“What’s up doc,” the most iconic rabbit in popular culture, Bugs Bunny, is often depicted munching on a large orange carrot while overseeing mischief. Like Bugs, your pet rabbits probably enjoy a tasty carrot or other fresh vegetable from the garden, but only feeding these delicious treats will not provide a balanced and healthy diet for your furry friend.
Rabbits have delicate digestive systems with some unique nutrient and feed requirements to help them stay healthy. So put the carrots down and start choosing the best feed for your rabbit.
What to Feed Rabbits
Rabbits require a balanced diet for optimal health. Pelleted rabbit feeds specially formulated to provide essential nutrients are an important aspect of balanced rations. A rabbit-specific feed should be complemented with a reliable forage source to help maintain the rabbit’s digestive tract and teeth.
Selecting Rabbit Feed Pellets
When selecting a feed it is important to choose rabbit pellets that provide the nutrients they require. Pellets that contribute to a balanced ration are a good choice as these provide the daily nutrient requirements when fed as directed on the bag label.
IFA Rabbit Feeds
IFA Rabbit Pellets 16%
IFA Rabbit Pellets 16% are a balanced rabbit pellet feed designed by our team of in-house animal nutritionists. The feed contains essential nutrients and 16% protein for additional energy and maintenance of rabbits at different stages. The pellets are also designed with specific prebiotics and probiotics to help and protect a rabbit’s unique digestive system.
IFA Rabbit Breeder’s Choice
IFA Rabbit Breeder’s Choice is a specialty rabbit pellet feed for bucks and does used for breeding purposes. Designed by our in-house animal nutritionists, Breeder’s Choice pellets contain 20% protein to help accommodate for increased nutrient requirements of breeding rabbits. This specialty feed also contains several key prebiotics and probiotics for digestive health.
Forage Sources for Rabbits
In order to maintain a healthy digestive tract, rabbits require a consistent source of forage in their diet. Forages such as alfalfa, timothy and orchard grass all play an important role in maintaining the structure of the rabbit’s digestive system and constantly-growing teeth.
Orchard Grass is a healthy and safe forage that rabbits enjoy. It can be found in pelleted or hay form and is safe to feed free-choice to rabbits. The forage benefits of grass hay and pellets are similar but pellets are generally cleaner and easier to manage.
Timothy Hay is another popular forage option for rabbits. It can be found as a pellet or grass hay. Like orchard grass, it is safe to feed timothy grass free-choice to rabbits. The forage benefits of baled grass and pellets are similar but pellets are generally cleaner and easier to manage.
Alfalfa Hay is a nutrient-dense forage that is good for young rabbits when properly managed. Because alfalfa is so nutrient dense, it should only be fed at a set rate that compliments the nutrient package of an accompanying rabbit feed for a balanced ration. Alfalfa hay or pellets are a good forage option for growing rabbits with higher protein and calcium requirements.
How Much to Feed Rabbits
Feed requirements will vary based on age, size and use of the rabbit. Adhere to specific feeding instructions on the bag label to ensure a balanced diet. The rabbit feed you choose should provide product-specific information and feeding recommendations.
Generally, an adult rabbit requires ⅛ to ½ cup of feed pellets daily. Rabbits used for breeding require more nutrients than typical adults. Supplementing with an alfalfa forage or choosing a specialty feed such as IFA Breeder's Choice can help meet these increased needs.
Check the body condition of your rabbit every so often to ensure their nutrient requirements are being met. Pick up the rabbit and feel around their rib cage. If the ribs are easily felt the rabbit may not be receiving enough nutrients. If you cannot find or feel the ribs then the rabbit might be obese and the feed ration should be adjusted.
What to Feed Young Rabbits
Young rabbits, less than 8-9 months old, have increased nutrient requirements while they grow. A balanced rabbit feed pellet is good for these growing rabbits when fed as directed on the bag label.
Like all animals, rabbits require more protein and energy when they are growing. Consider supplementing your balanced rabbit feed pellets with an alfalfa pellet or hay forage for additional protein and calcium.
It can be hard to resist giving your rabbit treats when they do something particularly cute or just for being themselves, but what treats would rabbits like best? Well a quick trip to the garden or the grocery store is the best place to find a treat your rabbit will love (just picture Bugs Bunny with his bright carrot)!
Rabbits love fresh fruits and vegetables; particularly: carrots, broccoli, apples and leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage. Make sure you break off smaller pieces of these foods and avoid feeding rotten produce to your rabbits.
While it is fun to watch your rabbits enjoy a fresh treat, keep these snacks to no more than 10% of the total diet to ensure your furry friends are eating a balanced ration and meeting their nutritional needs. Freeze drying fresh foods makes for delicious and bite sized treats that are easier to portion control.
“Hop” By IFA
A new rabbit or bunny makes for a fun and fluffy companion. Stop by your local IFA Country Store to visit and pick out the perfect pet rabbit as well as find the best feed to keep them healthy.
Let our IFA team members help answer any questions as you find the best rabbit pellets and forage as well as feeders, water stations and hutches to make your rabbit friend feel right at home.
Information for this article was provided by Dennis Christensen, Nutritionist, IFA Feed and Nutrition; and Heidi Wayment, Nutritionist, IFA Feed and Nutrition.