Melissa Staines – rabbits, Carterton

Melissa Staines began breeding rabbits as a teenager living in England and, since moving to New Zealand, it’s an interest she’s rekindled to enjoy with her own children.

“When I had our first daughter nearly eight years ago I decided because I was at home that we would get some rabbits for her and myself, as pets.”

But it wasn’t long before Melissa was back breeding, and she says rabbits make great pets, for any age group. “I used to breed guinea pigs in England as well, but rabbits are much more sociable. You can have a rabbit on a harness and go for walks if you want to.”

She breeds Mini Lop rabbits as they are calmer than up-eared rabbits – and cute to boot. “The Mini Lop is like the Labrador of the rabbit world, and they just look so cute, plus they are easy to get hold of.”

Numbers did reach 13, but when she had her second child Melissa scaled it back and now has five rabbits. She generally breeds her rabbits three time a year per female, and tries to avoid the hot season, as rabbits don’t do well in the heat.

Melissa sells her rabbits on Trade Me and says, prior to Covid, rabbits were quickly snapped up as pets. She has noticed things have slowed down since the Covid outbreak.

All her rabbits are fed the Sharpes rabbit pellet, which she has been using for about five and a half years. Diet is important and owners need to be careful, as rabbits can easily become obese.

“Sharpes pellets only contain the raw products that a rabbit requires nutritionally, and are good for the rabbit’s health.

“A lot of pet shop or supermarket brands are high in sugar. They say feeding shop bought pellets can be like feeding your rabbit a beef burger from McDonalds every day! Even apples and carrots should be fed only as a treat, as they are high in sugar.”

Melissa and her family have a close connection with Sharpes, as they used to live across the road from the Sharpes factory. “Sharpes are local and it’s nice to support local businesses, and I know the family and a lot of the staff. One of the guys who works there even got a rabbit from me.”