Rabbit Feeding and Nutrition
What you feed your rabbit plays a part in determining whether you have a top show prospect, hearty litters, and a happy, healthy pet. Rabbits that don't get a balanced diet will grow slowly, their coat will be dull and lifeless, and they'll be less able to fight disease.
A rabbit's primary food should be pellets - commercially made bite-sized bits of ground hay and other ingredients, vitamins and minerals tailored specifically for the rabbit's digestive system.
Each rabbit's nutrition depends on its life stage and intended purpose. Most rabbits thrive nicely on a diet containing 16 percent protein, such as Manna Pro's Select Series Pro Formula. Nursing mothers, however, need extra protein - about 18 percent - as do newly weaned kits, or baby rabbits. Select Series Gro Formula provides the ideal diet for the doe and her litter.
What to Feed a Rabbit?
A rabbit's diet should consist of rabbit pellets, hay and certain types of fresh dark-green leafy vegetables.
If you choose to make rabbit pellets a part of your rabbit’s diet, it is best to use them as a supplement to the dark green, leafy vegetables, not as a substitute. These pellets should only be given in small quantities (1/8 -1/4 cup per five pounds of body weight per day, spread out over two daily feedings). Also, make sure to purchase Timothy-based pellets. Many brands of rabbit feed contain seeds, corn and other foods that are too high in calories to be the basis for a healthy rabbit’s diet.
Rabbit pellets are specially formulated to provide the balanced nutrition your rabbit needs. However, always be sure to feed only fresh pellets. Old, rancid pellets can contain harmful molds or other toxins that may make your rabbit sick or even cause death. Check to see that the pellets are not dry, crumbly or have a foul smell. Those may be indicators that the pellets should be discarded.
Rabbits need hay. Specifically, Timothy grass hay or long stem hay is best. Hay is an important fiber source for rabbits, and it also aids in proper digestion. Rabbits should have access to a constant supply of this hay which aids their digestive systems and provides the necessary fiber to help prevent rabbit health problems such as hair balls, diarrhea and obesity. Alfalfa hay, on the other hand, should only be given to adult rabbits in very limited quantities, if at all, because it is high in protein, calcium and calories.
Providing hay for your rabbits also helps keep rabbits occupied and prevents boredom because rabbits enjoy chewing. Make sure the hay is not moldy or musty and is of a high quality.
Hay should not replace pellets, however, as the pellets contain nutrients and vitamins not found in hay.
In addition to hay, the basic diet of an adult rabbit should consist of leafy, dark-green vegetables such as romaine and leaf lettuces (not iceberg lettuce), parsley, cilantro, collard greens, arugula, escarole, endive, dandelion greens and others. Variety is important to a rabbit's diet, so feed your rabbit three different vegetables at a time. When introducing new veggies to a rabbit’s diet, try just one at a time and keep quantities limited.
Some rabbit owners may choose to feed their rabbits fresh vegetables along with pellets. This is fine, but if your rabbit is used to only pellets, the addition of vegetables should be made slowly. Several vegetables such as carrots, endive, romaine lettuce, broccoli, and parsley are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Greens and spinach are okay to feed a rabbit but should be fed more sparingly.