Most large rabbits make good pets. They have calm, easygoing natures, but some do require more careful handling. Although there are many big rabbits, each breed has its own charm.
Large and giant rabbits should never be confused with overweight rabbits, whose weight and size are much greater than they should be. A big rabbit naturally weighs above 9 pounds, and can weigh much more than many breeds of dogs. However, like overweight rabbits, large rabbit breeds are prone to sore hocks, which can be prevented with good husbandry techniques.
How to Care for Big Rabbits
If you’re looking to adopt a giant rabbit, keep the care guidelines in mind:
- Hutch Size. Because of their size, they require spacious living settings to rest comfortably. A standard rabbit cage will not work for a large rabbit.
- Feeding. They should have a diet rich in hay (70%), with fruit, vegetables, and pellets offered as treats. Of course, the bigger the rabbit, the more food it will need to be fed.
- Bedding. Bedding needs to be spot cleaned daily and replaced every week. Larger rabbits are prone to sore hocks because of their weight, so a solid (not wired) flooring is a must.
- Exercise. No matter how spacious your rabbit hutch is, your pet needs to hop and freely explore its environment outside its cage every day. If your rabbit is an indoor-only pet, let it hop around in a rabbit-proofed room.
- Safe Handling. They need to be picked up with care. If you have children, encourage them to pet your rabbit and leave the picking up to experienced handlers only. A rabbit may retaliate to awkward handling by kicking which can be painful for a child.
The majority of big rabbits are sweet and docile. While they may not tolerate being picked up, most of them adore being petted by owners they’re used to. Furthermore, they’re hardy animals that aren’t susceptible to major illnesses.
|French Lop||10 – 14 pounds.
|New Zealand||9 – 12 pounds
|Silver Fox||9 – 12 pounds
|Giant Angora||9.5 – 10 pounds
|Checkered Giant||11-13 pounds
|Giant Chinchilla||12-16 pounds
|Flemish Giant||9-14 pounds
|Continental Giant||13-35+ pounds
A big rabbit can weigh anywhere around 10 to 35 pounds or more. That’s almost as large as many dogs. Just the size of these rabbits means that they need much larger accommodation than small to medium-sized rabbits.
It is important to note that a regular rabbit hutch is not suitable for a giant rabbit. Dog cages, on the other hand, make spacious living environments for large rabbits.
Giant rabbits are at least 4 feet tall when they’re fully stretched out or when they’re standing on their hind legs. Therefore, a cage for a large or giant breed should be tall enough to allow them to stretch comfortably.
Sheds can easily be converted to a rabbit enclosure with an outdoor run attached. Aviaries are readymade with outdoor and indoor enclosures, giving rabbits plenty of room to hop around.
Your rabbit should also be able to carry out at least 3 consecutive jumps in any direction. For most big rabbits, the area of the hutch should be at least 12 x 12 feet. A good option would be to accommodate your rabbits in a large shed, aviary, or dog cage. Alternatively, you can make arrangements to keep it indoors only.
Converting a Shed for a Big Rabbit
Rabbits enjoy exploring, jumping, and foraging. However, all of this requires much more space than a traditional hutch can offer.
If you don’t want to house your big rabbit indoors, the next best solution is an outdoor playhouse that can be achieved via a converted garden shed. A medium-sized shed can comfortably accommodate up to two Flemish Giants.
Sheds are easy to access, making cleaning a breeze, especially during the winter.
But keep in mind that sheds aren’t built with rabbits in mind. Therefore, you may have to carry out a few additional steps to make them rabbit-safe. For example, you’ll need to keep a lookout for overlap cladding, which should be kept away from your gnawing rabbits.
- Protect the cladding. You can do this by screwing in MDF boards. Treat the wood with a rabbit-safe wood sealer onto the upright batons.
- Insulation. You’ll also want to insulate the shed to keep your rabbit comfortable. Fill the gap between the boards and the cladding with polystyrene, newspaper, or bubble wrap.
- Reinforce the floor. Use wooden bearers to provide protection against wear and tear caused by big bouncing rabbits. You can also cover the floor with lino to make cleaning easier.
- Allow natural light and fresh air to enter into the shed. This step is crucial for your rabbit’s wellbeing. However, you also want to keep unwanted visitors out by attaching a mesh to the inside of the window frames.
- Offer protection from cold. For perspex windows that don’t open, you may have to remove the perspex. This can make the shed cold in the winter. Make sure you include shelter inside the shed or cover the windows according to the season. During cold weather, a heavy-duty tarp will work and a fly screen during summer.
Adding an interior mesh door will allow you to keep the main door of the shed open during the day and let light and air enter. A few ventilation holes drilled at the top of the shed can also allow proper air circulation while keeping the shed fresh.
If you are storing your rabbit’s food and hay in its shed, make sure you use metal bins with secure lids. This will help keep rats away. Toys, tunnels, and shelves to hop onto can make your rabbit’s environment more stimulating.
Note that no matter how secure, comfortable, or large your rabbit’s enclosure is, The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) states that the hutch should only be a shelter and not its main living space. Your rabbits need to be able to spend enough time in your yard, hopping around and feeling free. Therefore, make sure you attach an outdoor run to the shed so that your rabbits can easily explore your yard.
Dog Cages for Giant Rabbits
Some owners report that large dog crates work well for their giant rabbits. The key is to set the inside to suit your rabbit’s needs. This means including chewing toys, hay, and hiding places.
Most large and giant rabbits are not susceptible to any particular disease. However, they are highly prone to sore hocks because of their weight. Therefore, rabbit cages should always have a solid bottom. You can easily cover a wire bottom by placing a large piece of plywood on the flooring.
You’ll have a decent layer of bedding and spot clean it every day and replace it once every week.
Housing a Big Rabbit Indoors
Keeping your rabbit inside your home in a rabbit-proofed room is the ideal solution. It is not only the safest option, but it also allows you to easily regulate your rabbit’s living temperature.
Rabbits easily succumb to extreme weather conditions, especially hot climates. To prevent your rabbit from overheating, provide your rabbit with plenty of water throughout the day. The ideal temperature for rabbits is between 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
If absolutely necessary, a rabbit may be able to tolerate temperatures as high as 85 degrees Fahrenheit. However, anything higher increases your rabbit’s risk of a heat stroke.
Rabbits are also keen gnawers. That giant rabbit of yours has equally large and strong teeth, which means it can bite through plastic and wiring, potentially getting electrocuted. Here’s how you can effectively rabbit-proof a room in your house:
- Spray wooden furniture with bitter apple spray. Follow the directions on the bottle and apply the spray on the lower parts of the furniture and other parts that your rabbit can reach. Bitter apple spray is a rabbit-safe deterrent that prevents rabbits from chewing items because of the bad flavor.
- Wrap furniture with cardboard. Some rabbits like the taste of bitter apple spray. If the spray doesn’t work, try wrapping the furniture legs with cardboard. This will ensure your rabbit chews the cardboard instead of the wood.
- Place PVC tubing around furniture. PVC is tough to bite through.
- Use plastic tubing to protect wires. Plastic tubing about ½ inch thick in diameter can help protect exposed wires. Exposed wires can be taped up high and away from your rabbit’s reach.
- Keep furniture and wiring out. If you’re keeping a separate room in your house for your rabbit only, your best bet would be to keep furniture and wiring outside the room, if possible.
Large and giant breeds of rabbits aren’t necessarily the most active rabbits in the world, but they still need a lot of space to stretch and hop around. Even if your rabbit decides to go for a short walk, the amount of space required will be much more than that of a smaller and more active rabbit.
Therefore, before you get a large rabbit breed, you must have enough space for your rabbit to exercise in.
This can be a large pen that can be attached to your rabbit cage, a run outdoors, or a rabbit-safe space for your pet to run around in your yard or your home.
Many owners dedicate an entire room to their big rabbits. This is an effective idea, but any large space set out for a large rabbit will do the trick. Inside your rabbit’s enclosure, you’ll also have to make sure there are enough tunnels and shelves for your rabbit to hop onto.
If you do have a space for your rabbit outside, make sure that you are with your pet at all times. Big rabbits can put up a fight, but many predators still see them as a filling meal.
Most rabbits do not enjoy being handled and large/giant breeds are no different. Their large size doesn’t only make it awkward to carry them, but it also makes it difficult to carry them and handle them safely.
Not handling your rabbit properly can push your rabbit to inflict powerful kicks and painful scratches in an attempt to escape. This injures the owner but also puts the rabbit at risk of a severe hind limb or spinal fractures.
Therefore, large rabbits should only be handled when needed. This includes:
- Checking or cleaning the back end for any fecal remnants. Not cleaning the back end when needed can attract flies.
- Health checking
- Claw clipping
- Spot cleaning matted or dirty fur
Furthermore, large and giant rabbits should only be handled by the owner who is seated on the ground. This will prevent any nasty injuries in case the rabbit tries to escape. Neve let a child or an inexperienced handler lift a large or giant rabbit.
While handling, make sure the spine is supported at all times.
How to Safely Carry a Big Rabbit
Once you’re seated on the floor, gently lift your rabbit by placing both hands under its midsection. Remember, you need to support its delicate spine.
While lifting the rabbit, keep one hand under the midsection and the other supporting the rabbit’s bottom. Next, lift the rabbit and carefully rest its head on your shoulder.
Use one arm to support your rabbit around the midsection, keeping your bunny snug. The other arm should support the bottom.
Most rabbits tolerate being petted but aren’t keen on being picked up. If your rabbit shows signs of aggression, such as biting or kicking, avoid picking it up as it may be stressing your pet out. You can also talk to your vet about how you can safely pick up your rabbit.
The big short-haired rabbits such as the Flemish Giant, Continental Giant, Checkered Giant, Silver Fox, New Zealand Rabbit, and the English Lop do not need regular grooming because they tend to groom themselves and each other.
However, if you notice that your rabbit is shedding more than usual, consider grooming your rabbit occasionally with a slicker brush. This will eliminate any stray hairs and reduce the amount of hair in your home. Grooming will also ensure that your pet doesn’t ingest a lot of its hair, which can be dangerous to its health.
If you keep your rabbit indoors, you’ll want to groom it once a week and once every other week during the shedding season.
Never bathe a rabbit, big or small. Baths can cause severe stress in rabbits and lead to cardiac issues. If your rabbit is dirtier or more matted than usual, spot clean its coat with a damp towel.
The Giant Angora rabbit has different grooming requirements because of its thick, wooly fur. Out of all four recognized Angora breeds, the Giant Angora produces the most wool. To keep your Angora’s wool matt-free, brush it with a bristled brush once every two days or as needed. If your Giant Angora’s wool gets dirty, spot clean it with a damp towel.
Giant Angoras go through a partial molt. Their wool needs to be harvested 3 to 4 times a year using scissors or shears. A Giant Angora can produce 1-2 pounds of wool per year, which can be dyed and made into clothing, such as mittens and socks.
Food and Nutrition Requirements
When it comes to nutrition, a large or giant rabbit’s diet is no different than smaller-sized rabbit breeds. The only difference is that they’ll need more food because of their size.
The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine states that folic acid is an essential nutrient in a rabbit’s diet. Leafy greens are a great source of folic acid and other nutrients for large and giant rabbits.
However, most conventional leafy greens in grocery stores can have harmful pesticides and chemicals. The Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies suggests that a type of pesticide called permethrins is particularly detrimental to rabbits and may cause neurological issues when consumed. To lower your rabbit’s exposure to chemicals and pesticides, wash produce thoroughly and soak fruits and veggies in water for at least 1-2 hours before offering them.
Large and giant rabbits also enjoy daily pellets. Adult rabbits can be given about ¼ cup of high-fiber pellets daily for every 5 pounds of body weight. Because bigger rabbits are often over 12 pounds, they do require a lot more food than smaller rabbits. Therefore, financial responsibility is required to ensure your rabbits are adequately fed.
Large and giant rabbits do not need any vitamin or mineral supplements added to their diet unless prescribed by your vet.
Fortunately, most bigger rabbits are not susceptible to hereditary disease or health complications.
The most common condition in bigger rabbits is pododermatitis, commonly called sore hocks. Large and giant rabbits are massive, which means there is added pressure applied to the hock.
Sore hocks can advance quickly if not caught and treated immediately. Therefore, you must provide your rabbits with thick, soft and cozy bedding that is easy on their hock areas.
Wire flooring is a definite no-no for any rabbit, especially large ones. Rabbit cages need to have a solid bottom with plenty of bedding to keep rabbit hocks comfortable. Make sure you check your rabbit’s hocks daily for any sign of discomfort.
Arthritis and Spondylosis
As giant rabbits age, they become more susceptible to arthritis and spondylosis.
Telltale signs for these include your rabbit slowing down, urine or fecal contamination and shuffling on the hind limbs. Luckily, these conditions can be managed with medication. If you notice your rabbit showing signs of arthritis or spondylosis, take it to a vet.
Flystrike is another condition that can affect any rabbit, but giant rabbits, especially female ones are more at risk. Giant female rabbits often have a dewlap, which is a fold or loose skin hanging from the throat or neck of the animal. Some rabbits may have more pronounced dewlaps, which prevents them from grooming around their back end regularly.
To ensure proper grooming in rabbits, especially near their back end, maintaining a healthy weight is critical. If you notice that your rabbit is gaining too much weight, talk to your vet about how you can bring its weight down.
Ensure that your rabbit’s diet is the same. Rabbits require a high fiber diet that consists of 70 to 80% high-quality hay. Fruits and vegetables should be offered in moderation. Changing your rabbit’s diet can also lead to an upset stomach. This can cause softer feces, which can easily get stuck to the fur and later attract flies.
Risk Factors for Flystrike
Flies will strike any rabbit, but the following are most at risk:
- Overweight or obese rabbits
- Female rabbits with large dewlaps, or folds around the abdomen which can inhibit grooming
- Rabbits with urinary problems, such as urinary tract infections
- Elderly rabbits
- Rabbits with arthritis
- Long coated breeds, such as Angora rabbits
- Rabbits with dental issues that deter them from grooming themselves
Signs of Flystrike
Signs of flystrike in rabbits include:
- Digging into a corner. Rabbits do this to distract themselves from the pain
- Not eating or drinking
- Behavioral changes, such as being lethargic or very quiet
- Not wanting to move
- A strong smell from the hutch
How to Prevent Flystrike in Big Rabbits
Flystrike is a serious condition that mostly occurs in the summer months. Not only is the condition extremely distressing, but it can also be fatal to rabbits. All rabbit owners should take steps to prevent flystrike in rabbits. These include:
- Checking your rabbit’s behind twice daily in the summer and once a day in the winter.
- If your rabbit cannot groom itself, you should be grooming and cleaning its fur regularly.
- Spot clean any soiled fur.
- Ensure that your rabbit is eating normally. If it isn’t, get a dental checkup.
- Apply a spot-on preparation that can be obtained from a vet to protect against Flystrike for 10 weeks. It’s a prescription-only medication, so your rabbit will have to be examined first.
- Check the rabbit’s bottom if you notice any behavioral changes.
- Remove soiled bedding every day and change bedding entirely once a week.
- Avoid overfeeding as this can cause diarrhea.
- Do not feed too much grass, greens, or fruits to prevent soft stools.
- Check your rabbit’s poop to ensure it is dry and pelleted.
- Disinfect hutches every week.
Heart problems, such as cardiomyopathy, are much more common in large and giant breeds of rabbit. In many cases, this is a cause of sudden death in bigger breeds.
Dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition where the heart becomes enlarged and weak, is the most common heart problem in giant rabbits. The heart loses its ability to pump blood effectively around the body. Catching the condition early may allow your vet to manage it medically.