Welcome to Rabbit Awareness Week 2011! In our fist behviours blog one of our current foster carers, Alison, shares her experiences of some of her rabbits' behaviours.
Before I had rabbits I thought of them as furry little creatures which sat on the ground eating grass, made burrows to live in and had babies. During the time I have had the privilege of owning pet rabbits I have found this to be completely wrong. They are intelligent and complex animals who exhibit a wide range of behaviours for survival and to communicate with others.
One such behavior is that they love to have a vantage point. They need to have high points in the wild so they can have a good view of the area which surrounds them in case there are any predators trying to hunt them. I noticed soon after getting my first buns that they would take any opportunity to climb. They jumped onto the sofa, dining chairs or small tables and looked very pleased with themselves.
At this point I started to give them toys which would allow them to climb safely and to try and encourage them away from the kitchen table.
They enjoyed these immensly and could often be found happily sitting on their new lookout post. We even had a cat tree for one rabbit who loved climbing. He would get to the top and still be looking for more steps upwards!
I was then keen to start introducing different levels in their crates and hutches so went searching round the house for cheap and easy options. Old childrens toys and tables were a good starting point.
We then made some simple wooden shelves to put in the hutch so that the rabbits had access to various levels and to give them more chance to exercise. As you can see here, the shelves really encouraged the rabbits to stretch and jump.
I now have the opportunity to foster rabbits for Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care. I have really enjoyed being able to give the foster rabbits the opportunities my own rabbits have. They have not always been used to the same amount of experiences as my own rabbits and it is really rewarding watching them come out of their shells and start exploring their surroundings. I am currently fostering the following two rabbits, Eva and Maria. It took them a while to come out of the hutch and start exploring the garden. It took even longer for them to start trusting me when I was in the garden and not just make a dash for home the minute I appeared. They now take absolutely no notice of me except when they think I might have a tasty treat with me and they come over to make sure. They also now eat out of my hand and are happy to be rubbed at the same time. A huge step forward from the timid rabbits who arrived at first.
Here they are enjoying their favourite vantage point in the garden.
I am also fostering two young rabbits, Sky and Rosie, who live indoors in a dog crate with regular and frequent access to run around the house and outside run. I wanted to find out if they would also enjoy a different level in their home and hung a small hammock for them. They really enjoyed it but it was only big enough for one at a time. Today I took one of the shelves from the outside hutch and put it in their crate. Within five minutes they were both on the top level!
They also have a range of levels to enjoy in their run during the day. They sit on top of the wooden shelter, the upturned plant pot and the wooden sticks.
As you can see from these examples, rabbits really do like a vantage point but there are a few things to bear in mind. The surface of the upper levels must be solid and firm, the item must not be able to topple over and it must be made of a safe material if the rabbits decide to chew it. For this reason MDF must never be used to make shelving or features for rabbit hutches. Bearing these things in mind it is a lot of fun coming up with ways to enrich your rabbits' lives and also make them even more interesting to sit and watch.