I have been raising rabbits for over 20 years and I am starting to hear people come to me asking how much I feed my rabbits because their rabbit is acting like it is starving on the recommendations the veterinarian fave them.
I am going to give you a heads-up before we get started that I have a different opinion than mainstream media as to what you should feed your adult rabbits and why. I will give you reasons for each and every one of my answers so be patent and read through each one. So just listen to my reasons before you decide to dismiss everything I say.
Everyone has different ways of doing things and that’s fine. But when the people giving advice are not the people who are in the trenches raising the animal and they are simply repeating what they have been told in school that is when there is a problem.
This post will give you my thoughts on how often to feed and what to feed your rabbit so they are healthy and strong.
How many times a day should I feed my rabbit?
The short answer to this one is one time per day. You should also do your best to feed your rabbit at about the same time every day as well. Because if you feed them at noon one day and you go out to feed them at 10 the next day they are not going to have eaten the same amount. an hour or two does make a difference.
Here is why. Your first clue to your pet rabbit not feeling well is they tend to stop eating. So when you feed your rabbit and notice that they have eaten about less than is normal make a mental note of it and if the same thing happens the next day you should look them over and see if you can find anything visibly wrong with them.
If you can’t find anything wrong with them think about what has happened around you. Has there been a sudden change, is there something different about the atmosphere? An example of this is a few years back there were some fires north of use that I didn’t even know about but the remnants of the fire were blowing down to us and it was just enough to set my rabbits on edge. One had been too far gone to save before the fires were finally put out. Animals are very sensory-oriented and it can be little things that will set them off feed.
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What To Do About Water
Your rabbits should have unlimited access to fresh water at all times. I feed my rabbits from a water bowl but you can also use a water bottle for rabbits. I have chosen to not use the bottles because they tend to leak and in the winter they are not easy to thaw out and add clean water too on a daily basis.
These are my favorite water bowls for my rabbits. They are heavy enough that they can’t throw them around when they are full.
If you have a rabbit that is over 10 pounds one water bottle just doesn’t hold enough water, especially in the summer so these large bowls are great.
How Often Should You Feed Young Rabbits
The answer is still the same. If they are on solid food and not with their mother then you should feed them once a day. I HIGHLY encourage you to not introduce new foods until they are 3-4 months old. Keep growing rabbits on healthy foods and rarely give them treats until they have learned to eat well on pellets. You don’t want them to learn to like special treats and have a hard time getting them to eat more of what is good for them.
If you get your rabbit at 8 weeks old they should be eating the same amount as an adult by the time they are 4-5 months old. Rabbits speed up their food consumption pretty quickly.
What If Your Rabbit Is Acting Like He Is Starving
If your rabbit is acting like you are not putting the pellets in the feeder fast enough then you can up the amount you give them by 1/4th the usual amount and see if that makes them happy. I have 10-12 french lop rabbits at any given time and they all eat slightly differently. I have a very large 15-pound doe who eats 50% more than the rest. And her daughter is the same way. But they are not overweight and they just need more than the rest.
But if I was following the “recommended guidelines” by people who are not in the trenches raising rabbits or simply following my observations they would be very hungry girls and underweight.
What Should You Feed Your Rabbit
Here is where I have pretty big differences from other people. In my 20+ years of raising rabbits, these methods have given me the best results. On top of that, I have NO ISSUES with the main reasons people don’t like my methods. Which I will share with you.
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First Up, No Hay And Feed Mainly Commercial Pellets
I think your rabbit’s diet should be commercial rabbit pellets and very few extras. I don’t feed my rabbits hay of any kind. If they get fresh vegetables it is for the occasional treat only.
Commercial rabbit pellets are formulated to be a complete ration (a balanced diet) and when you add the extra things like alfalfa hay and other fresh foods you are diminishing the amount of total nutrients they ingest each day.
Always get your rabbit food from a farm supply store not those small bags of feed from pet shops and here is why. A rabbit needs 16-18 percent protein and those bags are often 10-12 percent protein. That is far too low.
A rabbit only has so much room and if you give them large amounts of fresh hay like grass hay, timothy hay, oat hay, and alfalfa meal the amount of protein in all of those are not enough to sustain your rabbit and IT WILL NOT GROW TO BE THE SIZE IT SHOULD BE. Hold your keyboard worrier fingers for a second and listen to my reasons before you click away or write an email telling me how bad I am.
For rabbits that are 10 pounds, I see things like you should give them small amounts (like a few tablespoons of pellets) and let them feed on mostly hay and veggies. It should be the reverse.
My 12+ pound rabbits eat about 1.5 cups of pellets a day and this does vary based on the time of year and the rabbit. So you have to learn your animal. But if they are not gaining or losing weight and they look like they are ready to eat but not starving when you come to feed them every day then it’s a safe bet you have found the right amount.
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How Much Should You Feed Your Rabbit If You Are Going To Feed Only Pellets
- If your rabbit is 6 pounds or under then one-quarter cup of pellets should do the trick.
- If they are 7-10 pounds then 3/4 – 1 cup would be a good range to see how well they eat it.
- if they are 11+ pounds then start with 1-1.5 cups and see how they respond to the amount and adjust accordingly.
Why No Hay?
A rabbit’s digestive tract is extremely touchy and when they go down they go down hard and fast. Early in my rabbit-raising career, I would constantly hear people say ” I nearly lost my whole herd to bloat” and the common denominator was hay between them all. So more than a decade ago I decided to not use hay and I have never looked back.
After doing some research I found that there is microscopic mold that can be in hay that has drawn damp even if the hay looks fine it can be there. It doesn’t have to be outside and get rained on to become damp. Grasses can draw damp from the air inside your house even on a hot summer day. You can read more about it in this post.
Hand on God’s bible I have never lost a rabbit to bloat. So if you have had issues with losing rabbits suddenly then maybe consider the way you do things.
This Is Not An Issues For Keeping Teeth Short
Now let me bust the whole “they need it for teeth grinding” myth. Pellets are way stronger than hay. The chewing motion is what causes rabbits to grind their back teeth. You don’t need hay to keep a rabbit’s teeth short. There are plenty of other foods that you can use if they are having an issue.
When Should You Feed Your Rabbit A Healthy Treat
If you are going to give your rabbit treats give them in very small quantities and make it very unpredictable. You should never give treats more than once a week and never at the same time in your routine either especially if you have a house rabbit. You want to make it a special treat, not something they get often.
Here is why I am so fussy about this. Rabbits can get fixated on that one special thing that they will one get very pushy for you to give them that one thing. BUT even worse than that.
My own personal experience has been pretty rough. I had a doe that would only eat this one supplement that I was testing out and she was only supposed to get 1 tablespoon. She wouldn’t eat anything else. She went for two weeks early eating and got to skin and bones before she caved and started eating real food again. NOTHING would cause her to budge. It didn’t matter what I offered her.
This is not unheard of for rabbits to do. I have had several people who have gotten rabbits from me as well as other people I meet at shows. say their rabbit has gotten stuck on a certain food as well. So you have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the risk of being a sucker and having your rabbit only be willing to eat the “candy” instead of their healthy foods.
Or are you going to be responsible and keep them eating their healthy daily diet?
What Fresh Veggies Are Safe
Start with the things that do not have a high sugar content. Again remember we are trying to not get them hung up on the foods that are not completely nutritional value for them.
Do not give anything that can cause gas like beans, broccoli, or cabbage. This is very dangerous for rabbits and their sensitive digestive systems can not handle the gas.
Also, I do not give rabbits any kind of vegetables with high water content. Like cucumbers, watermelon, iceberg lettuce, and even some leafy green vegetables It can cause soft stool.
Here is a full list of the things that I will give my rabbits if they are on hand.
- Carrots or carrot tops.
- Bok Choy
- Apples with no seeds.
- Banana peels
- Strawberry Tops
- Pumpkin (fresh from the garden not pureed)
- Hay can be used as a treat if you keep it in a very dry place and make sure it says dry.
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DO NOT Let Your Rabbit Run In Your Yard For Fresh Grass
I see so many people make this mistake and it can be a deadly one.
First, the chemicals that could be on your grass will cause digestive problems but more than that there is a hemorrhagic disease or RHDV2. It is a deadly disease and there is no cure for it. You never know when wild rabbits walked across your yard when you weren’t looking and later your rabbit comes in contact with the strain left by a wild rabbit. It’s not worth the risk in my opinion.
When it comes to feeding your rabbit use logic. If he seems to need more then feed him. Especially in younger rabbits, they are growing and if they do not get enough to eat that will affect what size they grow to be.
Watch your rabbit closely and if you see a change then see if you can come up with an answer as to why that happened. You’ve got this.