Last changed: 2015/02/23 11:22

Rabbits in the Classroom

We 'rent' rabbits to schools - usually by the month (see below for costs). We normally have babies available from early April through October.

We feel that having animals in the classroom can be a very valuable experience but we also realize that not all teachers are prepared for the commitment of pet ownership. By “renting” a bunny, you can provide your class with the experience of having an animal to look after, but when the unit is complete, the rabbit can come back to the farm. WE ARE NOT ATTEMPTING TO SELL RABBITS THROUGH THIS PROGRAM. If someone in your class decides they wish to keep a rabbit as a pet, please have the child's parents contact us. We do sell rabbits as pets but we DO NOT sell through pet shops or other third parties and we insist that any prospective rabbit owners talk to us about what is involved in keeping and caring for a rabbit properly. Taking on any pet is a serious commitment and prospective new owners must be committed to caring for their for its entire life.

Please NOTE

WE ARE NOT ATTEMPTING TO SELL RABBITS THROUGH THIS PROGRAM. Anyone interested in purchasing a rabbit as a pet MUST contact the farm directly.

ALL rabbits must be returned to the farm after the rental period is complete.

Rented bunnies may go on overnight visits with children in the class, but are NOT to be allowed to visit homes where there are other rabbits.

The school will be held responsible for the safety of the rabbit while it is in their care.

Our RABBIT package includes the following:

  1. reference materials (now on the web and activities as available)
  2. 1 young rabbit (MUST BE RETURNED)
  3. 5 lb. of rabbit food
  4. supply of bedding (straw or wood shavings)
  5. food dish and water bottle (TO BE RETURNED)
  6. cage (extra charge - see notes)
  7. bunny chew 'stick'
  8. small box for transport (TO BE RETURNED)
  9. small supply of oatmeal (see explanation later)

WE ARE ALSO ABLE TO OFFER THE FOLLOWING:

(when any Bunny Kit is ordered (see below for costs)

cage rental
'extra' bunny
water soluble Vitamin Supplement
Rabbit Ration Feed
Straw for Bedding
Wood Shavings for Bedding

Bunnies must be returned to the farm. This is our business, and we do not give breeding stock away. We do occasionally sell rabbits as pets. If someone in the class is interested in purchasing a bunny, note that the classroom bunny MUST be returned to the farm, and potential new owners must contact the farm. NO EXCEPTIONS.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

As this project deals with living animals, it is of utmost importance that you are prepared to look after the bunny properly. Some preparation at the beginning will insure that this project is a success to the end.

GENERAL NOTES

Whenever possible we provide young bunnies, just weaned. They are usually about 6 weeks old. You will be provided with an “ID” card that tells you when the bunny was born, what sex it is, who its parents are and what its colour is called. You are encouraged to pick a name for the bunny with your class.

REX Rabbits:

All of our rabbits are of a breed known as “REX”. These are medium large rabbits with adult weights between 7-11 lb. Rex rabbits are known for their extraordinary coats: they are especially soft and dense. All mammals with fur have a double coat. This means that they have 2 kinds of fur: one which is typically soft and downy - this is the under-coat. The other is usually longer and harsher - this is the outer coat - this is the one we usually see. The outer, or top coat provides the animal with protection from the elements while the under coat provides the insulation they need to keep them both warm in winter and cool in summer.

What makes the rex coat so special is the fact that the hairs of the top coat are the same length as the hairs of the under coat and that the coat stands out from the body instead of lying flat. This gives them a velvety look and a feel that is one of the softest things you have ever felt.

BEHAVIOUR AND HANDLING

Rex rabbits usually have a very calm and friendly temperament, which makes them easy to handle and fun in the classroom. For the most part, rabbits prefer a calm and quiet environment with few surprises but if you give your bunny a few days to get used to his/her new environment, they should settle in to the hustle and bustle of a typical classroom quite well.

Make sure children are always calm and gentle when handling the rabbit. RABBITS ARE NEVER TO BE PICKED UP BY THEIR EARS!!! When holding a rabbit, make sure its feet are supported. If they feel insecure, they will sometimes kick or struggle. Always have children sitting on the floor when they are going to hold a rabbit and that way, if the rabbit makes a sudden move or otherwise surprises the child it will not be in danger of being dropped (if the child is sitting on the floor, the bunny won't have far to 'fall').

IMPORTANT: A rabbit's spine is weak and dropping it can injure its back. One should not push down on a rabbit's back. One safe way to pick a rabbit up is to hold it firmly but gently by the loose skin over its shoulders with one hand and then slide your other hand underneath to support its chest (or entire body if its small). Once you've picked it up, move your supporting arm to support the rest of the body and feet and cradle it against your body. Rabbits usually like to be held quite snugly (but don't squish them!). It's a good idea to always wear long sleeves when handling rabbits as their toe nails can scratch.

Rabbits have teeth that continue to grow for their entire lives and so do need something to chew on. They need to chew in order to wear down their teeth. Clean wood (NEVER cedar!!) is excellent. Chewing is a necessity for rabbits and not merely a bad habit so do not discipline a rabbit for chewing. This also means that rabbits can never be left loose unattended. If not watched, they will also chew table legs and some have been killed by chewing electrical cords.

Rabbits can be litter trained. This is easily done by letting the rabbit choose it's “bathroom” corner in its cage and then placing a litter pan there. Cat litter can be used as can wood shavings (NEVER cedar!). Once the rabbit is used to using the litter pan it will continue to use it even if it is moved. They will, however always leave the occasional “pellet” behind during their travels and should not be disciplined for doing so. They will not understand. These are normally quite dry and can easily be swept up.

HEALTH AND FEEDING

Rabbits have a unique digestive system. They are in a sense “ruminants” but they do not have multiple stomachs like cows do. Instead, they produce a special kind of feces (usually in the early morning hours) that are much softer than the well-known “pellets” we usually associate with rabbits. We almost never see these - they look much like a bunch of grapes. These are eaten by the rabbit almost immediately and digested for a second time. This is how they re-process the food they eat to get more of the nutrients out.

One side-effect of this “system” is that when a rabbit gets diarrhea it can very quickly become dangerous. This is because they are then unable to “run the food through again” and dehydration as well as nutritional deprivation can occur. If you notice your bunny seems to have soft stools for more than a few hours or the appearance of the stool is not the usual 'pellets' or the grape-like kind try feeding it some rolled oats (uncooked regular oatmeal works well). Rabbits can also be given Kao-Pectate (about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon for a small rabbit). Make sure they have plenty of clean water and offer them some grass-hay or oat straw to munch on.

Preventing Digestive Upsets:

  1. Feed only clean, good quality rabbit pellets as the main diet.
  2. Never feed your rabbit lettuce! Lettuce has very little nutritional value any ways. Dark green leaves are OK but only in small quantities.
  3. Make sure any fresh food given to the rabbit is thoroughly clean and feed only small amounts.
  4. Do not feed brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.)
  5. Grass, clover and dandelions are fine (remember, small amounts) but they must come from places that HAVE NOT BEEN SPRAYED with any pesticides or herbicides.
  6. Growing rabbits can be allowed to eat as much as they want but an adult needs no more than 4-6 ounces of feed per day.
  7. DO NOT overfeed a rabbit. Fat animals become sterile and will not live as long.

THE RABBIT LIFE CYCLE

Rabbits do everything fast. The typical life span of a producing rabbit is only about seven years. Neutered or spayed pets can sometimes live past ten but it's not common. When a male and female meet, if the female is ready, mating takes place almost immediately and can be all done within 1 or 2 minutes. Female rabbits do not have 'seasons' like most other mammals. They are receptive throughout most of the year and the act of mating causes ovulation. It is even possible for a female to get pregnant twice and carry two litters of different ages. Unfortunately, both are usually born at the same time and so the 'younger' litter usually perishes.

Gestation lasts for 29-31 days and often the new mom doesn't even build a nest until an hour or so before the babies start to be born. In fact, when a doe (that's the mom) starts to make a nest more than a few days before the babies are due, it is often a sign that she is experiencing a false pregnancy. Making a nest about 17 days after mating is an almost sure sign that she is NOT pregnant but if mated again right away she is very likely to get pregnant this time.

When a doe makes a nest she will collect grass or straw (or whatever is available) and make a soft place for her babies. She will also pull fur out from her own body to line the nest. This keeps the babies warm as they will be born completely hairless as well as blind and deaf. Once labour begins, it is often all over with in one or two hours. By then she will have had all her babies (we've had does successfully raise litters of 12), and she will have cleaned them and herself and given them their first feeding. Rabbits must be left COMPLETELY alone when having their babies as any added stress can cause her to scatter them outside the nest or sometimes even cause her to cannibalize her newborns. After this she may refuse to care for them. Hand raising baby rabbits is almost impossible and even experts have very limited success.

Rabbits do not “brood” their babies like other animals do. Once the babies are cleaned and fed, she will leave the nest and usually only return once (sometimes twice) per DAY to clean and feed them again (usually in the evening). When she does go to feed her babies she does not lie down but stands over them and the babies must quickly flip onto their backs so they can find and latch onto a nipple to get their milk. This whole process takes only a few minutes so the babies must move very fast or they will miss an entire day's meal. If less than three weeks old, missing a meal is often fatal. In the wild, the babies are usually safe as long as they are not discovered and so the doe stays away from them in order not to draw attention to them.

The doe will also not pick up or carry her babies and if one should fall or crawl out of the nest she will not help it back. Occasionally, a baby will hang on to the nipple when the doe is finished feeding her babies and can sometimes be dragged out of the nest this way. If not found by the owner and returned to the nest in time, the baby will quickly become chilled and perish.

Since the babies are deaf and blind from birth, they react to the feel of their mom over them more than anything else so if you have a mom who doesn't mind, it is possible to reach into the nest and gently brush your hand over the nest. When the babies feel your hand they will think their mom has come to feed them and you can see them flip over and hear the “pop” of them opening their mouths as they search for a nipple. This reaction stops once the babies can see.

As I said before, rabbits do everything fast, so the babies begin to grow hair almost immediately and by the time they are two weeks old they should be furry, have their eyes and ears open and will begin to explore their surroundings. By three weeks they are as cute as the dickens and also quite mobile. They can often be found exploring the hutch, trying out their little teeth on anything edible and a few things that are not. When born they are about the size of a mouse and by three weeks have grown to something that will just fit in an adult hand. At 6 weeks they are ready to leave home and by 3-4 months they are already adolescents (they must be separated by sex in order to avoid accidental breedings). In the larger breeds of rabbits (like the Rex), does can be safely bred as early as six months.

If not living outside, rabbits can produce as many as 6-8 litters per year. It is common practice in commercial operations to re-breed a doe when her babies are 2-4 weeks old. When her babies are ready to be weaned, they are separated from their mother and the doe has about one week to rest before the next litter is born. While this may seem harsh, it turns out that letting too much time pass between litters can cause the doe to become fat and lethargic. If she becomes too fat, not only will she have more trouble conceiving and giving birth but she can actually become sterile.

Our rabbits live outside in unheated hutches and so we do not breed during the winter. We usually start our breeding season in February and re-breed our does when their babies are about four weeks old. This gives our does two weeks' rest between litters and allows us to produce as many as three or four litters per year.

Pricelist

We 'rent' rabbits to schools - usually by the month. We normally have babies available from early April through October, but may have youngsters available year round.

Rabbit Kits
Single Kit Notes
Bunny Kit, One Bunny $50.00 Kit comes with feed and bedding.
Bunny Kit, TWO Bunnies $100.00 Kit comes with feed and bedding.
Cage Rental $10.00 Comes with food and water dishes (to be returned)
Cancellation Fee $30.00 PER KIT
Available WITH Kits (or stock) ONLY:
Item Cost Notes
water soluble Vitamin Supplement $ 1.00 /pkg
Rabbit Feed $10.00 /Bag. (approx. 2Kg)
Hay $5.00 /Bag for Bedding or Feed
Wood Shavings $5.00 /Bag for Bedding