What to feed a rabbit is one of the hardest things to get an opinion on.
You ask one person and they swear by one brand of feed. You ask another person about the brand and they will tell you that you are a horrible rabbit owner if you use that brand. It can be a scary thing to ask questions when people are so opinionated.
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Before we go any deeper let me tell you that this a judgment-free zone with rabbits. Everyone starts somewhere. My favorite saying in this area is “you don’t know what you don’t know.”
Ok ready to get into what to feed your rabbits?
What To Feed A Rabbit Is A Learning Process
I have had at least one rabbit for 20+years and my own rabbitry (herd of rabbits) for 17 years. Like anything, I think you learn by doing. There are things I have learned that I have not found in any books that I will share with you along with the facts that everyone wants to know.
First, before we get into the feed. I want you to keep in mind that you need to do what is working for you. If your animals are healthy then ignore what other people are saying about the feed. I have changed feed brands more than once for different reasons.
The most recent time I was feeding a highly respected brand in the show world but my entire herd was eating only half the amount they should…. not good.
So the key is to be in tune with your animals and be able to pick up on it when something is wrong.
I asked a trusted friend who also raises the same breed and he used a brand that most people talked trash about but I had used this feed before and knew I could get it.
So I switched and like magic, the rabbits were back to full feed and are better than ever. There was nothing visibly wrong with the feed but there was something not right.
That’s the reason I beat the dead horse telling people to do what is working for THEIR animals. There are so many nuances that I will touch on later that can affect what you feed or why your animals stop eating.
Its just as important to know your rabbits eating habits as well as what you feed them.
Rabbits are funny creatures and their health closely linked to their diet. The first sign of a health issue in a rabbit is it will stop eating. Which is one of the key reasons I recommend feeding each rabbit separately rather than having one bowl for all of your rabbits if they live together.
If you raise rabbits for show or commercial use then most likely they are separate anyway. If you raise them is a colony or as house pets, this becomes more difficult. Regardless do your best and try to feed separately if you can or find a way to watch the rabbit at feeding time to see how they react when you bring them their food.
A very common mistake in rabbit raising is over-feeding causing feed waste. Like I said rabbits are funny animals and if their pelleted food gets any moisture in it even from humidity they most likely will not eat the leftover food. Only feed what the animal will clean up from one feeding to the next. If there is a large amount of feed leftover from the day before, reduce the amount you give them the following day.
Also, look under the caging area to see if they are not spilling the feed. If you have ornery bunnies they love to be stinkers sometimes and throw their bowls around. If there is no new feed under the cage then you know the bowl was empty.
Something like this bowl below is perfect if you have a stubborn rabbit who won’t quit dumping their food.
French lops are very strong and it takes a lot to keep a bowl from being thrown around. One thing to try is to give them one “thing” of some kind that they can throw around to their heart’s content and see if that stops them.
If they are really bad about it threw their bowl with feed in it. I let them skip a meal and this usually stops the problem real fast. Kind of like sending a kid to bed without their supper. It makes them think twice before doing it again.
I will caution you to be VERY careful about which toys you give to your rabbits. They get abscesses VERY easily and you do not want to give them something that causes them to poke their mouth even a little bit. Make sure whatever you give them won’t get shards of the material if the rabbit chews on it.
Don’t want to forget this information? Save it to your favorite Pinterest board with the image below so you can find it later.
Commercial Rabbit Pellets
Pellets are the best and easiest and most consistent way to feed your herd. They can vary in quality as well as price. The big factor to which feed to get for your rabbits is what the feed dealers around you have. Seems like a “duh” statement but if you can get something close to home there is no reason to try it.
Be warned of buying pelleted food at a pet shop or grocery store in small 5 to 10-pound bags. Especially if it contains colorful “treat pieces.” You will be paying as much as 5X more per pound for this feed than if you buy at from a farm or feed supply store by the 25lb or 50lb bag.
Even if you only have one or two rabbits I still recommend looking into a feed store because they have far more reasonable prices then pet stores. If you keep the feed in a dry place it won’t go bad for a very long time.
So before stressing too much about which feed is right for you go to places like Tractor Supply or Rural King. I am sure there are other feed supply stores around if you google them.
Here is a link to the feed I am currently feeding at Tractor supply.
Pelleted rabbit rations will provide all the nutrients your rabbit needs. Those pretty packaged treats, vitamin blocks, hay bags, and other tempting options down the pet aisle were put there for you my friend. Not for your rabbits. If you are feeding a good feed from a commercial dealer they have the full nutrient needed for your rabbits.
Rabbit Feed Guaranteed Analysis
A rabbit’s feed should contain 14-16% protein. For show feeds you will often find higher numbers in protein (no more than 18%) and sometimes fiber as well as a few other ingredients. This goes back to do what works for you. If your rabbit is not going on the show table then there is no need for more complex feeding.
The feed should also approximately 4% fat, and at least 18% fiber. Pregnant and nursing females can use a slightly higher protein content, but an 18%+ protein content is too rich for many small rabbits.
Any good pet food should have a G.A. label stating what is in the feed.
- Crude Protein, Min. ……………………………………………………………………. 16.0%
- Crude Fat, Min. ………………………………………………………………………………. 3.0%
- Crude Fiber, Min. …………………………………………. 17.0% | Max…………. 21.0%
- Calcium (Ca), Min………………………………………………….. 0.9% | Max. …. 1.4%
- Phosphorus (P), Min. …………………………………………………………………….. 0.4%
- Salt (NaCl), Min………………………………………………………….. 0.2% Max…. 0.7%
- Vitamin A, Min …………………………………………………………………….. 2,300 IU/lb
You should also watch out for “least cost formulas” which do not have a fixed list of ingredients. By this, it means they buy whatever is cheapest at the time. All animal feed ingredients lists are in order of the highest amount in the feed to the least. The feed I am using as an example below shows that Dehydrated Alfalfa meal is the main ingredient in this feed.
Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Wheat Middlings, Soybean Hulls, Cane Molasses, Calcium Carbonate, Dehulled Soybean Meal, Brewers Dried Yeast (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae), Dried Yeast Fermentation Solubles, Lignin Sulfonate, Vegetable Oil, Salt, Zinc Oxide, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Polysaccharide Complex, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Polysaccharide Complex, Copper Polysaccharide Complex, Sodium Selenite, Iron Polysaccharide Complex, Vitamin A Supplement, Mineral Oil, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Magnesium Polysaccharide Complex, Calcium Iodate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Cobalt Carbonate, Folic Acid, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product Dehydrated, Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product Dehydrated, Bifido Bacterium Thermophilum Fermentation Product Dehydrated, Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product Dehydrated, Propionic Acid (A Preservative), Yucca Shidigera Extract, L-Lysine.
Safe Treats You Can Feed Your Rabbits
The saying “everything in moderation” is true for rabbits as well. The first reason for that is rabbits have very sensitive digestion systems and changes in their diet can c
Rabbits are also stubborn critters when they want something. Like humans, they can not live off of candy. If they get a taste for a particular food that they will only get small amounts of they can essentially get addicted to it only eat the treat and not their own food.
This is why I am very careful when using supplements (or treats) intended for better flesh conditions or fur because often there is a sweet flavor to them.
I had a rabbit that decided she only wanted to eat the supplement and it took almost two weeks of barely eating anything before she caved and started eating pellets again. She lost A LOT of wights but she would not survive only eating the supplement. Needless to say, we were done with the fun stuff.
Below is a list of common foods you can find in the produce section at the grocery store. I will say this in the “foods to avoid” section but the main thing I want you to keep in mind is to avoid veggies with high amounts of water or that seem to cause gas. IE cabbage and broccoli. Gas builds up in the rabbits intestine and can cause bloat. You may not catch it until it is too late.
- Apples (best to remove seeds),
- Banana Peels (or the whole thing but I eat the banana and they get the peel)
- Blackberries (any part of the plant)
- Raw beets
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Strawberries (or the tops if you eat them and don’t what to waste the tops)
- Alfalfa Sprouts
- Beet greens
- Bell peppers
- Swiss chard
Food To Void
If you intend to feed your rabbits hay. Be sure it is not dusty or has mold which can cause some serious upper respiratory infections. I wrote a whole blog post on why I DO NOT feed hay. Yep, you read that right. I don’t feed hay to my rabbits and they is the one thing I do not plan to change. You can find out why here.
- Celery ( the strings can cause your rabbit to choke).
- Collard greens can cause bladder sludge
- Eggplant leaves and stem
- Lettuce – It is best to avoid foods with high amounts of water which can cause diarrhea in rabbits.
The best thing to do if you are not sure about food is don’t feed it to your rabbit. Simple as that. Treats can lead to behavior issues that are hard to fix anyway.
In wrapping up, just remember that if you are feeding something to your rabbits and it is working for you. Then don’t stress over it if you find someone who says not to.