Hopping poop machine, indeed!
July 25, 2006 8:10 PM   Subscribe

How to easily scoop out rabbit poop from wood shavings?

I recently got a surprise birthday present in the form of an adorable 1-month-old rabbit (for those interested, she's mostly white with gray tips, and is the product of a lop and a normal-eared rabbit, so she has one ear up and one half-flopped...permanently :D). We're keeping her in a cage with wood shavings, which makes removing her tiny little poop pellets a bit of a problem.

For the past few days we've used some leftover surgical gloves to literally just take it out, and then used a plastic bag in the same fashion. However, I'd really like some sort of scoop, and your average cat litterbox scoop won't work as they're not fine enough and the tiny bunny pellets will fall right through.

Any rabbit owners have suggestions? I'm imagining something like tongs or a candle snuffer-like apparatus, or something. I Googled around a bit and didn't find anything, nor did I see anything at the pet store.
posted by cyrusdogstar to Pets & Animals (21 answers total)
Depending on how fine the wood shavings are, a slotted spoon might work. You may have to look around a bit to find one with small enough slots that the poop doesn't fall through.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:23 PM on July 25, 2006

Response by poster: The shavings aren't too fine, unfortunately--the pellets are generally smaller than the shavings, hence the problem.

Also, any general tips for new owners are welcome, as well as this specific issue. For example, is there a better alternative to the shavings? We're planning on trying to litter-train her, but that won't be for at least a little while. We don't plan on letting her have the run of the place, so we won't have to rabbit-proof the apartment.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 8:32 PM on July 25, 2006

Remove the hard pellets, but not the soft green ones. She'll eat the soft ones. Rabbits don't digest efficiently, so to get needed nutrition, they reprocess their faeces.
posted by orthogonality at 8:47 PM on July 25, 2006

the pellets are generally smaller than the shavings, hence the problem.

The obvious answer is to pick up the shavings in the litter scoop and shake them over a box so that the pellets fall out the slots and you're left with clean shavings in the scoop.

That or get different bedding.
posted by fshgrl at 8:53 PM on July 25, 2006

Just keep throwing more shavings over the top. Replace the whole lot every week.
posted by flabdablet at 8:57 PM on July 25, 2006

Careful with the shavings, by the way. If they are pine or cedar shavings, I understand that they can cause health issues. Not in the short-term, but more in the long-term.

Here's a good list of different bedding types and the pros and cons. I use the aforementioned wood fuel pellets for my three rabbits, but a 40 lb. bag is probably overkill for your wee one.
posted by cabingirl at 9:50 PM on July 25, 2006

If you're already planning on litter-training her, honestly, I would go ahead and start it now. You can get a plastic corner litter box at most large pet stores, and any kind of small animal litter (they make specific kinds for rabbits, but I haven't had any trouble with regular kitty litter) with which to fill it. I would also scatter a few pieces of hay on top, to lure your rabbit over.

What worked for my rabbit was to place his food dish directly in front of the litter box, so he could sit in it and eat at the same time. For some crazy reason, rabbits tend to poop AS they're eating (I guess the chewing gets their digestive system flowing); on the plus side, this means you can predict when and where most of the pooping will occur. For the first few days with that set-up, if she eats her food without sitting in the litter box, reach in and gently scoop her butt into the box, trying to disturb the eating as little as possible. She might get huffy, but just keep doing it; rabbits are very smart, and mine (at 2.5 months) picked up the routine within a day or two. During the training period, I would also recommend scooping some stray poop (but not all of it, obviously) into the litter box, to reinforce the lesson.

As for the shavings, cabingirl's list of bedding types is a good resource; Carefresh has worked really well for me. And really, there isn't an easy way to get all of the poop out. You pretty much have to just dump all of the bedding every week, refilling it throughout as necessary.

Hope that helps! I hope you're enjoying your rabbit, I love mine. :)
posted by sarahsynonymous at 12:19 AM on July 26, 2006

Oooooooh, bunnies! My bunnies did best with the shredded paper bedding. I didn't pick out the poop, but I cleaned the cage out every three or four days. (That's a LOT, but otherwise my sister would complain.)
posted by beatrice at 12:22 AM on July 26, 2006

Second the recommendation for Carefresh. We dump the entire contents of the litter boxes for our 3 bunnies once a week and replace with new litter (we use big plastic bins as litter boxes to keep it at once-a-week changes, I think we'd need to do it more often if we used smaller litter boxes).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:11 AM on July 26, 2006

Our bunnies are Carefresh buns. The whole shebang gets swapped out once a week on trash night. We use litterboxes (actually plastic bins from Target, see below)

What sort of cage are you keeping her in? As she grows, she's going to need more room to stand up, flop down, and scamper about like crazy at random times (at least that's what our newest, Beef Wellington, does). Instead of buying a new cage as she gets bigger, consider building her a Neat Idea Cube Condo. Neat Idea Cubes are these wire squares designed to be affixed together into cubes and used by poor dorm dwellers as shelving. However, with a slew of zip ties, the cunning rabbit own can make a large, cheap, multi-level cage for their pet.

Over time, our condo set up has become pretty sophisticated. Grendel and Robocop now have a removable pannel between their cages that allows them to visit with each other. Beef's cage features a recessed litterbox that slides out for changing. These setups are pretty modular and I'll be adding another floor onto Beef's house this weekend. We use plastic bins, all the same size, from Target for litterboxes. These are a bit bigger than the corner litterbox setups (which we're not too big fans of, bunnies are not the masters of fecal aim you may think) and have space for the buns to dig or stretch out if they like.

Litter training isn't too bad. When Beef was but a wee lad, he'd happily poop all over the place, but over time he's gotten used to going in his own litterbox.

Consider ordering your hay from Oxbow. It's cheaper when you buy by bulk and the stuff is much better quality than that dry, faded pet store junk. Get a larger bin from Target to store the hay in.

Treat-wise, Oxbow has some great, healthy products (avoid yogurt drops, eating one of those for a bunny is like you eating an entire birthday cake) like dried carrots and papya tablets (we use the latter to help regulate the buns' digestive tracts - the papya has an enzyme in it that helps break down any hairballs they might have).

Make sure you get your bun fixed when the time comes (maybe two, three months down the road). Even if she never meets another bunny and you never have to worry about babies, it's healthier for the female rabbit in the long run as they're kinda cancer prone down there. Look about your area for an exotic pet vet. Also keep an eye out for a late-night animal hospital, just in case.

You have your bunny young, so you have a great chance to get her used to people. Pick her up every day, give her plenty of nose rubs (Beef like nose rubs so much that he won't take an offered treat, instead wishing that the giant hand in his face would scritch him), and let her explore safely rabbit-proofed areas.

Speaking of rabbit proofing, it's not too hard. You can make collapsable gates and fencing from NIC to wall off areas where little feet should not go. Use plastic tubing, slit down one side, to encase electrical cords that you don't want to be gnawed on. We first let Beef run around the hallway while my wife or I sat down and read a book. He really liked the carpeting (a short fibre, not long, which I suspect the buns would love to rip and munch up given Grendel's behavior in her callow youth) and would do a bunch of binkies (half hop, half twist) around us. Now we let the buns all explore at the same time (though we have to keep an eye on Beef, he's still young and, uh, "frisky" - the vet will be removing that bit of him next week) and they have great adventures sorting our shoes, chasing each other in the hall, and flopping down by the AC.

Wow. That's long!

One question for you: When he was still little, Beef smelled like grape candy. Does your baby bun smell sweet as well?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:29 AM on July 26, 2006

And looking back at the question again, I realize I way over answered. Sorry 'bout that!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:30 AM on July 26, 2006

I have a bunny too, and I will +1 Oxbow, Carefresh, and add one more:
Yesterday's News, which uses recycled newspaper and is specially formulated for rabbits so it won't hurt them (like pine or cedar) or get caught in their feet (regular newspaper).

I am about to start litterbox training my bunny and I will be using Yesterday's News.
posted by rmless at 7:12 AM on July 26, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the all the responses! Robocop, I can't believe you guys got a third bunny :D (Anyone searching for rabbits on AskMe becomes well acquainted with your rabbits ;))

The only reason we haven't started litter training her yet is just because we haven't even had time to get the necessary stuff. We got her Friday night, and then I was at a conference all weekend, and we both work full-time during the week. I just managed to run to the pet store yesterday after work to get some chewy things for her. But we'll get on it soon!

I have heard about the toxic shavings issue; I haven't checked to see what kind we have but it came with the hutch as a starter kit (this one) so I would hope they don't sell rabbit starter kits with the wrong kind of shavings. However, I do have disturbingly little faith in humanity, so who knows.

To the "just throw it out once a week" crowd: do you mean to not clean out the poops at all, or that you throw it out to deal with the inevitable leftovers that one misses when trying to clean? Just curious. I know that the urine has to go somewhere too, and so even if I could scoop out every last bit of poop, the shavings would still need replacement once in a while.

Anyway, thanks again for the suggestions! By the way, if anyone wants to see some poorly lit photos, they're here. Didn't use my Flickr account because they're so shoddy; I plan to take more later on, with better light--I don't want to use the flash because I'm afraid it will freak her out.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 7:49 AM on July 26, 2006

I gave up on cleaning the litter. My rabbit gets newspaper laid flat on the bottom of her hutch and I just roll it all up and toss it once a week. This method is worth considering but may not work for you because my rabbit has the run of the entire downstairs and mostly just returns to her box to poop and eat.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:00 AM on July 26, 2006

We don't clean out the poops seperate from the litter at all. Instead, we toss the whole poop-litter-pee mess. For your little girl, I'm not sure she could generate enough pee and poop to warrant a weekly dumping, so you may be able to get by on just mining for cocoapuffs.

As for Beef, well, uh, we're not crazy pet people at all. No sir.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:07 AM on July 26, 2006

My bun loves carefresh too, like the other posters. We bought her a triangle shaped plastic litterbox from the pet store. I line it with a plastic bag (mine never eats the plastic though, EVER. You may have to watch in the beginning to see if yours will) and fill it with more carefresh. She hardly ever goes to the bathroom outside of the box except for a few spare poop pellets here and there. But definitely no pee. I invert the plastic bag and change it once a week or so. I change the outer littler about once every 2 weeks. It generally stays pretty clean. Litter training was easy. We put a little bit of peed on carefresh into the new litterbox and she got it almost right away. We also keep another small litterbox outside of her cage that she goes to in a separate part of the house if she's hopping about. Yay bunnies!
posted by theantikitty at 8:31 AM on July 26, 2006

Incidently rabbit waste is excellent for composting, gets stuff heated up very well.
posted by edgeways at 8:48 AM on July 26, 2006

We have two adult male bunnies. We line their cages with newspaper and then put the bedding on top, enough to cover the whole cage about 1/2 - 1" deep. They tear up the newspaper and make a mess. The cages get cleaned (i.e. the whole mess tossed, the cage hosed down outside) when they start to smell. With shavings, that's typically three-four days, with corncob husks a little longer, and with Carefree bedding almost a week. I like the Carefree stuff a lot.

My in-laws dumped their rabbit waste in a pile in the corner of their property and planted bushes around it, which are thriving on the excellent compost.

The mistake we made with our buns was to leave them alone too much. Now one of them hates to be held (he loves to be petted, but on the ground) and the other hates to be both held or petted. Make sure you spend a least a few minutes every day (a half-hour if you can) playing with her, picking her up, cuddling her and rubbing noses, and lying on the floor letting her climb all over you. This is also important since you only have the one - our bunnies are company for each other, but she only has you.

If you have a yard where she can run unmolested by other animals, hardware stores sell "rabbit wire" (for keeping rabbits out of gardens) which can be turned into a run quite inexpensively - just attach the ends to make a circle using plastic ties, and tack it down with tent pegs.

I recommend rabbit-proofing even if you intend to watch her every second. It's amazing how quickly they can chew through an electrical cord.

You should also probably read every single page over at the House Rabbit Society website.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:51 AM on July 26, 2006

Response by poster: We live in an apartment, so no yard runs or composting, unfortunately. And I'm well aware about needing to give her love and attention as much as possible--we had actually agreed earlier not to get a pet because we were afraid that with our busy schedules and longish commute, we'd not have enough time to give them that attention.

So now that we have one anyway, we're thinking of moving closer to work so we can have more time. Until then, though, we are making sure to take her out for about 15-30 minutes every evening and let her romp around while we watch and/or try to interact.

Thanks for the link; thankfully I had ran across that site a while ago and had it bookmarked, so I've already read most of its contents, but I'm glad you linked it--no newbie rabbit owner should be without that resource, nor a thread without the link ;)

We still don't have a name for her :( we're very bad at naming, and it's even harder for us to agree on one.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 12:30 PM on July 26, 2006

theantikitty, that's a genius idea to line the litter box with a plastic bag for easy cleaning! I'll have to try that, although I'm not sure my bun will be able to resist chewing on it.

cyrus, what's always worked for me when naming pets is to run down a list of my favorite book/tv/movie characters in my head. In most cases, one of them ends up fitting just right, and then I already have a positive association with the name. :)

Another tip for bunny playtime: I've noticed that my rabbit loves to find hidden or somewhat-tight places in which to wedge himself and have chill out time. When he's out playing, he usually ends up flopped out against the wall under my bed, behind an armchair, or between my computer chair and the wall. Definitely bunny-proof the area, but I would make sure the area isn't TOTALLY open so that your bunny has places to explore and hide behind.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 10:16 PM on July 26, 2006

I just finished fostering three baby buns for a local shelter and I still have no idea how those little guys produced that many poopies. I swept their pen out three times a day and it still wasn't enough. So many poopies...

My buns are litter snobs and refuse to use anything but Carefresh. I had the gall to give them bun-safe wood shavings once and got thumped at. Then they turned the litterbox over and proceeded to spread the litter all over their pen before peeing on it. Big mess. Huge. Lots of thumping. I was the scum of the earth for awhile.

Does Little Precious' hutch have a wire floor? I couldn't tell from the photo. If it does, I would recommend you replace it right now or cover the floor with carpet. (We use outdoor carpets. They're cheap and easy to clean. No annoying pile to get in the way.) Wire floors hurt bun feet. And baby buns are mostly feet, so you can imagine the hurting. :(

Do a little googling and see if there's a rabbit rescue or a rabbit shelter in your area. Not only can you get your questions answered by someone who knows what they're talking about (chain pet store employees generally know nothing about buns), they usually carry supplies specific to buns. The shelter down the road carries locally grown, fresh timothy hay in big garbage bags for, like, four bucks a pop.

Kitty litter--any kind--is a big no no. Because they're so close to the ground and tend to spend a lot of time in their litterboxes, buns will breathe in the clay dust. This can cause congestion. Because they like to nibble the litter, clumping litter is off-limits as it can form an obstruction and lead to very unfortunate things for your bun.

IKEA carries cord organization tubes that are split down one side that are excellent for bunny-proofing. Buddy's single-handedly destroyed a camera charger, a phone charger, my alarm clock, my sigO's laptop charger, my laptop charger, an extension cord and one of our couch pillows in one night. He escaped from his pen and went on a mass spree of chaos and destruction before settling down behind the couch for a snooze. So, imagine your bun escaping. Now bunny proof everything she might destroy. Cords look like roots to buns, and roots must be severed in order for the warren to be expanded.

But to answer your original question... :) Don't worry about sifting out the poopies. In fact, poopies in the poopy box are excellent. Keep them there so she remembers where to put them later. Like others have said before, rabbit litter and waste makes fantastic compost. It's even compostable in cities because rabbits are pure vegetarians. If the thought of throwing away biodegradable material wrapped in plastic makes you flinch, send off a post to craigslist.org in your area. I'm sure some avid gardener will snap it right up.

Good luck naming her!
hercatalyst accidentally posting as hatsix (sorry, honey)
posted by hatsix at 12:54 PM on July 27, 2006

« Older Why are you "in" the movies, but "on" TV?   |   Midwest - East Coast Roadtrip Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.