A Guide to the Best Feed for Rabbits
Be Sure Your Bunnies are Getting the Best Diet Possible with this Rabbit Food List
Although there are varying opinions about what comprises the best feed for rabbits, there are a few rules of thumb you should consider if you want to raise healthy, happy bunnies. A feed that provides the right nutrients is a good place to start.
In particular, the best feed for rabbits will include the right amounts of Vitamins A, D, E, and K. If your rabbit’s nutrient intake is off, they might become lethargic, or a normally inquisitive bunny might become disinterested in human company. If you raise meat rabbits, you might find they’re unwilling to breed.
Here’s some general rules so you know how to identify the best feed for rabbits, as well as some hints to save money.
As a general rule, rabbits should have a feed designed for specifically for them. The best feed for rabbits should have at least 15% protein, and be optimized to provide the right nutrients. You can find many options at feed stores, and if you go with any major brand, you can be confident your rabbits are getting the nutrients they need.
Depending on the size of your rabbits, you will want to feed them anywhere from 3 ounces to 8 ounces of feed each day. The University of Minnesota recommends providing 2-3 ounces per day for smaller breeds (such as dwarf rabbits), 3.5-4 ounces per day for medium size breeds, and 4-8 ounces per day for large breed rabbits. As a quick guide, a normal-size can of tuna will hold 5 ounces of commercial pellets for rabbits.
If you’re wondering what to feed meat rabbits, they should eat the same daily ration as pet or breeding rabbits.
Rabbits should have an unlimited quantity of good quality hay. Timothy and orchard grass are good options. When you buy hay, any reputable dealer will be able to tell you the type of grass is used to make their hay. Mixtures are a good option too, and some hay producers opt to grow more than one type of grass to ensure an adequate harvest.
Alfalfa is also a good option for adult rabbits, although it’s high in protein and can be very rich. If you have young rabbits, alfalfa also has the reputation of causing cause gastric upset, so you might consider avoiding it for kits.
To provide high-quality hay, I recommend purchasing square bales because they’re easier to store and you will save money. In most areas of the country, you can purchase 40-pound bales for $3-$8, while a 10-pound bag of rabbit hay at a large store might cost you the same. Buy from a reputable dealer, and make sure the bales were stored inside and out of the rain so they’re free of mold.
I do not recommend buying square bales of hay from a commercial feed store. In my experience, you can buy fresher hay with a higher amount of nutrients straight from a hay dealer, and usually pay much less. The exception to this is southern Florida, where the best hay you’ll find is at a reputable feed store. In other areas of the country, especially in northern states and Mid-Atlantic in my experience, the hay at feed stores is the worst of the year’s crop, and might even be from previous years. You will also pay a premium.
Unless you have a lot of rabbits and know you will go through it quickly, avoid round bales. Unless you’ve moved it to your property as soon as it was baled, there’s a chance it’s been sitting in the rain, and might be moldy. They’re also difficult to transport without a tractor.
Rabbits should have hay continuously. If they lack enough fiber, they can get diarrhea, or become disinterested in eating altogether. Rabbits, as you probably know, also have a tendency to chew, and if they don’t get enough fiber through hay, they might chew more than they would otherwise.
Other Feed for Rabbits
Rabbits should have a fair amount of fresh produce every day. Lettuce, carrots, apples, and cabbage are popular options with my rabbits, and they’re some of the best feed for bunnies in addition to a commercial ration. If you’re wondering, “What fruits can rabbits eat?,” some owners like to give their bunnies bananas, and apples are a good option. I like to buy a head of cabbage and cut it into equal portions so each of my rabbits has a piece, along with some apple which helps satisfy their desire to chew.
I also like to provide sunflower seeds for my bunnies. Earlier this year, we were having a hard time getting some of our meat rabbits to mate, and after some research, I found out it might have been caused by a vitamin deficiency.
I read that feeding sunflower seeds could eliminate this deficiency, and it certainly did! Although I didn’t believe it would work, we have not had a problem with our rabbits mating since, and now they get sunflower seeds mixed into their daily ration. And they love them! However, sunflower seeds should be used as a supplement, and not as a main feed for your rabbits.
What herbs can rabbits eat? There are plenty, but cilantro is a favorite with my bunnies.
The best feed for rabbits starts with an optimized daily ration that meets their nutrient and mineral requirements as well as good quality hay. Using these simple rules, you will be able to raise happy, healthy rabbits.
For more information about raising rabbits, you can grab my checklist at TheFrugalChicken.com/RabbitChecklist.
Do your rabbits have a favorite food or treat?