If you’ve decided to raise rabbits in your back yard, you’re in for a rewarding experience. Rabbits are easy to take care of and your work will definitely pay off, but that doesn’t mean you get to sit back and do nothing. By keeping a close eye on their food, shelter and health you’ll ensure that your rabbits will be around to nourish you and your family for a long time to come. Meat from rabbits is amazing and you’ll find raising rabbits is easy.
Rabbits are usually sheltered in a cage-like structure called a hutch. In most cases these hutches are kept outside, but if you live in a place with very cold winters and have the room it’s good to bring them inside for part of the year. These hutches don’t have to be huge. A doe and her liter can live comfortably in a two by four foot hutch. Bedding made out of wood shavings or hay is used to line the bottom of hutches to make cleaning easier.
Hutches are normally made out of wire or wood. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type. Wire hutches are much easier to clean because a tray can be rigged up beneath it to catch droppings. However, the wire may hurt your rabbit’s feet. Wood hutches are warmer and more comfortable for your rabbit, but are more difficult to clean (which may lead to disease). Whichever type you choose is up to you.
Even though your rabbit will be very comfortable in her hutch, it’s good to give her a chance to hop around outside for a while. Don’t leave her alone, though, because even if she’s in a fenced-in area she’ll have no problem digging her way out. Predators love rabbit meat as much as you do, so don’t let her wander alone.
If you don’t have a protected area for her to spend time outside in, consider investing in a Morant hutch. These hutches have both a comfy covered area for your rabbit to sleep in and a wire cage that comes in contact with the ground. Your rabbit will be able to nibble on grass and get some exercise in the wire area without the chance of her digging her way into danger. She can also leave her droppings there, eliminating the need for you to have to clean. These hutches can even be moved from place to place to give her a new area to graze in.
Your rabbit’s stomach is designed to digest big amounts of leafy green food. This makes it especially easy to feed her if you have a garden. She’ll love things like clover, dandelion tops, pea pods, kale, and carrot tops. A good rule of thumb is to feed her a cup of vegetables for every five pounds of body weight. Try to give her at least three different types of veggies a day to make sure all her nutritional needs are covered.
If you don’t have easy access to greens, rabbit pellets are also a great choice. These will provide your rabbits will all the nutrients they need (although a fresh treat like a carrot or some strawberries once in a while won’t hurt). Pellets are high in carbohydrates and low in fiber, though, so if you let your rabbit have as much as she can eat there’s a chance obesity problems might follow.
Finally, just like humans your rabbit will need a steady supply of water. Keep a bowl in her hutch and make sure it’s always full and clean.
Rabbits can be kept outside all year round, but if you live in an area with harsh winters or sweltering summers there are some considerations to be made.
Rabbits that have to deal with harsh winters need to have a snug, well built hutch. This hutch needs to be in a place that is out of the wind. Give her lots of extra hay to snuggle down into, and if it’s particularly cold put a tarp over the hutch. Expect her to eat extra food over the winter, and be very diligent about making sure her water doesn’t freeze.
You may think that winters are the hardest season for rabbits, but hot summers can be just as rough. Your rabbit can overheat very easily, so make sure her hutch has some shade. It’s doubly important here to make sure her water dish is always full. If it’s particularly hot out, you can improvise some air conditioning by putting a frozen water bottle in her hutch and dropping some ice cubes in her water dish.
Rabbits are simple animals with very few needs, but they do need constant care. As long as you’re able to keep an eye on their food and shelter, though, they’re likely to stay happy and healthy. You just won’t go wrong with rabbit meat.