Rabbits

The Ultimate Guide to Feeding Rabbits

Here at J&R Pierce Family Farm, I think it’s important to connect my readers with valuable insight from other experts. Today’s post is a guest post brought to you by Samantha Rainwater.

If you are considering raising rabbits, it is important to have a plan for feeding them first.  Some may believe that you can simply feed them anything that comes out of your garden, but a rabbit’s diet is more complex than you might think.  Properly feeding your rabbits will help to ensure long and healthy lives, and is crucial for getting them all of their proper nutrients.   

It will also be important to determine a feeding plan and structure.  What will I feed my rabbits?  

How much should I feed my rabbits? 

And how will I feed my rabbits?  

These are all important questions that you should investigate before taking the plunge.   

feeding rabbits

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What Should I Feed My Rabbits?

feeding rabbits

Although a rabbit’s primary diet should be hay-based, you have options when it comes to the other essentials that rabbits need.  Many choose to buy store-bought pellets, like these, which generally is the more straight-forward option, but some like to grow their rabbits’ food in the garden.  

Growing your own rabbit feed can be a rewarding experience, and can save you money in the long run, but managing nutrients becomes more of a challenge. 

Here’s a link with more information on the necessary components of a rabbit’s diet.

Storebought Feed

feeding rabbits

A popular option for feeding rabbits is by using store-bought pellets, like these.  

They are generally considered to be the more convenient approach to feeding your rabbits, primarily because you don’t have to question whether or not they are getting all of the right nutrients.  

Another reason you might choose to use store-bought pellets over home-grown feed, is that the pellets are more reliable.  

You can always purchase more pellets, but a hard freeze has the potential to jeopardize your food source for your rabbits.  There is also the possibility that another creature will get to your rabbits feed before you harvest it.  

Rabbit pellets are generally comprised of wheat, maize, bran, hay/grass, Lucerne crumbles, vegetable protein meals, vegetable or animal oil, limestone, salt, vitamin C, and a mineral mix, with a few other varying ingredients to make it shelf stable.  

Although some of these ingredients may seem unnecessary, they all play a key role in providing nutrients that rabbits need.   

Where to Buy Rabbit Feed

feeding rabbits

Rabbit pellet feed can be purchased in nearly any farming store and through multiple online sources, making this an accessible option for nearly everyone.  

If you’re anything like me (forgetful…) setting up an online auto-repurchase order is a great option to ensure you always have enough feed.  

Growing Your Own Feed

feeding rabbits

Growing your rabbit feed is the best way to have control over what goes into your rabbits.  Many homesteaders will use this method, and feel that knowing exactly what their rabbits are eating is how they can get the healthiest rabbits, and the best tasting meat if they are meat rabbits.  

There are many benefits to growing your own rabbit feed, but it comes with an added responsibility.  Before starting a rabbit-feed garden, consider what nutrients are needed for a healthy rabbit, and plan accordingly.  

Some feeds to consider include hay/grass, oats, and small twigs for fiber.  For protein, legumes can be a good source: clovers, pea/vine beans, and birdsfoot trefoil.  Some weeds are also high in protein: dandelions, willow, and mulberry are good examples of these.  Vitamins and minerals can be fed through leafy greens, or mineral salt blocks (which is of course, not something you can grow in your garden).  

Most of these items can be grown on an average farm or homestead without much hassle, but a fair amount of planning will need to go into the process.  Some of these feeds will need to be planted at different times of the year, and some require more tending than others.  

Creating and sticking to a planting/tending schedule may be key in keeping up with your home-grown rabbit feed.  

Growing Rabbit Treats

feeding rabbits

In addition to growing your rabbit feed, growing rabbit treats is another option to consider when planning your garden.  If you are not up to the task of completely growing your rabbit feed, you can still consider growing them some healthy treats.  

This is a fun way to incorporate other garden produce into your rabbit’s diet—the rabbits don’t mind either! 

Some examples of rabbit treats that add a healthy balance to their diet include: carrots —of course!, broccoli, celery, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts for vegetables, and apples (no stems or seeds), peaches, berries, melons, cherries, and pear for fruits. 

 Keep in mind that vegetables should be no more than 15% of a rabbit’s daily diet, and that fruits should be no more than 10% of their diet.  Overfeeding these food types can cause digestive issues, and will prevent them from getting more of the nutrients that they need.  

Something to consider when introducing your rabbits to a new treat, is that it may take them some time to adjust.  Start by feeding them the treat in small increments, to help their digestive system adjust.  

If you introduce a new treat too quickly, or if you introduce too many different treats at one time, you can end up with sick rabbits, and extra messes to clean up, which nobody wants.  

A Healthy Balance

feeding rabbits

Perhaps one of the best options for many individuals is to find a balance between feeding pellets and feeding home-grown feed to their rabbits.  This method would be good for those who have the ability to grow their own feed, but are not 100% confident in balancing the nutrients, and want a safe baseline for their rabbits.  

In this situation, providing pellets will ensure that your rabbits are getting the proteins and fats that are more difficult to provide through the garden.  

You can still grow your fibers (hay/grass, twigs, etc.), some of your proteins (legumes, edible weeds, etc.), your leafy greens for vitamins and minerals, and your fruits and vegetables for treats.  This will provide a solid feeding regime for your rabbits, while the pellets provide a solid baseline of nutrients to ensure proper feedings every time.  

Feeding Method

feeding rabbits

Depending on what you are feeding your rabbits, you will want to consider a feeder that meets your needs and goals.  Although some rabbit breeders prefer to provide an unlimited supply of feed to their rabbits, others watch what they eat closely, and monitor this by feeding measured portions daily.

For those who do not want to worry about daily feeding, a gravity feeder might be your best option.  One of the more popular structures are those that are divided into two different compartments, one for hay, and the other for pellets.  Some feeders even have an attachment for a waterer, which will help reduce mess made from spilled water.  

An important factor to consider when feeding your rabbits hay is to ensure that it is not touching the ground.  Hay is prone to absorbing moisture, and can become contaminated with waste from your rabbits.  

Wet hay can also mildew and become unsafe for your rabbits.  Simply hanging the hay with a hay feeder rack will keep a majority of it off of the ground.  Your rabbits will also appreciate the clean and crisp hay, and will be more likely to eat it that way.  

For those who prefer to portion their rabbits’ feed, or for those who grow their own feed, simple bowls may do the trick.  Since your rabbits will be fed the same amount daily, they will most likely learn to eat when the food is first provided.  

As long as your rabbits eat right away, they are less likely to make a mess by knocking over their bowls.  However, if food stays in the bowls too long, they may be prone to spilling, which may spoil the feed before the rabbits get to eat it.  

For these circumstances, there are bowls that can attach to the side of a cage or wall, making the feeding process a little less messy.  

What Food is Best for My Rabbits?

feeding rabbits

When it comes to feeding your rabbits, there is no incorrect way to go about it, provided that your rabbits are getting all of their essential nutrients.  

For those with the resources and means to grow their own produce, making home-grown rabbit feed may be a good option for you, as it will help you cut back on costs and will help you structure your rabbits’ diet to your liking.  

Those who either don’t have the availability, or just simply don’t have the time to grow their rabbit feed, may opt for store-bought pellets.  Rabbit pellet feed is not necessarily worse for your rabbits, and will still provide all of the needed nutrients, with much less hassle.  

If you are considering growing your own rabbit feed, but want to ensure your rabbits are still getting all of the required nutrients, a good balance of home-grown and pellet feed may be a good option for you.  This may also be a good option for those who eventually want to transition into 100% home-grown feed.

One popular option for those who raise rabbits, primarily those on small homesteads, is to take the hassle out of feeding by using pellets, then grow the treats (the fun part!).  Fruits and vegetables are fun and rewarding crops to grow for a number of reasons, so portioning out a small helping for your rabbits shouldn’t be too much extra effort.  

Raising rabbits can be a fun, and rewarding task for a number of different reasons.  Before diving in, consider how and what you will be feeding them.  Take into consideration your resources, time, availability, and goals when choosing a feeding method.  

Remember that providing all essential nutrients for your rabbits comes first, and personal preference second.  With enough work and commitment, you can raise happy and healthy rabbits under nearly any circumstances. 

Samantha Rainwater is a full-time business owner and recent mom who spends her free time writing. Her degree in Biology gives her a background in science, which she likes to apply on her small hobby farm. Writing about her experiences is one of her passions, and she finds joy in sharing her experiences with others. 

Do you raise rabbits? What do you feed them? Let us know in the comments!

Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.

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Author: Rebekah Pierce

I'm a writer and small farm owner, and lover of everything outdoors. I'm hoping to share my passion for farming, gardening, and homesteading with you on my blogging journey.

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