When you bring your first bunny home, it’s a good idea to start simply and give yourself time to get comfortable with basic rabbit care. There is a learning curve for all the things you need to know, but the basics are simple and few.
a safe, comfortable home
You need a home that is escape-proof and predator-proof (nothing in, nothing out). The simplest choice, to begin with, is a cage in a safe area (perhaps a cage in the garage or a sturdy tractor in your backyard). It needs to be big enough for the rabbit to turn around in, stretch out, and move around a bit. It should also be bought/built with your rabbit’s adult size in mind (your cute little 8-week-old kit might be 8 pounds or more in a few months).
Here is a chart of cage sizes. I consider this an absolute minimum (actually I consider it far too small, but this is the industry-standard). Larger is much better.
|adult weight||type of rabbit||square footage|
|under 4.4 lbs||Netherland Dwarf, Dwarf Hotot, Mini Rex, Holland Lop, Jersey Wooley, etc.||1.5 sq ft|
|4.4 – 8 lbs||Standard Chinchilla, Silver, Tan, Mini Lop, Dutch, Mini Satin, Lilac, etc.||3 sq ft|
|8.8-11 lbs||American, Cinnamon, New Zealand, Silver Fox, Beveren, Palomino, etc.||4 sq ft|
|over 11.9 lbs||Giant Chinchilla, Flemish Giant, English Lop, French Lop, Giant Angora, etc.||5 sq ft|
|All cages should be at least 14″ in height.|
More information and charts on cage sizes: ARBA Recommendations for the Care of Rabbits and Cavies
If you are building a cage, the flooring should be ½ x 1” galvanized 14-gauge wire (not hardware cloth). This is sturdy enough to support their weight and has a small enough weave that it’s not too hard on their feet. The holes are large enough for poop to fall through (sitting in pee or poop is bad for their feet). It’s nice to have a resting board on the cage floor for a little foot relief from the wire as well. The rest of the cage can be made of 1” x 2” wire. (If you have a problem with rodents or snakes in your area, you might want to go with a smaller weave wire for all of the cage.)
Here is a ready-made cage that I bought for my house rabbit. If he lived in the cage all the time, I would have gone for a larger cage (he will probably be around 9 pounds when he’s full-grown), but he has the run of the house most of the day so it works for overnight sleeping quarters. (When we get our house addition finished we will add a pen area to give him a larger secured area.)
This article contains affiliate links. If you click and buy, I make a commission. Newton thanks you for making his life cushy (he’s totally spoiled). ❤
If your rabbit’s cage/tractor is outside, consider the placement so that your rabbit is sheltered from the elements. Wind and rain are the enemies in cold weather. You’ll need shade in warmer weather.
clean water at all times
This one is a no-brainer, but with rabbits, it can sometimes be tricky. I had one rabbit that would dump her water bowl seconds after I filled it and she refused to drink from a standard water bottle (little turd). Thankfully most rabbits are well-mannered, but it can take a bit of trial and error to find something that works. (I ended up using one of these hanging water cups for Miss I-disdain-your-water-bottle.)
When you buy a bunny, ask the seller what the rabbit has been eating. Try to copy that diet and then slowly change to whatever you plan to feed (I like to change out about a quarter of the feed each week. By month’s end I’ve made the change from old to new feed). Rabbits benefit from slow changes in diet. Fast changes can cause digestive issues.
It’s kind of gross, but watch their poop. Normal poop is like Coco Puffs. It’s very dry, round, and consistent. If it gets wet, messy, or super small, back off to water and hay until they return to normal. The funky looking poop on the right is normal too. It’s called a cecotrope and most of the time your rabbit will eat it before you see it. It’s a special bit that needs to be digested again. Rabbit ownership is so much fun. 😉
A good, simple diet is rabbit pellets (buy something with 16-18% protein) and Timothy hay. If your rabbit is little (you just brought it home at 8 weeks) give it unlimited pellets and hay. As it approaches 6 months, begin to move feed toward 1 oz of pellets per pound of weight (an 8-pound rabbit would get 8 oz of pellets). Always have hay available (Timothy is best, orchard grass is fine too).
Because their teeth continue to grow, it’s a good idea to give them something to chew on like a pine cone or small stick. We give our bunnies willow and aspen sticks. (That’s what we have growing on our land and when a tree gets taken down, I cut all the smaller stuff into foot-long pieces for the bunnies.)
And that’s it – a safe, comfortable place to live with food and water.
handling your new rabbit
At first, I would give your new bunny a little space. They have just had a bumpy ride and been plopped into a new-to-them home with new sights, sounds, and smells. Over the first couple of days, as you feed your rabbit take the time to gently pet it. Most rabbits are a bit skitterish and are likely to run from your hand, but eventually, food wins out. 🙂 They figure out you won’t hurt them and they’ll put up with petting to get the food.
At some point, you will need to pick them up (for breeding or personal care). Most bunnies don’t like being dangled about (always support them from underneath). I usually hold the rabbit still with one hand (hold the fur on its neck/shoulder area) and use my other arm to scoop under it. Support its feet and tuck its nose into the inside of your elbow. For some reason that tends to calm them down.
Then be sure to tell them what a good bunny they are and give them plenty of pets.
Relalted article: How to Pick a Healthy Rabbit - take them home healthy!
cute bunny (is there any other kind?) © Isaak Matten / Pixabay
rabbit poo and cecotrope © Lori / Dandelion Hill Homestead
tucking Newton’s nose © Lori / Dandelion Hill Homestead
Pinterest image / cute bunny © Isaak Matten / Pixabay