A Novel Delivery Device for Rabbit Hay

Problem: To find an efficient way to deliver hay to rabbits that eliminates waste and prevents contamination.

Leslie Sheppard Bird, CVT, RLATg
Elizabeth Dodemaide, BVSc, MACVSc
David C. Reimer, DVM

Kudos to the creative team in Laboratory Animal Services at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, for finding an efficient way to deliver hay to rabbits that eliminates waste and prevents contamination.

Liz Dodemaide describes the way it happened:
“We feed rabbits hay, partly as a source of roughage and also for enrichment. We were wasting a lot because the rabbits would push it around to get at their food pellets. Hay would fall through the floor grids or would get contaminated by urine and feces. We needed an inexpensive, sanitary, sturdy container that would provide the rabbits easy access to the hay.”

It was Dave Reimer who suggested trying a balloon whisk, hinting at kitchen experience unknown to his colleagues in the lab. Liz, a cook with international credentials, searched online cooking sites for stainless steel whisks with the desired flexibility. She had immediately ruled out whisks made of plastic or silicone, explaining, “They are soft and lovely but are easily destroyed by the rabbits.” Her search resulted in pricey products well beyond the reach of an academic research program. Never one to waste time, Liz found the perfect lab whisk while doing a family shop over the weekend. She purchased a $7 whisk, which she handed over to Leslie Sheppard Bird for testing. After careful study, Leslie figured out the best method for securing the experimental hay container to the cage and collected enough data to satisfy any concerns about the whisk or its new function.

The only unintended consequence has been Leslie’s increased demand as a presenter. She is on the road and in demand, having accompanied the team’s award-winning poster to regional and national meetings. She has also been a featured speaker at an AALAS branch meeting where she described the creative process of developing the device as well as the poster.The poster can be found in The Enrichment Record Poster Repository:

Volume 11, April 2012