooner is a very quiet bunny, while Dobby is more vocal. Most of the examples I list are from Dobby.
Grunting – He’s pissed! Dobby does this when I approach him quickly and he wants me to “back off” or if he’s eating and I approach him. He’s like, “Mom. I’m stuffing my face, bye.”
Honking – Happy sound! if I pet Dobby in a way he likes, he does this. He also does this when he’s eating!
Tooth Clicking – Happy sound! Dobby does this when I pet him in his favorite spots (e.g. underneath his chin, his ears or scratch his butt).
Tooth Grinding – A sign of distress or discomfort. When Dobby had his eye problems he would oftentimes do this. He also does this if he’s pissed, like after I groom him.
Squeak – Someone stepped on Dobby once and he gave this noise! It means he’s upset or distressed. He also has done this for the groomer before.
Binky – a twist midair that a rabbit does with a little twitch too! Dobby does this when he’s happy! This makes times-consuming rabbit care so worthwhile!
Knead – both of my buns have done this for me! They do this to rearrange things the way that they want it (rabbits are quite particular you know!)
Digging – Dobby does this to rearrange ME as does Spooner. They also dig in just about anything too (e.g. bed, their litterbox, etc.) Because, well, they’re rabbits…
Chinning – This is a way rabbits mark their territories.
Spinning – This is an action of excitement or endearment (usually). Dobby does this to me when I go get him food in the morning and I literally have to stop myself from stepping on him because he darts between and around my feet. They also do this during bunny-bunny interactions.
Flop – I included a picture of Dobby “flopped” above! It’s a sign of extreme comfort and it’s sooo cute! One time, I was passing Dobby’s room and I actually thought he died because he flopped and his eye was half open! But he was just chillin’.
Licking – Expression of affection! Rabbits do this to each other and Dobby does it to me when he’s really enjoying a spot that I’m petting OR if I stop petting him and he wants me to continue.
Lunging/Charging – This is usually accompanied by a “Grunt” too. He does this to me if I try to get him out from under my bed or try or grab him. Spooner has never done this.
Mounting – This is how rabbits mate. But it’s also a sign of dominance! Dobby tried to mount Spooner a few times during their first “dates.”
Nipping – Dobby does this to move me or if he’s annoyed with me. He’s done this when I’m holding him and he wants to be put down!
Nudge – This means “give me attention” or “move out of my way” – both my bunnies do this!
Flicking – Neither of my rabbits have done this but it’s mentioned in the video!
Thump – A sign of alarm or danger! I’ve heard both Dobby and Spooner do this and it’s very alarming!
Periscoping – When a rabbit stands to look around. Both Dobby & Spooner do this to check stuff out and explore!
Rabbit care and keeping takes a lot of time and effort! But in return, you get well-behaved bunnies and that’s what makes it all the worthwhile! Let me know if you have any questions by responding in the comments! Also share with me some of your favorite bunny moments too.