New Zealand White Rabbits – Keri and Lily arrive
The safe way to keep rabbits is to keep them inside, shut in, away from pests – like fleas and ear mites, and diseases – such as myxomatosis, and predators – like rats, foxes and polecats!
The kind way to keep them is to let them roam free outside, eating grass, digging burrows, and letting them take their chances.
My New Zealand White rabbits are a pure breed and I therefore used to keep them inside all the time – easy to handle them – they got used to being stroked and I could easily check on them.
Then, due to pressure from good-intentioned family, I got hutches and pens so they could live outside at least some of the time. This worked fine and my does took turns living outside – until one night a polecat came and took one doe and all her babies.
So we compromised and my rabbits were carried outside each morning – and put back inside each night. By now I was left with one buck (Dandelion) and one doe (Jasmine) who I was very fond of – so they only got to play outside when I was around and about in the garden most of the day.
Then one day Jasmine simply disappeared – it was like something had come down and plucked her from the sky – she had vanished into thin air. I searched everywhere – rabbits have escaped before but they are so slow and don’t really know where to go – and they are white – so I can usually recapture them quickly. Jasmine was nowhere to be seen.
I searched everywhere to get another doe but, when I did find somewhere, all the rabbits had gone by the time I rang up.
Then a lady contacted me on Facebook (I have a ‘New Zealand White Rabbits’ page). She had bought two NZWhite rabbits in an auction, they were free-ranging in her garden and one seemed to be pulling out her fur and making a nest, and she wondered if she might be pregnant.
I replied with information about false pregnancies and reassured her that if the doe really was pregnant she would be very capable of having the babies and looking after them herself.
I thought no more about it until the lady contacted me again saying she needed to find homes for the rabbits – so I offered to buy them and we collected them on the way back from a trip to Cornwall.
The rabbits were indeed two rather large NZWhite does, happily free-ranging in a small garden. My rabbits are quite easy to catch – but these were used to running around and were much quicker on their feet. We discovered that they had dug out quite a long tunnel under next door’s garden – and they hid in there – and under a rose bush; it was a scorching hot day and it took us nearly an hour to corner the rabbits and get them into cat baskets for the journey home.
I felt a bit concerned about keeping the rabbits inside when they had had such a lovely time with a garden to themselves but, after finding them I was not going to take any chances, so they were going to be kept in pens for a while at least. When I finally had a proper chance to look at them I discovered that one had a quite bad ear mite infection (there’s some horrible pictures on the internet if you want to see what it looks like if you don’t treat it quickly but I’m not putting any here).
Previously, one of the does I bought had an ear mite infection and I treated it with oil. A few drops (using a medicine dispenser) in each ear twice a day for the first few days, then once a day for a week, then weekly for 4 weeks, then you need to check regularly to make sure they haven’t come back. I use olive oil or sunflower oil but any oil works because it stops the mites moving about so they can’t mate and lay more eggs. There’s more about ear mites here:
I treated the other doe as well as ear mites spread easily.
So at least my new does (Keri and Lily) are getting treatment for their ears and being checked daily – even if they can’t run around! They do get titbits like lettuce and carrot leaves every day.
There is also a Facebook Group called NEW ZEALAND WHITE RABBITS UK that you can join.