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Husbandry

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Abstract

Pet rabbits are prone to a number of disease conditions that are due, totally or in part, to incorrect husbandry. Correct husbandry is highly important for preventing and treating such conditions. This chapter covers purchase and acquisition of pet rabbits, legal requirements, companionship, housing (indoor and outdoor) and travelling.

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Figures

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2.1 Rabbits in a good welfare situation. They are living in a group, with plenty of space to exercise, showing relaxed confident body posture and eating good-quality greens. (Courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth)
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2.2 An identification ring on the hindlimb of a rabbit. This should be removed from pet rabbits as it is not required for identification and may cause trauma to the limb if the rabbit continues to grow or becomes obese.
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2.3 A rabbit rescue centre. These rabbits have been provided with a good-sized hutch with a large run attached. Their carrier boxes are being used as hides in their outdoor enclosure. They can see the other rabbits, although housing in pairs might be better. (Courtesy of N Constance)
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2.4 The rabbits in this set-up of a hutch (approx. 1.2 m × 1.2 m) with a run (approx. 1.5 m × 1.2 m) attached have limited space and are unlikely to be able to run.
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2.5 Mutual grooming is a positive sign during the bonding process. (Courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth)
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2.6 Rabbits displaying normal behaviour. One rabbit is jumping up in the air, and the other is sitting up and looking around. This rabbit is displaying normal investigative behaviour standing on its hindlimbs. (Courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth)
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2.7 Straw baskets can be chewed, rubbed against for scenting and also used as hay racks. (Courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth)
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2.8 This cardboard hide has more than one entrance, to avoid the rabbits feeling trapped. (Courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth)
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2.9 A suitable indoor environment. Hay and water have been provided, multiple hides can be seen, suitable toys have been provided (cardboard tube, ball, teddy, basket), and there is plenty of space. (Courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth)
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2.10 It is wise to ‘rabbit-proof’ any areas to which the rabbit has even occasional unsupervised access. A simple panel of plastic-coated wire can be used to prevent access to electrical cables. (Courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth)
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2.11 This shed is combined with a permanently attached and secure run to allow both indoor and outdoor access. (Courtesy of Wood Green Animal Charity)
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2.12 The ‘Morant’ hutch. This triangular hutch and run design reduces the amount of vertical space the rabbit can use for sitting, hopping, grooming and standing. The Morant hutch can readily be moved to fresh grass but is otherwise a poor design. (Courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth)
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2.13 A stack of hutches. The main problems with this are lack of space (both total space and access to outside runs), lack of social interaction, and problems with maintaining adequate biosecurity and achieving a balance between good hygiene, temperature control, humidity and ventilation. These hutches also do not provide any visual security in the form of a hide.
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2.14 The ‘Runaround’ system of housing with attached runs. (Courtesy of Caroline Lord)
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2.15 Travelling stress may be minimized by keeping rabbits in their social groups. (Courtesy of Marit Emilie Buseth)

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