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.

Gluten free Christmas baking

gluten free

I find it really hard to buy presents for men. And, I admit, that includes men that I love dearly, like my husband and my dad. This year, I’ve decided to do a frugal and largely homemade Christmas, and as my dad eats a gluten free diet due to coeliac disease, I’m going to do some Christmas baking for him!

I hear that it’s much easier to make gluten free bread in a bread maker, but as an experiment, I’m going to try without. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Gluten free bread

I spent a long time looking online for different recipes here. A lot of gluten free bread recipes seem to use coconut flour, but my dad really hates coconut, so those ones were out. I’m also not very good at anything involving kneading (especially at the moment, when my tiny tyrant might call me away at any moment!), so I tried to go for something that was just pour and go.

I also preferred the idea of using a proper gluten free recipe, rather than just one that substituted bread flour with gluten free bread flour. So I’ve cobbled together a few different recipes and come up with this. We’ll see!

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of flaxseed
  • Half cup of ground almonds
  • 1tsp baking powder (gluten free, obviously)

Preheat oven to 200C.

Beat eggs together in one bowl. Mix the flaxseed, almonds and baking powder together in a second bowl. Add the beaten eggs in, and mix them all together thoroughly. It should have a slightly wet consistency, but not be too loose. (If you struggle to stir it together, add in a tablespoon or so of water, but I didn’t find that I needed this.)

Pour the mixture into a loaf tin, and pop it in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or so.

So… what was the verdict?

Um. Well. It looked quite good, although it didn’t really rise much. The texture was quite dense (maybe I should use some more baking powder next time), but the crumb did look like bread. It just tasted rather, well, rubbery.

My husband’s reaction? “It… has a slight taste of fish to it. Not in a bad way, though. It’ll be great covered in Marmite!”

Yeah. I may not gift this to my dad. I may have had more success using a breadmaker!

A bonus gluten free recipe: brownie cheesecake

Not knowing how the first one would turn out, I also decided to make something that I know works well. You can do this in gluten and gluten free versions – just substitute the gluten free flour for regular if you have a real hatred of free from products!

This is one of my favourite recipes ever. I’ve been making it for years – in fact, to check measurements and timings, I ended up looking at an old Facebook note from 2009! It’s easy and delicious, and tastes basically the same whether you use gluten free flour or regular.

The brownie 

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1.5 cups white sugar
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar (dark)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla essence
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 cups plain gluten free flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 175C.

Mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add flour, cocoa powder and salt. Stir until well blended.

The cheesecake

  • 220g cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Chocolate chips

Whisk the cream cheese until it’s soft. Add sugar and vanilla essence. Whisk them together until smooth.

Spread brownie mixture into pan, smoothly. Dollop cheesecake on top, then swirl them together. Add chocolate chips.

Bake for around 35 minutes, until edges are puffy and centre is set. Try not to eat it all in one go!

*This is a sponsored post.

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?