Welcome to the wonderful world of rabbits!!
The first 24hrs with your new companion(s) will help set the tone for your ongoing relationship. Below is a guide to your first day together whether they live indoors, or outdoors, and is useful for both fostering and adopting situations.
Immediately after getting to your house your new companion will likely be nervous and hyper-alert from the car ride. They will need a few minutes to settle after their journey before moving into their new environment.
Once they have had time to settle, you can introduce them to their new space; this space needs to have a litter tray with fresh hay in it if indoors, or hay accessible in a sheltered area if outdoors. They need access to fresh water in a flat-bottomed ceramic dish, and a safe dark space to hide. This safe space can be anything from a cardboard box with a hole cut in the side, a sheltered dog kennel, a wooden hutch with doors removed, or even the carry-cage they came in (again with the door removed). You should also aim to provide safe enrichment for them; some ideas are tunnels, treat-balls, or toilet rolls stuffed with hay and a few appropriate pellets.
Once you are sure the bunny is safe, it is best to leave them alone for an hour so they can get used to their new surroundings.
On the first day we recommend limiting their diet to hay, appropriate pellets, and fresh grass/weeds. Do not feed fruits or vegetables until you know their digestive system is stable. Your bunny needs to learn that hay is going to the bulk of their diet straight away, so it’s important to focus on hay and grass right from the beginning!
Fresh hay and clean water should be available at all times; water must be changed at least once a day, and is best served in a flat-bottomed ceramic dish.You can start to introduce treats and other foods in the following days and eventually you will learn what your bunnies favourite foods are, which will help you down the line should they ever go off their food.
We recommend feeding a small amount of pellets twice a day – once in the morning, and once at night. If your rabbit ever refuses their pellets or their favourite treat, then you know they are unwell.
Fresh greens should be provided daily, and as a general guide they should be getting one – two cups per kilogram of their body weight.
Please note: if your bunny is under six months old we do not recommend any fruit or vegetables at all. Instead the focus should be on hay, grass and safe weeds until they are older, at which point you can introduce new foods one at a time in small amounts.
It’s not recommended that you pick up or try to cuddle your bunny on this first day. Show the bunny that they are safe, and can relax around you by getting down to their level and letting them approach you on their own terms. Talk to them calmly and often so they get to know your voice.
A rabbits dark space should be their sanctuary, do not disturb them while they’re in there unless you have to for health/safety reasons.
Rabbits have delicate spines and limbs so these must be supported at all times when being handled. The hind-legs should always be on a flat surface, with their bottoms supported; never turn a rabbit onto their backs! This is called trancing, and you can read more about this here:
Interactions with children should be supervised by an adult.
End of the first day
By the end of the day you should see a pile of fresh poo, and the rabbit will have been seen eating – preferably hay!! If they have not eaten and/or toileted, then you likely have a stressed bunny on your hands who needs your help.
It is considered a medical emergency when a rabbit is not eating or pooping, and they require immediate medical intervention by a rabbit-savvy veterinarian.