Feeding Your Rabbit Q & A

Discussion in 'Nutrition and Behavior' started by naturestee, Oct 4, 2006.

  1. Oct 4, 2006 #1

    naturestee

    naturestee

    naturestee

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2005
    Messages:
    11,817
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA
    One of the most common questions people have is what they should feed their rabbits. There's no one right answer. Each rabbit is an individual and will respond differently to different foods. Some rabbits can't have veggies, others can't have alfalfa pellets, some gain weight easily while others always lose weight at the drop of a hat.Hopefully this will help answer some of your questions and help you learn how to make your rabbit's diet the best it can be for him.

    If you'd like to read up more on rabbit nutrition and feeding recommendations, check out the threads in Bunny 101:



    Feeding Your Rabbit
    Pellets
    Hay: All About It (And how to get your rabbits to eat it)
    Vegetables

    General guidelines

    - Rabbit intestines are designed to process large amounts of fiber. Too little fiber can result in problems with diarrhea or GI stasis. The best sources of fiber are hay and good quality pellets.

    - Growing and breeding rabbits need more energy than non-breeding adult rabbits. However, young rabbits are more sensitive to carbohydrates so foods such as grains, fruits, and other treats should be very limited.

    - Small breeds tend to have higher metabolisms and often require more food per pound than larger breeds.

    - Long haired rabbits need more energy because of their constantly-growing fur. Too little protein or or energy could result in the rabbit using it's own muscles to provide the nutrients to grow the fur. Keep a close eye and make sure the rabbit is neither underweight nor overweight.

    - Sick and elderly rabbits have higher energy requirements.


    Hay

    Do I need to feed hay?

    Yes. Hay is very healthy for rabbits and should always be available to them. It "scrubs out" their intestines, preventing problems with blockages, GI stasis, and diarrhea. It also helps to wear down those constantly growing teeth and keeps bored bunnies busy.

    Breeders do not always feed hay because it's very difficult to clean up, especially with a large number of rabbits. In this case, it's more important to keep the rabbitries clean and prevent the spread of disease.


    What hay should I feed?
    Young, growing rabbits can be fed alfalfa, although be cautious because it is very rich. Rabbits of all ages should be given a grass hay such as timothy, orchard grass, oat hay, or one of the many other types. Some rabbits will like certain types more than others. It's a good idea to feed multiple types if you can, because it encourages them to eat more.

    Feed loose hay, not cubes, for a daily diet. Hay cubes often have sweeteners added and also might not wear the molars down as well as long-strand hay.

    A small amount of alfalfa hay or a piece of hay cube can be fed as a healthy treat.

    Where can I get hay?
    Many pet stores carry small bags of timothy hay. However, these are expensive and are often dusty due to the extra handling and shipping. Or you can order hay in bulk online from Oxbow, American Pet Diner, and other hay companies. This often costs less per pound, even after you add in shipping, and it might be more fresh than a bag that's been sitting in the pet store for months.

    An excellent option is to buy hay in bales from feed stores or farmers. Always inspect the hay to make sure there's no mold, it's not too dusty, doesn't have too many weeds, and is an appropriate grass hay. In some areas most of the hay available has a lot of alfalfa mixed in and might not be appropriate for rabbits.

    If you're having trouble finding hay locally, check these sites:

    http://www.hayexchange.com/
    http://content.fsa.usda.gov/haynet/default.asp

    My rabbit doesn't seem to like hay. How can I get him to eat more?
    Some rabbits prefer fresher, less dusty hay.If you're buying small bags of hay from a pet store, try buying better-quality bales or ordering in bulk from a company such as Oxbow. It's also a good idea to feed multiple types of hay. Some just aren't that thrilled with timothy, but might go head-over-heels for oat hay, brome, or one of the other types. Mixing several types of hay allows a rabbit to "forage" and often encourages them to eat more, plus since different hay types have different nutritional values (even hay grown indifferent soil types have different nutrients) it is a great part of a balanced diet.

    Also, many rabbits love having hay in toys or different containers. Try putting it in cardboard boxes and tubes, tied up in paper lunch bags, stuffed into wicker balls or baskets, etc. Some rabbits prefer hay racks while others would rather have hay in their litterbox or on the floor.


    Pellets

    Do I need to feed pellets?

    Almost always yes, even if only a small amount to balance the rest of the rabbit's diet.. Pellets are designed to provide all the nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, that rabbits need. It's very difficult to provide a balanced diet without pellets. If your rabbit needs to have his pellets cut back due to health problems, keep feeding at least a tablespoon or two a day so he gets a little bit of the necessary nutrients.Also, switching from an alfalfa pellet to a timothy pellet can help manage many health problems for which pellet reductions are recommended such as obesity, cecotrope problems, and bladder sludge and stones. If you're interested in a no-pellet diet, I'll cover that later.

    What type of pellets should I feed?
    There's all sorts of different brands and types of rabbit pellets, some good, some decent, some horrible. Again, each rabbit is different. One rule is to only feed plain pellets, no treats added!

    Rabbits that are growing or breeding should be fed a pellet with 16% protein and at least 18% fiber. More fiber is better as it will help keep the intestines moving properly. A lot of the best brands for this type of pellet are found at feed or farm stores.

    Adult rabbits can be fed the same pellets as babies, but it's probably best to reduce the amount as they are rich. Some feed stores carry 15% protein maintenance pellets designed for that adult rabbits. Again, go for something with a decent amount of fiber. Some adult rabbits become sensitive to the extra, unneeded protein and get excess or mushy cecotropes (cecals).Other rabbits are prone to urinary tract infections, bladder sludge or stones, or need more fiber in their diets to help prevent intestinal problems. These rabbits should be fed a timothy-based pellet because they have less protein and calcium and more fiber.

    Senior rabbits and those with chronic illnesses sometime have difficulties maintaining their weights. They may need alfalfa pellets again to help them keep their weight up.


    How much pellets should I feed?
    Growing rabbits should be allowed unlimited pellets. For breeding rabbits, it's best to consult a knowledgeable breeder. Some recommend a larger amount of measured pellets, others free-feed.

    I use the HRS guidelines as a basis for adults. They recommend feeding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pellets per 6 lbs of body weight,depending on how much veggies are fed and the rabbit's metabolism. Keep an eye on your rabbit's weight and adjust the pellet amount as needed. Also, reducing pellets slightly can encourage a rabbit to eat more hay.



    Vegetables

    Do I have to feed vegetables?

    As long as you are feeding pellets, vegetables are not essential, although a rabbit diet with a large volume and variety of vegetables, unlimited hay and only a very limited amount of pellets can promote healthy GI tracts and teeth among other benefits. However, some rabbits are sensitive to certain veggies, while others can't tolerate any. Vegetables are crucial
    if you are not feeding pellets, and it's very important to feed a large amount of several different types.

    Important tips:
    -Start slowly. Only give a small piece of any new vegetable, once a day for several days before you increase the amount.Even rabbits that are fine with other vegetables may get problems such as gas or diarrhea from certain veggies. Not all rabbits will be able to tolerate vegetables either. Each rabbit has different dietary needs.

    - Be especially careful with rabbits under the age of six months, as diarrhea in young rabbits can quickly become fatal. Many owners wait until their rabbits are older before they start introducing vegetables.

    - Just because we can eat it doesn't mean a rabbit can or should. Print off one of the many safe vegetable lists available (such as
    The Rabbit Menu) and use it to help you shop. When in doubt, don't feed it!

    - If you are feeding veggies as large part of the daily diet, try to feed at least three types of leafy greens a day. If you can, rotate some of the vegetables so they're not eating the same few things week in and week out. Don't make big changes, just small ones such as switching one veggie at a time.

    - Carrots are high in sugar, so feed them sparingly and more as a treat.

    - Some veggies have high calcium levels. Although the amount of calcium in fresh vegetables is much lower than in dried foods such as alfalfa, these vegetables may not be appropriate for rabbits with bladder sludge/calcium sensitivity problems.


    As long as they're on a safe list, does it matter what veggies I feed?
    It depends. Obviously you shouldn't feed something that you know your rabbit is sensitive to. And if he's prone to gas problems, avoid veggies like broccoli that are common culprits. If vegetables are a regular, significant part of your rabbit's diet then you should feed at least three different leafy green veggies per day, plus occasional non-leafy veggies like carrots, snowpeas, broccoli, etc. Also, it's a good idea to feed at least one veggie a day that is a good source of Vitamin A. Leaf lettuce, parsley, canned pumpkin, and carrots are good examples, and there are more on this list:
    http://www.rabbit.org/care/veggies.html

    If your rabbit has problems with bladder stones or sludge, it's still okay to feed veggies with high calcium contents (kale, collard greens, mustard greens) as the water content helps to flush it out of the system. However, you might want to feed them in smaller amounts to be sure. This list shows the calcium content of many veggies:
    http://www.carrotcafe.com/f/calevel.html

    I heard lettuce is bad for rabbits. Is that true?
    For the most part, this is a myth. Iceberg lettuce does often cause problems, but that's because it's essentially crunchy water. Even if your rabbit tolerates Iceberg lettuce it's not a good idea to feed it because it doesn't provide much nutrition at all.

    Dark green lettuces such as green or red leaf, romaine, and endive are fine. They provide essential nutrients such as Vitamin A and are usually available year round, so they make great additions to a rabbit diet.

    Treats

    What treats can I feed my rabbit?

    For one, I don't recommend buying treat sat a pet store except for alfalfa hay or hay cubes. Pet store treats are usually crammed full of sugar and many of them, such as seed-laden treat sticks, are larger than what a Flemish Giant should get in a week.

    Most rabbits love small treats like rolled oats (Quaker Old Fashioned Oats), raisins, canned pumpkin, safe fruit, alfalfa, or hay cubes. Feed only a small amount at a time, no more than once a day but preferably less often. Be very careful with young, growing rabbits as they are more prone to upsets.

    List of safe fruits:

    http://www.rabbit.org/care/fruits.html

    Be aware that some rabbits are sensitive to sugars and should not get any treats at all. Usually they end up as excess or mushy cecals.

    Supplements

    Does my rabbit need a salt block or mineral block?

    No. Your rabbit's necessary salt and minerals should come from it's pellets, or if you're not feeding pellets then from the large, varied amount of veggies you are feeding. Many rabbits do not even like salt licks, although some will eat them to the point of dehydration.

    Does my rabbit need a vitamin supplement?
    No. The vitamins should come from the pellets and/or the veggies. As in humans, vitamin supplements are often not absorbed as well as naturally occurring vitamins. It's far better to ensure that the rabbit is getting adequate nutrition from it's food.

    The No-Pellet Diet

    I read that pellets can be bad for rabbits. Is that true?

    For the most part, no. Some rabbits with health problems need temporary, or even permanent, no-pellet diets. However this is not to be undertaken lightly. Feeding pellets ensures that your rabbit is getting at least some of all the necessary vitamins and minerals.It's very difficult to feed a rabbit properly without any pellets.

    How should I feed my rabbit if I'm not going to feed pellets?
    First, do lots of research. Talk to a good rabbit-savvy vet who understands nutrition and read up on rabbit diets, their needs, and the nutrient content of different vegetables. If your rabbit is sensitive to vegetables or is very picky, then you can not do a no-pellet diet.

    There's no "magic vegetable" that will provide all the necessary nutrients so you'll need to feed a large number of several different vegetables every day. Common recommendations are to feed the rabbit a pile of veggies as big as it's body every day. The veggies should be mainly leafy greens, at bare minimum three different types of leafy greens. More variety is better, and it's also better to choose from different families of plants. Make sure you're feeding at least one veggie that is a good source of Vitamin A, and also feed some veggies with a decent calcium content. A diet too low in calcium has been linked to weak bones in rabbits which increases the likelihood of a broken bone. This is can happen in both young rabbits and adults.

    You should also look at feeding a small amount of fruit daily to add more vitamins and antioxidants. Berries such as blueberries and strawberries are good vitamin sources, and citrus fruits like oranges provide Vitamin C.

    It's also important to feed several different types of hay.Different types of hay, and even hay grown on different soil types,will have different nutrition. Feeding several types balances out any deficiencies that one might have and also encourages the rabbit to eat more. It might be a good idea to feed a small amount of alfalfa too.

    What about a hay-only diet?
    No. It is not possible for a rabbit to get all his necessary nutrition from hay. It's just like a human living off of only rice. Nutritional deficiencies will occur.

    Do you have any questions? Please ask!

     
  2. Jan 18, 2007 #2

    Pipp

    Pipp

    Pipp

    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2005
    Messages:
    12,873
    Likes Received:
    33
    Location:
    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    :bunnydance:
     
  3. Feb 6, 2007 #3

    jupiterannette

    jupiterannette

    jupiterannette

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Berlin, Massachusetts, USA
    so I make up the best green sald for the kids...:clover:

    15 differnt greens
    a plumb tomato
    a yellow zuchini
    green seedless grapes
    a granny smith apple
    a bannana
    raddishes
    carrots
    raw red potatoe
    red lettuce
    green peppers
    snap peas
    snow peas
    green beans
    and 2 cups of oatmeal (un-cooked)
    one big hug, and
    lots of luv

    and the 10 birds 3 buns and the chinchilla LOVE IT

    I usually make it 3 times a week for the kids and it last 2 days...

    and I also add corn, peas, hard boiled eggs, and pasta for the birds, but not the buns

    they love it..

    and once a week I make a VERY WEAK pepermint tea caffiene free and they love it.. the "good" vet said it is good for the respiritory and digestive system of all the animals I have.
    except the dog, he gets cooked beef, chicken , ham and rice,along with oatmeal, and veggies 3 times a week on top of his normal dryfeed. and lots of cookies!

    I also grow green hay and wheat grass for my kids, the buns love it and so do the birds. they only get it once a week, green hay for one one week and then wheAt grass the next week.

    I tried doing sprouts but I decided against it becasue I was afraid of the mould...
    I buy them sometimes though..

    just thought I would share!

    Natalie & The Flock
     
  4. Feb 6, 2007 #4

    naturestee

    naturestee

    naturestee

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2005
    Messages:
    11,817
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA
    Please don't feed potatoes or green beans to your rabbits. They are on all the "Don't Feed This To Rabbits" lists. Then just make sure that the rabbits only get very small bits of the fruits, sweet veggies like carrots, zucchini and oats. Those are treat foods for them and too much can upset their stomachs.

    Other than that it looks great.:)
     
  5. Feb 6, 2007 #5

    jupiterannette

    jupiterannette

    jupiterannette

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Berlin, Massachusetts, USA
    there are only small pieces of fruit and not much... most of the oats go to the bottom, and I didnt know they cant have potatoe or green beans, I have been feeding them foryears...

    the bunny menu, says the potatoe sprouts are bad, didnt know about the rest of it!

    I will stop now though!

    Thank you!
     
  6. Mar 1, 2007 #6

    kathy5

    kathy5

    kathy5

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2007
    Messages:
    426
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Bristol, New Hampshire, USA
    I know this may sound a bit weird but things to help keep teeth trim

    can he eat dog bones?

    we used to feed them to our hamsters for their teeth

    I have apple sticks but he does not sem to like them to to much

    the other day I found it on the floor under his hutch either he is trying to tell me something or he was just playing with it

    Kathy
     
  7. Mar 2, 2007 #7

    naturestee

    naturestee

    naturestee

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2005
    Messages:
    11,817
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA
    I've heard of a few people using dog biscuits,but I wouldn't recommend it. Hamsters are omnivores and will eat insects and meat in the wild when they can. Rabbits are strict herbivores and should not get dog treats that are likely to have meat. Plus those biscuits are usually made with lots of carbs, which could upset a bunny stomach.

    Hay should go a long way to keeping teeth worn down.

    Aside from that, what other toys have you tried? Untreated wicker baskets and balls are very popular with my crew, as are untreated mini grapevine wreaths. Different rabbits have different tastes, so try new things until you find a few he likes.
     
  8. Mar 6, 2007 #8

    bouncy_weasel

    bouncy_weasel

    bouncy_weasel

    New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2007
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    , ,
    do any of you know what would happen if you were to feed a rabbit trix? I am not trying to screw up this thread. Pleasedon't ban me just for saying this. I started think about this a few days ago and it has been in the back of my mind ever since. I can't find the answers on search engines so I came to this forum. I also have no friends or family who own rabbits. so seriously,what the heck happens when you feed a rabbit trix?:shock:
     
  9. Mar 6, 2007 #9

    naturestee

    naturestee

    naturestee

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2005
    Messages:
    11,817
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA
    You mean as a treat? It's really sugary, so it could possibly give the rabbit diarrhea.
     
  10. Mar 6, 2007 #10

    bouncy_weasel

    bouncy_weasel

    bouncy_weasel

    New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2007
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    , ,
    no risk of serious injury and/or death?
     
  11. Mar 7, 2007 #11

    kathy5

    kathy5

    kathy5

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2007
    Messages:
    426
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Bristol, New Hampshire, USA
    do not take a chance with your bunnies life
     
  12. Mar 7, 2007 #12

    naturestee

    naturestee

    naturestee

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2005
    Messages:
    11,817
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA
    Well, how much is being fed? One piece as a treat might upset the stomach, while a whole handful could make the rabbit very sick.

    Diarrhea can lead to death, especially if the rabbit is young (under 6months). Intestinal issues are not minor with rabbits- they can be very dangerous.
     
  13. Apr 8, 2007 #13

    Cutiebunny

    Cutiebunny

    Cutiebunny

    Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Newcastle, , United Kingdom
    Thank you for having a page about food, I have been very strict with vegetables and heard that water based veges are not good but I see you can feed them cucumber and dark green lettuce. Does that include rocket? This means that I can start introducing more to Fidget's already good diet.



    Thank you!
     
  14. Apr 9, 2007 #14

    naturestee

    naturestee

    naturestee

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2005
    Messages:
    11,817
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA
    I just looked it up, what you call rocket is what we call arugula. It is safe to feed.

    Cucumber is technically a fruit, and that's how I feed it.Only small pieces occasionally, not larger amounts daily like I would with a safe leafy green.

    The only watery veggie I've heard of as being a problem is iceberg lettuce. There are more problems from the gassy veggies which some rabbits can't tolerate- cabbage, broccoli, rappini, etc.
     
  15. Apr 9, 2007 #15

    Cutiebunny

    Cutiebunny

    Cutiebunny

    Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Newcastle, , United Kingdom
    Thank you very much. I am sure Fidget will be happy to eat other things now except for Carrots and Apple!
     
  16. Apr 24, 2007 #16

    Penny-Rabbit

    Penny-Rabbit

    Penny-Rabbit

    Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2007
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    , ,
    that recipe sounds cute, but i was just wondering, why cant they eat chocolate, potatos, or green beans:(
     
  17. Apr 24, 2007 #17

    Haley

    Haley

    Haley

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2006
    Messages:
    9,883
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
    Rabbits are very sensitive and cant have anything too surgary, starchy etc. A rabbit's diet should be made up of good quality pellets, fresh hay (alfalfa or timothy), water and fresh vegetables. Anything beyond that is a "treat" and should be given in limited quantities.

    Here as the HRS suggested veggies:

    Alfalfa, radish & amp; clover sprouts
    Basil
    Beet greens (tops)*
    Bok choy
    Broccoli (mostly leaves/stems)*
    Brussels sprouts
    Carrot & carrot tops*
    Celery
    Cilantro
    Clover
    Collard greens*
    Dandelion greens and flowers (no pesticides)*
    Endive*
    Escarole
    Green peppers
    Kale (!)*
    Mint
    Mustard greens*
    Parsley*
    Pea pods (the flat edible kind)*
    Peppermint leaves
    Raddichio
    Radish tops
    Raspberry leaves
    Romaine lettuce (no iceberg or light colored leaf)*
    Spinach (!)*
    Watercress*
    Wheat grass

    (!)=Use sparingly. High in either oxalates or goitrogens and may be toxic in accumulated quantities over a period of time

    And again, here is a link to suggested fruits,which should be given sparingly.
     
  18. Apr 25, 2007 #18

    naturestee

    naturestee

    naturestee

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2005
    Messages:
    11,817
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA
    Penny Rabbit, chocolate is toxic to most animals, including dogs and cats. Not to mention the sugar could easily overload a rabbit's digestive system and cause diarrhea. Here's a thread about Honeypot's Charlie, who had to be rushed to the vet after eating chocolate:
    http://rabbitsonline.net/view_topic.php?id=20257&forum_id=16

    I think raw potatoes are also poisonous, not to mention way way way too starchy. I'm not sure about green beans, I think they just tend to cause a lot of gas problems.

    There are so many veggies that they can eat, there's really no need to try anything that's not on one of the "safe lists."
     
  19. Feb 18, 2008 #19

    Orchid

    Orchid

    Orchid

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    Messages:
    1,321
    Likes Received:
    77
    Location:
    Elkton, Maryland
    The Rabbit menu link...says its not being found...just an FYI
     
  20. Feb 23, 2009 #20

    Lindiwe

    Lindiwe

    Lindiwe

    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2009
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pretoria, , South Africa
    At what age do my bunnies become "adult" and stop growing. They are Netherland Dwarf-types (pretty sure they're not pure-bred though), and just over three months old.

    I want to know at what point I should stop giving them unlimited pellets...
     

Share This Page