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I will give you an idea of what I have been doing these past 20 days or so. All of which have been the same except this past weekend. This past weekend I gave them extra food and water sense I knew I would be gone from Friday night to noon Sunday. Besides that I have been on a split day schedule. At around 4am I go out to feed and water them. They get pellets and oats at that time. At 4pm I give them hay and I clean the litter pens under their cages. About every other day I either try to just pet them or grab them straight out of the cage kicking and clawing to stay inside. All except the young doe, I’ll explain later.
The buck is held in a 24x24x18 cage with a cardboard box to chew on. All of them have cardboard boxes. The 2 does are held in cages that are 24x30x18 and stacked on top of each other. I have 30x36x18 cages for when they should start giving birth.
Now I will explain each rabbit’s behavior. The buck started off scared of me just like the other two. Over time he has become acclimated to me and will let me touch him so long as I do not try to grab him. Whenever I go into the shed to feed them he always runs to the cage door waiting for the food or hay he knows I will give him. These are not pets and I am fully aware he is only happy about the prospect of food. This is good sense it would have made killing them later easier. However, I have seen on several occasions that he will start chewing one the cage. That’s why I have the box in there, for him to chew on, yet he seems to have lost interest in it. The Does have annihilated their boxes but he pretty much just sleeps on his.
Now for the bred doe. This one has ways been scared of me. She obviously shakes every time I get near her cage and until today I have not done anything to her. When I first got her I had to chase her around the cage just to touch her. Now she will just huddle in the far left corner shivering while I pet her. If I try to grab her she will begin to run. Once I grab her she will spread her claws out attempting to hold on to the bars. This led to the second issue today. After getting bit by the young doe, I attempted to try to grab the bred doe to see if I could feel the kits growing. She fought like crazy to stay in and after about a minute of fighting with her I yelled, slammed the cage door and smacked the top of the cage. This was displaced aggression that I should not have done sense the bred doe was just doing what she has always done.Unlike the buck and young doe, the bred doe will happily eat the oats and hay, but barely eat the pellets.
Now for Suka, the young doe. If you don’t know Russian, Suka means bitch. I hate this rabbit and today was the second time she has bit me. This time though she got a nasty surprise. First off, when I received her, and the others, she was naturally scared and very skittish. After a few days she settled down but never got use to me touching her. This was not due to her running or being aggressive but due to her being out of my reach. The way I have the cages set up, is that they are all stacked with the buck on top and Suka on the bottom. This presents a problem sense she is so low to the ground, she quickly figured that if she stayed near the far right wall, I could not touch her. I think this has fostered the aggression she has developed within the past week and a half. She knows she has a place to retreat too. Until today when, after she bit me again, I got on some thick gloves, got on my back, grabbed her neck and rammed her head into the cage wall. After that I took the new box I got her and tossed it inside. Promptly she got up and attacked it with her front feet. So I have no doubt I have psychologically lost this rabbit and likely the bred doe as well. I would not be surprised of either one decided to kill their kits or prepare to attack me once the kits are born. the first bite from her happened Monday after I pushed some hay her way. Before that she was content with just grunting and growling when she started becoming aggressive
I have a very bad temper, its why I do what I can to separate myself from other people, and I should have known this was a bad idea from the start. But I figured that rabbits would be fairly easy to control so long as I didn’t let them run free. Clearly I was wrong and should have spent my $300 somewhere else. This is really disappointing sense I read Story’s rabbit guide and looked over several rabbit sites, all in a vain attempt to prepare myself. I bought 12 cages, most were used, and have been really trying to make sure I raise them correctly. Another fantastic failure for me. I may wait till the bred does give birth around the 25th, assuming she is pregnant, but it may be best just to take them back to Sacramento. The local animal shelter also takes rabbits I think. So much for raising rabbits.
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You have to remember they are prey animals.
One temperamental outburst and a rabbit may fear you for life. Aggression and fear are often linked.
This is abuse. It's not something anyone on this forum would like to read about, and I feel your rabbit would be better off in the stew pot than to be alive and handled like that. There is a good chance that she will always be terrified of everyone, and always aggressive from this point on.I got on some thick gloves, got on my back, grabbed her neck and rammed her head into the cage wall.
I have run into a few like your Suka. It's not uncommon of a behavior pattern for young does. Some breeders put up with it. I choose send them along to freezer camp and only work with friendly animals. I am however, rather calm, and have a pretty solid understanding of how to make friends with a bunny. I have some super sweet and downright affectionate rabbits here to back up my claim. If they grow up unfriendly with the treatment I give them...there has GOT to be something wrong with their heads!
Suka may have been naturally aggressive and hormonal...or she may have been scared witless. It's hard to tell from your description.
I think...You would probably better off purchasing your meat from someone with a gentler disposition.
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I agree with much of what Zass says, but I would add that I disagree with your statement that it is "another fantastic failure" for you. It sounds like you gave it a go, and discovered rabbits and their behaviors are more frustration for you than you bargained for. Like a lot of things in life, raising rabbits is something that you have to try out before you know if it is for you or not. If you are not enjoying it overall, or if what your are investing is not worth the payoff, then by all means, cut your losses. There is no failure in trying something new, in fact a lot of people have ideas but never take action to make them real. So you are ahead of those people who don't try new things and don't learn from experience at all!
About Rabbits, I am new to raising them as well , having started only 3 months ago. My experience has been much less extreme than yours, but I totally understand what you are talking about. Rabbits are just downright frustratingly flighty and can really shred your arms and hands with their nails and teeth when you try to handle them. On one hand, you want them to get used to being handled, but on the other hand they really don't like it, and I believe, at best will tolerate it. On the other hand, if they become panicked and you persist in grabbing them anyway, it becomes such a negative, scary experience for them that they may not get over it for a long time. i kept hearing people tell me that rabbits are prey animals, but now that I have rabbits I think I finally understand. Rabbits in their natural state, are never grabbed or held, except by something about to kill them. That is a BIG instinct to overcome. i had to tattoo my rabbits and weigh them, and I wanted to check them over. And not having much experience on how to pick them up carefully without scaring them, I wound up being scratched and bitten, and alienating each of them. I figured these things had to be done, so managed despite their upset. One of my bucks still cowers in the back of the cage, when I am around, despite my attempts to give him treats and sweet talk him. i have learned that when rabbits start to panic, it is best to back off and try again later. The instinct to overpower them or force them when they don't cooperate only makes things worse, and makes them less likely to be cooperative as you go forward. Once they see you (or your hands and arms ) as something that just appears in their cage/home and seizes them (and in their minds try to kill them) it becomes harder than ever to undo that. I spend a lot of time now, standing in front of the open cage door. i will ease my hand and arm into the cage (not directly at them) and will just make soothing talk for a while, when I feed them each day. Some of them I can now reach over to and lightly touch them here and there like a fellow rabbit might groom them. But if they flinch I stop and don't touch them. Sometimes I despair that they will ever tolerate being touched and handled without freaking out. Especially the buck I mentioned. I wanted to have a little bit of a familiarity with my breeders, but even if that is not possible, I can still manage. Like you, my plan is to raise for meat. I invested in some Kevlar sleeves with thumb holes, and before that my father loaned me some leather welding gloves. I won't even THINK about picking up a rabbit without my kevlar sleeves on! without those things, I would have bled out long ago. But even with the sleeves on, I won't persist in picking up a rabbit if it panics and tries to flee or fight. i would rather have rabbits that won't tolerate being handled than to have them cowering and shivering when they see me. Except for the buck, the rest of the rabbits will come up to me when I am putting hay in their cage, and smell my clothes. several won't retreat and will let me touch them or pet them lightly if I move my hand off after each touch. But that moment between picking them up, and having them tucked face first into my arm like a football, that is the part that is really scary for them. Once you have them held firmly with their faces tucked in, they don't usually struggle at all until you get ready to release them or put them back in the cage. If there is some trick to how to get them from the cage to the football hold, without freaking them out, I would love to know it. Anyway I have rambled long, and I am still trying to raise rabbits for meat. i mainly just wanted to point out that rabbits by nature are quick to panic and are not easy to control or handle, and are very quick to believe they are being attacked, and slow to trust again after you scare them. if anyone told me that before I got started, I must not have been paying attention. I didn't know there would be so much drama I thought they would be more like chickens. I see how you could get frustrated, and keep making things worse, by letting your temper get the best of you. In my experience so far, Rabbits are more high-strung than I imagined. Good luck to you and your New Zealands. Nothing wrong with eating them, but maybe you can sell them and recoup a little of your investment. Peace,
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Always go into it with confidence, if you show any amount of fear,
any animal will pick up on it. You have to think on the terms of "The Dog Whisperer"
You are the ALPHA and must always be in control.
I never wear gloves of any kind when handling my or any other persons Rabbits.
I do wear a long sleeved shirt whenever I am working with Rabbits.
If a Rabbit is squirmy and hard to handle, when I first grab him or her,
I will press their head to the ground or cage floor much in the same way a mother rabbit
or alpha herd member would do. I DON'T slam them around,as my intent is not to hurt them,
but to show that I am the head/top bunny. This often calms the situation and you can go about doing what you must. I have had people bring me a Rabbit that they were too afraid to
trim their nails, they would tell me to be careful: She bites! I simply took the rabbit
out of the cage, held it in a firm but gentle grip and there was no problem.
Now I won't say that I have never been bitten or scratched by any Rabbit, because
of course I have and I have the battle scares to prove it!
There will always be confrontations between you and your charges, but one
must never allow them to get out of hand, with time and experience all things
continually become easier.
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Thank you Dennis.
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You need to be a gentle kind person to handle rabbits. When you first get a rabbit you have to sit next to the cage in a chair and give them treats and pet them, and get them to trust you completely before they will ever tolerate being picked up. Every time you chase and grab them it just reinforces their fear and they won't trust you. I spend a lot of time with my rabbits and I still have a few that love to be petted but just hate to have my hands completely around them as I pick them up- it triggers their prey animal instincts and they panic, kick etc... none of them ever bite though.
Also, like others said, I think gloves are scary to rabbits, It might be the gloves that have triggered the fear in the rabbits initially, but now its more than just the gloves, its the rough handling etc...
But really, I think if these rabbits are just too frustrating for you to deal with, and you have a hard time keeping your temper, so you probably shouldn't keep any rabbits.
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As an outsider reading your post, this is what caught my attention. You have had the rabbits only three weeks. You and they are still getting to know and trust each other. During that time, you have spent "every other day trying to pet them or grab them straight out of the cage kicking and clawing". Basically, in the short time you have had the rabbits, you have taught them to fear you.
If you decide to give rabbits another try, I think you could still win these rabbits over. I would change how you interact with them. You want them to trust you and know that you mean them no harm. Instead of trying to pet them or grab them, go to them with treats- maybe a few raisins, some greens, or a bit of parsley. Get them to the point where they will take the treats from your hand. After you have managed that, slowly get to the point where you can pet them, not trying to pick them up- just pet them.
Rabbits will NEVER be fond of being picked up. They are prey animals, and associate that with death. But, they can learn to tolerate it, if they have learned that the hands picking them up are the hands that give them treats, pets, and generally treat them with gentle respect. It will take time.
If you decide to keep them, you may have better luck with the coming kits. I handle mine daily after birth, taking the nest box out of the cage, away from the doe. By the time the kits are on their own, they are used to me handling them, and they trust me. These days, when I come to their cage, they all come running to the door to see what I am doing.
No matter what you decide, I wish you luck.
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That being said, I'd offer several solutions.
First: A prey animal has the innate ability to sense the slightest nuances of
anger/aggression. The mind (your mind) has got to be "right" before you
approach your stock. If you're in a rank mood, they'll know it and react
Second: A classic mistake, and one that nearly always assures failure.
Buying stock that is at or near maturation. These animals are fairly "set" in
their way's by the time you take possession. Their behavior can be modified
but it takes a great deal of patience. (see item #1)
Third: Start with stock 8-12 weeks old. They're young, curious, and quite
impressionable at this stage of their development. Use their inquisitive
behavior to your advantage. Let "them" come to "you". Not vice versa.
Chasing them around only exacerbates the problems. Your demeanor will
evolve to one like you described. The rabbits have only one avenue of
protection....fear and flight.
Finally: This may sound harsh and uncaring, forgive me in advance.
Some people are well-suited to raise and care for rabbits and do so
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sorry you are having such a frustrating time with your rabbits, but I would encourage you not to give up. You admit to having a bad temper- well, rabbits may just be able to help you with that, by teaching you that patience and kindness go much further when interacting with anyone, man or beast. I hope with a little guidance you can handle the rabbits more confidently and that they will learn to trust you.
Your biggest problem is with the handling of the rabbits, and it is too bad that as others mentioned you didn't start out with well socialized rabbits to begin with.
My approach is different than many of the members here, who take the slow approach with treats and so forth. Like you, I want to be able to handle my rabbits right away, and I expect them to behave themselves. I also believe that living in a constant state of apprehension until they are "tamed" is worse than a couple of somewhat stressful handling sessions that teach them that I am not out to eat them. Yet!
First off, put on a long sleeved shirt for a little added protection. A sweatshirt is a great option if the weather permits. Have a table with a piece of carpeting on it and if possible bring that close to your cages so you don't need to move the rabbits very far.
Place your non-dominant hand over the rabbits ears and gently but firmly grip the neck and shoulder area and press the rabbit down toward the floor of the cage. Take your other hand and slide it under the rabbits belly with the joint between your thumb and index finger positioned at the point where the hind leg meets the body. Your thumb will be on the outside of the leg.
Now lift the rabbit up, pushing the shoulder area toward your supporting hand. With a smooth motion, quickly bring the rabbit out of the cage and into your body. You will end up with the length of the rabbit's body crosswise to your torso, with the head positioned so that you can tuck it under your arm if you wish. Covering the eyes will help to calm the rabbit.
Take the rabbit to the table and begin to set it down. If it starts to kick or struggle, bring it firmly back against your body, and then try again. Repeat until the rabbit just hangs relaxed in your hands until you set it down. At this point, stroke the rabbit from the ears and down the body a few times. Let it relax for a little bit, and then pick it up again as described above. You just need to lift it about 6" to 8" inches off of the table. If it struggles, bring it into your body. If not, gently set it down again.
If you are a "talker", keep up a soothing monologue while you are doing all of this. If you aren't- just project a calm, relaxed attitude.
Repeat the picking up/setting down exercise about a half dozen times. Spend about 3-5 minutes "grooming" the rabbit by first lightly misting it with water and then firmly stroking it from head to tail and tail to head. If it is shedding, the water will make the fur stick to your hands. Rubbing them together will get the fur to roll up so you can get it off, and then continue "grooming".
Pick up and set down the rabbit a couple of more times, and then return it to the cage. Always, ALWAYS put the rabbit back butt-first so it doesn't try to make a leap for freedom. Keep your hand on the shoulders and pet the rabbit for a few seconds, making sure it is calm before releasing it. At this point, a tasty treat will go a long way to ending the whole training exercise on a positive note.
You should notice a huge improvement the next time you take the rabbit out. It has never taken me more than two or three sessions to "tame" them this way, and they are also more relaxed and friendly when in their cages. My adult rabbits are all great about being carried and handled- all of my scratches come from working with babies that haven't yet been "trained".
Suka sounds like she is ready to be bred and is very hormonal, which is why she is growling and lunging. I would try putting her with the buck to see if she will breed. We have a thread with pictures showing the changes in vent color to see if she is ready, but at this point, with them being unused to handling, I would just pop her into his cage and see what happens.
When you go to get her out of the cage use something like a dust pan (or even a piece of cardboard) to "herd" her closer to the front of the cage. Don't whack her with it or anything, just use it as a guide so you can get hold of her.
The good news is that when the does kindle, you may be able to use their hormones to advantage to tame them. When mammals give birth and nurse their young, a hormone called prolactin is released to help them to bond with their young. It is commonly called "the feel good hormone" because it produces a loving euphoria. By gently petting the does for a couple of minutes a day from the time they kindle for about the first week, they will associate that feeling with you as well.
The buck will probably come around once you start bringing does to him. I had a Rex buck (not raised here) that was "shy" with me until I started bringing him the girls- then all of a sudden, I was his best friend, and he became just as friendly as all of my other bucks.
Your current rabbits may never be as friendly as you would like, but if you make a point of gently handling their young from an early age, the next generation should be much friendlier.
Now, all that said, if you still find yourself getting angry and frustrated whenever dealing with your rabbits, I wouldn't keep them. A friend of mine once said "When you don't enjoy feeding your animals, you know it is time for them to go!", and she was right... keeping animals should bring you pleasure and relax you, not be a source of extra stress.
I wish you the best of luck, and hope that we here at RabbitTalk will be able to help you with your rabbits.
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So, my two cents' worth: Re-read and re-read all of the excellent advice offered above. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be in a hurry. And - since you've made an investment in pens, etc. - don't be afraid to try again with different, younger stock.
Best of luck to you!
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I was hoping to help and encourage mcv, but I wound up being helped as well.
I think I may have gone too far in the other direction, and am being too timid and concerned about winning them over first, and in the meantime they are not being handled much at all.
I am going to get a box of raisins and try those pick-em-up tips! Thanks all!
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Decided I will try a bit longer. Know any books that discuss rabbit behavior?
Thus far I have been practicing picking them up as suggested. All of them have been acting a bit better. Suka is still grunting but that’s it. Although today she got the hell knocked out of her and growled at me after words.
Today I decided I would try breeding suka and the buck. So, as I’ve read I placed her in his cage and shut the door. After a few seconds of sniffing they started racing around the 2'x2' cage with one trying to get on top of the other. I assume the buck was the one trying to get on top. Sense it was just running in circles I let it go and eventually one mounted the other. After a few quick thrusts, the one on the bottom got away and the race started again. I decided to just leave them alone until I realized one was actively ripping fir from the other. At that point I used a piece of cardboard to separate them and put, I assume, suka back in her cage. That rabbit ran to the back of the cage and stayed hunkered in a ball even after I gave it more oats and hay. The other laid in the buck’s cage all spread out like it was happy as could be. So yeah, this was a very unpleasant experiment for everyone involved. For the pregnant doe’s part, she just sat in her cage looking at me and I could just imagine her saying "nice going moron."
Beyond the poor attempt at breeding, I have a few other issues. This past week I moved all three into a shed with better ventilation. Shortly after doing so I noticed that the buck would sometimes race around his cage and shake his head. I have seen his do this four times and each time I take him out and inspect his ears. So far I have not seen anything wrong with them. In addition to this he seems to have developed eating issues. First he will not eat any hay that I have not just given him. He has a small clump of hay in his cage he will not touch but has no issue eating any new hay I give him or the oats and pellets. Second, I have seen him twice viciously bite his water bottle. It’s like he is desperate for water but can’t get any out. Yet, before I tried the breeding he was drinking just fine and does so most of the time.
Now for the pregnant doe. Like the buck she also has eating issues. For her though, it’s eating only hay. If I fill her feeder up with pellets and oats the only thing that will be nibbled on are the pellets, though nowhere near all. She won’t touch the oats. Hay on the other hand she will gladly start munching on. When she is not turning her entire floor into a nest, she has not touched the nest box I made; she is happily eating the hay. In addition to the eating issue she has a drinking problem. I feel each bottle entirely so I can judge how much they drink. Only recently though does it look like she is drinking more than a couple ounces. Yesterday it looked like she drank an entire cups worth of water. I don’t see how a small critter that does not seem to eat or drink enough can produce so much poop. i usually have carrots, broccoli, potatoes, onions and spinach. are any of theses safe to give her?
Now for suka who I am pretty sure feels like a rape victim now. Poor rabbit. So far as eating goes she has no issues. I 'moved the pregnant doe to a 30''x36'' cage and suka to a higher lever cage. Now that she is more easily accessible to me, she seems to have calmed down. She still grunts and fights to stay in the cage but I feel I can safely layer her on the counter without her trying to run away.
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I haven't seen a female tear fur out of a male, though, so the one doing that was very likely the male. If he never fell over off of the female, though, she probably did not get bred.
Females will frequently act like you've betrayed them after you remove them from the buck's cage. Sometimes a couple of raisins as a bribe will put you back in good standing.
The website Maggie gave you is an excellent one for understanding rabbit behavior.
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