Why Do Rabbits Need Pellets To Be Healthy

The answer to your question” do rabbits need pellets is just a scroll away. But I need you to understand the reason behind the answer ok? It’s really important that you grasp this for yourself and don’t just take my word for it.

Here is what I need you to understand. It’s not an argument of WHAT the rabbit is eating but the NUTRITIONAL VALUE of what the rabbit is eating. It doesn’t matter the form the rabbit’s food comes in.

There is a HUGE pile of misinformation out there saying that rabbits don’t need to eat rabbit pellets. So people assume that rabbits can eat fruits, vegetables, and hay and are good to go.

do rabbits need pellets intro image

I get tons of questions in my DMs of people struggling with some issue and it turns out their pet rabbit starving because they are not getting the nutrition they need, not at the fault of the person but because people give clear answers.

Adult rabbits need protein and fiber to sustain life, young rabbits need both to grow strong and not have health problems.

As you will find out in a second the protein level of vegetables is slim to nothing. And the hay that you are sold in stores does not come even close to the protein levels that your rabbit needs to survive.

Do Rabbits Need Pellets?


Rabbits need pellets to grow strong and healthy. They need pellets to get high levels of protein that is almost impossible for you to know if they are getting a TRULY balanced diet.

The only way I would say you could get away with not feeding pellets is if you are getting enough protein and fiber and that DOES NOT come from vegetables. It is cheaper to feed rabbits pellets and the best way to guarantee they are getting what they need.

two small piles of rabbit pellts

Hay and Leafy Greens Are Not High Enough Protein

If you push all of these things like alfalfa hay, oat hay, timothy hay, and fresh goods like carrot tops or other fresh vegetables before they eat their commercial pellets your rabbits are essentially starving.

You can’t survive on vegetables and lettuce and nighter can your rabbits. Even herbivores need protein.

The average hay protein percentage is 12% and a lot of what is sold in stores is LESS THAN 10%!!! your rabbits need 16-18% protein in their diet. That is NOT a good ratio.

When you are only giving them the lower protein first they fill up on the lower amounts and have no room to eat enough protein from the alfalfa-based pellets.

truck bed full of rabbit pellets

Think about what happens when people have an eating disorder. They go for the vegetables because it is the lowest fat things. What happens? Their body slowly loses strength and size because they are not getting the nuisance they need.

This is what is happening if you push other foods before the pellets.

Protein Levels Of The Most Common Vegetables

While not all of these are recommended to feed to your rabbits I want you to see how low the protein is in some of these foods.

Here’s a list of 25 popular vegetables and their approximate protein levels per 100 grams (3.5 Ounces):

  1. Spinach: 2.9 g
  2. Broccoli: 2.8 g
  3. Brussels sprouts: 3.4 g
  4. Kale: 3.3 g
  5. Peas: 5.4 g
  6. Asparagus: 2.4 g
  7. Artichokes: 3.3 g
  8. Carrots: 0.9 g
  9. Celery: 0.8 g
  10. Cucumber: 0.7 g
  11. Eggplant: 0.8 g
  12. Green beans: 1.8 g
  13. green peppers: 0.9 g
  14. Sweet potatoes: 1.6 g
  15. Tomatoes: 0.9 g
  16. Zucchini: 1.2 g
  17. Collard greens: 3 g
  18. Mustard greens: 2.9 g
  19. Parsnips: 1.2 g
  20. Pumpkin: 1 g
  21. Rutabaga: 1 g
  22. Snow peas: 2.8 g
  23. Swiss chard: 1.8 g
  24. Turnip greens: 2.7 g
  25. Sprouts (bean, alfalfa, etc.): 4 g

Are You Able To Stay Focused On Your Rabbit’s Diet

We are in a world that is so busy we can barely feed ourselves right. Let alone choosing a way to feed your rabbit that is more work hand harder to predict the percentages of the nutrition they are eating.

So my question to you is why would you choose the path that is harder AND more expensive?

How To Feed Your Rabbit Pellets

Personally, I am pro “feed your rabbit pellets only” for their daily feeding. They do not need anything else. I PROMISE YOU! I have been raising rabbits for over 20 years and this is the best way to go. I have seen it work.

How much pellets to feed your rabbit?

The best rule of thumb is to feed your rabbits the amount that they will clean up in 24hrs and they are ready and waiting for you to feed the next day. Happy to see you have food but not starving either.

rabbits that are ready to eat

Here is why I don’t say feed unlimited pellets and keep it full. When rabbits get sick their first indicator is they stop eating or eat less. You won’t know if they are feeling bad if you are constantly keeping their feeder full.

To make this work well you need to choose a time of day that you can feed them on a consistent basis. Sure there will be days when life happens and you have to feed a bit later or earlier but 95% of the time you feed at 6 pm every night. Or 6 am every morning.

Here is an idea of how much to feed your rabbit based on pounds of body weight.

  • Rabbits under 6 pounds – 1/4-1/2 Cup of pellets
  • Rabbits 6-9 pounds – 1/2-3/4 Cup of pellets
  • Rabbits 10 pounds and UP – 1 cup to 1.5 cups of pellets. (this is the bracket my french lops fall into)

Here is the important thing to remember. Some rabbits have a higher metabolism than others. You may have a more energetic breed that burns more energy. My french lops are a super lazy breed and while they do eat a lot I watch some peoples rabbits when they are out of town and they eat just as much as my french lops do but are a smaller breed.

I also have the occasional french lop that eats less than the rest but is not losing weight. She just eats less. Her teeth are fine and she never has soft stools.

If you want to learn how to feed baby rabbits make sure to read this post on feeding baby rabbits from 0-8 weeks old.

Rabbit eating pellets

Nutritional Requirements Of Rabbits

Here is the “guaranteed Analysis” or nutritional value you need to be looking for in your rabbit pellets.

  • Crude Protein – min 16%
  • Crude Fat – Min 3%
  • Crude Fiber Min 20% Max 25%

These are THE MOST important part of a rabbit diet. If the pellets you are looking at do not meet these levels you need to move on to a different brand. You should also look for alfalfa pellets for the first ingredient, not timothy-based pellets because alfalfa is the highest in protein.

Most times the lower protein feeds are sold in pet stores or in the pet section intended for the “house pet” and come in 10-pound bags of feed or less. This burns a fire inside me because they are feeding your rabbits poorly for a reason.

Go to the livestock section at a farm store and find brands like Purina, Mana Pro, Blue Seal, Nature Wise or something that comes in larger quantities like a 25-50 pound bag.

This will save you money but the protein levels will be much higher. Even if you have one small rabbit the pellets will stay good if you keep it in a dry place and out of the sun.

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How To Feed Other Fresh Foods

Other foods like orchard grass, fresh greens, and other healthy treats should be treated as that, the occasional treat. They should be given in small quantities and so unpredictable that the rabbit can’t tell when they are going to get them.

Rabbits can easily get a sweet tooth and decide to go on strike and refuse to eat anything else except that one thing they really want. I have had this happen and the doe refused to eat anything but the supplement she wanted for almost two weeks. She got so skinny that she finally gave in.

This is why I have such a selective feeding routine with my rabbits not getting anything else besides what is good for them. Here is the other thing you need to keep in mind. If they don’t get a taste of something different they don’t know what they are missing.

rabbit feed bags

Of course, this goes without saying rabbits should always have fresh water either in a water bottle or in heavy water bowls if you have a large breed rabbit that needs more than those bottles hold. If you are having health issues or your rabbit is struggling to raise a litter of babies look into what they are eating.

While fresh hay and vegetables sound good on the surface they are just like humans eating breakfast cereals every single morning. They are not filled with the right nutrition to go throughout the day.

If you want to feed hay make sure it is high-quality grass hay above 15% protein level. Remember it’s the nutrition level that equals a proper diet not a variety of vegetables and getting enough hay.

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