Rabbits are herbivores that feed by grazing on grass, forbs, and leafy weeds. Consequently, their diet contains large amounts of cellulose, which is hard to digest.
Rabbits solve this problem via a form of hindgut fermentation. They pass two distinct types of feces: hard droppings and soft black viscous pellets, the latter of which are known as caecotrophs and are immediately eaten (a behaviour known as coprophagy).
Rabbits reingest their own droppings (rather than chewing the cud as do cows and numerous other herbivores) to digest their food further and extract sufficient nutrients.
Feed consuming rate and nutrient requirements varies, depending on the rabbit’s age and breed type.
For proper nutrition of adult rabbits, their food should contain 17 to 18 percent crude protein, 14 percent fiber, 7 percent minerals and 2700 kilo calorie/kg of metabolic energy.
Green leafy vegetables, seasonal vegetable, spinach, carrots, muller, cucumber, green grass and vegetable wastes are common food of rabbits.
For commercial purpose, you can serve them poultry feed. In accordance with providing nutritious feed, supply them sufficient amount of clean and fresh water according to their demand.
Usually rabbits become mature and suitable for breeding purpose within their 5 to 6 months of age. But don’t use the male rabbits for breeding purpose until they reach their first birthday.
Doing this will ensure, quality young rabbits for commercial production. Always try to use healthy rabbits with proper body weight for breeding.
Never breed the females, if they are ill. Take special care to the breeding male and pregnant female rabbits, and provide them nutritious feed. The gestation period of rabbits is about 28 to 31 days. And each time a doe can give birth to 2-8 kids.
Some diseases associated with Rabbits
There are some common diseases and problems seen in rabbits that can be prevented by ensuring you have an understanding of what a healthy rabbit requires and the subtle signs that can tell you your rabbit is unwell.
We will look at a couple of these diseases.
- Overgrown Teeth : A rabbit’s teeth continually grow throughout its life and if a rabbit is not constantly grinding their teeth down by eating fibre we start to see their molar teeth forming sharp spikes that damage their cheeks and tongue. This causes pain that makes them reluctant or unable to eat. The incisors at the front of the mouth can, in severe cases grow around in a curl meaning rabbits cannot close their mouth or eat at all. Once a rabbit stops eating their gut stops working and they can die.
Prevention & Treatment: 80-90% of your rabbit’s diet needs to be fibre in the form of oaten or grass hay. The rest of the diet should be leafy greens, with pellets and other treats being minimal to non-existent. It can be treated by a general anaesthetic and burring the teeth flat.
2. Snuffles: Close contact with an infected rabbit can easily transfer the Pasteurella multocida bacterium to your rabbit.
The bacteria can affect the eyes (discharge, redness, squinting) and/or nose (sneezing, discharge), thus giving the disease its name “snuffles.” Pasteurella can infect other areas of the body as well, including ears (resulting in a head tilt), abscesses (seen as lumps on the body) and uterine infections.
Prevention & Treatment: Reducing stress for rabbits that are infected and the quarantine of new rabbits are good ways of preventing introduction of the disease or recurrence of signs. Treatment involves a long and sometimes repeated course of antibiotics. Occasionally surgery is required if an abscess forms
3. Hairballs: Hair can normally be found in a rabbit’s stomach as they self-groom. However, as rabbits cannot vomit, hair must be able to pass through the gut.
If it can’t then it will form an obstruction and serious complications. Hairballs are so common that they should always be considered as a problem in any rabbit that is lethargic and not eating.
Prevention & Treatment: It can be prevented by giving a high fibre diet. Sometimes surgery is the only treatment if the hairball causes a blockage in the gut. Medication to get the gut working again can also help.
4. Myxomatosis: Myxomatosis is a virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes, fleas or by close contact between an infected rabbit and a susceptible rabbit. The disease is recognised by swelling and discharge from the eyes, nose and anogenital region.
Prevention Treatment: Invest in a mosquito proof rabbit hutch or bring your rabbit inside at dawn and dusk when mosquito levels are higher. Flea control can help and when introducing new rabbits keep them isolated for at least 2 weeks. The disease is invariably fatal.
Source: RoysFarm, Wikipedia, Vetwest