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Updated: Jan 9, 2023

It might seem like a taboo subject, but when you care for animals, poo is a really important issue to be aware of! Just a small change in an animal’s poo can be an early indication of digestive disruption and a decline in health, so it is vital to understand what is normal and what is not so that we can act fast.

Rabbits are animals commonly kept as pets but frequently misunderstood, often sold as easy to care for and good for children as a “starter” pet, but you probably couldn’t get further from the truth. These wonderful animals are in fact a very complex species, and a huge part of this is their amazing digestive system!

Did you know that rabbits eat their poo? This might sound unpleasant to us, but this is a crucial step in the digestive process for our long-eared friends!

Wild rabbits are foraging herbivores, with a diet consisting mainly of grasses and weeds, which is why it is so important that you ensure that the majority of your pet rabbit’s diet is made up of high-quality hay and grasses rather than simply commercial pellets. However, this high-fibre, cellulose-rich diet certainly isn’t easy to digest, and by the time this has made its way through their intestines it still contains many of the nutrients they require.

Rabbits (and their cousins, the hare) beat this problem with a special kind of digestion known as hindgut fermentation. Rabbits eat their poo and digest it a second time to obtain the nutrients they missed out on the first time around! Those of you with rabbits may have noticed they make two different kinds of droppings: the small, dark, round ones they are most famous for which contain the waste indigestible fibre, and softer black ones known as caecotrophs – you may not have seen these, as these are the ones that are eaten straight away. This process is known as coprophagy and functions the same as our sheep and goats chewing their cud.

It is so very important for a rabbit’s digestive system to keep moving. If anything becomes stuck in a rabbit’s oesophagus or intestines, this is a veterinary emergency as they can enter something we call GI (Gastrointestinal) Stasis which causes a rabbit’s digestive system to slow down, creating a build-up of bacteria which results in gas. In minor cases, this is uncomfortable for your rabbit and if treated quickly, it can be resolved. However, in more serious cases, it can become excruciating and lead to a critical condition.

Rabbits are also incapable of vomiting. In a nutshell, if your rabbit stops eating, call your vet – you could save their life. And don’t be alarmed if you witness coprophagy, it’s completely normal, it’s not a dirty habit; it’s simply a happy, healthy bunny.

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As many of you will no doubt read in the local news today, Avian Influenza (bird flu) has made its way to our local area, following sadly deceased birds being found at the nearby Himley Hall and other areas across the borough. This is something that we have been dreading here for years.

It seems that for the past few years we have stated that it has been “the worst year ever” for bird flu, and now we are experiencing an even worse year, with (at the time of writing) 161 reported cases detected in poultry/captive birds, and 1,727 cases in the UK’s wild bird population, in 406 locations, involving 59 bird species. The virus seems to be persisting year-round now, spreading more easily among bird populations than before.

This is an immense worry to us, as if the disease reaches our sanctuary, this could lead to culls of our rescued birds. Something we simply cannot risk!

We are once again increasing our biosecurity measures to keep our bird residents safe; with new case alerts reaching us almost daily, and now the UK declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, we are asking for your cooperation in this. This vigilance will not only help to protect our animals, but your pet birds, and our much-loved wildlife as well.

Our team are using disinfectant foot dips to decrease the risk of the virus being carried in on footwear and we will ask that you also use one of our foot dips/mats to further help us during your visit as well.

Unfortunately, as we cannot ask dogs to dip their delicate paws in disinfectant, we will have to temporarily stop them from visiting the animals. We pride ourselves on being a 100% Dog-Friendly organisation and this is not a decision we have taken lightly, but we simply cannot risk the lives of our birds. Your dogs will still be very welcome to use our Dog Run as this is well away from our bird residents. We’re hoping to be able to welcome them back to the rest of the sanctuary as soon as we can.

We have started to pop together a dedicated page on our website with further information about what we are doing which we will update as things progress. If you have any questions that we haven’t covered, please do ask us and we will be happy to answer them!

We thank you for your continued support and cooperation at this worrying time.

For the latest up-to-date information about Bird Flu and what you need to do if you keep birds yourself, please see the Government website here:

Weekly findings of Avian Influenza in wild birds in Great Britain are published by the Government here:

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It is with the most enormous sadness that we must announce that our beloved Penny has fallen asleep and joined her friends across the Rainbow Bridge. She snuggled up cosy and warm in her stable, which you helped us to make nice and comfortable for her with your kind donations of spongy stable mats and deep straw bedding, fell asleep, and simply forgot to wake up – and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way for this beautiful girl. We are heartbroken but so happy that her end with us came so peacefully for her.

Penny was a tower of strength; she had needed special veterinary treatment and extra care from our animal care team throughout her life, but she simply got on with this and took everything in her stride – animals never fail to astound us with their resilience, strength, and bravery. She was always kind and gentle, never the bully. She was a mother and continued to care for her daughter and friends as any good mother would. Whatever your beliefs, we like to hope that Penny is now reunited with not only her friends who went on before her but her lovely daughter Tuppence, once again happy and healthy.

Penny and Tuppence joined us almost eight years ago from another sanctuary that had sadly fallen into hardship and was having trouble paying the very high bills that these animals can generate – they just wanted the very best for them, and we think we were able to give them that in their time with us. Penny was a very old lady, and it was simply her time.

Penny has been so loved by us all – our residents are more than just animals that we care for, they are family to us. Some of us spend more time with these wonderful animals than with our own families and have built up such special bonds with them over the years together. We know that many of you care for them deeply too and this means so much to us, and of course, to them too. Thank you for helping to make a difference in her life and thank you for always showing her kindness during your visits – animals are intelligent and feel, and she will have felt your kindness.

While we will miss Penny so very much, we will put all our love into the family she has left behind; Jim, Harper, Groot, Ollie, Brian, and Pettle. Lots of extra cuddles for these guys and a special helping of Penny’s favourite treat in her honour, her special porridge.

Sweet dreams beautiful Penny xxx

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