Being a seasoned bunny owner, I can forget to tell folks how to (and how not to) feed their rabbits. Here are some answers to common questions we get about rabbit diet, nutrition, and affordable feed choices.
How much does a rabbit eat?
First of all, what temperature will it be where they are housed? If it’s cold they will need more food to stay warm. The breed, size and age of your rabbit will change the amount of feed they need as well. Lactating does are ravenous—while juvenile dwarf and mini breeds could eat out of a thimble. For pet owners, give your rabbits free choice of hay at all times and feed them pellets in a dish. To figure out the amount they usually eat simply use a measuring cup to scoop out the feed. If they eat 1/4 of a cup in a sitting they will need more, so try 1/3 cup for the next feeding. Feedings in this fashion are done twice daily. Alternatively, it can be weighed for more a precise comparison.
In the winter months I give all of my rabbits free choice of hay and feed at all times unless they are feed dumpers or diggers. Then they will be fed in a dish for a single sitting but knowingly a bit more than they can finish. I also spread hay in their cages for a soft, insulated place to lay.
How much does it cost to feed a rabbit?
Feed costs can be greatly reduced by purchasing in bulk and understanding that they only need a bale of hay from a local farm which is about $4.00 in Maine for second cut hay which tends to have more vitamins and minerals, finer blades. First cut hay is fine, that goes for about $3.50 a bail and has thicker stalks which are great for teeth (covered in more detail below). Always ask about the grasses in the hay. If you don’t get a clear answer, look elsewhere. A 50-pound bag of pellets from Blue Seal Hutch 16 from Blue Seal costs about $13.00).
What type of feed pellets should I give my rabbit?
For one rabbit a 50-pound bag will last for months. Don’t be fooled by the tiny package of timothy hay and fancy looking package of bunny kibble—that’s consumerism at it’s best. Don’t do it! Hutch 18 has 18% protein which I only use for my meat rabbits and in the winter for my breeders. My meat rabbit grow-outs who I know are headed for the table are fed 1/2 Hutch 18 and 1/2 All-Stock/Sweet Feed mixed. They grow faster, have a sweeter less “gamey” taste (thats change if fed wild plants as described below, which we avoid in short-lived grow-outs) and it helps keep them warm once weaned from mommy and separated by sex at 8 weeks. In short, the feed type depends on the rabbit’s age, intended use and environment. Sweet feed is not as good for rabbit’s long-term health. Too much of something sweet can cause bloat; so mix it thoroughly.
Does the brand of rabbit feed matter?
I personally like the Blue Seal brand, mostly because I don’t frequent Tractor Supply for many reasons; poor selection, items are often out of stock, prices are usually a little higher, and customer service just plain sucks. Once I went in and asked for a cart because there were none in the entry and I had eight bags of feed to load. The cashier looked at me and told me it’s stocking day, all the employees are busy using them. She said it so mater-of-a-fact and simply walked off. I was flabbergasted. I waled around until I saw an employee almost done with their cart. I took the rest of the stuff out and took it. He watched me without comment. Any-who, enough of my personal grudge—the lessen here is that every dollar you spend is a vote support and create demand for the product or service you purchased.
Am I feeding my rabbit too many treats?
Rabbits can be given limited treats along with free choice of hay and pellets. Lettuce, carrots, celery, apples… you get the idea. To save money and promote your own health, plan your meals to produce kitchen scraps which will be used to feed your rabbits. Carrot tops, celery ends, broccoli stumps, and thick kale stems are byproducts of healthy human food. Just remember, it’s a lot like a kid with a cupcake—they will always choose treats over their healthy regular food. Always feed treats in moderation—and never through the cage bars, that will promote finger nibbling.
Did I give my rabbit something that made him sick?
If you notice loose stool or their little bunny pebbles sticking together in clumps, remove treats from their diet for a few days. If the loose stool is more than clumped and very soft, remove all food but their hay. If this continues the following day, it’s time to call a vet or a local breeder for advice. Not all vets take rabbits into their practice in my experience due to their unique physiology. It’s best to call around and find a good vet for your rabbit prior to having a health concern and put them into your phone contacts to have on-hand for emergencies. Remember, it’s okay to ask questions over the phone to see if it’s necessary to come in or they may recommend a treatment you can administer yourself to save time—and usually lots of money too.
Do rabbits need vitamin supplements?
All rabbits need trace minerals not found in abundance or at all in feed or hay. Little wheels are at all major pet and livestock feed stores and they can be tied to the cage with a piece of wire.
How can I get my rabbit to stop chewing my furniture?
Rabbits need to chew to keep their constantly growing teeth worn down to a healthy size rabbits require lots of chewing. Stains, paints and wood types found in your home may be tempting to nibble on and could make your rabbit very sick. The best method is to offer a constant flow of in-cage approved chews for when you are away for your fuzzy one to gnaw on.
What type of wood chew toys should I get for my rabbit?
This can be simply, and affordably, achieved by adding branches, twigs, course dry leaves, and by the daily chewing of their hard pelleted feed and hay. What you chose for hay type (mentioned above) depends on the availability of branches and thick, dry leaf litter for chewing. More course, thicker hay types offer more tooth-wearing ability. Alternatively, higher vitamins in some hays are better if you intended to use a commercial chew toy. For that, you can drop your money off at the local pet or feed store for a dorky chew toy—and pay more for the hay. Choice is yours folks. I like to keep my money.
Can my rabbits eat wild plants?
Leaf matter should be from obviously edible species. Cattails, goldenrod, clovers and vetch are all very common in Maine and great supplements for you rabbit’s diet in moderation. The occasional addition of small branches to their enclosure provide fibers which are a natural part of their digestive system, offer added nutrition, and they enjoy the treat and activity of chewing. If you house train your rabbits, this is a great way to train them not to chew your trim and furniture.
Common trees in Maine safe for rabbits to eat include: alder, fir, poplar, birch, beech (left), spruce (right), willow, ash, maple, hazelnut, apple and cherry. Your rabbits can eat the leaves, bark, twigs and branches of these trees. A section that is the same size as your finger with fresh bark poked through the wire is great: it stays more stationary for natural chewing instincts (another reason why the leg of you kitchen chair is SOOOO appealing), has natural tannins to promote health and it thick enough to really go-to-town on.