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Title headings on this page

Lucerne Tree vs Pellet Study

 A Kitten's Week by Week Growth Chart

 Insect Eating Carnivores? 
(and Meat Eaters)

 Poor Falsely Accused Bellamy!

Odd Bits of Interesting Info
 

 

Lucerne Tree versus Pellet study

On three separate occasions a NSW commercial rabbit breeder conducted a study using twenty youngsters divided into two groups. Each group, from weaning age until three months old were fed either a diet consisting solely of commercial rabbit pellets (based on lucerne hay) or foliage from Lucerne trees. Tree Lucerne (Cytisus palmensis) or otherwise known as Tagasaste, is an attractive evergreen woody shrub/small tree with grey green leaves.

The tree is well renowned in agriculture circles for providing nutritious livestock fodder. I found it interesting that the youngsters on the 'tree foliage' gained weight at a slightly slower pace, however at the final weigh in both groups were on par. Another minor difference noted by the breeder was that he thought the pellet group displayed a slightly healthier coat.

Food for thought and great food for bunnies!

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Above: a healthy Lucerne tree and on the right a close up of its foliage.


A Kitten's Week by Week Growth Chart

It's fascinating how tiny baby rabbits double and quadruple in size in such relatively short period of time. A major influencing factor is because rabbit's milk is very rich in comparison to many other mammals and certainly the composition of their milk is unique to their own species.

The newborn kitten was placed on a cup saucer measuring 15.24 cms (6 inches) across. Bear in mind the growth rate example is basically applicable to breeds of comparative size, such as Mini Lop, Mini Rex and Jersey Wooly. If I took photos of a kitten from a tiny or much larger breed the results would be considerably different. (for those that may question if my methods were humane — to help maintain body warmth the photos were taken within a few minutes on a pre warmed plate and cotton wool).

babydayone.jpg Day One  A butterfly marked Mini Cashmere Lop just a few hours old and highly vulnerable! At this stage kits are hairless, eyes are closed and the only way of finding their way around is by their senses (seeking warmth) and ability to crawl. A warm nest is essential for survival. The rounded tummy indicates that the kit received a good start in life with a generous feed of mother's milk.

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One Week Old  Not so naked now! The pink skin has developed a thin covering of white and blue fur colour. If lost out its cozy nest he or she is still vulnerable to exposure. In three days time the eyelids will open

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Two Weeks Old 
Kits at this age may start to nibble so it's highly advisable to line the nest with edible meadow hay. This practice begins the natural process of weaning (as it is meant to occur in wild and domesticated rabbits) and surely helps avoid digestive upsets in the future.

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Three Weeks Old — and starting to fill up the plate! She's out of the nest box now and running around with siblings. She also drinks from the water bowl and shares breakfast and dinner with her devoted mum Celeste.


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Four Weeks Old  One of her brother's was curious as to what she was getting up to every week, so he came along to find out. He is a siamese smoke colour and the other two littermates are red-eyed whites. During the week I noticed the kittens were jumping up on their mum's resting shelf. It's quite a leap (10 inches/25.4 cms) for such littlies and no doubt from hereon the shelf will become quite crowded.

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Five Weeks Old  I decided to call this little sweetie 'Anastasia'.
Anastasia and her littermates are very active and act as if they are always pathetically hungry. Perhaps if they didn't spend so much time jumping up and down like yoyos from the elevated shelf, they wouldn't work up so much of an appetite!

   
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 Six Weeks Old  Obviously it won't be long before she'll outgrow the plate! You probably can't tell from the photo but due to the onset of her first moult and extensive rainfall (moisture in the air) her soft baby coat is starting to matt. I'll probably clip Anastasia soon, so she doesn't have to put up with the time consuming hassle of combing and brushing out felting/tangles.
 
 
 


Insect Eating Carnivores
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Years ago someone told me they thought they saw their rabbit eating a worm. Another time someone said they were convinced their bunny munched on a pupa. Since the rabbits were digging in the garden at the time, I had my doubts about these case stories.

Being a bit of a gardener, I thought maybe the owners could have mistaken the worm or pupa for a piece of root/plant material. Out of curiosity I conducted an experiment on a few of my bunnies, but it was obvious they weren't in the slightest bit interested in snacking on a worm.

Recently though, someone told me her rabbit scampered after a cockroach and enthusiastically devoured it – making crunching noises and all! Conjures up a gross picture but nonetheless I thought it was interesting info. Another pet owner reported seeing her rabbit eat a live stick insect. Makes you wonder whether similar to cats and dogs sometimes needing to eat grass, if our rabbits occasionally need to eat fresh meat!

Meat Eaters?

Apart from eating insects, I received an e-mail about a young bunny who
"cleaned a chicken bone off its meat. She did not eat the bone. There was only a little meat on it to begin with but all she left of it was little bunny tooth scratches. Do you think she did that to satisfy chewing urges regarding to bone, or well maybe she just likes chicken. I came here to look it up to make sure it couldn't hurt her. She is a spoiled house bunny that is already litter trained. If it doesn't hurt her and she wants it . . . I don't see why she shouldn't have it!"

To which I replied: I've also heard of bunnies eating dog or cat food but wouldn't recommend regularly providing or allowing them to eat any kind of meat as part of their diet. This is simply because they are herbivores (vegetarians) and who's to know what the consequences are of them eating 'foreign' food or if it is detrimental to their digestive system. The trouble is, you won't know if chicken meat could hurt her until it's too late, best to stick to a natural diet and lean on the cautious side is my advice!

Received with thanks from Karen Deweske
"I was just reading about the rabbit that ate some chicken off a bone and read about other people saying that their bunnies will eat dog or cat food. Well I have one of those bunnies! He is a house Rex and his favorite food is Whiskas Cat dry, and not just any of them, but the Chicken and Rabbit flavour! It has never had any effect on him and he has been eating it for 2 years now. I don't dare change the brand though he can eat other varieties of Whiskas, however he does prefer the chicken and rabbit one. *LOL* It's quite funny watching three cats and a rabbit at the food bowl but it's a different story when my little dog comes in and want's some too. Poor Malabu (the rabbit) is chased away but he doesn't mind, he just comes running to tell me he has been brutally attacked *LOL*. Mind you, he is bigger than the dog!"

Malabu's story has been included as simply another interesting case example, please do not take it as an endorsement to feed any form of meat to bunnies. Although the mentioned cat food advertised chicken and RABBIT flavoured, I very much doubt there'd be significant, if any, genuine rabbit meat in the ingredients. Once again, I'll illiterate that it pays to be wary. Take for example when man decided to feed cattle their own by-products and bovine bone meal, the consequence caused the horrific and highly infectious Mad Cow Disease. I guess that in itself would be a good reason to avoid the unlikely (but who's to know or able to predict?) cause of Mad Rabbits running around! 

Further news from Karen: "Yes he does run around madly, he also had some spaghetti bolognese today that I forgot to pick up before he had a run. LOL Malabu is a little famous, he came to be a house rabbit after he showed signs of epilepsy as an 8 week old kit and has lived in the house ever since. He still fits, but they are not frequent and he's a joy to all who comes in contact with him.



I've just been reading about carnivore rabbits on your website and remembered seeing my bunny Binky trying to catch a moth. He caught it and tore it's wings off! He did the same to a lady beetle. I have another bunny called Elvis who caught a grasshopper and pulled it apart. After reading the stories on your website I'm wondering if they did in fact eat them? Elvis did make a mess of the grasshopper! Karen



My name is Steph, and I live in South Australia. I was surfing the internet to find out more about rabbits and I came across your site. I was interested so decided to read onwards and found the article on rabbits eating meat. For you see, I’m not sure about rabbits eating bugs, but I do know a thing about them eating meat e.g. beef, pork, chicken etc.
I once owned a beautiful bunny called Flower, and she was quite young when I took her home from a local pet shop. When I got her settled in our home she was taken inside every night and let out to run around. Flower and my dog Maggie started to form a very strong bond, and it got stronger every day. It built up quickly until Flower took Maggie in as her mother.

Maggie loved my little Flower and they spent every night running around chasing after each other - often Flower chasing Maggie and Maggie rolling around in delight!!! One night, flower started watching Maggie eating and started to copy her. So every night my Flower and Maggie used to eat kibbles (dried dog food) together, and then of course run and play with each other. One day Maggie got some fresh meat for dinner so Flower had a few nibbles and Maggie ate the rest.

In the morning, she was dead. I later asked the vet about it and he said that bunny’s tummy acid is unable to digest any sort of meat, even kibbles. And that the couple of nibbles of meat she had that night was the last straw, so she would have died from the kibbles soon. My flower died a slow and painful death. I am writing this as a warning to any rabbit owner. Don’t let your rabbit eat any sort of meat. Steph and Maggie. In loving memory of Flower

Dear Steph, Thank you for providing this helpful information and sharing your heartrending story. With your permission, I would love to add your email to the website page as I think it is important for everyone to find out about your real life experience. I would also appreciate a little bit more background such as further description about poor little Flower's symptoms. Unfortunately, some may think her death was coincidental and could have occurred from a number of other reasons – especially if their rabbits eat dry or fresh meat (or whatever) and yet continue to live on.

I can also imagine some questioning the vet's opinion, especially since it is difficult to absolutely prove something unless an autopsy or tests were done to categorically verify this kind of detrimental cause and effect. Readers would no doubt also be interested in finding out about the breeds of Flower and Maggie or if moggy crosses? I could add your answer to a survey I intend to conduct (in the near future) about which dog breeds are known to make good rabbit companions or alternatively react with predator instincts. I appreciate the time and trouble you’ve gone to help inform others. Hugs to Maggie. Christine

Dear Christine, You more than welcome to have my permission to put Flower’s story on your website! I am sure that would be what she wanted. Before Flower went to bed, she went very quiet and much later on she peed blood then she went to bed. That’s all I can remember, sorry. Flower was a dwarf lop with small black and white spots, she was a very healthy little rabbit, fit and well fed. My vet just told me his opinion, there wasn’t an autopsy done.
 
My baby Maggie is a beautiful three-year-old Tenterfeild Terrier. Not many people know about this breed so I'll tell you a bit. Maggie is a very well tempered Tenterfeild, Tenterfeilds are a Mini Fox terrier or Jack Russel Terrier, that I’m not quite certain about. Maggie would never bite a child but she does kill the wild rabbits we have running around our property, as well as mice and rats. Tenterfeilds are ratters therefore are meant to have short legs but Maggie is a runt so she has long ones!!! Your hopefully helpful Steph and Maggie!


(Message received 16th February 2009) Hi there, Our English Spot bunny once ate a cicada! Regards, Cath


And another one about a mouse muncher!

15th May 2013. I have a little bit of surprising news about my pet bunny 'Precious' eating anything my son drops mortadella, cheezels, chicken sausage - you name it if it's on the floor the rabbit hoovers it up. I try to keep an eye on this, as she is a spoilt house bunny.

Today just 30 minutes ago, no word of a lie I set a mouse trap in the laundry as I saw a mouse in there because of the bunny food. I shut the door but hubby left it open so had to check on the rabbit in case she would snap herself in the trap, but no! Instead she pulled out the trap with the freshly caught mouse and nibbled off its legs and tail! I was horrified she would have eaten the whole thing if I didn't come so soon. She is such a loving and attention seeking bunny she needs her night time hugs and kisses but I can't believe what she did today. Regards, Liv


 

My reply: thanks heaps for sharing your ‘bunny munching on a mouse’ experience – very interesting indeed though somewhat yucky to comprehend and imagine! Perhaps a simple explanation could be that she was just following a rabbit’s basic instinct to keep the home environment (or what’s considered as their ‘burrow’) nice and clean. And guess it didn’t occur to her that you would dispose of the dead mouse! Female rabbits are known to consume dead kits from contaminating their nest, though not all of them are prepared to do this. 

Oh and would have been great if managed to capture the event on photo or video as could have inserted a caption like, “Gotcha you dirty rotten mouse that will teach you from pinching my food!” Cheers, Christine


Hi Christine, I didn’t get in on video because I simply just freaked out and wanted to stop her immediately. I love it when she kisses my face but I had to hold her off for a while and we also nicknamed her ‘Hannibal’. We have had rabbits before and never had seen anything like this. She is such a funny girl as for example she also hates the remote control on her couch and throws it off. She is precious but hard work this one, at the end of the day when we snuggle in front of the fire it's all worth it! Regards, Liv

 


Bird eaters - believe it or not!
 

Hi, just came across your web site and the interesting debate about rabbits eating meat. I have a story about my two rabbit girls who devoured a bird!!!

 

I breed various parrots and during a short trip away, I put my two girl bunnies in one of my aviaries so that they had space and continuous shade for the few days I was going away. As I was obviously not able to move their hutch or ensure it stayed covered and seemed a much more suitable sized home that the hutch I had.

 

On my return one of my young cockatiels had died, or so I assumed, the only thing remaining was a torso and head! Not even a beak was left! Thinking maybe the rabbits had decided to nibble a body, being such curious things, I made sure there were no ground birds with the rabbits from then on.

 

About a week later, another baby fledged from the box a little early and remained on the bottom of the aviary while its parents fed it. The next day the baby didn’t look so good and much to my horror part of it’s wing had been so damaged it was almost useless, a horrific wound to the shoulder and a huge chunk of flesh taken from the thigh. All the feathers were missing from one wing and abdomen. My immediate thought was to put this poor little guy down and decided at the last minute (at the vets) to give him one days chance and see the outcome. After antibiotics and anti-inflammatory she was begging to be fed within a few hours. This little girl is now called ‘rabbit’ and her wing hangs at an angle, she hates being on the ground even when the other birds are there too and is very wary of strangers but is such a lovable sweetie that I couldn’t imagine her not being with us. There was no other explanation, the rabbit or rabbits would have to have done it. These are very sweet pets mind you, on good diets and are a good healthy size. Anyway, learnt a big lesson and animals are animals.

 

Also from a comment earlier, rabbits can digest protein in the form of meat but a low fibre, higher fat diet will kill a rabbit pretty quickly. So the more nonessential food the rabbit is eating the less essentials it will be eating. The sudden introduction of new food, as all rabbit people know, can cause major intestinal problems quickly, particularly a bunny that is already compromised.

 

I doubt very much that a small amount of meat would kill a rabbit. If you look into rabbit behaviour, a sick or stressed doe can eat some or all of her litter and she will not die unless she is sick already. Stressed rabbits in crowded environments have been known to eat body parts of other rabbits. All mammals have need of extra protein at various stages of their lives and the ability to digest and utilise it in many forms. Yes, I have seen rabbits eat bugs. Possums too are very well known for taking baby birds from nests and devouring them with relish.

 

Don’t forget even human animals have been know to eat their own too. Petah Larke

 

Hi Petah,

 

Thank you kindly for such an interesting though quite a bizarre story! On one hand, I can imagine a bunny attacking those poor birds BUT since you didn't actually see them do the deed there could possibly be a few other explanations. If the birds were attacked, I'm inclined to think it might have been more for the reason of protecting their new home or felt they should defend themselves from those weird, winged creatures – rather than the desire or need to eat meat.

 

Alternatively, another culprit or possible scenarios could be considered. The first cockatiel could have died from an unknown cause and the damage done by the other birds, rats, mice, snake or? So too the baby fledgling could have been harmed by who knows what?

 

I'll never forget a story someone told me about her horrible, nasty rabbit that although had previously been a good mother was eating her babies at the rate of one every day. The anxious breeder asked me what she could do to save the others so I advised this was highly uncharacteristic behaviour and should be investigated further. I remember asking if they were absolutely sure it was the mother and to thoroughly search the entire hutch in case there was a hole or gap the kits were crawling out of.

 

Well the owner searched high and low and much to their utmost horror when they moved the hutch they found a nest full of baby rats underneath! Not surprisingly chicken pens, bird aviaries and bunny hutches are particularly attractive to rodents as an ideal source of food and given they’re sneaky creatures can often go undetected.

 

Since you've mentioned the possum, which a lot of people regard as cute and only eat fruit, seeds and vegetation, I've also heard how they can be vicious to rabbits. One day a family with two bunnies disturbed a possum fleeing from the scene of the crime of ripping into one of their pets. Even though the other one didn’t receive physical injuries it was so traumatised that it died the following day. Generally people aren’t warned about possums attacking and killing rabbits but in this case example it just goes to show that they could be highly territorial as well as a timely reminder that the best preventative is to provide a secure hutch. All the best, Christine
 



Poor falsely accused Bellamy!

 


Sometimes you shoudn't be too hasty to judge a buck!

prayingfortesticles.jpgThere's an interesting story about this fellow . . . 

When Bellamy was a kitten he went to someone who requested a good show/breeding buck. A while later I received a call from the owner (in NSW) saying she intended to relocate him as a pet as he didn't have any testicles. I was perplexed as this would have been a first for one of my bucks, as his breeder I had to confirm this myself, so offered a replacement bunny and organized the exchange.

When I saw him he was 4½ months old and my initial thought was that he was very small for his age. A quick health check confirmed he was under condition (I could easily feel a prominent backbone), which indicates insufficient protein in his diet. I also managed to detect tiny little scrotums and decided to feed him up and wait and see. Well with proper nutrition Bellamy grew bigger and in his maturity developed quite normally. He was obviously a slow developer or more to the point his growth was unnaturally inhibited by an inadequate diet. He definitely has gonads now and quite capable of siring lovely little babies!



 
Do you have an interesting story you would like to share with your fellow bunny buddies?
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 If so we'd love to hear about them! 
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