With rising feed costs I have been getting a lot of questions about feeding rabbits. I am currently feeding BIG GAIN rabbit 16% protein. Generally, this has been a solid feed, palatable and bright green, freshly milled and $18 per 50 lb bag. Just three months ago, it was $14 a bag! I also feed a grass/alfalfa mix hay from a reliable local farmer, and oats grown by local Amish farmers. My hay is $6 a bale and oats are $10.20 per 50 lbs. Nothing is certified organic, but I know it is because I KNOW the farmers and how they grow! I never depend entirely on a pellet, just because at any time contamination can wipe out your entire herd. I have had this happen! Also, sometimes any change in ingredients can cause rabbits to go off feed and die. Also, changing feed or batches of feed needs to be done gradually, mix 10% new feed the first day and an additional 10% per day until your switched over. So I mean 20% second day, 30% third day etc.

Planning ahead is important, always buy feed BEFORE running out! Mixing each bag with prior partial bag. Having a backup of hay and oats also helps out to avoid stomach upset. I FULL FEED pellets and hay to bunnies and pregnant and lactating does. They can never run out or growth will be affected. I give a quarter cup of oats per rabbit daily also, as a treat. Don’t mix the oats with pellets or the rabbits will usually scratch out all the pellets to get to the oats. I don’t use special hay feeders because I give hay by the handful and clip it to the door, to keep cages clean.

The most important nutrient for rabbits, however, is WATER! We have well water, and getting your new bunny adjusted to your water is important. When you get your new bunny, I recommend purchasing spring water or distilled water to start, and again, mix your tap water in gradually to make sure your rabbit is drinking regularly. If your rabbit is not eating or drinking, it’s an HEALTH EMERGENCY! Contact your VET ASAP!

Rabbits love treats, but PLEASE WAIT until your rabbit is older and adjusted to your home. I do give treats, but only to older animals. Great treats are fresh grass, carrots, lettuce, beets, turnups, and any garden produce except tomato and potato greens. I also give a lot of bananas, pineapple, apples, pears, celery, herbs, fruit, grapes, or really anything else I can get on clearance from the grocery. Moderation is the key!

Green firm rabbit pellets
Green, dust free hay, 80% grass/20% Alfalfa
Bright clean oats

Pellets are a balanced diet formulated for rabbits, however they need to be fresh, dry, and mold free to be healthy. Old, dull, damp, moldy, crumbly, or anything that doesn’t look or smell right should NOT be fed! Many sources will tell you to get grass hay for rabbits, I disagree and here is why-most grass hay is grown for horses and many farmers use herbicides such as “Milestone” (aminopyralid) which goes right through the animals and even persists in manure and compost, this chemical can render compost worthless for years, because it will kill any garden, shrub, or tree it’s put on. Many people don’t know, but it can even be on organic hay because if the field was ever fertilized with manure from animals fed this, it can still be contaminated.

Rabbit manure has immense value as fertilizer because it can be used directly and will not burn plants. The reason for this, that most people don’t know, is that rabbits have an incredibly inefficient digestive system. There droppings actually still have 70% of the “feed value” of the food they ate! This means they only digest 30%, where as cattle digest 85%, horses digest 55%, pigs digest 90%, and chickens digest 75%. (Ref. https://www.canr.msu.edu/uploads/files/ManureCharacteristicsMWPS-18_1.pdf) Because of this inefficient digestion, rabbit droppings are great for feeding the soil and the soil organisms such as earthworms. All these characteristics lead to the high value of rabbit manure as a soil additive.

If kept dry, raked up, and bagged clean rabbit manure can sell for more than the rabbit feed cost. A good rule of thumb, however, is to bag dry poops into the empty rabbit feed sacks and sell it for 75% the cost of the same volume of feed. As they digest 30%, this means you can offset half of your feed cost by selling the manure for fertilizer. Of course, it’s also hard to part with “the worlds perfect fertilizer” so if you have a garden, you might end up using it all yourself!

Series of videos about feeding meat rabbits.