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Netherland Dwarf Rabbit – Feeding and Housing
The Netherland Dwarf is the smallest of the 45 breeds recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association, weighing just 2 pounds when fully grown.
A Netherland Dwarf’s digestive system is sensitive, even by rabbit standards. A constant supply of fresh water is essential; rabbits cannot absorb water from their food. A gravity water bottle secured inside their cage will prevent spills and contamination. Plus, a steady supply of millet hay provides an excellent source of fiber and allows for all-day snacking. Alfalfa could be used, but it is higher in calcium and protein and lower in fiber. Too much calcium can lead to serious kidney and bladder problems. About 250 mg per day is sufficient for a mature Dutch dwarf.
Rabbit food should be limited to about 1 ounce per pound of weight per day, unless you have a pregnant or nursing doe, or a baby under four months old, in which case a constant supply should be provided. Buy only a month’s worth of food at a time, as the pellets can spoil or mold and cause illness. They can also lose important nutrients for your rabbit’s physical well-being. Pet rabbits do well on a pellet containing 18-20% fiber, 14-15% protein, and 2-3% fat. Once you find a good brand, stick with it. Changing food frequently can cause dangerous digestive problems.
For rabbits over six months old, you can supplement their basic diet with raw fruits and vegetables in amounts of about a teaspoon at a time. Introduce new foods over a few weeks to give their system time to adjust. Kitchen scraps work great here, but foods that are near spoilage are better for the compost pile than your bunny’s belly.
Good choices are apples, grapes, pears, oranges, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, papayas, pineapples, melons, mangoes, peaches, tomatoes, peas, beans, kale, carrot tops, mustard greens, dandelion greens, sugar beets, parsnips, parsley and potato peelings. Take care to remove the seeds or pits first.
Never give lettuce to your rabbit. Lettuce contains lactucarium, which can cause severe diarrhea. Diarrhea can kill a rabbit. Romaine lettuce has the lowest amounts of lactucarium of common garden varieties. Other foods to avoid are cabbage, parsnips and tomato leaves.
Although each rabbit has its own personality, they and their owners can enjoy hours of interaction through play and physical contact. If you decide that a Netherland Dwarf is the rabbit for you, preparing a suitable habitat will be the first step in their overall care.
The Netherland Dwarf is the smallest of the 45 breeds recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association, weighing just 2 pounds when fully grown. But they are sturdy little fellows and they fit quite well indoors or outdoors, even in the winter.
A dwarf cage should be at least three square feet, but the bigger the better. Creating multiple levels connected by ramps is an easy way to increase the overall size of an enclosure without sacrificing floor space.
Exterior dwellings should provide protection from the dampness and cold of winter and the heat of summer. A heavy wooden hutch with mesh sides and a waterproof roof, raised off the ground, is ideal. Even though your rabbit will be safe inside his hutch, he can still be scared off by a threatening predator. Include an enclosed space inside the hutch to give your rabbit a place to hide when scared or just to shelter from the elements. Bedding material should be provided in the form of wood shavings and/or clean straw. Indoor housing doesn’t have to be as utilitarian, but should still provide a safe, secure, and comfortable home for your pet.
Traditionally, mesh-bottomed enclosures have been used to allow droppings to fall into a tray for easier cleaning. However, wire cages can be harsh on rabbits and a sturdy area should be provided for comfortable rest. Alternatively, rabbits can be litter trained. Never use clumping kitty litter or cedar shavings, both of which can be harmful if swallowed. Food, hay and water containers should be cage mounted to prevent spillage and contamination.
However, no matter how luxurious the housing, your rabbit will still need space to romp and roam outside of its cage. Care should be taken to keep your rabbit safe wherever you allow him to run. Interior spaces must be protected against rabbits. Outdoor spaces must be properly fenced.
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