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5 Myths About Rabbits and 5 Things You Should Know

March 20, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile agriculture as a whole has a great deal of misunderstanding about it, arguably rabbits have as much or more. Many times outright wrong information is spread, and it seems this hits a fever pitch at Easter.

We love our rabbits, and yet see them as livestock. They’re a unique, multi-purpose animal that are much different from others.

1. They breed like…well…rabbits! Yes they do…but although they can be prolific they can lose babies too.Sometimes they kill them intentionally while others are just clumsy moms. Sometimes instead of a nest box they have them on the wire. Babies are born blind and furless so need warmth.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. They can thrive on scraps. It’s true that rabbits love unsprayed trimmings of rose bushes, blackberry bushes, dandelions and other treats. The idea they can thrive on lettuce and carrots, however, is just not true. It’s not a balanced diet, and for the larger breeds, doesn’t provide enough nutrition for the larger body size let alone production.Lettuce and cabbage is something that should be given in small amounts – digestive upset can be fatal.

3. They’re social animals. They can be, but can also kill penmates directly or indirectly. Stronger animals or higher ranking ones can keep weaker ones away from feed. When we wean and raise a pen of bunnies together, it’s critical to insure all are actually getting to the feed and water. Rabbits bite and scratch and can inflict damage on others, especially if they can’t run away.

4. They’re abused and abandoned to shelters and overpopulation is a serious problem. Overpopulation? Some claim they’re the third most popular pet but that’s not even close. Dogs, cats, birds, fish – all more popular than rabbits. Third most abandoned – possibly because they’re more destructive than some admit. They chew, scratch and bite. Especially those with bad attitudes that should be meat rabbits, which many disagree with.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA5. If you change your mind just turn them loose. Unacceptable. Pure and simple – unacceptable. Pets are not something you get until it’s not convenient. Turning a domestic animal loose to fend for itself is cruelty. They stand out for predators, especially if white. They will get killed and it won’t be quickly. They’re at risk of being hit by cars, torn apart by dogs and starvation or disease.

So now that the errors are brought up what about the other things? What should you know about rabbits?

1. Rabbits need help in hot weather. They can – like pigs – overheat and die if confined in the sun in higher temperatures. Over 90 degrees and bucks can temporarily go sterile, and upwards of 95 they can die of heat stroke. Fans, ice, chilled ‘patios’ and other actions help rabbits come through the heat in good shape, but they need attention. They can handle cold better than heat.

2. Everything likes to eat rabbit. Dogs (especially roaming ones), owls, hawks, coons, opossum, fox and many other predators make a meal of rabbits. Some breeders have lost babies to rats. Protection of the rabbits is the biggest reason for cages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA3. They’re low maintenance pets. They can be. LOW maintenance not NO maintenance! A proper housing, including feed and water, and they take but minutes per day to care for. Interacting with them, however, takes longer! Watching them, getting to know each animal’s normal. Angoras are beautiful but all the fuzzy breeds take a dedication to keeping up with grooming. It does take time and when you go to a show and see those gorgeous balls of fluff, it’s taken a lot of time and effort to get them there!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4. They are good projects for the right people. They can be a great project for youth if sized to the right breed. Expecting a 3 or 4 year old to handle a giant breed alone means someone will get hurt – child, rabbit or both. Many smaller 4-5 pound breeds are better suited for smaller youth. Some breeds are more ‘spirited’ than others. Checkered Giants have a reputation for being ornery, or mean, but they’re a big rabbit that isn’t always going to cooperate!

5. Rabbits are not silent. They are quiet, but not silent. They growl, scream,grunt and groan. They find things to play with and can make more noise than one might think. They stomp if startled or challenged.

Rabbits are versatile animals that have contributed to food, medicine, fiber, fur and as pets for decades. While many think of them at Easter, we think of them year round.

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