How to Build a Rabbit Cage – A Step by Step Tutorial to walk you through the Rabbit Cage Building Process.

Building a Rabbit Cage

The Right Supplies for Building a Rabbit Cage

Here’s a scenario that might sound familiar:  Your kids wanted a rabbit.  You agreed — as long as they just got ONE rabbit.  I mean, a rabbit is cheaper than a dog, right?  You could pick up a bunny from a local breeder (it’s only $20), build a quick cage for it, and then have a new little critter keep the kids busy for a while.  Call it a responsibility lesson in a cage, right?  Sounds easy.  And then you actually have to build the cage.

Suddenly, when you start looking at wire guages, mesh sizes, and prices; j-clips, c-rings, and pliers; door-latches, urine guards, and drop trays – building a cage becomes exponentially more complicated.

Supplies you need to build a rabbit cage

It’s not that tough, really: you just need to know where to start.  If you browse around our blog and website you can find articles that go into detail on different types of wire and clips, but in case you’re in a hurry, I’ll give you a cheat sheet here.  (That rabbit can’t live in a cardboard box forever, right?)

The right wire to build a rabbit cage

Choose the right wire for your cage.  Don’t compromise on cheaper wire.  It won’t last nearly as long, and won’t protect the rabbit nearly as well.  The wire for the cage sides should be:

-14 or 16 guage

-Galvanized, GBW (galvanized before welding) is fine

-1 x 2” Mesh

I recommend buying a 1 x 2” mesh roll of wire that is 18” or  24” wide.  Making your cage dimensions in multiples of six inches will ensure that standard sized urine guards and drop trays will fit in them.

The wire for the cage floor should be a little different.  Floor wire has a tighter mesh and is sometimes galvanized after welding to produce a smoother surface.  The wire for rabbit cage floors should be:

-14 or 16 guage

-Galvanized (GAW is a little better, but GBW is fine, too.)

- ½” x 1” Mesh

As you see, the main difference is the ½” x 1” mesh.  Do not keep rabbits on anything larger than a ½” x 1” mesh for the floor.  Anything larger will not provide enough support for their feet, and presents a greater risk of feet or toes being caught in the wire.

Pliers and Clips for Building Rabbit Cages

First off: the clips.   You’ll need something strong to hold the pieces of wire together.  The common clip-of-choice is the J-clip.   It’s a small pice of galvanized steel bent into a J-shape, that wraps around two pieces of wire and holds them securely when bent with special pliers.  J-clips are very strong; you usually only have to use 3-4 per side when attaching the cage pieces together.  PremiumRabbits.com sells J-clips in one pound bags.

Another option is the C-ring.  This is a lighter duty ring that’s often used for attaching cage floors.  If used in enough quantity it’s still very strong, and it’s preferred for floors because it won’t catch as much debris in it as a J-clip will.

Both C-rings and J-clips need special pliers.  At least, you’ll probably want to get special pliers  — I’ve tried it with both specialized and needle-nose pliers, and the special ones are about 500% faster.  You can usually buy those wherever you buy the clips.

Lastly you’ll need some wire cutters, available at Menards or perhaps in Dad’s old tool box.  Ready to get started?

Drop Trays and More

Think that was all?  Oh no, there are a few more things you should grab to round out the cage.  Try a door latch, for instance.  You can use either a simple spring or a fancier one, as long as it holds very securely.

You’ll also need to decide if your cage will need a drop tray.   This depends on where you’ll be keeping the cage.  If it will be in the house or garage, you’ll need something to catch the droppings.  Even if your cage is outside, you might prefer a tray to keep things neat.

There are many more do-dads you can add to a rabbit cage,  but I think that covers the most important ones.  A couple of goodies to check out are urine splash guards, which help keep your floors clean, and plastic door trim, which wraps around the edge of a cage door to soften the wire edges.

Building a Rabbit Cage Step-by-Step

Got everything together and ready to roll?  Great!  Let’s get started.

1. Plan your cage.  Plan out and write down what size wire pieces you will need to make the cage you want. Purchase the wire and supplies.

2. Cut your wire.  To make a 24×24” cage, you’ll need:

-One 24”x24” pice of floor wire ( ½” x 1)

-Four pieces of 1 x 2” mesh wire that are 24” times the hight of your cage

-One piece of 1” x 2” mesh wire that’s 24” x 24” for the cage roof

-If you want to make a “slider” cage so the drop tray can slide in an out of it, you’ll need an additional 24” x 24” piece of the 1” x 2”

-One piece of 1”x2” mesh wire that is at least 8” x 10”, for the cage door.

I sympathize – it’s not easy on your hand to cut all that!  When you’re done, check back here for step number three.

3. Lay out all your pieces on the ground in the way you want to clip them together.  Make sure all the pieces of wire are flattened after coming off the roll.  Jusing J-clips or C-rings, clip all four sides of the cage floor.  Then raise the sides up and clip them together.  Lastly clip on the roof.

Important – if you are making a cage with a slide-out drop tray, you’re going to add an extra step in here.  Instead of attaching the floor to the bottom of the cage sides, you’ll want to attach it about two inches up the cage sides, leaving enough room for the drop tray between the floor and the bottom of the side wire.  You’ll also need to cut down the piece of wire that will form the front of the cage to make a gap where you can slide the tray out.  Then attach your extra 24” x 24” piece of 1”x2” wire the the very bottom of the cage sides, to hold the tray in.

4. Cut out a door.  I usually like to cut the cage door before I attach the roof of the cage.  The size of the door hole you cut depends on the size cage you have and the size of the rabbit you intend to go in it.  But an 8” x 10” door works for most small breeds.  Go a few inches larger for big breeds.  The door hole should be slightly smaller than the piece of wire that will actually form the door, so the door will overlap.  Attach the cage door with J-clips or C-rings on one side so it will swing, and attach it on the other with a secure latch.  Rabbit cage doors can either swing up or swing out; whichever you find easier.  Cover the edge of the door with plastic trim for safety

5. Attach the roof w/ J-clips or C-rings.  Add the urine guards, drop tray, stand, or whatever else you need, and your new cage is all ready for your bunny.  Congratulations!

Building a good quality cage definitely requires more time and money than you might initially think, especially since you have to buy two different sizes of wire, but it’s definitely worth it.  A cage that you can make from supplies at Home Depot simply won’t offer the kind of protection as an all-wire one will.  By ordering actual rabbit cage wire, you can both provide the best housing for your critter, and have the pleasure of making it yourself.  That said, if the math comes out to be too much when you consider buying the raw materials, you can always consider pre-built cages also.  The Supreme Rabbit Homes from PremiumRabbits.com are shipped “knocked down,” so all the pieces are there; they just need to be clipped together.  These cages can still offer you and your kids a little time of “building” a rabbit cage together, while providing you with all the supplies in one package.


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The study of coat color genetics has taken the rabbit world by a storm.  Breeders remain extremely interested in this important subject.  Not only do you need to know color genetics to be able to choose your breeding pairs wisely, but the study is fascinating in itself.  Here five fun facts that you might not have heard before about an important rabbit color.

Fact 1. The color we call “chestnut agouti” is the original rabbit color.  It shows the “normal” gene in every category.  As you may notice, wild rabbits appear chestnut agouti.

Fact 2. Every other color results from a mutation of one of the genes that makes chestnut agouti.  A mutation happens when some genetic information is lost in the process of transferring a gene from a parent to its offspring.  As a result, almost all other colors are less dominant than chestnut agouti.  If you breed a pure chestnut agouti to almost any other color, the resulting babies will be 100% chestnut agouti.

Fact 3. Chestnut agouti shows a beautiful blend of pigments.  If you look at a chestnut, you’ll see a brilliant blend of black and red pigments.  The top of the rabbit looks brindled with the two colors, and if you blow into the coat, you’ll see black and red/orange form concentric rings on the hair shaft.  All recessive mutations of the chestnut genes limit this pattern, either by reducing the color intensity (so the black hairs would become blue or chocolate) or by preventing the two pigments from interacting properly.  (For example, a solid black rabbit has the potential to produce red pigments, but it doesn’t because the self pattern gene isn’t giving the red pigment a place to show up.)

Fact 4. Chestnut shows the normal dominant gene in every main category.  So a pure chestnut – one that didn’t carry any other colors – would have the genotype AA BB CC DD EE.  A rabbit that had the most recessive gene in every category – the genotype aa bb cc dd ee –  would be albino.  Another highly recessive color is lilac tortoise – the genotype aa bb CC dd ee.

Fact 5. There are a couple mutations that produce a color pattern that’s actually more dominant than AA BB CC DD EE.  These are in the “E” series, and the names of them are Steel and Dominant Black.  The steel gene will cause the black pigment to over-produce, so it covers up some of the orange pigment in a chestnut, and only lets the light tips of the hairs show.  You can see that illustrated in the picture below.

Bonus fact:  If you enjoyed this article, you can learn more about rabbit color genetics through the book, “About Bunny Colors” from Rabbit Smarties Publishers.  This guide is written in simple language (no, it really is!) so that any rabbit breeder can quickly learn how to use color genetics in their breeding.  It incorporates advice from many rabbit raising experts, including ARBA judges and national-winning breeders.

Recommended Reading:

Rabbit Color Genetics

The Rabbit Coat Colors Genetics Guide by Ellyn Eddy:
http://www.premiumrabbits.com/the-rabbit-coat-colors-genetics-guide/


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In the last post I got to share with you the bottom-half of my top ten list of favorite rabbitry supplies.  Now I’m even more excited, because I get to talk about the top half of the list!  And it starts with…

Rabbit Tattooer

5. The KBtatts Complete Rabbit Tattoo Kit.  Ten years ago, almost everyone used clamp tattoo kits to earmark their rabbit.  But once the battery-operated pen came on the scene, rabbit breeders flocked to grab one.  Handheld electric pens make tattooing so much easier, both on the handler and the rabbit.  (In fact, it has many advantages over clamps.)  And I’m convinced that the KBtatts brand battery operated tattoo pen is one of the best in the market.  The complete kit comes with a replacement needle, ink, ink wells, a cleaning kit, and more.  Check it out!

Rabbit Home

4. The Supreme Rabbit Home for Small/Dwarf Breeds.  I raise a dwarf breed, so naturally dwarf sized cages are my favorite.  But all of them in the “Supreme Rabbit Home” line are fantastic.  They come complete with a slide-out drop tray, so you don’t have to buy that separately in order to stack your cages.  And they’re decked out with all the trimmings, including urine guards, door trim.

Nest Box

3. Galvanized Steel Nest Boxes.  One time my dad built me some wood nest boxes.  That was very sweet of him…but the boxes were too bulky to fit in the cage door.  I love the little steel ones.  They are so cute and compact, and yet they are even more functional than wood boxes, because rabbits can’t chew them, and they’re so much easier to clean.  They have removable wood floors, so if the floor wears out, you can replace it, while the box itself lasts indefinitely.  If I get more breeding does, I’ll have to get more of these boxes.  In fact, maybe I should ask for some for Christmas…

Rabbit Carrier

2. Triple-hole Rabbit Carrier.  Again – cute, compact, and functional my three words for this carrier.  It’s so much more convenient and so much cheaper than buying three single holes.  And if you show rabbits, it’s also extremely necessary.

1. EZ-Crock.  I know, I’m always talking about how much I love EZ-crocks.  But I don’t know what I’d do without them.  I haven’t discovered any other dish that’s nearly impossible for rabbits to tip, but simple for the caretaker to remove.  They’re sturdy plastic that holds up in summer and winter, and they are a smooth bowl shape that doesn’t harbor fines or algae.  Plus, they come in three handy sizes.  Win, win, win!

By the way, you can buy all these supplies and others from our recommend rabbit supplier at PremiumRabbits.com.

Bonus round – My top Favorite Rabbit Books

Okay…as a bonus, here are my top favorite rabbit books.  I didn’t want to include these in the top-ten list because they’re not really equipment, but good information is essential to any rabbit project’s success.  So real quick, here are my top three recommendations in books you should check out (not in any particular order):

The ARBA Standard of Perfection.  If you raise rabbits for show, you’ll need to know what’s in this book.  If you are competing in 4-H or Youth contests such as Showmanship, Breed ID, or Royalty, you doubly need to know what’s in this book.  And if you are preparing to become a judge or registrar, you absolutely need to have a copy.  This is the official standard against which rabbits are judged in the United States.

Raising Rabbits

Raising Rabbits 101.  Reading websites is fine, but you’re not going to get as complete info as if you purchase a book – such as the excellent Raising Rabbits 101 – which lays out the details of rabbit care and breeding information.  It’s written by a professional, one who has put the sweat and tears into making a rabbitry work – not just produce rabbits, but produce winning rabbits.  Check it out.

About Bunny Colors.  Ever hear your friends talking about “marten patterned himmie” and wonder what on earth it means?  Ever wonder what colors you’ll get when you breed Bugs and Fluffy, or how to produce a certain color you’ve been hoping for?  Ever wondered how to get better color quality that will help you achieve new heights on the show table?  Here’s the book for you.  “About Bunny Colors” spells out the essentials of rabbit color genetics in a way that YOU can understand.  Many readers have commented that when no other genetics resource made sense to them, this book opened the door to mastering rabbit color genetics.


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There are a lot of rabbit supplies that I like.  There are a lot of equipment items I find useful.  But there are a few items that I am especially keen on.  A few that, when I stop and think about it, I realize my rabbit keeping  venture would be a lot more difficult if I didn’t have.  A few that I cross my fingers hoping they’ll not discontinue.  A few that make me want to jump on twitter, or write a blog post to tell my friends about how cool these products are.  So let’s go for it!

My Top Ten Favorite Rabbit Equipment Items– Part One (#10 thru 6)

10. The EZ-feeder.  Some people prefer galvanized J-feeders, because they sift fines better and come in more sizes.  But I’m sticking with the EZ-feeder.  I love how it’s made of sturdy plastic, stronger than cheap plastic feeders you might find at a tractor supply.  It hooks on to the cage more securely than the galvanized feeders I’ve used.  Also, unlike the metal feeders, it doesn’t have sharp edges, doesn’t have crevices for feed dust to gather in, and doesn’t rust.

9. Carefresh ® Bedding. Using a high-quality bedding in your drop trays is worth the effort.  After the hard work of cleaning trays, it’s so rewarding to smell a sweet rabbitry thanks to the fresh shavings.  There are a lot of good rabbit beddings out there, but Carefresh® is something special.  It’s totally free of dyes, inks, and oils, and it’s even heated before packaging to kill any bugs that might be heated in it.  Carefresh® absorbs both moisture and odor, as all great beddings should.

8. J-clip removal pliers.  It might seem like an odd one to land on the list, but I love this little dude!  If you build your own rabbit cages, a pair of J-clip removers will be one of your best buddies.  At least, it will if you’re like me, and accidentally stick the J-clips on in all the wrong places.  Of course, you’ll also need his twin, the pliers that will attach the J-clips in the first place.

7. Comfort Harness and Leash.  Most rabbit owners like to take their bunnies out of the cages for a chance to romp.  This rabbit-safe harness and stretchy stroller leash allows you to broaden your bunny’s horizons by taking him for a walk.  It’s also essential if you plan to compete in rabbit hopping competitions – which are growing in popularity.  Don’t use a cat harness for rabbits, because it can put too much pressure on the rabbit’s neck.  Instead use this comfort harness that’s designed with the bunny’s safety in mind.

6. Deluxe Nail Trimmers. The girl I bought my first rabbit from was very sweet and knowledgeable, but she told me that human fingernail clippers would work fine on my rabbits’ nails.  Um, that wasn’t the case.  Human nail clippers are likely to break rabbit nails off higher than you meant to cut, because they pinch the nail instead of slice it.  Guillotine-style pet nail trimmers are faster and less stressful to use, slicing the nail off cleanly instead of snapping it.  Use these, and you’ll have less need for styptic powder.

Keep an eye out for part 2 of this post tomorrow to catch my top five favorite equipment items.   And what about you?  Which things in your rabbitry make your life easier? I would be interested to hear your response in the comments section below…


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How to Tattoo a Rabbit – A Step by Step Tutorial to walk you through the Rabbit Tattooing Process.

Rabbit

10 Steps to Tattoo a Rabbit Using a Battery-Operated Handheld Pen

A handheld electric pen is by far the best option for tattooing your rabbits.  It’s much safer, neater, and less painful than methods used in earlier days.  When done correctly, the battery-operated pen can give you wonderfully clean and legible tattoos.  Here are ten steps – plus a special secret—to help your tattoos come out first-class the first time.

1. Prepare your kit.  Before you even go get the rabbit, lay all your tattoo supplies out in easy reach.  This ensures that the process will be as quick and fluid – and therefore as successful – as possible.  You should have your ink in your inkwell, your inkwell in its spill-proof holder, your tattooing and stencil pens in easy reach, and your Bunny Balm open and ready to go.  (You can get all these items in the KBtatts complete tattoo kit.)

Rabbit Tattooing Pen

2. Prepare the ear.  Rabbit ears, just like ours, can accumulate wax and dead skin.  In order to get a clean tattoo, you want to clear all this away with cotton balls and alcohol before beginning your tattoo.

3. Secure the rabbit.  Go and get Bunny from his cage, and then make sure he is held securely before you begin working.  The best option is to have someone else hold him for you.  You’re looking for a hold that is firm, but not too tight, and will not put too much pressure on Bunny if he starts to struggle.  Rabbits feel safer if their heads are covered, so have your helper tuck Bunny’s head under his or her arm.

4. Stencil the tattoo.  This is a step that many breeders miss, but it makes for a better tattoo in the end.  Take a special skin marking pen and stencil the tattoo in the ear before you go over it in permanent ink.  This way you can make sure it will all fit, and look balanced and neat.  Remember, if a judge can’t read your rabbit’s tattoo, he or she can disqualify it from competition.

5. Balm the ear.  Many breeders coat their rabbits’ ears in special balm or petroleum jelly after tattooing.  But here’s the secret – balm the ear prior to tattooing also.  The jelly will control the flow of ink, making it come out smoothly and evenly without running.  Try it!  You’ll be surprised at the difference.

Bunny Balm

6. Ink your pen.  Once the rabbit is held securely, get your pen ready to go.  (You don’t want to ink it too early or the ink will dry out.) Turn the pen on BEFORE dipping it in the ink well.  This will get the ink all up in the needles evenly.  Dip just the end of the needles into the well!  The motion of the pen will draw the ink into the center of the needles, where it should be.  Never dip it in so far that the ink gets on to the pen head.

7. Tattoo Away!  Now you’re ready for action.  Hold the rabbit’s left ear open and against something solid, like your finger.  Hold the needle at a slight angle to the ear and tattoo with a gentle pressure.  You do NOT want to push the needle all the way through the ear; you’re just trying to insert ink right below the surface of the skin.  Re-ink your tattoo pen whenever it runs out until you’ve finished the tattoo.

8. Smear the ear.  When you’re done, wipe away any excess ink.  Then cover the tattoo with a balm or jelly to hold the ink in.  Using a special all-natural balm, like KBtatts Bunny Balm, can help prevent infection as well.

Bunny Balm

9. Clean your kit.  When Bunny is all settled back in his cage, it’s time to clean your kit.  Always, always wipe the excess ink off of your needle right away; it will give it a much longer life.  You can buy a special cleaning brush for the best results.  Pack up the rest of your kit so it will be ready for next time!

10. Record the tattoo.  After you tattoo a rabbit, write it down.  Make note of every rabbit you tattoo – its parents, color, and date of birth.  You may often find this list to be of great help down the road when a buyer contacts you about a certain rabbit, and you need to remember quickly which one that was.  You can download free record keeping sheets from RabbitPedigrees.com.

I hope these steps gave you some pointers to help your tattoos come out better than ever.  But wait, there’s one more step!  If you haven’t purchased your tattoo kit yet, I guess you should start there!  You can get all the supplies you need for successful tattoos from the KBtatts complete kit, which contains a pen, a replacement needle, ink, an inkwell, bunny balm, a cleaning brush, and more!  Check it out on PremiumRabbits.com.

Rabbit Tattooing Pen

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Grab the KBtatts Complete Tattoo Kit from PremiumRabbits.com!

This is part 3 in our series on rabbit tattoos.  Don’t miss Part 1 –“The Why’s and How’s of Rabbit Tattoos” and Part 2 — “Choosing your rabbit’s ear number.”

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Choosing Your Rabbit’s Ear Number – An article on Rabbit Ear Numbers and Rabbit Tattooing.

Rabbit Ear Numbers

Both new and old-timer rabbit breeders often scratch their heads wondering what to tattoo in their rabbits’ ears.  Is there any system you need to follow?  Are there things you can and things you can’t use as a rabbit tattoo?  Well I’ve got good news for you:

You can tattoo anything you want in your rabbit’s ear.  It’s your rabbit.  You can tattoo a butterfly perched on a Ferrari in his ear – though I don’t in any way recommend it.

But if you’re going to show your rabbit, your options become slightly more limited.  To explain, let me tell you a story.

Back in the early days of rabbit tattoos, people used clamps.  The clamping tongs had a slot where you could slide in letters and numbers.  Most people only had a set with one tile for letter and one or two tiles for each number – so their options for ear numbers were fairly limited.  For instance, you didn’t have enough tiles to give your rabbit the ear number BOBBY.

But nowadays, most rabbit breeders (wisely) have switched from the clamp to the battery-operated tattoo pen.  This electric pen is not only safer than the clamp, but it allows you to tattoo anything you’re capable of in your rabbit’s ear.  And breeders loved it.

Rabbit Tattooing Pen

People started showing rabbits with all kinds of interesting tattoos.  They sometimes used special characters – such as a heart or smiley face— that, if not practical, were definitely cute.  The problem is that show secretaries had to enter those tattoos into their computer systems….and I can’t find the butterfly-perched-on-a-Ferrari key on my keyboard.

So the ARBA – that is, the organization that governs rabbit shows – made a new rule.  A couple of years ago they came out with the rule that all rabbit tattoos have to be alpha-numeric for the rabbit to be entered in an ARBA show.  In other words, you can only use the letters A-Z and the numbers 0-9.  (No bicycles, dollar signs, or hawks – sorry.)  They also mentioned that the letters you choose can’t spell anything profane or distasteful – but hopefully not too many people were doing that anyway.

So the bottom line is that it’s up to you.  You can tattoo your rabbit A1, Z9, OKLAHOMA5582684383, or anything in between – as long as you’re only using letters and numbers.  (And as long as it will fit in your rabbit’s ear.)

Does the ARBA assign rabbits tattoo numbers?

So that’s it, you might ask.  You don’t have to register your rabbit with the ARBA to get an official tattoo number?  I wondered this myself when I was starting, but the answer is no.  You get to choose your rabbits’ ear numbers.  The ARBA does NOT assign which number goes in your rabbit’s left ear.

So you’re free to develop your own system.  Many people like to spell out the rabbit’s name in the ear. Their tattoos look like LILY and LUCY and LOU.  Other people like to use a fancy code that gives some information about the rabbit.  A common example is that people use the parents’ initials in the tattoo, so like Fluffy and Puffy’s babies are FP1, FP2, and FP3.  You might also use a number to indicate the month the rabbit was born, or whatever information is relevant to your breeding project.

The rules don’t say you can’t get fancy.

Even though you’re only allowed to use letters and numbers in your show rabbits’ ears, that doesn’t mean you can’t make the tattoos pretty.  Some people will put flourishes on the letters, or, if they’re very talented, write the tattoos in a fancy font.  (I mean, Lucida Calligraphy is going to exude more class than Arial any day.)  So, if you’re a creative person, get creative.  Its flexibility is one of the beauties of the battery-operated tattoo pen.   My only caution is that you must not let your creativity get in the way of legibility.  If the judge cannot clearly read your rabbit’s ear number, he or she is allowed to disqualify it from competition.  Other than that, have fun!

Lastly, for those of you who don’t have an electric tattoo pen to play with, come and join us!  I recommend the KBtatts Complete Rabbit Tattoo Kit.  It contains the battery-operated pen (in a snazzy choice of colors), a replacement needle, and all the accessories you need to make your tattooing experience a breeze.

Rabbit Tattooing

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Grab the KBtatts Complete Tattoo Kit from PremiumRabbits.com!

This is part 2 of our series on rabbit tattoos.  Don’t miss Part 1 –“The Why’s and How’s of Rabbit Tattoos” and Part 3 — “10 Steps to a Great Tattoo.”

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The Why’s and How’s of Rabbit Tattoos – An introductory article on the subject of Rabbit Tattooing.

Rabbit Tattooing

My first-ever rabbit was named Bumper.  And if I had put a name tag on him, he would have chewed it off.  Immediately.

It wasn’t a big problem, because I wasn’t going to forget who my Bumper was.  But what if I had taken him to a show, with lots of other opal Mini Rex?  What if the judge had shuffled the bunnies around, and some stranger had claimed Bumper as theirs?  How could I have proved that he was really mine?  And what would I have done without my bunny?

All the sudden, Bumper needed a name tag.

And so I gave him one — but not one of those paper stickers that say “HELLO MY NAME IS.”  This tag was a tattoo in his left ear — a permanently one, so that nobody could confuse my bunny with theirs.

Much like cattle ranchers put plastic tags in their cows’ ears, or like people microchip their pet poodles, rabbit breeders identify their rabbits through ear markings – also known as tattoos.  This greatly helps with record keeping, and helps us keep our rabbits safe by not confusing them with one another.  Although most breeders can tell their brood stock apart by looks, a permanent ear mark ensures that we keep it straight, and can track the health history for each bunny, or don’t accidentally breed rabbits that are too closely related.

If you want to show your rabbits, the American Rabbit Breeders Association requires that they have a permanent tattoo in their left ear.  If you register your rabbit, the registrar will put an additional tattoo – either the registration number or that funny registered trademark symbol you see on packages — in their right ear.

How do you tattoo a rabbit?  We’ve got a new answer.

When rabbit tattoos were first invented, the popular method was to use a pair of tongs called a clamp that you could slide tiles into.  The tiles had needles in the shape of letters and numbers.  You would puncture the ear, then spread ink in the holes, then seal it with petroleum jelly while it healed.    Although it didn’t last long, this method caused a sharp, sudden pain to the rabbit.  But now, thankfully, we have a new way to tattoo bunnies that is much less painful and much more safe.

We have the battery operated tattoo pen.  This pen has a cluster of needles at the end which– with a very similar motion to that of an electric toothbrush – inserts ink just below the surface of the skin.  The needles do not go all the way through the ear, and seem to cause no pain greater than a tickly irritation.

The process is very safe and controlled.  If you have a partner hold the rabbit while you perform the tattoo, it’s very quick, and the result is usually much neater, cleaner, and more legible than that of a clamp tattoo set.

These battery-operated tattoo pens took the rabbit world by storm as soon as they were introduced.  If you’d like to get one for yourself, there are a number of brands to choose from.  If I may make a recommendation, I’d suggest the Complete Tattoo Kit from KBtatts, available at PremiumRabbits.com.

First of all, the KBtatts pen was designed by a tattoo artist/rabbit breeder team, so it draws on experience in both areas.  Second, the complete kit comes with a pen, a replacement needle, ink, an inkwell, and multiple other accessories at a lower price than you could get them for separately.  In fact the whole kit costs under $50.

Rabbit Tattooing

If you’re new to the world of raising or showing rabbits, I want to assure you that –due to new and innovative equipment– tattooing rabbits is a humane and low-stress way to help keep them as safe as possible.  If you’re an old hand at rabbit breeding, and are still using the clamp method, I’d strongly encourage you to check out the KBtatts kit.  In addition to being safer and neater, it gives you much more flexibility.  You might even find yourself getting a little artsy!  For instance, I tattooed a heart in Bumper’s right ear.  I definitely loved him permanently.

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Grab the KBtatts Complete Tattoo Kit from PremiumRabbits.com!

Be sure to watch for parts 2 and 3 of our series on rabbit tattoos, “Choosing your Rabbit’s Ear Number” and “10 Steps to a Great Tattoo.”

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Rabbit Care in the Winter – Seven Important Tips for Caring for Rabbits in the Winter.

Winter Rabbit Care

Rabbits are amazingly hardy.  Different rabbit species can live the most varied of the world’s climates, be it the desert, the mountains, the swamps, or the bitter cold.  The rabbits we keep as pets descended from the wild rabbit of Europe.   Thus, pet rabbits are built to be able to live outside in the winter – even in sub-freezing temperatures – as long as you provide the right care.

In fact, I write this from my home in northern Michigan.  It’s December, and there are sixteen inches of snow on the ground outside.  The thermometer hasn’t touched above 32*F in two or three weeks, and yet the bunnies outside are doing fine.  All your rabbits need in the winter is a little extra attention.  So, based on my experience, here are my top tips for winter rabbit care:

1. Make sure your rabbits have water around the clock.  This is the number one rabbit care tip any time of year, but it’s especially important in times of weather extremes.  If deprived of water, rabbits will not eat.  If they do not eat frequently, their digestive system – used to digesting high fiber foods slowly but steadily – will become static.  This can morph into a serious problem very quickly.  Besides, if a rabbit drinks lots of water, its coat will become extra soft and shiny.  True story!

2. Use the right watering equipment.  This is essential to accomplishing point #1.  Water bottles do not work well in freezing temps.  (Freeze = expand = crack…pretty obvious.)  The spout on a water bottle will freeze first, which means that even though the water in the bottle might still be liquid, the rabbit cannot access it through the frozen spout.  Instead of bottles, use hard plastic or stoneware crocks.  Hard plastic is better, because it won’t crack as easily when dropped.  (And trust me, when your hands are numb from the cold, you do drop crocks.)

3. Have two water dishes for each rabbit.  Not two dishes in the cage at once, but one in the cage while the other is in the house thawing.  When I go out to water the rabbits, I remove their frozen water dishes (usually containing a semi-solid ice cube) and throw them in a five-gallon pail.  Then I replace it with a fresh dish of water, and take the bucket of frozen dishes in the house to thaw.  Next time I go out, I can make the swap again.  My water crock of choice is the EZ-crock, because I’ve tossed dozens of frozen EZ-crocks into a bucket, one on top of another, and never had one crack yet.  Besides, the rabbits can’t spill them, which is an obvious bonus.

4. Full-feed in the winter.  Moving on from water, let’s talk feed.  To “full-feed” your rabbit means to give it enough pellets that it will have some left over every time you come to do chores.  I’m usually very wary of recommending this.  Rabbits will not gorge themselves to death if given the chance, but they usually do put on some excess weight if they are full-fed.  However, when the daily high temperature is 20*F or less for weeks at time, rabbits burn so much energy keeping warm that I think full-feeding is warranted.

5. Don’t use electronic heating devices.  I understand wanting to help your bunnies stay warm.  I understand touching their ears with your fingertips and bemoaning that they feel like ice.  But I also understand that it’s better for a rabbit to be chilly than to be roasted alive.  Do NOT use electronic heating devices such as warming pads, heated dishes, or heat lamps.  Rabbits can outside in freezing temperatures all winter and be just fine.  The wild rabbits do it; they don’t hibernate like the bears and chipmunks.  Anytime you use electronic devices outside in the weather, they are at risk of shorting and catching fire.  Rabbits will chew on every electrical cord they can find.   Even if the heating device is outside the cage, close proximity to straw or wood shavings in the cage can quickly cause fire.   Trust me: we used heating pads with our first rabbits, and though we were very careful to protect the cords and electrical connections, they caught fire.  We barely had time to rescue our bunnies.

6. Don’t cut off the ventilation.  Bunnies that don’t live in an environment with good airflow are susceptible to snuffles and other respiratory problems.  In the winter we batten down the hatches in an attempt to keep heat in and drafts out, and while this is good, make sure you still allow plenty of airflow.

7. Observe your rabbits often.  Look at them.  Watch them eating or playing.  Take them out and run your hand down their coats.  Turn them over and check for signs of illness.  You can usually tell if a rabbit is ill if you take the time to watch and handle it.  But if you just breeze by it, give it feed and water and skip out, it could be silently suffering and you wouldn’t know till it’s too late.

Here’s wishing you and your bunnies a wonderful new year!


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Written By: Laurie Stroupe

Rabbit breeders can be very particular about the type of rabbit nest boxes they like. What works great for me might not be what quite suits you best. But regardless of the type you like, there are several things that are common to all.

Rabbit Nest Boxes

Rabbit Nestboxes Must be Easily Sanitized

First and foremost, nest boxes must be sanitized between uses. That doesn’t mean just brushing them out or even spraying them out. They must be either bleached or sanitized with an iodine-based biocide. If my husband Andrew prepares my nest boxes, which is normally the case, he sprays them off and removes any old hay. Then he dips them in one part bleach and five parts water. After twenty minutes or so, he rinses well and then puts them into the sun to dry, if the weather cooperates.

If I do them, I spray them off like he does, but then I saturate them with a diluted iodine based biocide. Then I place it in the sun to dry. I’m sensitive to bleach but not iodine.

I once got caught short without a nest box for a doe that needed one. So I took one that wasn’t visibly dirty, but used, and placed it with the doe. I thought that it wouldn’t hurt “just this one time.” Everything seemed to be fine. The kits didn’t die from a mysterious illness or anything. But when I took the doe out to see if she was in good enough condition to rebreed, I found a huge lump under one teat (golf ball size). I took her to the vet and he told me it was the worst case of mastitis he’d ever seen. It had to be lanced in two placed. Then I read that mastitis was one of the things that could happen if you don’t sanitize your nest boxes. Boy, did I feel terrible. I will never do that again.

(Ed. Note: Metal Nest boxes are very easy to sanitize and won’t harbor bacteria or debris like wooden ones can.)

Choosing the Right Rabbit Nesting Box

The box should be comfortable to the doe. Rabbits can scrunch into much smaller areas than we give them credit for. All the same, different does prefer different things and your nest boxes should accommodate different preferences.

The box should also protect the kits. I like boxes with a shelf above so that the kits can be nestled underneath and protected from the dam’s jumping in and out. The kits need to stay close together in a protected part of the nest box.

The nest box should keep hungry kits from wandering out in search of a midnight snack. We learned this with our first litters. We bred two does and had no idea what we were doing. I put a hole in end of a plastic shoe box for a nest box. The doe loved it and climbed right in. She had lots of privacy and was very snug. But when I swept the dining room the next day, I found a kit 16 feet away behind a basket of books! The box should allow the doe to get in and out easily. It should allow older kits the ability to get back in when they are not quite ready to graduate the nest box, but it should keep tiny kits inside.

The nest box should allow urine to flow through and not build up in the nest box. This point is especially important with big litters that need to stay in longer because of cold weather. A lot of urine can build up on a solid bottom in a hurry.

A good nest box, in my opinion, should not over bake babies in the summer or chill them in the winter.

Finally, when you’ve selected the nest boxes you like, the final thing to remember is that it must be added to the doe’s cage on day 28. I was late one time and didn’t get it in until day 30. The doe delivered an hour later. You can just imagine her in her cage with her legs crossed wondering where the heck her pet person is with that box!


Looking to purchase rabbit nest boxes? Visit: http://premiumrabbits.com/ and checkout their selection that we recommend.


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It’s hard to do anything the first time – even to buy rabbit equipment.  What sounded like a simple shopping trip can turn into an overwhelming experience as you realize how much rabbit equipment is available and how many choices you can make.  What supplies do you really need?  What accessories do you want? How do you choose the right brands?  This quick shopping guide can help you get started.

Rabbit Equipment

First things First – The Cage

The most important thing you buy for your rabbit is its cage.  Even if you plan to house-train your pet bunny, he needs a cage that he can call his home and shelter.  You’ll have the choice between wire and solid bottomed cages.  In most cases, go for wire.  Rabbits have thick fur on their footpads and don’t mind living on wire floors, and it is actually much healthy for them, since they won’t be sitting in their own urine and feces.  The Supreme Rabbit Home line of cages comes complete with a tray that slides underneath to catch the droppings.

You also need to pick a cage size.  A pet rabbit needs about 1 square foot of cage space per pound of body weight.  An 18” x 24” cage works great for single rabbits of dwarf breeds, and a 30” x 24” cage is ample size for a large bunny.

The Carrier

Taking your rabbit home in a cardboard box isn’t safe or secure.   You should use a special carrier made for transporting bunnies.

Rabbit Feeding Equipment

Everybunny’s got to eat, right?  There are two common ways to provide rabbits with pellets.  One is the J-feeder.   This includes a tray that sits inside the rabbit’s cage to hold the pellets, and a hopper that sits outside the cage to hold an extra amount of feed.  J-feeders are most commonly used by breeders who have several rabbits, because they can be quickly filled from outside the cage.  The disadvantages to J-feeders are that they can be difficult to clean, and you need to cut a hole in the side of your cage for them to work.  If you have a lop rabbit, make sure to buy a “Wide Mouth” feeder to allow him to eat from it comfortably.

The alternative to a J-feeder is a crock or dish.  This is a good choice for any pet bunny, as long as you get one like the EZ-crock that attaches to the cage so your rabbit can’t tip it over.

Rabbit Watering Equipment

The big debate about rabbit watering equipment is bottles vs. bowls.  Water bottles can hold more water at a time, and keep it cleaner.  However, they can be a hassle to fill and some will drip.  Most rabbit owners try both bottles and crocks and decide for themselves which works best for their bunnies and lifestyle.  There is a good selection of both rabbit water bottles and bowls at PremiumRabbits.com.


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