O'Hare's Rabbitry recommends and feed our rabbits a diet consisting of 80% Hay (Timothy for all rabbits, Alfalfa and Timothy for young rabbits and pregnant or nursing Doe's) 10% Fresh Vegetables, 5% Pellets and 5% treats. The pyramid shown explains what is considered treats.
After trying several types of pellets, we have found Blue Seal Show Hutch Deluxe 17 to be the best choice. Our Rabbits have an unlimited supply of hay and are fed pellets in the morning and evening with a veggie mix snack in between. We mix a pinch of rolled oats and a few black oil sunflower seeds to their pellets daily.
Do Not Feed: Yogurt Drops, popcorn, bread, crackers, nuts, seeds, or dried fruit with added sugar.
Most healthy, adult companion rabbits benefit from cutting back on high calorie foods. Offer restricted (measured), low-calorie pellets. Substitute veggies for sugary treats. Increase hay intake and varieties of hays offered. Rabbits are designed to ingest large amounts of high fibers foods, such as hays.
Nutrient requirements change over the life cycle. Pregnancy, lactation, extreme weight loss, old age, illness, or obesity all change nutritional needs. Nutrient need varies with body size. Specific breeds such as Angoras (and other long haired breeds), Rexes, and Giant breeds all have distinct nutrient needs.
Picking plants in the wild, and bringing them home for your rabbit to eat, can be a wonderful thing. It’s fun and rewarding for you, and makes a varied and wonderful addition to your rabbit’s diet. However, there are some plants that can be harmful, and even fatal if consumed. This list includes plants that are toxic in one way or another. Just because a plant is not listed here does not mean it can’t be toxic. Please don’t feed your rabbit plants you are not absolutely sure are safe. Don’t trust your rabbit to decide for itself which plants are harmful. In this list, plants marked in red are considered highly toxic and may be fatal. Other plants can be mildly toxic and may cause local irritations of the skin and mucus membranes, or affect the digestive tract or nervous system. The list also includes a few common garden and indoor plants.
TRANSITIONING YOUR RABBITS FOOD
Actually, introducing a new diet to your pet can lead to gastrointestinal upset or cause unintentional stress so the process of switching should be slow.
Species such as rabbits have a very delicate digestive system that relies on a consistent diet. Rabbits are herbivores (plant eaters) that have an extensive microbe population in their ceca. Ceca are small pouches found at the beginning of their large intestines that contain bacteria that help digest high-fiber ingredients, such as alfalfa or timothy hay. This delicate ecosystem of microbes must be “fed” appropriately to ensure a healthy gut. Changing rabbit food immediately, or providing too many treats at one time, can cause a disruption to this ecosystem and lead to gastrointestinal upset.
You should take 7 to 10 days to switch your animal to a new diet. Follow the guidelines below to help slowly transition your pet onto its new feed. Remember to monitor the weight, behavior, and appearance of your animal throughout the process. If your pet backs off or stops eating completely, go back a step and allow it more time to adjust to the new diet.
Each animal is different; the recommendations below are just a guide.
Day 1: 100% old diet
Day 2: 90% old diet / 10% New Diet
Day 3: 80% old diet / 20% New Diet
Day 4: 70% old diet / 30% New Diet
Day 5: 60% old diet / 40% New Diet
Day 6: 50% old diet/ 50% New Diet
Day 7: 40% old diet / 60% New Diet
Day 8: 30% old diet / 70% New Diet
Day 9: 20% old diet / 80% New Diet
Day 10: 10% old diet / 90% New Diet
Day 11: 100% New Diet
Rabbits are monogastric (they have a single stomach) and herbivorous (they eat plants). They need to receive nutrients in specific amounts to grow and perform at their best. Some examples of important nutrients you should provide for your rabbit include proteins, carbohydrates, lipids (or fats), minerals and vitamins. In the wild, rabbits eat a variety of grains, greens, roots and roughages to obtain the nutrients they need. Most domestic rabbits are given a pelleted feed that provides essential nutrients. Rabbit pellets consist mostly of ingredients from plants, primarily alfalfa meal and wheat middlings. Easy to feed and store, pelleted rabbit feeds are available from many companies and at most local feed stores. Feed is an important aspect of raising rabbits because it accounts for about 75 percent of your production costs.
Some rabbit raisers prefer to formulate, or mix, their own rabbit ration at the local grain elevator. The following feedstuffs are commonly used in rations for rabbits:
Rations for dry does, herd bucks and growing young should contain:
Rations for pregnant and nursing does should contain:
Although protein is an expensive part of the ration, rabbits can be fed higher levels of protein than those required for the type or stage of the rabbit if the ration is adequate in other nutrients. Therefore, it can be easier to use a single ration for all stages of rabbit production.
When you formulate a ration or diet for your rabbits, you must know about their nutritional needs. Also, if you want a rabbit ration that is economical, you need to know the composition, cost and availability of feeds
Two types of feeding methods, limited feeding and free-choice feeding, are typically used when feeding rabbits. Limited feeding involves placing a measured amount of feed (slightly less than the animals would normally consume) in a dish or crock for the rabbits each day. Free-choice feeding allows unlimited feed to be available to the animals at all times. Crocks or feed dishes can be used for free-choice feeding but may result in quite a bit of wasted or contaminated feed. Using a hopper or self-feeder reduces the amount of wasted feed in free-choice feeding.
Keep rabbit feed in a dry place. Do not store feedstuffs for long periods. Over time, the nutritional quality will deteriorate and will be less beneficial to your rabbits. Keep the feed free of any type of contamination, especially from rodents. Keep feed ingredients and open bags of pellets in sealed containers at all times.
The amount of feed required by a rabbit will depend on many factors. Things to be considered are:
Rabbits generally eat more at night than during the day. Weanling meat-type rabbits will eat about 4 to 6 ounces of food per day, depending on their size. As a general rule, a New Zealand doe and her litter will eat about 100 pounds of feed from breeding to weaning. Commercial meat-type weanling rabbits that eat a good balanced ration should achieve a feed conversion ratio of about 3:1 (3 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of weight gain). An unbalanced ration or too much wasted feed can harm this important part of rabbit production.
Water is the most important nutrient for rabbits. Be sure to provide your rabbits with clean, fresh water at all times. The amount of water a rabbit requires depends on its feed intake, feed composition and the temperature of its environment. When it’s hot out, rabbits will drink large amounts of water quickly. For example, a medium-sized doe and her 8-week old litter can drink a gallon of water a day. When the temperature is below freezing, you will need to check your rabbits’ water two or three times a day to make sure that they have access to unfrozen water at all times.
Dr. Susan Smith, Ph.D., Professor of Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dr. Micah Kohles, DVM, MPA, Oxbow Animal Health
Dr. Peter G. Fisher, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Exotic Companion Mammal), Pet Care Veterinary Hospital