Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Best Practices - Training kits

About 90% of my young stock ends up going to pet homes.   The remainder tends to go to breeder homes.

One of my pet peeves is getting rabbits from breeders that are a pain in the butt to handle.  They kick and fight when you want to pose them, or clip their nails, or give them a brush out when they moult.   ACK!  Drives me nuts.  No need for bunnies to be brain-dead when it comes to being handled for these necessary things.

To that end, I want to raise rock solid youngsters.  Kits that can handle about anything that is thrown at them without freaking out.

1. dealing with people other than me

About the only thing I can't do reliably is introduce them to strangers a whole lot.   But I can get them used to children (my son and his friends).   I can do some introduction to strangers via children who aren't allowed to have one, they will often come over in the nice weather and play with bunnies on the grass.  I get my hubby to come out to the rabbitry and just say hi to the babies and occasionally I'll bring some sensitive types into the house and plunk one down in his lap.  :) 

2. having nails trimmed.  

I play with bunny feet.  I turn them on their backs.  I fiddle with their feet.  I reward good behaviour.  I do it at least once a day with the little ones until they are five weeks old, and then once a week until they are about 3 months old.  That seems to do the trick with them.  I used to do it a longer but have learned once they get the early training in, they are good to go.

3. being handled every which way.

Do you know what three year olds do with bunnies?   They pick them up by their butts.  They grab the fur and lift.  Six year olds will make them dance.  :)  NOT always the best way to handle a rabbit, but KNOWING THIS, I get my bunnies used to the fact that sometimes their butt hair might get pulled, they might be held upside down, they might end up snuggled upside down in an arm, and such like.  I try to handle them every which way I can.  Gently, slightly roughly, tossed into a cage (MIND.. I do this in such a way that they are not harmed or scared).   I want them used to a sensation, but in a safe, non-scary manner.

4. introduction to foods other than pellets

Do you know how very difficult it is to get a bunny that is stressed from a move to eat when it doesn't like the pellets you are offering it?  and it's never had oatmeal or hay in its' life?   Wow... MEGA difficult.  ERGO.. I make sure that every rabbit I own is used to foods like greens (parsley, carrot greens, lettuce, etc), oatmeal (rolled kitchen oats, or horse oats), hay (either regular horse hay or hay cubes), and the occasional snack of fruit (generally apples).  They also get bread crusts, leftover carrots or peppers or whatever I happen to find in the house.    

5. Movement from one cage to another

In the spring I put bunnies out on grass, in the winter I bring some into the house for a day or two, I'll move rabbits willy-nilly from one cage to another, from one tent to another.  I want them to be used to the fact that life changes and they don't need to stress over it.  Rabbits that stress are rabbits that don't stay in my rabbitry.

I want bomb proof easy to work with rabbits.  

 NOTE: I cannot guarantee what any rabbit will do in your rabbitry, or in your pet home, but I will certainly do my best to give you a level headed rabbit that is a pleasure to handle and work with.   How you handle your rabbit (s) and the environment you raise them in will also have an effect on them.  But at least I want to do my best to give you a good start.

What do you do to get your rabbits used to life outside YOUR rabbitry?

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