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08 May 2008 @ 12:39 am
Flemish Giant & general care questions  
Hello!  I'm a new member.

We have a ten week old (or so) Flemish Giant named Duke.  We've had him for about three weeks and I'm fairly certain he's doubled his size since then.  He is a sweetheart who loves being pet.

We've been feeding him unlimited pellets and unlimited Timothy hay.

We took him to the vet yesterday for a "well bunny check".  I just wanted to ask some questions and the vet was awesome.  But she said to feed Duke unlimited hay and only about 1/8 cup of pellets per day (as a treat).  This seems to contradict what I've read online at the House Rabbit Society.  I don't want a fat rabbit, but I also don't want to starve my little (soon to be very big) guy.  So...suggestions?

I have a question regarding hay also: I bought a 1# bag of Timothy hay at Petco and the hay had nice long strands.  It looked like tasty hay.  When we ran out I sent my husband to buy more.  He came back with the Petco brand Timothy Hay.  The stuff looks and feels like yard clippings.  Which do you think is better?  Or does it matter?  Duke always ate all of the stuff I bought, but it seems as if there is always leftovers with the new stuff.
We are having a small issue with nibbling on clothes.  Any suggestions?  I gently redirect him, so it doesn't bother me much.  But he is officially my six year's bunny and she is scared of being bitten.  He did get through to skin when he was "exploring" her pants.  It was my fault.  I thought he was just sniffing.

What do you use as bedding?  How often do you change it?  Duke is mostly litter box trained, but he does leave pellets in his cage (which seems normal from what I've read).  Should I be scooping out  the random pellets once a day and change everything every couple of days?  He will use the litter box and then suddenly switch where he urinates (to the opposite  side of his cage).  I've been moving the litter box to his "hot spot" where it might be.  Is this correct?

Grooming?  What kind of brush do you use?  The soft hair brushes don't seem as if they would do the trick and the wire brushes look scary.

Duke has a four foot long cage where his litter box, food, and water are kept.  It is a wire cage with a solid bottom.  The door to his cage is left open and his cage is surrounded by a kid's play yard.  It is a temporary solution and we are working on expanding his space.  He can enter his cage when he wants and he also has some room to hop too.  In the past few days he has started hopping on top of his cage to have a look around.  So far, he hasn't made a move to hop *out* of his cage.  But it is a concern I have.  We are in the process of moving, so the house is absolutely not bunny proofed (hence, the play yard).  Tonight when he was hopping down from the top of his cage it seemed as if he got a foot caught in the wire top of his cage.  That seems as if it would be a bad thing.  Should I look at making the top a solid surface for him?  Is he likely to try and jump out?

Duke likes to sit in his litter box (regardless of whether or not the cage door is left open).  Do bunnies like to feel surrounded by something?  If so, what do you recommend to fill that need? I'm fine with him sitting in his litter box, if there is a bunny-need not being met, I'd like to fix it.

Finally, how do you pick up your bunnies?  I was picking Duke up  around the middle, scooping him up, and then holding him close to me and he seems fine with that.  But the vet & co. did this thing where they slid their fingers underneath him and held his feet while they lifted him up.  It seemed pretty nifty, but I can't figure out how they did it and Duke hops away when I try it (but he's fine with the way I was picking him up).  The vet said Flemish Giants can easily suffer back trauma because of their size (weight and length), so I'd like to get the pick up correct now.
Kitzira: DW - Lonely Angelkitzira on May 8th, 2008 08:41 am (UTC)
For a young rabbit, I've usually understood that it's unlimited pellets (well, reasonable amount.. a bowl per day) and occasional handfuls of alfalfa along with the timothy until they're 6 month of age.

The Hay should be long and green. If it's lost its greenness, don't buy it.

Bedding, I've always used carefresh for my own animals and aspen for the animals at the shelter. As long as it's not pine or cedar, you can try anything you want.

As a secondary comment to the litter-box training, if it's not neutered, he'll start leaving pee and poop everywhere, marking his territory. As he gets older, he may get a bit aggressive as well. So it would be good to talk to the vet about the best time to neuter him.

And with picking him up, you do want to support the butt/hindquarters someway. If he freaks out and kicks out his hind legs while only being held at the chest or belly, he can screw up his spine that way.
frogsmom: newzealandwhite C obsessiveiconsfrogsmom on May 8th, 2008 09:08 am (UTC)
oh jealousy at your flemish giant!
i've always liked them!

pellets- unlimited and alfalfa based up to 6 months.
i believe oxbow.com has the guidelines according to weight on their website for adulthood.

bedding- seconding the above commenter. anything but pine and cedar is fine.
pine and cedar has oils in them that are toxic to the respiratory systems of little critters.

never pick up a rabbit without supporting the rear. a bun that kicks out can break their back. and i broken back in a rabbit is a death sentence.

congrats on your little fella!
lady_luciferalady_lucifera on May 8th, 2008 10:07 am (UTC)
My vet also told me to give my rabbit 1/8th cup of pellets. I've found out my mom has been feeding her extra during the day, which is why she is still fat. Not good!
And yeah bunnies tend to like being surrounded by stuff. I have a bendable little hut thing made of sticks for Bunny, and she sleeps in it.
Miss Anthrope: <3!dingorama on May 8th, 2008 12:43 pm (UTC)
Ooh Flemish Giants are neat, what a lucky guardian you are to have such a wonderful big fella! :3

Concerning food, from what I've learned about rabbits from having them all my life (and from learning from other rabbit enthusiasts and specialists), 1/8 of a cup of pellets sounds about right, along with unlimited hay. *nods*

And the hay definitely should be green and smelling somewhat sweet and fresh. If Duke's not particularly taking to the Petco brand, definitely switch back to the #1.. it's important he gets his hay, and as you said, that brand looked a ton yummier so go for that!

For the clothing chewing, I've read from some of the helpful tips on Binkybunny.com that perfume supposedly works pretty well from deterring buns from chewing. If you're not overly sensitive to smells, perhaps try spraying some perfume on the clothes so he might not tempted to chew? (I've never tried this since my buns are pretty good about not chewing, but it's worth a shot!)

I use Yesterday's News for my bunny bedding and I've found that either that or Carefresh work great, for a variety of reasons. Just to list a few.. they're a ton more absorbent than wood shavings and thus, smell less (which I find kind of nice because then I don't have to change their litter boxes as often); they're soft (well, the Carefresh is) for your bunny's bottom; they're not as messy; and, most importantly I think, they're the safest for your bunny's health (over woodshavings). Woodshavings can actually be harmful your bunny's respiratory system (from the wood dust that's kicked up when they shuffle it around) so I'm against wood shavings.. (they may be cheap, but in the long run, it's your bun's health that matters most!)

For the cage top, I would definitely suggest placing a towel down on the top or some sort of solid surface. I understand every bun is different, but my bun does the same thing (and has been doing it for awhile) and hasn't managed to try hopping out. I'd say for the safety of Duke's little feetsies that a solid top wouldn't be a bad idea!

As for the litter-box sitting.. again, one of my buns does that too (even though he has room to run, I always find him chilling in his litter box!). I'm curious to know if that's alright, but since he doesn't seem to have any qualms with it, I'm not too concerned.. but I'd be curious to know as well if there's something odd about that.

And your vet is def right about bunnies and their backs with being supported properly! I can imagine how Flemish giants with their size and weight this could be a viable concern, but I know this is also the case with any other bun.. the fear of them kicking and snapping their back (from what I've learned from other house rabbit owners). Perhaps when you're scooping him up from his middle, say, with your right hand, try sliding your left hand under his rear to support his lower back/bottom.

I hope some of this advice helps, and congratulations on your giving Duke a great new home with a loving family.. obviously someone who is this curious in finding out the right answers to these kinds of things is a dedicated bunny parent! :3

Raineifeeltoomuch on May 8th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC)
House rabbit society says baby bunnies should be free-fed pellets up until they're 7 months, and then start cutting down depending on his weight - 1/2 cup per six pounds of body weight.

When full grown your flemmy boy should be eating way more than 1/8th a cup of pellets - my 3 pounder eats more than that.

I have a New Zealand White (Egan) who's a pretty big boy, and he eats about a cup and a half of food a day, with no weight problems. My little just-barely-3 pound Netherland dwarf (Otter) eats about a half a cup per day, and she's a perfect weight for her size. (I say about because I'm guestimating based on what I see them eat - they live and eat together and they get a total of 2 cups a day between the two of them).

You'll find a lot of contradicting information about bunny diets. So long as you're not giving him an extremely large amount of pellets or free-feeding him once he's not a baby anymore, you make sure he has good quality pellets, and he's a good, hearty hay eater, he should be fine.

Egan nibbles clothes from time to time - sometimes he's trying to groom me and gets overzealous, and sometimes he's trying to get past me and I'm in his way. Sometimes I think he just likes to try and eat my pants, haha. I haven't really found anything to deter it other than watch him and steer his head in another direction when I think he's about to do it.

I use yesterday's news litter (from the cat section, it comes in bigger bags than the stuff in the small animal section and is cheaper, but it's the same product!) I've found it's the best to absorb smells. Since he's still so little, it might take him a while to get the hang of being 'fully' potty trained - sometimes bunnies don't completely train themselves until they get neutered, so getting that done in a few months will help, too. It will probably stop the urge to start peeing in random corners, because he won't want to mark his territory as much. Picking up all the little stray pieces of poo and wiping up the pee with a paper towel and putting them all back in the litterbox seems to be the best way to go. I change my guys litterboxes every four days or so.

I don't use brushes when I groom my guys - they're not longhair breeds, and I think the brushes annoy them. When they're shedding I just sit next to them and run my fingers through their cuts, plucking all the loose pieces of fur. I can do this for hours and end up with a basketball sized pile of shed fur next to me in the end! They seem to enjoy it, for the most part, and it helps them a lot, saves them from having to take it all off themselves.

I don't know with what but if he's jumping up there, I would try and cover the surface of the cage so he doesn't get his foot caught. Maybe just a towel binder-clipped to the top so it doesn't slide. By jumping out, do you mean jumping out of the playpen from the top of the cage? If that's what you're asking, every rabbit is different, but as he gets more comfortable with his surroundings, he might try. Rabbits tend to be very curious creatures and they like to explore what's 'off limits'. Egan actually used to climb up his temporary pen to get out of it - it was made of those connectable storage shelves (NIC cubes) and he found out he could jump up, latch onto the holes with his feet, and shimmy his way to the top. Now that he lives with Otter in the big dog pen he can't jump to the top anymore, and there aren't as many footholds for him so he can't escape.

I have had some bunnies that just like to lay in their litterboxes. My dutch girl Sadie does it, and Otter does it from time to time. Sometimes they do like to have cover, though, being naturally burrowing creatures. My guys all have those fleece dog/cat beds that look like little tunnels. Otter loves hers and since having it doesn't lay in the litterbox as much.

It's important to support their back legs when you lift them - as everyone else has said, if a bunny kicks out and twists the wrong way, they can severely injure themselves.

Post pictures of Duke soon! I love flemmies =)

Raineifeeltoomuch on May 8th, 2008 07:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, and also, I forgot to add this about the hay - I don't know if you're in the US or not, but if you are, there's a great guy on ebay that sells hay from his own farms - it's always been fresh, green, smells great, and my bunnies go BONKERS for it!


Starry-Eyed Dreamerpainglass on May 8th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
Oh flemmies! I had one for a while, but she was too territorial and ended up sending my much smaller dwarf to the emergency room 3 times so I had to get rid of her. I still miss her terribly!

For the hay, stick to what Duke will eat. My Flemish would eat any fresh veggie under the sun, but when it came to hay, she would only ever touch this expensive, sun-dried, organic timothy hay from a local supplier. It cost me far more, but it is much better to spend money on something they'll eat and be healthy eating then to waste money and time buying stuff they'll ignore.

For clothes, I've had (have) this problem with my dwarf. There is just something about a pile of freshly laundered clothes he goes crazy over. I mostly deal with the loose clothes/towels nibbling by keeping them hung up and out of his reach. He also like to nibble my pants. When he is actively nibbling them (as compared to his grabbing and tugging them, which means "PET ME NOW!" or head-butting me- "Get out of my way!") I simply Gently shake the foot/leg he is nibbling on. This has greatly reduced both his nibbling and his accidental biting of myself through my clothes. He's learned I am not a nibble post, but that if he wants my attention by tugging or head-butting, its okay (since I don't shake my leg at these times). Oh, I also bought him a large length of cotton for cheap from Jo-Anns which he uses to scratch, nap on, and bite. He never seems to swallow, just shred. This can also be helped by giving Duke a large amount of willow toys and cardboard toys (My Flemmie LOVED cardboard tubes from toilet paper rolls like they were crack.)

As for bedding, I buy 50lb bags of small animal bedding made from corn cobs. It is small, "soft", odor absorbing, long lasting, clean, and after trying ten billion types, the only thing the dwarf and the flemmie could agree on. It is also cheap! I think I get my bags at my local Pet Supplies Plus Warehouse 50lbs for $15, sometimes $10 if it is on sale. I did notice, however, that my flemmie had powerful pee, and as she grew from a 6 month old to a 1 year old, I started to also buy 10lb containers of Crystals for cats (they are clear and blue crystals that kill bacteria, smells, and absorb pee) and put a thin layer of that under the corn cobs. I went from having a smelly, cleaned daily bunny bin, to having a non-smelly, cleaned every three days bunny bin. But, i would not recommend this if you have a bun who digs, as I am unsure of how safe these are for buns (my two never, ever dig their bins).

As a previous poster said, i don't use a brush, i use my hands. My dwarf gets to sit content with attention and love, and he also gets loose tuffs pulled from his coat. A Win-win. However, my flemmie Loved the wire brushes and would sit for hours if I was using one.

Also, just a warning- Flemmies Jump High! This may seem like 'Duh!', but mine jumped over a chest high fence (and I am 5ft 7inches tall!) I eventually found that anything within 6ft of the ground was "her territory", often coming home to find she'd jumped over chest high gates and would be asleep on the back of tall chairs and sofas. They are also smart, as she learned she could drag boxes in her pen to the edge to make the jump shorter. The only thing I found that could keep my Flemmie where i wanted her was to be holding her or a fully closed door (which she always took offense to). So, yeah, one of these days Duke will realize he can jump (mine was about 8 months old when she realized it for the first time and she jumped a baby gate) and you'll come home to find him out of the area you left him in.

Good luck! Flemmies are wonderful!

little_puppett: Buns and chinlittle_puppett on May 8th, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC)
The hay should smell fresh! I buy the 50 lb box from Oxbow, but there are times I run out and have to go to the store. Sometimes I look at and smell the hay and it looks great. When I get it home, inside is the hay isn't the same. Very frustrating!! I wish I could remember the brand that I use (other than Oxbow) that is fine....