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Bunny Bulletin

Our regular bulletin board featuring blog articles, updates and advice from our volunteer team.

At the start of the year, FBRC challenged our volunteers to turn a £20 start-up fund into some serious cash for the charity.  Sinead Monaghan, a foster carer for the charity, describes how she took on the challenge.

When I was asked to participate in the volunteer challenge I was a bit apprehensive as I didn't think I would be able to come up with anything good enough to make a large profit or have enough people to market to other than friends and family. However I thought I may as well give it a go as I have nothing to lose and it’s for a great cause and something that is really important to me. I thought for a while about things that are popular and things that I enjoy. I realised wax melts are something that are really popular at the moment so I thought I would give wax melt making a try! Can’t be that hard to make…right?! 

I researched how to make wax melts and bought the products off eBay with the £20 volunteer start up fund. I started off with 1kg soy wax, 3 scents and a wax mould. 

I then had to think of a place I could market my product. I am a huge make up fan and I am in a beauty group on Facebook with lots of ladies who have similar interests as me. I posted on the group telling them about Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care and my challenge. All the ladies were extremely supportive of the charity and as I thought LOVE wax melts! I got a huge number of orders and within the first week I had raised £120.

Once the first lot of ladies had received their wax melts they began sharing pictures of the wax melts they had purchased on the Facebook group for other members to see.

I then had more ladies asking if they could purchase some wax melts and a lot of people interested in wanting to know my role in the charity and what the money I am raising was going towards. I explained to the ladies that I was a foster carer and take care of bunnies until they get their forever home. I also explained that the money I am raising will be going towards vet bills, vaccinations, and neutering and general charity funds. I realised I had to reinvest some of the money I had made to purchase more wax and increased the 3 scents I started out with to 10 scents.

Again I received a huge number of orders over the next 2 weeks and my kitchen was covered in wax! I really enjoy making the wax melts and I believe the more batches I am making the better I am getting at it. 

As I was posting the wax melts all over the UK I needed a bunny helper to help with the packaging!

I don’t think my local post office was too pleased to see me standing in the line waiting to post all this! However the lady at the counter could not have been any nicer after I explained I was making wax melts to raise money for Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care and I also raised some more money from them as they wanted to help out and purchase some!

I really am overwhelmed at the support I have received from doing the volunteer challenge. To date I have sold over £500 of wax melts and I believe I have made over 400 wax melts!  That's a profit of almost £440 into the charity's fund pot!

I am so glad I participated in doing the challenge as I really did not expect to receive the amount of generosity and kindness which I have and if I went with my apprehensive self at the start and didn’t try because I didn’t believe in myself the charity would not beover £400 better off. I can not thank all the people who have donated enough for all their support! Not only have I raised a substantial amount of money for the charity I have also spread Fairly Beloved Rabbit Cares name and aim through the UK with wax melts!

Sinead's story shows just how easy it is to raise money for Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care.  We will now be able to fund neuter ops for approximately 8 rabbits thanks to Sinead's efforts and the generous discounts offered by some of our vet partners.

Can you turn £20 into big profit for the rabbits in our care?

At Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care, we are strong believers that rabbits need to be kept in pairs or small groups.  As sociable animals, constant company of their own species is not only beneficial, but essential.

The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report 2016 indicates as many as 52% of pet rabbits in the UK are still living on their own, equating to approximately 780,000 lonely bunnies!  Combined with the fact that on average rabbits are spending 12 hours per day locked in their hutches, this leads to some really significant welfare issues for these animals that by their nature need company, space, exercise and stimulation.

We want to make a really big difference to these statistics here in Scotland, and seek to get more single bunnies bonded with partners, and out to play more often.

If you want to be part of making a real difference, here's how you can help:

Reducing Single Rabbit Numbers

If you have a single rabbit, consider getting them a buddy.  We can help with finding the right rabbit for you and your current bunny, and help with the bonding process.

See for details of our adoption process and a list of the current rabbits looking for homes.  See also for more details on the bonding services we offer.

Spreading The Word

Tell people about our campaign, and share our video and details through Social Media.

Support Our Work

It costs on average around £100 for the charity to rescue each rabbit, and in many cases this is considerably higher.

You can support our work by donating or fundraising through Just Giving or sending a text message "ALON17 £5" to 70070


Have you heard about Coccidiosis? Did you know this common but often overlooked parasite could be living in most pet rabbits in the UK, and in some cases can become fatal?

We recently took in an elderly pair of rabbits in to the rescue, each aged around the 8/9 year mark. They were actually ex-FBRC bunnies that had been returned due to their owner’s change in circumstance after 4 years in what was a perfect home. It was a very reluctant surrender back to the rescue.

All the rabbits who enter our rescue are important to us, but given their history we had a special place in our hearts for these two and were desperate to get them a final permanent home to live out their elderly years.

They had enjoyed an indoor home, and so couldn’t be placed in any of our outdoor foster spaces. Sadly we also have a shortage for indoor space in the rescue, and a very high demand for the few indoor placements we have available. So as is often the case for rabbits entering the rescue under these circumstances they were first placed in our heated sheds at The Warren whilst we desperately re-ordered things around the foster care network to create the much needed indoor space.

Brad & Cinnamon appeared to be coping with this well at first, although clearly weren’t as happy as we wanted them to be. After a few days they started to get a bit quieter though, and were going off their food. On this behaviour change we thankfully got them transferred to an indoor space immediately.

The following day, having settled into their indoor foster home we didn’t get the “bounce back” we were hoping for, and it was clear that their health was beginning to take a nose dive. Our foster carer acted on immediate instinct and the pair were rushed to the vet as soon as possible.

On assessment it was clear that things were rapidly deteriorating and both rabbits were starting to show signs of critical weight loss, lethargy, dehydration and loss of appetite. From that moment on they were receiving the best possible care both from our foster care team and our vets. We have to say a massive thanks to the team at Vets4Pets NewtonMearns for their support throughout the treatment.

Following various tests it was confirmed that they were both positive for Coccidiosis. Treatment continued as we desperately worked hard to get them back to full health. Their condition started to fluctuate from incredibly poor, to showing signs of hope and recovery, crashing back to critical condition.

We sadly have lost Brad & Cinnamon this morning following just over a week of intensive treatment to try to get their health back on track.

So what is Coccidiosis, and why does it have this effect on our rabbits?

Coccidiosis is a parasite infection which can affect various organs including the liver, kidneys and intestinal tract. It is an incredibly common parasite that studies suggest is carried by a large number of rabbits, but the effects of the parasite typically seem to be problematic for younger and older rabbits.  Factors such as stress, environmental change, transport and immunosuppression can also trigger the onset of the symptoms.

It is also very difficult to treat, and even harder to eradicate from the living environment, with some studies suggesting the parasite can survive for around 1 year given the right conditions. As well as surviving in the living environment it can survive in grass, hay and bedding materials.

Sadly the reality for any rabbit rescue is that this is a real and regular threat and there is relatively limited options for us to prevent it without significantly impacting our ability to take rabbits in on a regular basis. It is commonly found in areas housing large numbers of rabbits where the parasite can survive and spread easily but can equally be found in any rabbit environment.

We are confident this is not going to create an epidemic for the rescue, for various reasons:

  • Our hygiene routine is daily and thorough, and we have also taken this opportunity to review how we can further improve this to gain additional comfort that we are doing everything that we can to limit the transfer of any disease from one rabbit environment to another.
  • We also make heavy use of our foster care network, meaning the vast majority of our rabbits are kept in separate environments across multiple homes, limiting cross-contamination.
  • There are further measures in place at The Warren where we have multiple environments too.

Further to this, studies would suggest that a majority of rabbits carry the parasite without causing harm. This means we are in no greater or lesser risk today than we have been since starting rabbit rescue six years ago. We do intend to introduce a stricter monitoring criteria for any new, young and elder rabbits within the rescue however in order to more proactively identify early warning indicators of symptoms developing.

With this in mind we do have a concern at the moment with a litter of 6 babies who have been with us for a few weeks. The Autumn babies, now aged around 18 weeks, were in a neighbouring hutch to where Brad & Cinnamon originally arrived. Whilst they are happy, energetic and eating well we have been growing concerned recently that their development is behind where we would expect it to be. This is often symptomatic of multiple generation inbreeding causing some genetic difficulties, but as they are also demonstrating the core symptoms of this parasite too we have an appointment booked for a vet check up tomorrow evening and will progress accordingly. As a precaution they have been removed from our adoption list until a clean bill of health can be offered.

We are sharing our story today not only to highlight the work that often goes on behind the scenes at FBRC dealing with the many sickly bunnies that enter the rescue, but also to try to highlight this lesser known parasite that can cause so many health problems in such a short period of time.

Treatment is difficult and limited in success. It is also not recommended to attempt any proactive or preventative treatments for other rabbits in the surrounding environments due to the intensity of treatments and as such we will only treat based on symptoms. Management of the situation is through careful cleaning routines and close monitoring and identification of any rabbits carrying symptoms.

If you have any concerns about your own rabbits health, please remember that it is always best to seek advice from a rabbit savvy vet in the first instance.

Here at Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care, we have a 'team' of rabbits who are selected to stay as our "Residents".  They are specially selected based on their character and their ability to deal with our various events and educational talks.  Friendly, laid back and not afraid of the public, they help us to spread the message of modern rabbit welfare standards as we tour the country to raise awareness of the charity and the work that we do.  

The residents are now bonded in to one large group here at The Warren, and include a number of different breeds and sizes.  But as most will know, we are big fans of the Giant Rabbit here at FBRC and we are lucky enough to have a few in our resident team.

It is with deep sadness that I write this to advise you all that we lost Sheldon last night.  Sheldon was approaching 5 years old, which is considered an elderly Giant Continental who typically have a life expectancy of 3 to 5 years.  His health has slowly deteriorated over a number of months, as is often the case for Giant rabbits around this age. In deed, this last week or so has been very reminiscent of his sister River and buddy Elphaba, both Continental Giants of a similar age who passed away earlier in the year, and of one of our early Conti's Kenicke who passed away a few years ago.

I love Continental Giants, but their short lives and their tendency for their system and organs to slowly shut down is definitely a difficult thing to standby and watch.

In recent weeks I have been nursing Sheldon with antibiotics, metacam and eye drops, and regularly cleaning his eye and trimming the fur around his eye to reduce irritation, but the whole time I knew there was little that could actually be done to make him better again.

Earlier yesterday afternoon I commented to one of the volunteers that he wasn't doing great, but at that time he was still hopping around the run as he has been the past few months: slowly, with some weakness in his hind legs, but still managing to get himself around.

Later in the evening another volunteer drew my attention to him as he lay weak, in the shed. I spent some time with him and the others hoping he would pass peacefully, with his buddies by his side. However, after half an hour or so, as he appeared to be struggling a little I decided to get him to the vet before they closed for the night to help him along his way.

But enough of focusing on his weaknesses the past few weeks and months!

Sheldon has been a fantastic asset to the resident team here at The Warren. He was one of the first new residents to arrive when we moved to The Warren in July 2012 having been born in the rescue from one of 12 Giants we had rescued a few months earlier. As we knew we were planning to get our own place we reserved Sheldon and River straight away and held them in the foster network until they were old enough and our new home was ready for them too. Since then Sheldon has very much been a leader of the residents group, and has been a firm favourite at our events and educational talks. He has been a protector for both Priya and Penny, an elderly Netherland Dwarf who also passed earlier this year, and often acted as their mediator at times when they wanted to get a little tetchy with each other. And I honestly have never seen as strong a bond as there was between Sheldon & Leonard, our other big ginger Conti.

It's been a tough year, and it seems the 2016 curse has hit our resident group.  The reality of course being that the group was formed around 4/5 years ago now, many of them joining us already mid-way through their lives, and as a consequence many of our group have reached an age where sadly this is to be expected.  Of course, it doesn't make it easier.  However, as the other residents are all in the one bonded group we have the comfort that at least they all still have company.

I know they had a good life here. I know they're simple presence at our events made people stop in their tracks and talk to us. This has allowed conversations to take place about rabbit welfare that otherwise wouldn't have taken place. And so, River and Sheldon, and the many other resident bunnies we've had over the years at FBRC, have had a direct impact on improving rabbit welfare in Scotland.

Sheldon was named after one of the lead characters in the tv show The Big Bang Theory. For those of you who follow the show, you know that Sheldon isn't a fan of human contact or socialisation, but every so often would seek human affection - when it suited him. He also has his own "spot" where he sits, and no one else is allowed to sit in that spot, even when he is not using it. Our Sheldon has firmly secured himself a spot in our memories and there will be no other bunny like him.

Farewell old pal - we'll miss you.

I’ve seen a few posts and questions raised on social media platforms over the past couple of weeks or so from people asking for advice about starting a rabbit rescue.  I love to see people’s enthusiasm for the cause, and we always welcome more support.  But these questions leave me torn between wanting to encourage enthusiasm and deep concern about what might happen.

In many ways when Feona and I started Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care we were naive to what was in store for us.  Having done my research I knew there was very little happening in terms of rabbit rescue in our part of the world.  I remember vividly the conversation where we made the final decision to give it a go, and in particular I remember saying to Feona, “Are you sure? Once we start this, there’ll be no way to stop it!”.  Since those early days I often use our naivity to explain just how big the issue of rabbit welfare is:  We thought we’d save a handful of rabbits a year, and within our first week we’d reached ten rabbits!  We now deal with a good couple of hundred per year, and this is only limited by our available space.

The reality is, much of our work is spent dealing with the rabbits we can’t rescue too.

So, if we’re so busy why would I be nervous about other people starting rescues?  Surely if there is so much needing done, other rescues would help lighten the load?

An image taken from one of our early rescue cases of over 20 rabbits.Sadly, we find this isn’t the case.  In our relatively short time of 5 years in operation we have had numerous cases we have had to step in and support where we take on large numbers of rabbits from the one person.  In almost all cases these are people who thought they would try running a “hobby rescue”, and they’ve found themselves totally overwhelmed.  With over 20 rabbits in their care they have found that they don’t have the time, money or resources to care for the rabbits properly.  In many cases they also haven’t kept up to date with the latest research in rabbit welfare and so often have hutches that are far too small, don’t have access to exercise space, don’t invest in neutering (usually due to lack of funds) and don’t know how to recognise and treat common rabbit ailments such as e-cuniculi, fur mites, ear mites, gut stasis, messy bottoms, UTI, URI, etc.

In all cases we could not fault the ‘owners’ motivation.  A heart very much in the right place, desperate to make a difference but simply not having access to everything they need to do the job right.  Instead of making things better, they inadvertently make it worse resulting in additional burden on another rescue.

Of course, it can often be worse than this if they choose not to enlist the support of another rescue, the animals in their care are handed off to unsuspecting members of the public who are given outdated care advice and likely receive a rabbit with health conditions that they have not been properly informed about.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care are the only reputable rescue out there – of course we aren’t!  But we are few and far between.  Nor am I saying we get things perfect everytime – we don’t!  (Although we do continuously monitor our service and make improvements based on lessons learned).

Have you noticed that many rescues only run for a few short years before they close?  I read an article a few months ago, which I think was in Rabbiting On (the magazine for Rabbit Welfare Association members), about rescue burn out.  It discussed how the pressure, stress and sheer volume of work involved in running a rabbit rescue resulted in burn out for those who started it.  All that drive, enthusiasm and determination that motivated someone to start a rabbit rescue, dwindles rapidly when the reality of what is involved kicks in.  There’s always more needing done than any team of rescuers can manage, and it takes a lot out of you.

I guess I am saying that if you have ever wondered what it would be like to run a rabbit rescue, then there are other ways to find out.  Don’t jump straight in to the deep end and try start up your own rescue from scratch.  Do your research first, and try to get a full understanding of what is involved.

My strongest message would be learn what its like.  Before starting your own rescue, get involved in an established one and throw yourself head-first into every aspect of the charity.  Not just the hands-on rabbit care side of things, but try to get involved in fundraising, events, dealing with enquiries, dealing with vets and partners, and most importantly dealing with the big rescue cases.  Get used to making the difficult decisions about who’s rabbit gets priority for the one space left in the rescue.  Deal with the decision about whether a rabbit gets the chance of risky treatment for that small chance they will make it, or whether you make them comfortable and help them to rainbow bridge.

A great deal of thought needs to go into how you fund the rescue to do things right.  There is no profit to be made in rabbit rescue, and you will always juggle bills with fundraising to try to get books to balance.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve dipped into my own pockets just to make sure the service keeps going.

I am very proud of what we’ve achieved at Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care.  We’ve spent a lot of time getting our charity structure right so that we protect our volunteers from the risk of “rescue burn out”.  We offer great opportunities to get close to the action and really make a difference, whilst spreading the load across an ever increasing team.  Our foster-care model means we can flex and shrink to balance demand with finances.  We’re very much in this for the long-haul, and have plans to extend our charity to meet the needs of Scotland’s rabbits throughout the country.  But, if I had a chance to make that decision again back in 2010 knowing what it is like in reality, would I start my own rabbit rescue?  Honestly, I just don’t know.

I wouldn’t change it now though.  But the thing we started as a hobby to occupy our spare time, has grown in to a much bigger challenge.  Something that I have to do day and night, alongside my full-time job and family life.  Rabbit rescue isn’t a hobby.  It’s a way of life.

If you have a passion for rabbit rescue and want to get involved, why not consider joining the FBRC team.