Can you imagine a parent throwing their one year old on to the street, and telling them their on their own now? Of course we wouldn’t do that with a child, but what about a kit? I’ve heard of careless breeders letting their kits go as early as 4 weeks old.
The House Rabbit Society states on their website that the Animal Welfare Act of 1973 prohibits the sale of a rabbit under 8 weeks old. I researched the Animal Welfare Act but could find no such regulation. However, that is one time I partially agree with the HRS. We have found that 6-8 weeks tends to be a fairly good age at which to sell a rabbit as a pet or show animal.
The digestive system in a rabbit is very sensitive. Small changes in diet can upset the bacterial content of their digestive system and result in enteritis (a form of diarrhea). Enteritis is often fatal, and at times can be a silent enteritis where the symptoms are not even seen until too late.
Between 2-3 weeks old a kit will leave the nestbox. Up to this point it has been nursing from the doe. Once it ventures out of the nestbox it will begin to take in solids such as pellets and hay. This is a very big change for their digestive system. Some of the kits will still chase mom around the cage, and nurse from her.
During this time we monitor the kits very closely. We watch for any indication that they may be having trouble with the new diet. If they are, we immediately remove pellets from their diet. At some point they must be slowly reintroduced to the pellets. We supply unlimited hay to them throughout this time. This would already bring us beyond the 4 weeks that a few breeders will sell their kits.
By week 6 we are pretty sure that the kit is going to do fine on the new diet. This is when many will sell their kits. They now have a stable diet and are still at the very “cute” stage which makes them very marketable. This is the age at which we separate from their mom. This is also the age we are willing to sell to other breeders.
Although there is not dietary change in the separation, there is a fairly big change. Rabbits are a social animal, which means they like to be around other rabbits. Now that we have separated them, their socialization will primarily be with us. We like to give the kits a couple of extra weeks to get use to being away from mom and now interacting primarily with humans.
They are now 8 weeks of age. This is our main time to sell to non rabbit breeders. We feel confident with breeders at 6 weeks, but someone that is looking for a first rabbit or a pet, needs the assurance that their rabbit is going to stay healthy. Many non breeders are not familiar with rabbit care, signs of illness, etc. Simple things that we as rabbit breeders find almost as second nature, are not that way for pet owners.
Some of the rabbits we hold on to after week 6, we are not yet positive what we want to do with them. Should we use them in our breeding program? Are they good enough for showing? The two extra weeks from week 6 to week 8 also gives us an additional two weeks to further evaluate the remaining kits. Holland lops seem to take a very long time to fully develop their body type and head, and even after 8 weeks we find ourselves holding on to some.
Three Little Ladies Rabbitry
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