Feeding Rabbits for Optimum Nutrition

Feeding rabbits a healthy mixture of pellets, hay and a few treats will keep them happy and strong.

| June 2012

  • How-To-Raise-Rabbits-Cover
    “How to Raise Rabbits” by Samantha and Daniel Johnson guides readers through rabbit operations for showing, breeding, livestock, or pets.
    Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Three-Rabbit-Feed-Varieties
    Although you can't tell by looking, these three varieties of pellets have varying amounts of protein. The pellets on the left are a basic 16 percent protein rabbit feed, which is suitable for most rabbits. The pellets in the middle contain 17 percent protein and have less fiber than the previous brand. The pellets on the right are an 18 percent protein feed and are specially formulated for promoting show condition.
    Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Holland-Lop-Munching-Alfalfa
    This Holland Lop is munching on some alfalfa hay. My personal experience is that my rabbits vastly prefer alfalfa hay to grass hay. While I haven't had any problems from feeding alfalfa hay, some breeders have reported incidences of diarrhea or other digestive problems in their rabbits after feeding alfalfa.
    Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Rabbit-Food-Bag-Label
    Always check the label on your feed bag! As you can certainly start out with it as a guideline. However, you will certainly be adjusting each rabbit’s feed amount in accordance with its own personal needs.
    Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Contrasting-Rabbit-Foods
    One size doesn’t always fit all! There may be instances when you will want to provide a couple of different types of pellets or grain mixtures to a particular rabbit. In this case, the tray on the left contains a homemade grain and pellet mixture. The tray on the right contains an 18 percent protein pellet for show rabbits.
    Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Homemade-Rabbit-Oat-Mixture
    A homemade grain mixture often contains oats, sunflower seeds, and other small grains. Some breeders also include a portion of commercial pellets into the mix, but many prefer to simply feed their own concoctions of grains.
    Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Rabbit-Looking-At-Hay
    Hay is beneficial for its fiber content, as well as for its use in decreasing boredom.This young Holland Lop is enjoying the contents of her hay rack.
    Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Rabbit-Feed-Mix-In-Bag
    Feed mixes that are manufactured and sold in small bags can be very good for the pet owner or the small rabbitry owner, but they’re not a practical option for larger rabbitries.
    Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Closeup-Of-Haystack
    When shopping for hay, you may have the option of looking at different varieties, including grass hay, alfalfa hay, or a mixed hay that includes both kinds. Regardless of the type that you choose, your foremost priority is to make sure that the hay is of excellent quality and has not been damaged by rain.
  • Rabbit-With-Big-Carrots
    Fruits and vegetables are a much more appropriate choice for rabbit treats! You should always thoroughly wash any produce that you offer to your rabbits, since they may contain pesticides that should be removed prior to consumption.
    Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Rabbit-Eating-Candy
    A sugary treat, such as this yogurt drop, may be appealing to your rabbit, but it’s not usually the best choice. A far better sweet treat would be a small piece of apple.
    Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • The-Rabbit-Book-Cover
    Also by Samantha and Daniel Johnson, The Rabbit Book, 2012, Voyageur Press
    Courtesy Voyageur Press

  • How-To-Raise-Rabbits-Cover
  • Three-Rabbit-Feed-Varieties
  • Holland-Lop-Munching-Alfalfa
  • Rabbit-Food-Bag-Label
  • Contrasting-Rabbit-Foods
  • Homemade-Rabbit-Oat-Mixture
  • Rabbit-Looking-At-Hay
  • Rabbit-Feed-Mix-In-Bag
  • Closeup-Of-Haystack
  • Rabbit-With-Big-Carrots
  • Rabbit-Eating-Candy
  • The-Rabbit-Book-Cover

Whether your goal is to raise one rabbit or a larger herd, the expert advice in How to Raise Rabbits (Voyageur Press, 2008) will tell you all you need to know. With more than 200 color photographs, the book covers all aspects of raising rabbits, including organic and free-range rabbitries. Learn how to choose and buy the right rabbits for you, breed your rabbits, show rabbits at fairs and more. In this excerpt from Chapter 4, “Feeding Your Rabbits,” learn how to keep your rabbits healthy and happy with a proper diet. 

Wouldn’t it be delightfully simple if you could just toss a few carrots in each cage and head off to work for the day? No hay, no pellets, no measuring! While feeding rabbits isn’t quite as easy as that, it really isn’t terribly difficult either. Once you’ve established a feeding program that works for you and your rabbits, your daily feedings should be simple and straightforward.

Basic rabbit nutrition

As with all types of livestock animals, rabbits need a well rounded diet that fulfills all of the necessary requirements for basic nutrition. This means that their diet must include ample sources of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. With the wide variety of pelleted feeds that are available today, it’s easier than ever to provide proper basic nutrition for your rabbits, but a well-rounded diet also contains other important elements: water and hay. Let’s discuss the components of feeding rabbits a healthy diet.

Rabbit pellets

If you ask a group of rabbit breeders what they feed their rabbits, I can pretty much guarantee that the vast majority of them will reply that they feed some type of pellets. Pelleted feed has become the industry standard for many reasons.



Using pellets takes the guesswork out of providing a diet for your rabbits. With a quick examination of the tag, you will know exactly what is included in each and every feeding. Pellets are easy to measure, which ensures that you are able to feed the same amount each day, and they are an easy way to provide all of the nutrients that your rabbits need for optimum health and growth.

There are many companies that produce rabbit pellets, and it seems that each type is supported by legions of rabbit breeders who believe strongly in the benefits and quality of their chosen product. It can be a little overwhelming to flip through the latest Domestic Rabbits magazine and read through the ads for rabbit feeds. Each one is endorsed by rabbit breeders, exhibitors, and judges, and each feed is seemingly better than the last. How, then, do you determine which feed will best suit your needs?






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