Rabbit food – our favourites

rabbit food

I see so many people talking online about how to manage rabbit food and the best diet for their bunnies. We’re not experts, but we’ve had three house rabbits for a while now, and (touch wood!) they have pretty healthy bellies.

Here’s what we do:

Our daily staple rabbit food

The pellets (what people think of as “rabbit food”) we feed are Science Selective. It’s generally thought of as being the best food available for bunnies in the UK. It’s not high in sugar or seeds, and there’s no chance that they can selectively feed (i.e., leaving the bits they don’t like!). In the past, we’ve also used Burgess Excel with mint, and the boys had Excel junior when they were babies.

For three rabbits, we give a handful of pellets three times a day. So they each get the equivalent of a handful per day. No bowls. We either hand feed them (as in, giving them the pellets individually) or put them on the floor/in boxes/among paper and they “forage”.

We buy Science Selective in huge bags and decant it all into a big red plastic bin that we keep just outside their room. They know it’s in there and are absolutely fascinated by the bin, but they’re not able to get into it!

Bunnies eating rabbit food

All rabbits are meant to have unlimited hay. It’s meant to make up the majority of their diet. It’s good for digestion and for keeping their teeth nicely worn down. We put out mountains of hay every couple of days, and they love it. They eat it, play with it, use it as a bed… hay is so important for them.

They also get fresh water every day. With three rabbits living inside, they drink a lot – we have six bottles between three bunnies.

I know that bowls are generally thought of as better and more natural for them. When they lived individually, that’s what we used. Now they live together and spend their days chasing each other round, and we found that they knocked the bowls over and got each other wet rather a lot. For now, bottles work well for us. I’d like to transition them back to a more natural way of drinking, but I don’t want the risk of damp rabbits!

Fruit and veg

Rabbits are meant to have a lot of greens. Our three particularly love rocket (arugula) and spinach. We don’t go overboard with the amount, as Ned in particular would eat them until he burst! We used to give him rocket as a treat after he’d had his medication when he was ill.

The greens on top of carrots are also coveted. This means I’m the crazy bunny mum who buys organic carrots for her rabbits, as since our local greengrocer closed, there’s no other way to get carrot tops round here.

Herbs are also popular with our three: mint and coriander are always a big hit.

Fruit is a bit more of a treat, and we don’t give it every day. Some of the favourites are:

  • Apples (Barbara’s favourite thing in the world)
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries

Bananas are, oddly, not a favourite. Ned once found a banana in my handbag and ate half of it, skin and all, but if offered one, they’ll sniff at it and wander off.

Bunny treats

Of course, we all need a little something extra. So many of the treats sold as rabbit food are really bad for bunnies though. We tend to stick with two in particular: Fibafirst sticks, which are hay-based, and Fenugreek Crunchies, which they love.

When Barbara and Gingee get a Fibafirst or a fenugreek cookie, they do an excited little hop and run away with it so that no one can steal it. Ned’s more trusting, and will even let you feed it to him from your hand. But all three of them absolutely adore those two.

Of course, they’ve all had some treats that they weren’t supposed to – but I think that might be something for Barbara to talk about later!

Happy eating!

Introducing rabbits to a baby

introducing rabbits to a baby

When I was pregnant, I was really worried about introducing rabbits and baby to each other. I needn’t have been, because it’s gone really well. They love each other!

The three rabbits absolutely adore the baby, and we’ve not had any trouble yet. She really enjoys them too and squeals happily when she sees them. She’s learning to stroke them and loves how soft their fur is.

They knew that I was pregnant. Barbara fussed around me a lot. Gingee used to enjoy putting his ear to my stomach. Ned just wanted extra cuddles!

Preparing during pregnancy

Before we even started to think about preparing them to meet the baby, we wanted to give them the chance to have a support network. They used to all live in separate rooms, but over the spring (baby was due in November), we worked hard at bonding them and getting them to share one bedroom. We knew this was going to be important both while I was in hospital, so they weren’t alone for too long, and when baby arrived and we had a bit less time.

Before the baby was born, we got them each a little plastic baby doll. It gave them a chance to sniff at something new, nuzzle it and chin it, and for us to remind them to be gentle.

I spent time with them in early labour, before I went to the hospital. I was on all fours on the floor, and Gingee kept stretching up to nuzzle the bump. They knew something momentous was happening, I think.

I had a long labour (38 hours!), so my husband and I were in hospital for a while. Fortunately, our hospital is walking distance from our house, so he was able to pop home a couple of times to check on them. We left them with lots of extra water and hay.

Actually introducing rabbits to the baby

We introduced them on the day she came home from the hospital.

She was in her bouncer and the rabbits got extra fuss and food. They ignored her for the most part. We had to pick them up to even get them to look at her!

She was so new but wanted to stare at them.

Introducing rabbits to the baby

(She was so tiny! She’s grown a lot even in six weeks!)

But, if you know about bonding rabbits, you’ll know that it’s a good sign when they ignore someone.

Their growing relationship

Since then, we’ve just brought her into our routine.

Three times a day, we say to the baby, “Shall we go and play with our friends the rabbits?” She responds happily to that now!

We bring her with us whenever we feed them so they associate her with good things. She usually gets to lie on the floor with them while they eat and they’ve started leaving pieces of food for her, which is adorable.

Gingee has put his head down to ask for grooming from her a couple of times. She’s not quite got the hang of how to do it, but I’m sure she will!

When she cries, our leader bunny, Gingee, goes to patrol the area while Barbara comes to nuzzle and check she’s okay. (Ned is deaf, so doesn’t really respond to crying!) 

We worried a bit about Gingee at first. He is so attached to my husband, and has been known to be jealous. We’ve been careful to make sure that my husband treats Gingee like the special bunny he is, and I often get to hold the baby a bit more while Gingee gets extra fuss. If anything, he seems happier than before!

They all like to get attention from each other. Baby loves it when they come up and nuzzle at her, and sometimes she cries when they move away. They like it when she touches them – Ned in particular. He’ll sit and look really proud, as if he’s saying, “Look, the baby is playing with me! Me! I’m the chosen one right now!”

The rabbits have their own bedroom, so they have somewhere to escape to where baby doesn’t go. They have their door shut most of the day, but we have three long sessions of food and playtime each day, so they don’t feel neglected.

I was really worried about how it would work out, but while they were a bit wary at first, I’ve never seen them binky as much as they have in the past few weeks!

She’s only seven weeks old and they’re already all so close. I’m so excited to see how their relationship develops as she gets older.

Meeting the new baby #barbarablogs

Barbara Rabbit

Hello, friends. It’s been a while – life has been hectic in our house! We’ve had a new baby, for one thing. And I was sick before that. But it’s time for me to come back and enlighten you with Barbara Rabbit’s pearls of wisdom!  You can read some of my older posts here.

So we have a new baby. I say we, she obviously belongs to my human parents. But she sort of belongs to all of us because she lives here, and so do we. So we all get to hear her crying and play with her.

our new baby

She was born two weeks ago. We knew there was going to be a baby as our parents had been preparing us for a long time. They even bought us some little plastic human babies to show us what she might look like! (She looked nothing like them. It would be like showing someone a tiny Netherland dwarf to prepare them for meeting a Flemish giant.)

We could tell she was about to be born when our parents came to see us in the night. Our daddy gave us loads of extra hay and back up water bottles (I counted six! I tested them all, because I love water bottles!) and let us all out into our room together. Usually at night we had to go into our own houses, but he said that we might like the company.

Our mum wasn’t so talkative. She was mostly sitting like a rabbit, on all fours, making strange sounds. Now I know a bit about having litters, but this looked rather odd and it was a bit scary to me. Gingee was brave and went and nuzzled up at her belly, though.

And then they went away. They were gone for a really, really long time. Our daddy came back after a bit to give us some more food and water and play with us, but Mummy still wasn’t back. He took a video of us to send to Mummy, though.

They both came back eventually, though. And when they did, they had the small human with them!

She’s bigger than a baby rabbit, and even has more hair than one. The top of her head is really furry and I like to nuzzle at it. She’s smaller than all of us full grown rabbits, though. Here she is with Ned:

Ned the rabbit with the new baby

We like seeing her. Generally our parents bring her to visit two or three times a day. She sits with us while we eat, usually, and then we nuzzle at her sometimes.

She doesn’t play very much yet, which is a bit disappointing. I hoped she’d be able to do a bit more, but sometimes Daddy can make her stroke me which is nice. Although she touched my foot yesterday and I did not like that. I flicked my feet at her but she didn’t seem to understand what it meant. That’s alright, she’s only small and there’s still time for her to learn!

I like that she’s often wearing lovely soft clothes – softer than either of our parents’ clothes. It’s really nice to nuzzle up against. I particularly like chinning her feet.

She’s not as loud as I thought she might be! And when she is loud, our parents quickly take her into a different room or give her some milk, so it doesn’t bother us too much.

Our mum wouldn’t sit on the floor with us for a few days. That was sad, as I like playing with her on the floor. But she’s getting better at it again now! I have heard that birth is particularly hard for humans, so I suppose this is an after-effect of that, a bit like when I had my dental surgery and my mouth hurt for a few days.

Gingee is being particularly vigilant, and patrolling downstairs a lot. I asked him about it, and he explained that it’s because we have a new member of our group now, so he needs to keep an eye out. He still thinks he’s in charge!

Ned just wants her to become a bit more interactive! He likes more active play, and she doesn’t do that yet.

All in all, we feel quite good about this new arrival.

Are there any other rabbits out there with human babies? What do you think of yours?

Barbara’s GI stasis experience

Barbara deals with GI stasis

No #barbarablogs today, guys. My poor girl has been dealing with a bout of GI stasis and dental problems. She’s not been well enough to write anything herself. But, while she’s recovering, she’s asked me to tell you about what happened to her this week.

The background

I’ve written about Barbara’s background as a rescue rabbit before. She didn’t receive any vet care until she was a few years old.

She moved in with us in December. In January we took her to the vets and found she needed some dental spurs filing down. Spurs are caused by teeth not wearing down evenly, and are little spikes on the teeth that hurt her cheeks or tongue. (Here’s a great page with lots of detail on rabbit dental issues.)

Obviously, if her mouth hurts, she won’t want to eat hard food. When Barbara first moved in with us, she’d put hard things like fenugreek cookies in her water bowl to soften them for a bit before eating them. She’s ever so clever!

But since she had her spurs filed down in January, she’d been absolutely fine.

(Additional background: I’m 39 weeks pregnant. You know, just the time you want some extra stress!)

This weekend

On Saturday, she was absolutely fine. She and the boys were running around, wreaking their usual havoc. Eating plenty and going to the loo just fine!

On Sunday, she was a little quieter, but still eating fine in the morning. Then evening rolled around. Suddenly she didn’t want to come and have any pellets. She was eating tiny bits but definitely wasn’t her usual self.

We worried that it was because she’d been eating newspaper. (She does that sometimes.) We tried liquid food. Offered veg. In a rather desperate moment, offered a chocolate biscuit. (She ate that.)

She ate a little bit of hay and a couple of pellets. We called the emergency number for the specialist Ned has seen in the past, described her symptoms, agreed it sounded like the beginning of GI stasis, and they advised continuing to try for a little bit, keeping her warm and comfortable and bringing her in in a few hours.

Monday

I was up at 5am to check on her. I’d really hoped she’d be fine by then, but no luck.

My husband and I talked it over. Ned’s specialist is 50 miles away and I’m the only one in the house who drives. I could go into labour at any moment. If that happened, Barbara would be stranded 50 miles away, whereas if we went to our local vet, my husband could walk there and get her. By the time I’d got to the specialist, it would be the same time as our local vet opened anyway.

Local vet it is, then. I know they can deal with GI stasis.

She and I sat and cuddled and napped on the bed for a while after her dad had gone to work, and I kept on trying with food. She drank happily but really didn’t want to eat.

Barbara Rabbit dealing with GI stasis

So, at 8am, I rolled up at our local vets, no appointment, ready to sit and wait with her for hours if necessary. No need – we were in by 8.30. Have I mentioned how much I love our vets?

Bonus: because Barbara has been going there since December, they had all of the medical history we know for her. They know she’s had tooth problems, they know she’s slow to wake up from anaesthesia, they know she hates liquid food.

The vet had a little look at her teeth (Barbara resisted) and said that they were probably causing the issue. But first we clearly needed to get the gut issues under control! So they took her in for the day. We decided we’d ideally have her home overnight so she could sleep in her own room, then go back the next day for the teeth.

By 2pm, she’d had fluids and some liquid food, as well as some fruit and veg that the lovely team had gone out to buy for her. She’d not gone to the loo yet but that’s more of a waiting game. There were gut sounds and we were cautiously optimistic – take that, GI stasis!

I went to pick her up in the evening, and she’d still not been to the loo. But the moment she got home and sat on the carpet, it all came out! She clearly just missed home.

We had a lovely evening, cuddling, eating a few pellets and watching YouTube videos. She still had her catheter in her ear, so we couldn’t leave her and the boys free-ranging overnight, unfortunately. So we put them all in their individual houses – she was not happy.

Tuesday

39 weeks pregnant. Woke feeling a bit crampy and like there was a bowling ball making its way downwards. Stay put, baby, until your big furry sister is better!

My husband had to put Barbara in her carrier before he left for work, because there’s no way I could have managed it. I let her roam about on our bed, but I needed to have her out of her cage, at least.

She was so lively, definitely much better than yesterday! GI stasis all gone. Enjoyed some pellets and some water, and we had a little nap together again before heading off to the vets at 8am.

I signed the usual consent forms and handed her over to them, after explaining how she’d been overnight. Went home, waddling like crazy. Crossed my legs to keep the baby in!

At about 2 o’clock, I rang to check on her, and she was all done with the dental surgery! As usual with Barbara, she was taking a long time to come round, though, so they asked if I could wait until more like 6 before coming to get her. Of course, as long as I get to take her home eventually!

The vet explained that her back left teeth had been rubbing at her and basically causing a mouth ulcer. Everything was filed down nicely though, and we were sent home with some metacam/loxicom, as well as a little “trick or treat” bag of veg that they’d bought for her.

And so we were home about 6.30, just in time for the trick or treaters. Daddy took trick or treat duty while we all sat in the living room. Barbara enjoyed some nice pear and a few pellets, and plenty of water.

And then back home to her brothers!

What a few days. Try and be kind to me for the rest of this pregnancy, please, Barbara?

Rabbit games – our favourites #barbarablogs

Barbara Rabbit

Hello everyone, it’s me, Barbara Rabbit, here again! As you may know, I write a weekly post here – you can find the older ones here, under #barbarablogs.

Like all bunnies, my brothers and I enjoy a few simple rabbit games. You’ve probably realised from reading my blogs that rabbits are incredibly intelligent. We need a lot of mental stimulation.

My brothers are both younger than me, and, I mean nothing rude by this, but Ned might not be quite as smart as I am. Gingee is pretty clever, but Ned doesn’t always pick things up so quickly. So we all have different needs when it comes to games. Our parents are pretty good at playing to our strengths and finding games that work for all of us. We’re quite lucky. (Don’t tell them that. I don’t want them to get complacent.)

Here are some of our favourites!

Fingers through Bars and Fingers round Ned

These are two of Ned’s favourite games.

Fingers through Bars needs him to be inside a cage, and a human will wriggle fingers at him. He’ll hop around on his hind legs all excited and cute. I don’t quite see the appeal myself.

Fingers round Ned is a game only daddy and Ned can play. Apparently our mum just isn’t very good at it. What you need to do is circle your fingers around his head and he’ll bob his head around like mad. Because he can’t hear very well, I think he really enjoys games where he has to look at things.

Climbing on Humans

Ned and Gingee love doing this, and I’m getting better at it too. It was quite difficult for me at first, because I couldn’t work out quite how to get up onto a human. It turns out you need to push with your back legs, rather than pulling up with your front legs! Once you remember that, it’s easy!

If you’re very brave and have a fun human, he might even move along the floor a bit while you’re sitting on him. Gingee really likes this.

Surprise Rabbit

Such a simple game, but so much fun. Sneak up on a human. You can climb on them or not, but you just need to appear really suddenly – you can either do it by walking quietly and slowly or by running at full pelt. It’s so much fun to watch them be startled!

Box

Box is a really fun game, and there are so many variations. We have loads of cardboard boxes right now, which I hear is because my parents are having a human baby and keep on ordering things for it online. But the best part is that most of the empty boxes end up in my room!

The rules of playing Box can be as simple as just climbing into the box, sitting there for a bit, and then getting out again. Sometimes you can hide in there, or wriggle yourself right to the back, depending on the size of the box.

But the best way to play Box is to get food involved as well – as is the way with all the best rabbit games! Sometimes my parents will put chopped up apple or little carrot sticks in a box and cover them with paper or cardboard, and we get to forage for them. It’s so much fun!

Plastic Baby

This is a new rabbit game. Our parents have bought us some little plastic babies to prepare us for our new human baby. We get to groom them while our parents tell us how good we are.

I really like licking the plastic bits of them, and they have yummy clothes to gently nibble. There are three, one for each of us.

Explorers Under the Bed

It’s really self-explanatory! If the humans will let you, go under their bed and explore!

I don’t usually find anything under there, but I really like being in the small space. Sometimes it is a bit of a struggle when they want me to come out, though. They’ve sent Ned or Gingee in to get me before now.

 

Stairs

Now, this isn’t a game that I’ll play. I don’t like the stairs, and if I have to go up or down them, someone has to carry me.

But Gingee really likes playing stairs. He says that the stairs lead to lots of other fun rooms and that there’s nothing quite as fun as dashing down them and then zigzagging back up. Ned does this really clever thing where he can jump up about five steps in one go, as well. He landed on our mum’s big belly last night and she made a really funny squeaking noise, and it was brilliant. What a great twist on Surprise Rabbit!

Finger Nibbling

This is one of my favourite games. It seems only fair – my daddy cuts my claws, so I should help to keep his nice and short too, right? He’s very brave and doesn’t squirm too much, although I think I have got his skin a few times. But sometimes that happens when he does our claws as well!

The best time to play this game is either after he’s cut up an apple for me, so his hands taste like apple, or after he’s eaten some yummy human food. I like it when he’s had Marmite because it makes his hands taste all salty. There was also a time when he’d had salted caramel and that was amazing. You never quite know what the situation is going to be, so I’d recommend testing this out on a regular basis.

Fellow furry friends, what are your favourite rabbit games? Humans, what do you like to play with your rabbits?

Until next time!

Barbara Rabbit xxx