What to know when buying a rabbit

The best time to consider buying a rabbit is when they have reached 8 weeks of age. At this stage a rabbit will have been fully weaned from their mother's milk and just starting to eat solids.

You should never buy a rabbit under this age.

Between 8 to 10 weeks a mother will no longer feed her offspring and will lose interest in them.

Young rabbits have different nutritional needs to adult rabbits. They need more protein, (about 16%), to help with their growing as well as fibre, (around 20%), that is always required in rabbits to help with healthy digestion.

Young rabbits are vulnerable to digestive problems and one of the main concerns with buying a rabbit from a pet shop or similar outlet, is that it is likely the rabbit has had a drastic change in their environment and diet.

These changes can be stressful to a young rabbit and upset the process of proper gut movement. At this age their gut is still in the process of evolving and has to establish proper movement.

Fatal digestive upsets are all too common, especially in babies who have left the breeder before eight weeks of age.

When buying a rabbit, avoid pet shops or anyone else selling 6 to 7 week old rabbits. With a young rabbit 8 weeks or older, You can immediately introduce plenty of good quality hay, which is an essential part of any rabbits diet whether young (from weaning onwards), or adult.

Once your rabbit is eating hay, you can then introduce rabbit pellets, that are especially designed for young (may be referred to as baby,on the packet) rabbits.

With any pellet feed, always make sure you still give your rabbit hay.

Pellets for adult rabbits may not provide enough protein for a young growing rabbit. A young rabbit needs a minimum 16% and an adult 12% to 14%.

With any brand of rabbit food, check the label and look at protein and fibre levels .

Dried grass is high in fibre and protein, so wherever possible it is a good idea to add/include this as an excellent way of topping up fibre and protein.

Do not give rabbit mix to your rabbit, as it simply encourages selective feeding and may well cause serious problems.

With any change in diet, it must be introduced gradually over a period of one to two weeks, do not rush it.

At around 4 months of age, rabbits start to sexually mature. Males (bucks) should be neutered as soon as their testicles drop and females (does) spayed, after about 4 months, but before a year.

If you have mixed sex rabbits, then now is the time to separate them until they are neutered or spayed.

With younger rabbits, up to about 3 months, it is extremely hard to tell males from females and even a trained vet may find it very hard to say for definite.

If you are buying a rabbit from a pet shop or similar outlet, it is likely that they will not know the rabbit's history and for this reason, you need to be cautious when feeding.

Once a young rabbit is eating hay and pellets, you can gradually add very small quantities of vegetables, perhaps a little carrot, dandelion, watercress, Basil or other safe herbs.

For further information on what to feed, please go to

Feeding your Rabbit and What NOT to feed your rabbit Feed a small amount each day and gradually increase the quantities in the following days and weeks.

By building up gradually, you should not run into any problems.

Once your rabbit is 6 to 8 months old, he/she will be almost full grown and you can care and feed them as an adult rabbit.

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