Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weaning young rabbits

This is one overdue post - but better late than never.

Since the 4th of the month, we have started weaning the young rabbits. These rabbits at 7-8 weeks old are ready to be separated from the mother and are already feeding on their own. In fact, some baby rabbits start feeding on pellets from the 11th day onwards. At this point, we would like to highlight that there are some unscrupulous breeders who would wean the baby rabbits as early as 3 weeks old or as soon as the rabbits are eating and drinking on their own in order to maximize turnover or productivity. The rabbits at this stage are at its cutest and is just the size of an adult's palm. Now, who wouldn’t say NO to a cute fur ball? But, hold your horses and hold that bank note in your pocket. Buying a baby rabbit like that means being weaned before its time and chances of the rabbit making to adolescent is slim and may develop other health complications such as being weak or having diarrhoea. Worse is, they may not be strong enough to overcome such weaknesses. Besides, you wouldn't be able to tell if "what you pay is what you get". Many paid for an Angora Rabbit but a few months later realized they had bought a normal bunny with long face and pointy ears instead!

Baby rabbits would depend on the mother’s milk for nutrients as they are still developing and their digestive or immune system is not strong enough to fend them even though they may be eating or drinking on their own.

Question: When to wean?

It is subjective. Based on our experience, 7 weeks is ideal though there may be times when a rabbit is ready to be separated from its mother at 6 weeks old while some may require more time with the mother.

Question: How to wean?

Take one at a time from the mother. Start by taking the biggest or the strongest. Alternatively, you may take all of them away except for one, which you could separate it from the mother a week later.

It is advisable not to wait past 12 as certain sources claimed that rabbits may get pregnant as early as 13 weeks. We don’t know how true it is for we would have separated the baby rabbits from the mother by then.

You may also determine the sex of the rabbit and separate the males and females into their own cages.

Do check their teeth for any signs of "wolf-teeth" or malocclusion. Make sure the upper teeth do NOT meet the lower teeth or the lower teeth do NOT overlap the top teeth. The teeth will dig into the gums and the rabbit will not be able to eat. This would require clipping by a vet on a regular basis.

Question: How can I tell if I am being offered with a rabbit which is barely a month old?

Sizes of the rabbit vary according to its breed. Know the standard size of the specific breed of rabbit you intend to buy or find out more about the rabbit's parents from the seller.

Question: What to look out for when purchasing or adopting a young rabbit?

Observe the characteristics and physical attributes of the rabbit. A healthy one has shiny eyes, clean ears, nice coat, is active, inquisitive and eats well. Also, check on the feces and make sure no signs of diarrhea or other health problem. Oh of fur mites!

Question: What to feed a young rabbit?

It is not advisable to feed a young rabbit below the age of 6 months with any fresh veggie or fruits. This is because their digestive system may reject and can have diarrhea. Best is stick with pellets, hay (timothy) and clean water.

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