As a beginner you will find a lot of (often confusing or contradictory) information on the internet. What do you really need to know and what is especially important? Which information is useful and important for newbies to rabbits?
Here you will find basic information as a first introduction to rabbit keeping. Please note that you should also consider the links and acquire that deepened knowledge beyond this site, in order to become well informed about the rabbits. Especially the attitude, nutrition and healthy attitude as well as the recognition of diseases requires some deeper knowledge!
How old do rabbits get?
Rabbits live to be 8-12 years old, in some exceptional cases they can die earlier or live to be much older (over 12 years). The life expectancy increases if the animals are fed and kept in a species-appropriate way, but also through well observed and fast reaction and correct treatment incase of health problems.
Single keeping, couple or group?
Rabbits must never be kept alone, because that would be absolutely notspecies-appropriate and is therefore already legally forbidden in Switzerland and Austria. Besides it contradicts the German animal protection law, which specifies that rabbits must be held according to their species and their needs.
A couple or a small group of three harmonic rabbits (which are already taken over together) are very harmonic and therefore ideal for beginners. People would like to hold larger groups, should begin with a small group and collect so first experiences, before the group is enlarged. A similar number of castrated males as the number of females must always be held in a group. Pure groups of females or males often fail. An exception are two early castrated males, which grow up together.
Rabbits for children? Petting animals?
The reputation as„easy-care children-animals“ doesn’t do rabbits justice. They are more elaborate and require more care than one thinks and do not like to be picked up and carried around at all. By picking them up, they get fear and become very shy.
If, however, the parents stand behind the attitude, they can teach their children the respectful contact with the rabbits, so that the animals can be stroked on the ground and fetch food from the hand. In addition, they are great „observation animals“ and you can build adventure playgrounds for them.
As a parent,however, you should be aware of the fact that the parents will have to take care of the manure and often also the daily care in the course of time, since the children usually develop other interests in phases. Angora rabbits must be shaved every 83 days and this is not an easy task, for children in particular.
Making rabbits acquainted with each other, incompatible rabbits
Rabbits are social throughout, there are no rabbits who do not get along with other rabbits in general. But there are many rabbit owners who „wrongly“get their rabbits used to each other and due to these mistakes it seems as if they are incompatible. Find out exactly in advance how to integrate new rabbits into a group or how to add a friend to a rabbit!
Basically you are not allowed to put rabbits together in your usual hunting ground and you have to let them fight out the hierarchy first (fights, furflight, ramming, chasing). It takes several days outside the hunting ground until they understand each other and are allowed to move back to the hunting ground.
What are the costs of keeping rabbits?
Angora rabbits arenot the cheapest pets. You need about 100-250€ to build a tidy, marten-proof enclosure for two rabbits. For the nutrition one can calculate about one Euro per animal and day, if one buys seasonally and cheaply. In the summer, one should switch to meadow plants from the wild, this is particularly healthy and causes no costs at all.
The veterinary costs cannot be planned in advance, but if the animals should become ill, costs of about 80-200€ usually arise. Some rabbits never get sick, others quite often. That is particularly dependent on the descent and the nutrition and attitude.
What should I feed my rabbit?
That is actually quite simple, but is still often done wrong. Angora rabbits have the same digestion as their wild relatives and therefore need the same kind of food. Meadow plants, tree leaves, twigs, buds, blossoms, roots…Everything that nature has in store. In summer you can collect them in nature (dandelion, grasses, hogweed, ribwort plantain…), in winter you can switch to leafy vegetables such as bitter salads, herbs and cabbage and supplement them with fruit and tuber vegetables. Water is always offered in a bowl, rabbits drink less from drinking bottles because the water only comes out drop by drop.
Completely unsuitable for feeding, is any ready-made feed / rabbit food from the trade. There are only a few types of food that do not contain pellets, coloured lumps or the like and are put together sensibly.
How are rabbits kept?
Even if traditional rabbit keeping uses bays, stables or cages for rabbits, this form of keeping is absolute cruelty to animals. Or would you also imprison your cat in such a prison? Rabbits are very agile and interactive (also active at night!). Therefore one should build a marten-safe permanent freewheel on the stable. Instead of a cage in the apartment, you can keep house-trained rabbits free or fence off an area from the room for the rabbits. It is also possible to keep rabbits on a balcony.
For two rabbits with daily free run of several hours on large surface at least 4 m² must be offered as enclosures, better more. For rabbit groups without free run or with little or irregular free run we recommend at least 10-12 m² large enclosures. Other organisations specify a minimum size of 6 m² in this case.
Are rabbits „weatherproof“?
Rabbits are ideal for year-round outdoor keeping in the garden or on the balcony, but they can also live indoors.
If the rabbits live in a large enclosure with partial roofing and a shelter, they can be kept outside in any weather. They enjoy digging in the snow, grazing in light rain and romping around in all weathers. If it is too wet or cold for them, they go back to their protected area on their own. They should be able to exercise in any weather and decide for themselves where they are. It is important to get them used to the outside temperatures slowly, e.g. by setting them outside in the summer months.
Angora rabbits can be kept outside in winter, but require special attention, care and preparations. Our angora rabbits are kept outside all year. We shave them to 3-4 cm hair lenght as soon as the weather forecast predicts the first nights with temperatures below the freezing point. This keeps their bodies warm but at the same time avoids the risk of getting too wet from cold rain and snow.
Do not make the mistake to lock the rabbits in a small barn in winter, there they vegetate like in a small refrigerator and can even freeze to death.
How do I keep the rabbits healthy?
Rabbits are escape animals and therefore try not to attract attention for as long as possible and to follow the group, even if they are already very ill. If signs of disease appear, the disease is usually already very advanced.
In order to avoid „suddenly dead rabbits“ it is very important to do a „short check“ twice a day:
- Do all rabbits eatwith the usual appetite?
- Does the rabbit behave in the same way it usually does, or does it behave differently (sits in other places, does not come to you immediately, is suddenly much more trusting etc.)?
- Does the rabbit move normally, or does it sit around more?
If a rabbit should not eat or behave differently, this is a strong sign of illness and the veterinary emergency service should be visited.
We recommend that you have an emergency drug in your medicine cabinet if the rabbit refuses to eat. This emergency medication is composed of Sab Simplex(pharmacy), cooking oil and belly tea for babies which can be found in any drugstore.
Pour a shot of Sab Simplex into a small container (e.g. an egg cup), stir some belly tea powder (do not mix with water! Use the pure powder.), add approx. 5 drops of edible oil (olive, rape, etc.) and draw up with a 1 ml syringe (without needle) and put into the mouth. Repeat this every hour until the rabbit starts eating again. If the rabbit does not eat small amounts of herbs or similar after one hour (put everything in front of the mouth), the emergency service must be contacted.
Do a health check on a regular basis, you can find information on what to look out for here: Health check for rabbits
This includes a faecal sample once a year, claw cutting if these are not sufficiently worn and the examination of the animal.
In spring rabbits should be vaccinated against myxomatosis, RHD and RHD2, especially in infected areas.
Where do I get matching, healthy rabbits?
Do not make the mistake to acquire your future rabbits in the zoo trade or on small animal markets. These animals originate from mass breeding, which you also support with the purchase, so that animals are reproduced again and again. In addition, the animals are often ill, infested with intestinal parasites and you receive no good advice. As a newbie to angora rabbits, you will hardly be able to identify whether it is a pure breed or not.
You are in good hands with most animal shelters and emergency stations, but also with some private breeders. There you will receive healthy, veterinarily examined, castrated and often vaccinated animals. In addition, you will receive good advice, can bring the animals back in an emergency and receive help if questions or problems arise. Young animals should only move into the new home at the age of ten, better twelve weeks. If younger animals are offered to you, the vendor is not serious!
You can find more information about the origin here: Where to buy rabbits?