The digestive system of most rabbits is a lesson in delicacy, but with a few considerations, you can hedge your bets against common, and often dangerous, digestive disorders.
Rabbits rely on good bacteria in their stomachs to aid in the digestion of their food. Frequently changing their diet, or adding new foods too fast, can upset this delicate balance and cause serious problems. Add new foods over the course of a week or more. If you want or need to change your brand of chow, combine the new with the old in increasing proportions over the same period of time.
Jersey Wooly Feeding Requirements
As a dwarf breed, mature Woolies need only about 1-ounce of chow for every 1-pound of weight, daily. If you have a pregnant or nursing doe, however, or a baby less than four months in age, allow them as much as they’ll eat. This will provide the additional calories and nutrients they need.
Pet rabbits do very well on chow that is 16 – 18% protein, at least 16% fiber, and 2 – 3% fat. Take time to check labels and find a suitable brand, and only buy what will be consumed in four to five weeks. The high moisture content in rabbit chow means it can mold and spoil, which will make your bunny sick.
In addition to a quality chow, your bunny’s main diet will consist of a constant supply of fresh water, which rabbits cannot absorb from their food, and a constant supply of timothy hay. Woolies are more prone to a life threatening condition known as wool block; a clog of hair in the digestive tract. The constant supply of fresh hay helps reduce this possibility and allows for all day nibbling.
Special treats can be used to reinforce cooperative training, supplement a daily diet, or just say, “I love you.” Kitchen scraps work great here, but foods close to spoiling are better for the compost pile than your bunny’s belly. Be sure to remove any pits or seeds.
Don’t feed your bunny lettuce. Lettuce contains lactucarium, which can cause dangerously severe diarrhea. Diarrhea can kill a rabbit. You should also avoid cabbage, rutabaga, parsnips, potato tops and tomato leaves.
Jersey Woolies came into being as a cross between the Netherland Dwarf and French Angora. A Wooly’s coat has a higher ratio of guard hairs, however, making it far easier to maintain than an Angora, and can still be used as a textile.
Regularly clean their enclosures to keep them free of droppings. This goes a long way towards making grooming easier. Urine stains, also called ‘hutch stains’ are sometimes unavoidable. Some home remedies include lemon juice and water, vinegar and water, or baking soda and water. These solutions should only be used directly on the stains. Never immerse your rabbit in water, as this can cause shock.
Start your grooming sessions with a high powered blow dryer set to ‘cool’, or a small, clean shop vac set to ‘blow.’ This will blow away dirt and dust and fluff the coat. Use the blower for only short periods to start, giving your bunny treats for its cooperation. Be careful not to blow directly into the ears, eyes, nose or mouth. Start at the rump and work your way forward along the back and sides.
Using a slicker brush next will remove mats, pull out loose fur, stimulate the skin and add a shine to your rabbit’s coat. Slicker brushes come in many sizes and styles. Look for one specifically designed for bunnies. Again, begin at the tail. You can turn your bunny over in your lap to do its underside.
As you gently handle your rabbit, check its eyes, ears and bottom for signs of irritation. Also check the nails and teeth, both of which can become overgrown and require trimming. If left untreated, overgrown teeth, known as malocclusion, may cause your rabbit to stop eating.
Maturity and Molting
As your Wooly matures, it will go through several stages of molting, beginning around the eyes, nose and base of the ears. Some rabbits go completely bald, resulting in what’s called a ‘Michigan hairless.’ Shed coats can be mixed with other fibers and made into felt or spun into yarn for use in crafts. With Jersey Woolies, you can, quite literally, have your bunny and wear it too. New coats usually come in fairly quickly.