The right diet keeps rabbits healthy, whether you are raising house pets or breeders. While this is true, the type of rabbit food to provide depends on the animal’s life stage. In general, rabbits thrive on a 16 percent protein diet. Nursing mothers and their kits need at least 18 percent protein.
The effects of a constant, non-balanced diet are easy to recognize. The coat is dull. The rabbits have a weak immune system, and they often experience digestive problems. Baby rabbits grow slower.
Rabbit Food Suggestions
- Timothy Grass Hay – Always have a decent supply of this type of hay on hand to ensure that your rabbits get enough fiber. Without hay, your cottontails could be plagued by hairballs and suffer from diarrhea. The animals will likely become obese.
- Alfalfa Hay – This should be given to just the adults if that is the only hay type you can find in your area. Quantities should be limited. This hay has high protein content, too much calcium, and far too many calories for rabbits.
- Manufactured Rabbit Pellets – The bite-sized rabbit pellets that are available in stores are made from ground hay, vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients that are good for a bunny’s digestive system. Expert breeders suggest two daily feedings. Give rabbits one-eighth to one-fourth of a standard cup per five pounds of a rabbit’s body weight. Stay away from colored pellets or feed that is old and moldy.
- Fresh Vegetables and Fruits – Green-leaf veggies like romaine, parsley, endive, arugula, chervil, dandelion greens, and collard greens are excellent choices. Iceberg lettuce should not be on your list of rabbit food. Its nutritional value is limited. Do not feed vegetables and fruits to baby bunnies if you want to prevent enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine). Slowly introduce these new foods to your young rabbits, and monitor their progress.
- Treats – Carrots are starchy and should only be given sparingly as a treat. Introduce your rabbits slowly to fruits like cored apples, pears, strawberries, plums, peaches, bananas, and melon. The rabbits should be at least six months old before introducing these types of rabbit food.
Water is essential to a rabbit’s diet. It regulates the animal’s body temperature during hot summer days. Change the water daily, no matter which type of watering system you use.
Irida Sangemino is an accomplished permaculture adviser, homesteading expert, and instructor. Follow her and her husband Joe’s adventures at the Stony Creek Permaculture Farm at http://www.stonycreekpermaculture.com. Your sustainable lifestyle starts here. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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