The Ultimate CARE Guide To Raising Your Rex Rabbit

The Rex has many endearing characteristics which makes it a perfect choice for a family pet and 4H presentation but is also prevalent for fur and meat production.

The origin of the breed dates back to 1919 where they were discovered in France.  The Rex is know for their velvety plush fur that grows perpendicular to the body with curly whiskers and eyebrows.

Being one of the most intelligent rabbit breeds it is easily trainable to do tricks and litter train, making it the perfect choice for a family pet.

rex

Basic Rabbit Care:

Housing

Most rabbits require a cage/hutch that is about 4-5 times the size of the rabbit, but more active breeds should have a slightly larger cage like the one listed HERE.

For a doe raising a litter the cage should still have plenty of room after the nest box has been placed in the cage, a crowded litter can get very messy.  An outdoor hutch should have 3 side protection, a solid back and sides. This Rabbit Hutch is ideal for your rex rabbit. It can be used outdoors and will provide optimal protection from the weather and from other animals.

It is also a good idea to place a box in the hutch that can further protect the rabbit from weather and from loose dogs, many people have had their rabbits eaten by dogs through the wire.  The placement of the hutch is very important; it can be the difference between life and death for your bunny.

Your rabbit needs protection from wind, rain, and sun.  Rain, snow and wind will stress out your rabbit and can kill him in just a few hours, the sun on a hot day can kill your rabbit even faster.  Most rabbits handle cold weather very well, they have excellent fur coats.  However, their fur coats can cause them to become overheated once the temperature reaches about 85 F.  They should never be placed where the sun hits the cage/hutch.  If possible place the hutch facing a wooden fence or a building that is also shaded by trees, which will keep the sun and wind off the hutch.

There are several methods for keeping your rabbit cool in the summer, give them cold water 2-3 times daily, you can place an ice bottle in its cage (we found an ice bottle in a box with a hole in the side of the box gives the rabbit a nice cool area to sit in through the hot part of the day), fans in barns, and misters on hutches (we have sprinklers on the roofs of our barns).  On cold winter days we simply give them hot water twice a day, and a bed of straw.

 

How To Set Up A Rabbit Cage

This is a basic guideline for setting up a cage. Once your rabbit is at home you may customize the cage to fit your rabbits personality. So lets jump right into it. This is how your cage should be set up:

  1. Litter box: should be placed in the corner of the cage. Rabbits naturally scoot their butt back into a corner when they have to use the bathroom. You will notice that your rabbit may choose which corner he wants to go to the bathroom so you may need to move it to his/her liking.
  2. Hayrack/holder: should be placed above the litter box because rabbits naturally will eat and poop at the same time.
  3. Food and water dishes: Putting these on the opposite site of the cage compared to the litter box is best because it keeps your bunny from getting any waste from the litter box into their food and water.
  4. Water bottle: A rabbit bottle is a good alternative to the dishes. This method tends to be much cleaner than the dishes.
  5. Rabbit bed: A rabbit bed is not essential but I’ve never met a rabbit that hasn’t loved this bed. It contains a soft fleece interior, which really brings comfort to your bunny.  You can place it in a corner or attach it to the side of the cage.
  6. Rabbit den: A small rabbit den gives the rabbit a place to go hide when they get frightened. Typically, you would place this in one of the corners.

 

Grooming

Rabbits are clean animals like cats and so they don’t need baths like dogs (unless they get into something that they shouldn’t have) nor do they require a lot of grooming, unless, you have a wool breed.  Basically all you need to groom your rabbit is a slicker brush (or any cat brush), a little water, and nail clippers. From years of grooming rex rabbits, I find THIS rabbit brush is the most effective and it is fairly priced. Theres no need to go spend large amounts of money on expensive brushes when this one gives the same effect. Once you have your brush, simply wet your hands and rub the water on your rabbit, this way you can control the amount of water on your rabbit, then just brush them dry.  Unlike a cat it doesn’t hurt them to brush against the fur, in fact it helps to clean the fur.  Rabbits with unique fur types, Rex and wool breeds, require a little more.  Rex are still easy to groom, a pumice stone, found in ranch stores , is all you need to add to the above items.  Hold the stone at about a 90 degree angle and run it up and down the rabbit’s back, then finish by following the above method, this will pull out any crumbs that the stone might leave behind.  Wool breeds require a special comb and a lot more time and need to be sheered 2 to 3 time a year.  The only other thing that needs to be done is clipping the nails, this only needs to be done about every 6 to 8 weeks.  Roll your rabbit over, have someone hold it while you trim the nails or sit down, let your rabbit relax on its back, and put the ears between your knees.  Before cutting you need to find the quick to prevent cutting too low, hold the claw at the quick with your fingers and clip just above, for dark colored rabbits you may need more light to find the quick as they have darker nails. Dirty feet can be a bit difficult, and take days, sometimes weeks to get the stains completely out.  Hutch stains are however not a big problem unless you are showing your rabbits, but very dirty feet can cause sore hocks and even illness.  We use cat shampoo, hydrogen peroxide, cornstarch (on white feet), and water. Start with the cat shampoo and a little water, work in and gently scrub with a rag, when the soap gets dirty rinse and add more, after the shampoo you can try the peroxide, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.  Rub cornstarch in on dry feet than use a damp paper towel to wipe it out, this works best on a rabbit with white or pale colored feet.

 

Food, water, & treats

Rabbits require plenty of fresh water available at all times.  In the summer your rabbit may drink twice as much as in the winter.  If your rabbit is outside, cold water is vital in the summer if you have a hot climate and warm or hot water in the winter if the temperature is below freezing. The food you feed your rabbit is also very important.  Some rabbits need a lower protein content than others.  A small breed will require a feed that is about 15% protein, while meat rabbits and larger breeds need 17 – 18% protein.  Too much or not enough protein will make your rabbit fat or bony, talk with the breeder about the feed that they use.  You also want to make sure that the feed comes from a certified field (free of noxious weeds).  Your rabbit should also have hay or straw available often to push hair through it’s system to prevent hairballs. Rabbits love treats such as celery, dandelions, parsley, carrots, etc.  These vegetables are a great treat for your rabbit but should never replace pellets or hay/straw.   Never give your rabbit lettuce, cabbage, or broccoli.  These foods can bring on a bout of diarrea that can kill your rabbit.  If you don’t know how safe a food is for your rabbit don’t give it to him.  They love apples, bananas, apricots, raisins,etc, but all fruits should be treated as candy and should never be given to any rabbit under 4 months of age, dwarf breeders recommend not under 6 months of age.  Cheerios, oat meal, and steam rolled oats make great treats for nursing does, babies, and growing rabbits that need to gain weight. Like cats and dogs, rabbits love a good toy.  Paper towel/ toilet paper rolls are fun to shred, our rabbits like to plow through dried leaves in the fall. Some toys such as pine cones, wooden blocks, tree bark, and hay cubes are great toys because they also wear the teeth down. You can also give your bunny practically any plastic baby-safe toy. To learn how keep your rabbit healthy read through the 4-H pages, the Basic Showmanship will give you a walk-through on health checks and there are many facts in Showmanship Questions and Answers and perhaps answers to questions you may have, the disease page can also offer a wealth of information.

Good and Bad Treats

Here is a short list of good and bad foods for your rabbit, the first group in the green are excellent treats for rabbits of all ages and do not need to be limited in any way.  Anything in second group in the green is also good for rabbits of all ages but should be limited to a small handful or less.  Treats in the third green group should only be given to rabbits over 4 months of age and only in small amounts.  The yellow group are not always recommended treats as they often cause problems, keep everything in the red group away from your bunnies as they will make them sick or kill them.

Great Healthy Treats
• Straw
• Grass Hay
• Hay Cubes (great for wearing down teeth)
• Pine Cones
• Tree Leaves
Good Treats in Small Doses
• Dandelions
• Carrot Tops
• Cheerios
• Celery
• Oatmeal (great for growing rabbits)
• Corn Husks
• Steam Rolled Oats
Good Treats for Rabbits Older Than 4 Months (small amounts)
• Apples
• Bananas
• Carrots
• Cherries
• Raisins
• Raspberries
• Blackberries
• Lilacs
• Apricots
• Pineapple (contains acid that can be used to treat/prevent hairballs)
• Oranges
• Cucumber
• Zucchini
Good Treats in VERY Small Amounts
• Alfalfa Hay
• Corn
• Sunflower Seeds
BAD Treats
• Lettuce
• Cabbage
• Onions
• Noxious Weeds (make sure hay comes from certified field that is free of these weeds)
• Wooly-pod Milkweed
• Various Flowers (many flowers are poisonous to rabbits)

The best way you can treat a rabbit that has eaten something it shouldn’t have is to give it as much hay or straw as it can eat, and with a syringe give it yogurt twice daily, and lots of water or black tea.

Choosing a Breed

There are 47 recognized breeds of rabbits that are excepted by the A.R.B.A. (American Rabbit Breeders Association) and each one is unique in size (ranging from small to giant), shape, and temperament.  There are many reasons to raise rabbits: meat, fur, wool, pets, show, and many more, some breeds work better for certain markets than others.

Meat: If you are interested in raising rabbits for meat the only breeds you want to consider are commercial typed animals (those with meat qualities), most of these are in the medium and large size groups.  Rabbits in the giant size group, despite common belief, are not the best meat rabbits as their bone is too large and they take too long to grow, medium breeds are smaller than what most are looking for in a meat rabbit so large breeds make the best meat rabbits.  Large breeds with commercial type include:  Blanc de Hotot, Californian, Champagne D’ Argent, Cinnamon, Cream D’ Argent, Giant Angora, New Zealand, Palomino, Satin, and Silver Fox.

Fur: There are 4 fur types: normal, satin, angora, and rex.  Rex fur is extremely plush making it the best choice for the fur market, rex fur is found only on Rex and Mini Rex, it’s also found on the Velveteen Lop, but that breed is still under development.  The Mini Rex and the Velveteen Lop are both small breeds so they do not make very efficient fur rabbits, the rex weigh on average 9 pounds making them the best fur breed and they can also double as a meat rabbit.  Satin fur is also unique in its sheen, it’s similar to normal fur but has a transparent hair shaft that gives it a shiny or glossy look, however it’s nowhere near as plush as a rex coat.  Satin fur is found on the Satin and the Mini Satin.

Wool: There are 6 wool breeds: American Fuzzy Lop, English Angora, French Angora, Giant Angora, Satin Angora, and Jersey Wooly, there is also the German Angora but it’s an unrecognized breed, there are also 4 wool types: English, French, German and Satin.  The American Fuzzy lop and Jersey Wooly are both small breeds, and though it’s a medium breed, the English Angora is not much larger.  The 3 remaining breeds are all good wool producers, the satin angora have a slightly different wool being a cross between satin fur and wool, the Giant Angora as the name implies is the largest wool breed and has German wool which is the best for wool production. All 4 are large enough that they will double as a meat rabbit but be ready for a lot of grooming on any angora or wool breed to prevent mating.

Pets: Most people looking at buying a pet or picking a breed to raise to sell pets usually think the smaller, the cuter, the better, however the smaller the animal the more high strung and usually the more aggressive while the larger breeds are more laid back and gentle.  The very best pet rabbits (in our opinion) are: Flemish Giant, French Lop, and Giant Chinchilla, these are all giant breed rabbits (averaging from 12 to 20 pounds) and have an almost dog like personality and often come when called.  If you are determined to have a small breed, some of the more typically laid back and gentle small breeds are: Mini Lop, Himalayan, Jersey Wooly, and the Silver.  Most medium and large breeds make wonderful pets as most have good temperaments and due to their smaller size than the giants may be easier to handle for kids.  Remember that rabbits are prey animals and designed to break and die easily when attacked so they do not make the best pets for very young children.

Show or 4-H: The breed you choose to raise really doesn’t matter so long as it is showable, many people like to pick a breed that also makes a good pet and/or works well with one of the more common markets such as the above examples.  If you’re looking for more of a challenge, a rare or a marked breed is a good choice.  The most important thing is after you’ve chosen a breed, is to learn that breed’s standard, and pick a healthy, quality animal, most breeders are willing to help you learn if you ask them (see “How To Choose The Best 4-H Rabbit“.

Agility: Rabbit agility is beginning to grow in the U.S. though there are no major competitions. There are clubs in the Northwest, the Midwest, and Canada that we are aware of. Any breed can be trained to do agility but the full arch typically have the most energy.  Full arch typed breeds include: Belgian Hare, Britannia Petite, Checkered Giant, English Spot, Rhinelander, and Tan.