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How much does it cost to buy and keep a pet rabbit?

How much does it cost to buy and keep a pet rabbit?

When we first bought Fish and Chips, our much loved bunnies, we were entirely new to the world of pets. We had never owned any type of pet before. I literally had no idea how much it would cost to buy a rabbit or to keep a rabbit.

Perhaps you’re in the same position. You’re thinking about buying a pet rabbit, and wondering how much it is going to set you back, both upfront and year to year.

The costs can add up (and remember that pet rabbits can live up to ten years – this is a long term commitment).

This is our experience of buying two pet rabbits. I hope you find it useful, and enables you to make a more informed decision.

How much does it cost to buy and keep a pet rabbit?

It costs between £150-500 ($200-650) to buy a pet rabbit, rabbit hutch (cage) and equipment. The main difference in cost will be the quality of hutch you get – hutches designed to last outdoors cost more. It costs about £550 (about $700) a year to keep a rabbit, including insurance and vaccinations, hay and bedding. Treats and toys are additional costs to these. 

Cost (£)Notes
One-off costs
Rabbit£0-50Ideally you buy two rabbits or more –
they are sociable animals who need company
Spaying/neutering£70-80Spaying/neutering leads to healthier, longer-lived, calmer rabbits. Remember to double this cost if you buy two rabbits.
Hutch & run£50-350Outside hutches need to be large, secure and with a secure run. You also need a cover for winter. Inside hutches still need to be suitable.
Litter tray£10Simple plastic.
Water bowl£3Heavy and shallow so doesn’t get knocked over.
Feeding bowl£3Same as water bowl.
Hair brush£4Regular grooming helps rabbits.
Hay manger£10Hay is the main food for rabbits.
Total £150 to £510
Running costs per yearRemember to double up if you have two rabbits
Vaccines/health check ups£96Your rabbit will need vaccinating every year.
Insurance£120-180Pet insurance can save you a lot of money if your rabbit needs any medical care.
Bedding£216Straw and bedding needs replacing weekly.
Hay & pellets£124A rabbit’s main diet should be hay.
Toys and treats£0-£200Rabbits get bored easily. Toys and treats keep them entertained and happier.
Total£556 to 816

How much does a rabbit cost?

A rabbit from a pet store will cost about £45 (or $20-40). You can buy a rescue rabbit for less than this.

At first, we thought we were going to be buying a pet rabbit. We were wrong. We ended up buying two rabbits.

Why? Because rabbits are sociable creatures. They enjoy company. Either you need to guarantee a lot of human interaction every day and throughout the day, or they need a bunny companion (more info here).

The good news is that rabbits are relatively cheap to buy. You may even be able to adopt a rabbit from a shelter for free.

The less good news is that, ironically, rabbits are not the main cost of buying rabbits!

Fish and Chips - rabbits
We bought two rabbits…

We bought Fish and Chips from a pet store. 

Some organisations strongly suggest you never do this and only adopt rabbits from shelters. At the time, we didn’t know much about rabbits at all. 

All I can say is that the pet store we used (Pets At Home) was professional, cared for the rabbits, refused to sell them at inappropriate times (weather too cold; rabbits too young), provided excellent information on caring for rabbits, ensured we had suitable facilities at home before selling the rabbits, and also supports the adoption of rabbits. 

They also refuse to sell rabbits over the Easter weekend, to ensure that people aren’t buying bunnies on impulse. Many of the staff owned rabbits themselves, and all seemed passionate about the animals.

We paid £45 for each rabbit. However, this included RHD1 vaccination, which on its own can cost £40. 

Rabbits available for adoption were generally cheaper, and some of them were already vaccinated and neutered or spayed.

In the USA, typical prices are around $20-40. Again, this can be cheaper if you are buying from a shelter.

Our rabbits, cute as they are, have no pedigree. If you are buying a rare breed, the price is likely to be higher (maybe even hundreds of dollars). 

We paid £45 per rabbit.

Medical matters and insurance

Your rabbit(s) will need regular trips to the vet for vaccinations and other costs. These are for routine issues; this is separate from going to the vet for any emergencies or illnesses that your bunny may have.

Your rabbit will need two vaccinations each year (combined RHD1/myxomatosis, and RHD2) and protection against flystrike. You can pay separately for these, but most vet practices offer a package combining them all, which ends up cheaper. 

Vets4Pets (which is associated with Pets At Home) charges £8 per month (£96 annually), and also included a consultation as well.

If your rabbit isn’t already spayed/neutered, you need to include this cost (it is highly recommended by practically all organisations). It typically costs a little more to spay a female than it does to castrate a male. Find out more about the whole process in our article.

And then there’s insurance. This typically costs £10-15 per month. The price comparison websites don’t include pet rabbit insurance (they only offer one choice). I researched the area – you can see my comparison between the main five UK providers here.

We paid £80 per rabbit for spaying.

We pay £96 every year per rabbit for a care plan for vaccinations.

We pay £130.56 every year per rabbit for pet insurance.

Hutch, run and cover

You can spend a little or a lot on a hutch. Partly it is going to depend whether your rabbit(s) is going to live indoors or outside. In the UK, there is pretty much a 50:50 split. 

Our rabbits live outside, so we needed a hutch that was a decent size; that would keep them safe from foxes or cats; and that last in Manchester’s wet climate. Indoor hutches can be cheaper (though still need to be large).

We did some digging around, and settled on the Large Coach House hutch, with a run and a cover for winter. It arrived flat-packed, and we assembled it ourselves. You can read our user review of the Large Coach House rabbit hutch here.

We paid £312 for the hutch, the run and the cover, including delivery. 

Equipment

Your bunny will need some stuff besides the hutch itself. This is what we ended up buying:

  • Litter tray – we chose a large plastic one £12
  • Water bowl (heavy so can’t be knocked over) £3.25
  • Feeding bowl (to put pellets in) – ended up same as water bowl £3.25
  • Small double sided brush £4.50
  • Dustpan and brush (to help clean out the hutch – we didn’t fancy using our normal one) £2
  • Hay manger to hang on side of hutch £10.40

In total, we paid £35.40 on equipment

Bedding and Litter

The hutch needs cleaning out each week. We then line the bottom of the hutch with newspaper, and then woodshavings (with dust extracted) on top. In the bedding area, we use straw (again, make sure that it is dust extracted).

A large (10kg, 22lb) bag of woodshavings costs about £10.

A large bag of straw costs about £4.

You will need about one bag each month.

We also use litter in the litter tray. A 20l bag sets us back about £12. You’ll need about 4 bags a year.

We pay £216 a year on bedding and litter.

Food

Bale of Timothy hay
The best hay for your rabbit

The main diet of rabbits is hay, and we always try to buy Timothy hay (read here to find out why). In England you can buy Timothy hay for about £4 for 1kg of hay (which goes further than you’d think). I haven’t kept track, but about half a bag every week per rabbit seems about right. We buy ours from pet shops (some supermarkets also stock hay), but you can also order from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

If you are near a farm (one of our friends is), you might be able to get access to hay a lot cheaper than this. 

The bad news if you’re American is that getting Timothy hay seems to be a bit more expensive than in England. It’s worth buying a bigger bag to save money.

Rabbits also have pellets of dried hay (no more than half an eggcup per day per rabbit). The pellets cost about £10 for a 2kg (4.4lb) bag. You probably won’t need much more than a few bags a year. Again, you can get these from pet stores, or direct from Amazon UK.

On top of that, we also regularly buy herbs and other greens when doing our supermarket shop (but not chives! See why not here). I haven’t included this cost.

We pay £124 per rabbit every year for hay and pellets. 

Toys and treats

The good news: toys and treats tend to be inexpensive.

The bad news: buying them becomes a little addictive…

And most toys are something that your bunnies love to chew on. This means that, after a day or so, they will have been destroyed by your rabbit’s gnawing and chewing. So you buy another one…

As an example, we found that our bunnies really enjoyed chewing and messing around with small hay boxes. We have bought three in the month.

You can read here about some of our favourite treats and toys for our bunnies in our rundown of ten of the best (and they’re all pretty cheap).

We pay about £180 every year for toys and treats.

Other costs

We have had other costs, but these depend on our particular circumstances. For example, we needed to improve the fencing in part of our garden to make sure that the bunnies couldn’t escape. This took a couple of days work plus materials from B&Q (similar to Home Depot). 

Conclusion

Thinking about buying a pet rabbit? It’s always worth having some idea up front about what you are committing yourself to. 

We love our rabbits, Fish and Chips, and are delighted we took the plunge.

Our experience is here to help you make sure you can commit to affording and looking after your rabbit(s) not just today, but in the years to come.

And rabbits make great pets (you can read our 7 reasons why they’re better pets than dogs here).

Posted by Jonathan in General
What type of rabbit is Roger Rabbit?

What type of rabbit is Roger Rabbit?

Have you ever had a weird question that kept going around your mind? Utterly inconsequential, but nags and gnaws away? So you do what we all do, and put your trust in Google. 

And always, someone, somewhere, will present an answer to you neatly by the algorithms of the internet. Nearly always… …and then you end up with a question that no-one else has asked. 

You know what the question is, because you’ve ended up on this page.

What type of rabbit is Roger Rabbit? In particular, what breed of rabbit? 

I have happy memories of the ground-breaking film that mixed live action with traditional animation. Bob Hoskins starred as the world-weary private eye inveigled into investigating who framed Roger Rabbit. But there are many different breeds of rabbit – what type was Roger? 

That is, what type besides cartoon rabbit – Wikipedia classifies Roger as a Toon Anthropomorphic Rabbit. I can’t find that classification anywhere on the ARBA website.

The answer wasn’t obvious, but I did some digging around. Here’s my hypothesis.

What type of rabbit is Roger Rabbit? Roger Rabbit is most likely to be an American White rabbit.

How did I come to this conclusion? My reasoning is laid out below – see what you think.

Is Roger Rabbit a rabbit or a hare?

The first question is to establish whether Roger Rabbit is really a rabbit. After all, he could be a hare. 

You think this is unlikely? But Bugs Bunny, a cartoon parallel, seems at time to be more like a hare than a rabbit, and the two are similar. For example, the first short film in which Bugs Bunny got his name was called Hare-um Scare-um. And the first ‘official’ Bugs Bunny film was called A Wild Hare. 

Charlie Thorson, the lead animator, created Bugs Bunny as a mix between a hare (called Max Hare) he had drawn for an earlier film and the cute rabbits more typical of Disney.

Bugs Bunny
Is Bugs a rabbit or a hare?

The key evidence that Bugs is a rabbit is that he has a burrow, living underground. Hares live overground. And Elmer Fudd calls him that ‘wascally wabbit’. But other evidence points towards the hare: 

  • He is a loner (hares are loners; rabbits are social creatures); and
  • Bugs Bunny has long ears.

So some people think that Bugs Bunny is more likely to be a hare than a rabbit (info here).

But Roger Rabbit is more rabbit like. The evidence mounts up:

  • Roger Rabbit is extremely sociable (not least, he is married to the delightful Jessica). Rabbits are sociable whilst hares are solitary.
  • One of his relatives is a rabbit. His uncle is Thumper, from Bambi, as this line from the movie shows:
    My Uncle Thumper had a problem with his probate and he had to take these big pills and drink lots of water.”
    (Could Roger Rabbit’s dad be one of Thumper’s sisters – Trixie, Daisy, Ria or Tessie?!)
  • Let’s not forget, his surname is Rabbit.
  • But the real clincher is that his creator, Gary K Wolf, has confirmed that Roger Rabbit is a rabbit:
    Roger IS a rabbit, yet his last name is Rabbit. So does that make him Roger Rabbit Rabbit? That’s the kind of conundrum that makes a Toon’s head explode. And mine too if I think about it too much.”

All in all, we’re safe in thinking that Roger Rabbit is a rabbit and not a hare.

What type of ears does Roger Rabbit have?

One of the ways to tell rabbit breeds apart is through their ears. They can be classified in five different categories:

Fish - mini lop rabbit
This is Fish
  • Erect ears – this is the most common.
  • Full lop ears – both ears hang down. Fish, one of our rabbits, has full lop ears.
  • Half lop ears – one ear up, the other down. Chips, our other rabbit, often carries her ears like this (but at other times both end up upright).
  • Oar lop ears – the ears stick out fairly horizontally – sometimes called helicopter ears.
  • Horn lop ears – the ears stick out in front.

Roger Rabbit has erect ears, so we can rule out all the breeds of rabbits which are lop-eared (so definitely not the same breed as our rabbit Fish).

What colour is Roger Rabbit?

Another distinguishing feature of rabbit breeds is their colour. This is a simple one – Roger Rabbit has white fur.

What length of fur does Roger Rabbit have?

Angora rabbit
Angora rabbit – a bit fluffier than Roger Rabbit
Ross Little [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Some rabbits have really long fur – like the Angora breed. They need lots of grooming (high maintenance bunnies).

But Roger Rabbit has much shorter fur.

He’s not what you’d call ‘fluffy’ at all.

Again, this helps narrow down the possibilities.

Where does Roger Rabbit come from?

Roger Rabbit speaks with an American accent, and lives in California. We can assume that he’s an American rabbit.

Putting the clues together

So Roger Rabbit is a rabbit with erect ears, white short fur, and an American breed.

My conclusion: Roger Rabbit is an American White Rabbit.

American White Rabbit
American White Rabbit

Why? The American White Rabbit is a large breed (and Roger Rabbit is certainly larger than most rabbits…). The ears are long and erect (just like Roger’s), and the fur short. The breed is known for being friendly and with a sweet temperament (again, just like Roger’s). And it is American (just like Roger). You can find out more at the American Rabbit Breeders’ Association.

It all fits together. Case closed.

Convinced by this? Get ready to be convinced that rabbits are better pets than dogs – we have 7 reasons why.

Posted by Jonathan in General
Can my rabbit go out in the rain?

Can my rabbit go out in the rain?

Introduction

The sun shone brightly during the first few weeks since the bunnies arrived. Fish and Chips happily played and binkied in the garden, and we watched, enchanted. But then the weather turned nasty again. Temperatures dropped a bit, and for a couple of days we had periods of rain like stair-rods. We made sure our rabbits were safe and secure, and found gaps between the storms to let them out and exercise and run around. But it made me wonder – can my bunny go out in the rain? Can my rabbit get wet? And what should I do if my rabbit gets wet?

Just like everyone does, I googled it. But the results weren’t always helpful. People had different views from each other, and seemed to have different experiences. However, I think I found a consensus that most owners would agree with. To check this out, I asked our vet while our bunnies were getting their RHD-2 vaccination. So here’s what I found.

Can rabbits go out in the rain?

It’s okay for your pet rabbit to be out in the rain if your bunny is healthy, has the choice to get back under shelter, and has somewhere dry and draught free to retreat to. Young rabbits and poorly rabbits should be protected from the rain more. And if it is torrential, then make sure your rabbits are protected. But if it is drizzling down and your bunny is choosing to be outside, then there’s no problem.

What is the danger of rain for rabbits?

The main danger of rain for rabbits is them getting too cold – hypothermia. But remember that a comfortable temperature for rabbits is lower than that for humans – they are designed for colder weather. And their fur acts like a waterproof coat which helps protect them from both the rain and the cold.

If a bunny has the choice of getting indoors and somewhere warmer, then just like us they will move inside if they are getting miserable outside.

How do bunnies stay dryer and warmer than humans?

Rabbits have adapted to lower temperatures than humans. One way they have done this is through their fur. It has two properties that help.

First, the fur has some hydrophobic properties. This means that the fur repels water to an extent. If you look at a raindrop on a leaf, the raindrop beads up and isn’t absorbed into the leaf – that’s a hydrophobic effect.

A similar result happens when water falls on the rabbit’s fur – the water is more likely to bead up and roll off than to soak the hair.

This helps the bunny stay dryer (and so warmer) than us – the cold water never gets near the rabbit’s body. It’s a bit like if we wear a rainproof coat – we don’t get wet underneath.

The second way that the fur keeps them warmer is that rabbit fur is different from human hair.

Hair is made up of three elements – the cuticle (which is the outside layer, made up of scaly like cells); the cortex (which is the main body of the hair, and includes the pigments that make up hair colour); and the medulla (which is a central column of cells).

In humans, the medulla is a bit shapeless. But rabbits have a thick medulla full of cells which in turn are full of air.

Rabbit hair under microscope

Rabbit hair – the lighter middle area is the medulla full of cells containing air. From the FBI guide linked to in the post.

This means rabbit hairs are like hollow columns, with permanently trapped air. This air insulates the rabbit. Rabbit fur keeps them warmer far better than our hair keeps our heads warm.

Strangely enough, one of the better sources of information on the different types of hair and fur comes from the FBI! Forensic scientists need to be able to tell the different types of fur and hair from different animals apart, and so have produced a technical guide on the subject – you can find it here if you want to know more.

The upshot is that rabbits can enjoy the rain more than humans because their fur keeps them dryer and warmer.

Can rain cause pneumonia?

If you look on forums, some people make sure that their bun is kept out of the rain because of worries about pneumonia or other respiratory diseases. I asked our vet specifically about this.

He explained it was a myth. Small animals like rabbits are more prone to respiratory diseases, BUT being out in the rain didn’t cause them. (Incidentally, if you suspect your rabbit may have any type of respiratory disease, seek out a vet’s advice as soon as possible.)

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs, and is caused by infections (there are different types – bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic – for more information, see here).

But being in the rain isn’t one of the causes.

If you think about it, it isn’t that surprising that rabbits can go out in the rain. In the wild, rabbits have to be able to come out of their burrows and feed in all sorts of weather – they are not like Mogwai

When should you make sure your bunny is in the hutch or inside?

Some bunnies will even stay outside when the weather is chucking it down. But most owners will recommend making sure that they avoid extreme weather. And if your rabbit is ill, or old and frail, it might make sense to ensure they stay warmer and dryer.

What to do if your bunny is wet

If your bunny has got too wet, then lightly towelling them dry is the main recommendation. Be careful about moving them straight from a really cold, wet environment to a hot environment and then back out in the cold – the dramatic changes in temperature can be stressful.

Can I give my rabbit a bath?

Some owners do give their rabbits a bath, but many bunnies don’t enjoy the experience. Generally, there shouldn’t be any need to give your rabbit a bath – they will keep themselves clean.

If specific areas do need cleaning, then it is best just to clean these areas rather than have a complete bath.

Conclusion

We love our bunnies, and want the best for them. It’s right to be careful and make sure that our rabbits aren’t becoming cold, miserable or ill. But so long as our rabbits have the choice of staying warm and dry (and so long as they’re healthy), we don’t need to worry if our rabbits choose to spend some time playing in the rain.

Want to keep your bunnies warm when it gets colder? We use a microwaveable heatpad by Snugglesafe, You can check out our review of it here.

As you care about your bunny’s health, you might also want to read our article on what herbs are safe to give your rabbit.

And you can find out why timothy hay is so good for rabbits in our article here.

Posted by Jonathan in General
What herbs are safe for my rabbit?

What herbs are safe for my rabbit?

Introduction

You love your rabbit. We love our rabbits, Fish and Chips. And we love giving them the best foods and treats we can. When we first got Fish and Chips, one of the first greens we bought was some fresh coriander, which they loved – eager to devour it. It complemented their main diet of Timothy hay well (why Timothy? Find out here). Great, let’s get some more herbs from the local supermarket – any will do, we thought. After all, can’t rabbits eat every type of herb? Big mistake.

There are many herbs which rabbits can enjoy, but a few (including one common one) are dangerous, and can lead to serious illness for your pet bunny. If you’re like me, you want to be able to wander down the vegetable aisle, pick up a pack of fresh herbs, and feel relaxed that your bunnies will be safe and enjoy the treat. So what herbs can I feed my rabbits? The short answer follows, and below that there are more details about how much to give and whether dried herbs are OK. You can also find out why some herbs are dangerous, and what to do if your rabbit eats some.

What herbs are safe for my rabbit?

The following herbs are safe for rabbits:

  • Basil
  • Coriander (also called Cilantro)
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Mustard
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Watercress.

Do not give your rabbit chives. This herb, along with spring onions, garlic or any food within the onion family, are all poisonous to rabbits.

If you are unsure about a food, check with your vet!

How much herbs should I feed my rabbit?

The main food we give Fish and Chips is hay – usually Timothy hay. Rabbits need unlimited supplies of this, and hay should make up about 85% of a rabbits diet. We also give up to an eggcup full a day of pellets. So any herbs you give will be in relatively small quantities. It’s good to mix it up a bit, and give some variety, so any herbs you give will be part of a larger diet including other fresh leafy greens and vegetables (like kale).

What does this look like in practice? For a 4lb (2kg) bunny, about 2 cups each day (either in one go, or spread out over different feedings). A cup is about the same as an adult handful of greens.

You also need to be careful with younger rabbits – their digestive systems are delicate, and they need time to adjust to new foods in their diet.

Can rabbits eat parsley?

Herbs
Anyone else like Simon and Garfunkel? If it’s in the song, it’s safe.

Rabbits can eat parsley safely as part of a sensible diet mainly based on hay. You can feed an adult bunny a handful of parsley as their daily allowance of greens.

Some people suggest that you need to be careful with how much parsley and fresh mustard you give your rabbit.

This is because parsley (along with some vegetables, like spinach) contains a relatively high level of a type of chemical called oxalates (you can see a table of the amount of oxalates in different vegetables here).

Oxalic acid, in huge quantities, could lead eventually to liver damage. However, this would require feeding your rabbit exclusively parsley (instead of hay) over a long period of time.

So long as parsley is not the major part of the diet (this should always be hay), it’s fine to give your rabbit some. For example, if you check out the PDSA advice on safe foods to give your pet rabbit, it includes parsley. It’s also on the approved list from the Royal Veterinary College.

I have also seen worries about whether the amount of calcium in parsley is too high for rabbits. Rabbits process calcium differently from most other animals, and too much calcium can lead to a variety of problems including urinary stones.

However, while parsley has higher calcium levels than some other foods, it isn’t particularly out of the ordinary (figures taken from this Rabbit Welfare Association article):

Calcium levels – mg per 100g
Kale130
Spinach170
Parsley200
Spring greens210
Mint210

This means that parsley has a calcium content of 0.17%. In contrast, Timothy hay typically has a calcium content of 0.4% – over twice as high – and your rabbit is going to eat far more hay than parsley.

Fish enjoying some spinach

Your rabbit would need to eat about 10 small packets (30g – amount 1 oz) of fresh parsley in a day merely to reach the recommended daily allowance.

So you shouldn’t be concerned about the calcium content of parsley or other green vegetables unless your vet has recommend a specific diet for specific problems. (See also this article on calcium levels in various foods – the main takeaway is that you are far more likely to give too much calcium with pellets, and that it’s extremely difficult to give too much calcium with sensible amounts of green herbs).

And parsley contains a variety of other useful minerals and minerals. In particular, parsley is a good source of vitamin A and iron, both of which rabbits need in their diet. Find out more about the minerals and vitamins that rabbits need here.

The bottom line? As is often the case, parsley, like other foods, is fine in moderation.

Can rabbits eat thyme?

Rabbits can eat thyme safely as part of a sensible diet mainly based on hay.

I have seen some suggestions on the web that thyme can be helpful if your rabbit has diarrhoea. Whilst it may be true, I could find no evidence to back this up. More importantly, if your rabbit has diarrhoea, consult a vet straight away.

Can rabbits eat cilantro / coriander?

Rabbits can eat cilantro (coriander) safely as part of a sensible hay based diet. You can feed both the stem and the leaves of coriander to bunnies. The herb is an excellent addition to give variety to your rabbit’s diet, helping ensure their nutrition is balanced. A handful of cilantro / coriander is about a serving for a mature rabbit.

Cilantro (coriander) is a great source for bunnies of vitamin K, copper, potassium and iron. We have a detailed post if you’re interested in finding out more about the nutritional needs of rabbits.

In fact, coriander is our bunnies’ favourite herb. When we give our rabbits a handful, they gobble it down.

Can rabbits eat rosemary?

Rabbits can eat rosemary safely as part of a sensible diet mainly based on hay and fresh water. You can feed both the stalk (sprigs) and the leaves to bunnies. Rosemary is a great herb to give to rabbits, providing variety to their diet and helping to ensure that they have a balanced nutrition. A handful (a few sprigs) is a portion for a day for a mature rabbit.

However, not all bunnies will like rosemary. Some rabbits dislike strong smelling herbs, so don’t worry if your bun turns up their nose.

If your bunny does like rosemary, you can be happy knowing that it will provide your rabbit with vitamin A and potassium, along with some fibre.

Can rabbits eat sage?

Rabbits can eat sage safely as part of a varied diet mainly based on hay and fresh water. You can feed bunnies both the leaf and stem of sage. Sage is a source of potassium, iron and vitamin K to rabbits. A portion size is a handful of leaves.

Sage has a historical reputation of being a healing herb – in mediaeval times, it was also known as ‘sage the saviour’ (Salvia salvatrix), and to the Romans it was the holy herb. Sage was used to treat everything from the plague to wasp stings.

While modern medicine doesn’t consider sage a miracle drug in the way that the past might have, it’s still a great herb for your bunny to eat.

Can I give dried herbs to my bunny?

You can give dried herbs to rabbits as part of a varied, healthy diet. People sometimes want to mix in some dried herbs with other foods (including hay, or pellets). You can even buy some types of hay with herbs mixed in (some bunnies love this, others don’t). Again, moderation is the key. And you shouldn’t give dried herbs instead of fresh greens.

What about wild herbs?

I’m not an outdoor type, so I wouldn’t particularly recognise wild herbs if I came across them anyway. I get my herbs from the supermarket. But I found this list of plants to avoid. Some people like foraging – if that’s you, it’s probably best to decide on four or five plants that you recognise and know are safe, and collect them.

Why are some herbs dangerous for rabbits?

No chives

Chives are dangerous for rabbits because they can lead to gut problems and blood problems.

Along with other plants in the onion family (allum family) such as spring onions, onions and garlic, chives can lead to haemolytic anaemia (the red blood cells in the body become more fragile and some rupture) in many animals, including rabbits. The effects don’t happen instantly, but can take place over a period of days.

An oxidising substance called n-propyl disulphide binds to the sides of red blood cells, is recognised as a foreign body by other cells, so the red blood cell is destroyed.

Seek out professional advice from a vet if your rabbit eats chives or anything similar.

Humans are much less sensitive to this than other animals, which is why we can enjoy chives and garlic, and our pets can’t.

What should I do if my bunny eats a dangerous herb?

If in any doubt, contact your vet for advice.

Conclusion

Most herbs, including parsley, are safe for our bunnies. Fish and Chips love the various green herbs that we give them, along with other greens, as part of their diet. We get small packets regularly from our supermarket. They provide nutrients and flavours for our pet rabbits.

If you’re giving a sensible amount as part of a diet mainly based on hay, you don’t need to worry about oxalate content or calcium content – so parsley is fine along with all the others on the safe list. But make sure that you avoid chives – they are dangerous for your rabbit.

As you care about your bunny’s diet, check out our page on what fruit you can safely give your rabbit as a treat (and how much), and our page on why Timothy hay is so good for your rabbit.

You can also check out more about what vitamins and minerals rabbits need for a healthy life.

If you want to make sure you can always afford the best care for your rabbit, check out our page on pet rabbit insurance here.

Where can I find more information?

If you go searching on internet forums, you’ll end up with all sorts of conflicting advice about diet, and what foods are bad or good for your bunny. There are a lot of myths out there. Instead, I stick with the sites with some authority for my information. Here are some of the ones I consulted:

RSPCA advice about diet for rabbits

House Rabbit Society (a non-profit rabbit rescue and education organisation) advice about vegetables and fruit

The PDSA (a leading veterinary charity) advice about safe vegetables for rabbits

The PDSA also have this download about feeding rabbits (opens pdf file)

The Rabbit Welfare Association has a page on recommended vegetables and herbs

Posted by Jonathan in General
Timothy hay: what is it; why is it called Timothy; why is it good for rabbits?

Timothy hay: what is it; why is it called Timothy; why is it good for rabbits?

Introduction

Being a newcomer to the world of rabbits, I asked the pleasant assistant in the pet store what we needed to feed our rabbits. We talked first about pellets (only an eggcup) and treats, but then moved on to the main part of any rabbit’s diet, hay.

‘You need Timothy hay’, she told us.

‘What?’

‘Timothy hay’ she repeated confidently.

‘Oh, Ok,’ I replied, and sure enough, there were some bales marked ‘Timothy’.

‘Must be some brand-name’ I thought to myself. But it wasn’t.

Timothy hay, to my surprise, is a type of hay. But this led to a range of questions – what is Timothy hay? Why is it called Timothy? And why do my rabbits need Timothy hay?

Timothy hay, named after an American farmer of the eighteenth century, is a high fibre, high energy, low protein, low calcium type of grass hay that helps your rabbit’s digestion and teeth.

Here’s some more information on what Timothy Hay is, why it’s called Timothy, and why it’s so good and important for your rabbit.

What is Timothy Hay?

Timothy hay is a type of grass hay that is great for feeding both rabbits and horses. It can grow up to around 1.5m (about five foot tall), and is quite rough and stalky. It can come in three varieties, depending on which cut of the season you buy. Timothy hay is good for rabbits as provides fibre and protein with low calcium. Rabbits need the fibre both for their teeth and their guts.

Timothy hay comes in three different cuts, which vary a bit from each other:

  • First cut is the roughest and highest in fibre, and slightly lower in nutritional value.
  • Second cut is a balanced amount of fibre and protein.
  • Third cut is softer and greener, with relatively less fibre and more protein.

Having said that, the Timothy hay that I found on sale in pet shops and the local supermarket didn’t say which cut it had come from (maybe a mixture?) so I wouldn’t worry too much about this.

Types of hay

Timothy grass

Timothy grass. Credit Blokenearexeter [CC0]

I thought hay was hay, but I was wrong. You can get a range of different types, but they fall into two broad categories: legumes and grasses. Timothy hay is a grass hay.

Another type of grass hay is meadow hay. This is softer than Timothy hay, and may include some edible plants such as dandelions. Because it contains a variety of plants, it can also be a bit more variable in contents than Timothy.

Legumes include alfalfa hay and clover. Alfalfa is greener, and high in protein and calcium. It may be suitable for younger rabbits (always check with a vet), but mature rabbits need less calcium – and too much is bad for them (see below).

Here’s a chart of typical values for the three types.

%                     Timothy           Meadow          Alfalfa

Fibre                30                    30                    30

Protein            6                      7                      16

Calcium           0.4                   0.6                   1.2

You can get Timothy hay from a variety of places, and the values will vary a little. Our local supermarket stocks bales of Timothy in the pet aisle, and of course so do most pet stores.

Burgess Excel hay

This is the hay we buy. It’s 100% Timothy hay – but they only tell you that on the back of the packaging. Weird.

We get Burgess Excel Long Stem Feeding Hay in 1kg (2.2lb) bags. Bizarrely, you have to search quite hard on the packaging before you find it that it is 100% Timothy Hay. We get our hay from our local Jollyes, who also have an online service.

You can also get Timothy hay from Amazon UK and Amazon US who will deliver to your door.

Why is it called Timothy hay?

The earliest account I could find comes from a 1949 book on crops. A grass from Europe (called cat’s tail) ended up in the eastern states, and became well-known when it was cultivated and sold by a farmer called Timothy Hanson.

Here’s the account:

‘The most important hay grass in America now is timothy. It was first grown by a man named Herd prior to 1720 near the Piscataqua River mouth in New Hampshire. It was introduced from England where it was found growing in waste places and was known as cat’s tail grass. Early records indicated that it was known as herd’s grass in the New England area. Timothy seed was taken to New York, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina by a Timothy Hanson who lived near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was widely accepted in these states and became known as Timothy Hanson’s grass, which was later shortened to timothy. Jared Elliot sent seed of it to Benjamin Franklin in 1747, and when it was planted and grown Franklin described it as ‘mere timothy’. Large portions of the eastern part of the United States were planted to timothy by the colonists, and it has been the dominant hay grass in this region ever since.’

Gilbert H. Ahlgren, 1949, Forage Crops, New York: McGraw-Hill, p7.

You can also see an early reference to timothy hay in this 1859 newspaper article.

The Latin classification name for timothy grass is Phleum pratense. Knowing this allows us to access all sorts of databases and information (if you want to go further). For example, you can see the distribution worldwide of timothy grass here.

Three reasons why Timothy hay is so good for your rabbit

RabbitsOne of my questions was ‘why is Timothy hay good for rabbits?’ When I searched around, I came across three different but important reasons:

Reason 1 – fibre

Hay is the most important part of a rabbit’s diet, and the fibre part is essential. You know how we are always advised to make sure we get fibre in our diet? And so you might choose wholemeal bread or eat a high fibre cereal, and this helps keep us ‘regular’. This is even more important for our bunnies, who have eating systems that are designed around a high fibre intake. The high fibre content helps makes sure that their intestines don’t clog up (gastrointestinal stasis). Gastrointestinal stasis is extremely serious – even fatal. A diet of fibrous hay helps avoid this.

Reason 2 – teeth

High fibre hay also helps keep your bunny’s teeth healthy. A rabbit’s teeth can grow up to 5 inches in a year (or 3mm a week) – problems start when the teeth grow faster than eating wears them down.

One type of problem is when the teeth grow too long – they can make it harder for your bunny to breathe, as the teeth start to block nasal passages.

The second problem is when the teeth aren’t smoothed down by eating rough food. Without eating rough hay and grass, rabbits can develop sharp bits on their teeth, called spurs. These can be painful for the rabbit. To avoid using that tooth, the rabbit then starts overusing other teeth, and changing the way they chew. So one small sharp point can lead to problems with the entire mouth, including other teeth, ligaments and muscles.

So the coarse fibres in hay are not only good for your rabbit’s intestines, but also help keep their teeth healthy.

This is also why providing toys for your rabbit to chew on is a good idea – not only fun, but good for their mouths. You can see some of our favourite rabbit toys in our post here.

Reason 3 – calcium

This was the reason that surprised me the most when I did some investigating. It turns out that rabbits are very efficient at extracting calcium from the food they eat. Most animals only absorb a little from the food eaten, and then excrete a small amount. Rabbits, unusually, try to absorb all the calcium from the food they eat. Then, up to nearly half they excrete in their urine. If they have too much calcium, their urine may turn chalky as their bodies try to get rid of the excess. In the worst case, this can lead to urinary stones (urolithiasis).

Timothy hay is relatively low in calcium, and so ideal for mature rabbits. They can be given unlimited quantities safely.

How much hay should I give my bunny?

You can give as much hay as you like to your furry friend – but make sure it’s enough. A rabbit eats a bundle about the size of its own body every day. For more information on the best diet for pet rabbits, see this advice from the RSPCA.

Conclusion

So that’s what I found out about Timothy hay. It’s named after an American; it’s a type of tall, fibrous grass that’s high in fibre and low in calcium, and it’s important for my bunnies because it’s good for their guts and their teeth.

Rabbits eat more than hay – you can also give them a handful of greens every day. Want to know what herbs are safe for your bunny? We have a post that lets you know what herbs are OK, and what might harm your rabbit.

Want to know what fruit you can give your bunny as a treat (and how much you should be giving them)? Check out our in-depth guide on what fruit are safe for rabbits.

And we also have a guide to what vitamins and minerals rabbits need.

Posted by Jonathan in General