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Purina® Rabbit Nutrition E—Newsletter

FEATURED STORY | Weaning: Separating the Bunny from the Rabbit

Eventually the time comes when every bunny has to be weaned, or taken away, from its mother. This change is one of the most stressful times of a rabbit’s life, but there are certain tricks of the trade that will smooth the transition from the doe’s milk to regular feed.

Rabbits are generally weaned between four and six weeks of age, but they can also go all the way up to eight or nine weeks. The time of weaning will vary depending on the size, breed and preference of the owner as long as the rabbits are old enough and capable to be on full feed.

“Weaning at four weeks of age is a great time for better feed efficiency,” said Ron Obermark, Purina’s longtime former rabbitry manager. “Weaning earlier is a cheaper transition because the bunnies are no longer going through the mother for nutrition. For the smaller breeds, you might want to wait a little longer because you’re not worried about maximizing production. You might go up to about 6 weeks then.”

When you’ve decided on the appropriate time to wean the bunnies, remove the doe from the original cage into her own smaller one. By keeping the bunnies in their own cage along with their litter mates, you will reduce their stress. Those that are interested in showing will also often segregate their bunnies so they can better regulate their body condition.

Once you’ve taken the doe – their original food source – from the cage, many recommend gradually working the bunnies onto their full feed. A good rate is starting at 60 percent on the first day, increasing to 80 percent on day two and reaching a full feeding plan on day three. The total amount should equal the amount of food they can consume in about 20 or 30 minutes.

It is also suggested to feed the bunnies a high fiber diet like Rabbit Chow™ Fibre3® Natural AdvantEdge™ Rabbit Food. A change in feed should always be done by first mixing it in slowly with the original feed. Long stem grass and timothy hay are also popular choices to add in with a newly weaned bunny.

One of the largest problems rabbit owners will face when they’re weaning bunnies is the appearance of enteritis, or bad diarrhea, in some of their bunnies. Because it is such a stressful time, it often takes a toll on the young rabbits.

“You can tell if there’s enteritis by observing the litter for signs of fecal matter on the backs of litter mate,” Obermark said. “When you see that, segregate that rabbit into a separate cage, and don’t feed it at all for 24 hours. You can then give it a reduced diet for 24 hours.

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RABBIT TIPS | Better Management from the 4-Square Philosophy for Success

Better management of your rabbits means keeping up a good habitat for owners of both pet and show rabbits. Good management techniques are one of the essential squares in Purina’s 4-Square Philosophy for Success in raising rabbits. With research and suggestions from rabbit owners and breeders across the nation, Purina has defined quick tips for management practices.

1. To decrease disease problems, do not overcrowd your rabbitry.

2. Having a good sanitation program is one of the most important things you can do to keep your rabbits healthy.

3. Use a disinfectant such as bleach to clean the pens, but wash it off after several minutes. It is recommended that a disinfectant like bleach have a 15-minute exposure time for proper disinfection.

4. Have a program in place to keep the rabbitry free of pests and rodents such as flies, spiders, mice and rats.

5. Haul the rabbit droppings away from the rabbitry so flies do not find the rabbitry as easily. Droppings make great compost for vegetable and flower gardens.

6. Have a weekly cleaning plan, and stick with it year round.

7. Keep animals out of direct sunlight, as rabbits cannot tolerate the heat, and the sunlight will fade their coats.

8. If you provide proper housing, good ventilation, maintain sound genetics, keep good records, have a sound nutritional program, have a good sanitation program, a good pest control program, and isolate sick or new stock, then you increase the chances of having a fun and healthy rabbitry.

9. Provide fresh feed and water each day to every rabbit. Dispose of old feed that remains in the feeder or feed bowl, so each rabbit has clean feed each day. Wash each water bowl daily to decrease buildup of algae.

10. Do not house male rabbits together once they reach sexual maturity since they will fight.

11. Female rabbits can be housed together in small groups and will usually not fight.

12. In hot weather, frozen plastic bottles can be placed in the cage to help keep the rabbit cooler.

13. Aluminum cans and small pieces of untreated wood can be placed in the cage for toys.

14. Do not make the nest box too big or the doe will use it for a bedroom and a bathroom. The nest box should only be big enough for the doe to get in and take a rest and then get out.

15. If a resting board is provided as a place for the rabbit to sit off the wire, then the board should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice each week or as needed to decrease disease problems.

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GET TO KNOW | Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Fibre3® Natural AdvantEdge™

Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Fibre3® Natural AdvantEdge™ is a natural*, corn-free rabbit food that provides superior nutrition for rabbits of all ages. It helps younger rabbits get a great start and helps older rabbits maintain ideal body weight. Free of all fillers, preservatives and artificial colors, Fibre3® Natural AdvantEdge™ Rabbit Food provides complete nutrition, giving your rabbits the food they need for growth, health and longevity.

• The Natural AdvantEdge™ Formula–superior, consistent, natural* nutrition FREE from all fillers, preservatives and artificial colors

• High fiber–for normal digestive tract function and overall health

• Corn-free–created especially for the unique needs of rabbits

• Great for rabbits of all ages–high fiber content is ideal for both young bunnies to help them get a good start, and to help older rabbits maintain ideal body weight

• Added lactobacillus, yeast and yucca shidigera–supports digestive health and aids in odor control

• Complete, natural nutrition–no additional supplements necessary. Great for rabbits of all ages and perfect to maintain a healthy body weight

• High-quality plant proteins–loaded with natural nutrients found only in plants that optimize vitality and support immune function

• Highly palatable–for proper intake and growth

• Purina® FeedGuard® Nutrition System–stringent quality standards help ensure many of the industry’s highest quality ingredients available are used, provides greater nutritional consistency bag after bag and considers all key nutrients and their interactions with each other to better support overall rabbit health

As always, when changing your rabbits from one feeding program to another, make the change gradually, over a five- to seven-day period. Mix the new feed with the old, gradually increasing the amount of the new feed (it’s always important to allow time for the rabbits’ intestinal flora to adjust to any new feed.) Continue to feed at the same time each day–evening is best. Clean the feeding dish daily so uneaten food does not become stale and moldy. And always provide plenty of clean, fresh, cool water to rabbits at all times.

*with added vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients

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