Care and Management of Rabbits/Chapter 10
THE CARE OF RABBITS
THE CARE OF RABBITS
The care which the rabbits receive has everything to do with the success of the venture. And the measure of care which must be applied cannot be understood until the fancier has an intelligent idea as to just what sort an animal the rabbit is, and what is necessary to make it produce as it should.
While housing and feeding and general care have a great deal to do with success in rabbit raising, it is not these factors alone that will determine the success of the venture.
Feeders know that some men can feed animals more than others do and are still unable to get any gains in weight out of them. Two men may feed exactly the same ration, even down to the same weights in food fed and one of them will have a tremendous success, while the other will be unable to get any gains out of his stock.
It is not the ration that governs entirely, but it is the manner in which it is used and applied to the raising of rabbits that counts.
The point we are trying to make is that regularity is what produces such wonderful results in rabbit raising, or in the feeding of any animal. Your ration must be right, of course, but the best ration in the world will not compensate for irregularity and improper care. Stock breeders who habitually bring fine specimens to the shows and fairs will tell you that regularity in the care of their animals and in the feeding of them is the secret of their success. This certainly applies to the raising of rabbits.
Be regular at all odds. If you are going to feed the rabbits when you have time, it would be better not to start raising them at all. It is not so much what you feed or how much you feed or how nicely you clean out the hutches when you do clean them that counts, as it is how regular you are about the work.
The domesticated rabbit is not the same animal as the wild rabbit, we have made that statement before, but there is a comparison between the two that is worth noting. The wild rabbit is not as regular in his habits as the hutch rabbit under proper care. Consequently, it does not develop into the animal that the hutch rabbit does. If you do not believe this, get a couple of young wild rabbits, put them in hutches and feed them regularly along with your other stock, and when they are matured note the difference between them and their wild brothers and sisters. There will be added weight, better appearance and a more upstanding look in their eyes. The only difference has been in care and attention.
The rabbit is the last animal on earth that can be neglected. If you are going to have social parties and trips away from home or outside duties that are apt to cause you to want to "skip" the daily fifteen minutes with the rabbits at the usual time, it is better to erase the idea of keeping rabbits from your mind.
On the other hand, I would not have the would-be fancier jump to the conclusion that the rabbit is a frail animal and one that must be handled with gloves on. It is not that sort of an animal at all. It is, in fact, extremely hardy and will stand all sorts of abuse. In fact, I sometimes marvel that the rabbit continues to live at all in the hands of some people.
But I take it that the busy man or the boy who is thinking of raising a few rabbits wishes to treat them squarely and do all that he can to make a success of the venture. Hence the emphasis on the need of regular care and attention.
Rabbits require feeding only twice a day as a rule. It matters little as to just what time they are fed. They can be fed early in the morning or the last thing before the business man goes to the office or the boy leaves for school. And the evening feeding can be at any time convenient to the attendant, but the point is to feed at the same hour every day once you get the rabbits accustomed to being fed at that time.
It takes but little to "throw them off feed" and generally it is lack of regularity that does the trick. And another point should be noted in this connection. Once you find a ration that suits your pocketbook and the rabbits, hesitate a long time before you change it and then do it very gradually. A sudden change of feed will react in the development of the rabbit.
It takes but a little time to care for them, when it is done regularly. I find it most convenient to clean out the hutches each morning before breakfast. As soon as breakfast is prepared, I leave them and then when getting ready to go to work, give them the morning feeding. This takes only a very few minutes. For a small hutch of only four compartments one could easily do this work in five to ten minutes.
They will then require no more attention until evening. Of course, where there are nursing does, they will require a noon feeding, as mentioned elsewhere, but that can generally be arranged for. If the business man is not home at noon he can generally persuade the good wife to do it for him, or else some of the boys in the neighborhood. When a boy is running the rabbitry for spending money, he can do the work himself, if he is home for lunch. But if this is not possible, some arrangement can usually be worked out to take care of the bunnies in fine shape.
There is such little routine to the work that it is more than repaid by being regular. Then if you are a true fancier and naturally love the animals you will never find the work of caring for the rabbits a drudge or a burden. It will be a pleasure even in the most severe weather.
Women make excellent rabbit fanciers. They seem to be more regular in their habits and more thorough in the care they bestow upon them. This is one reason why the average woman is a better hand at raising chickens or in producing flowers that bloom than a man is. So if the lady of the house once becomes interested in the project, you may be sure that she will be glad to give old mother doe a feeding now and then.
Where hay racks are provided large enough to hold a quantity of hay it is often not necessary to feed the evening ration of hay at all. Sometimes filling the rack twice a week will be sufficient. Once in a while the evening feed is changed, as noted elsewhere, but the actual work in caring for the rabbits is so slight that the man who really has the right stuff in his makeup need not worry about the time required.