In this post, you will learn how to feed rabbits of different ages (adult rabbits and kits). You will also learn how to pellet rabbit food at home by yourself.
Feeding of (Kits) Baby Rabbits
During the first.-3 weeks, the only feed for the baby rabbits is the doe’s milk (female rabbit milk). After 2-3 weeks the baby rabbits will start to eat the grass and concentrates, as well as suckling the doe. As they get older, they will adjust themselves to live completely on feed from outside. Till the baby rabbits remain on suckling, it is very important that their mother (does) gets enough good quality feed (concentrates, green roughages and clean water) to sustain lactational demand. A lactating doe while nursing 8 young, will consume concentrates more than 250 g/day, while the water consumption may be as high as 3-5 litres/day. All vegetable rations are generally supplemented with salt and a source of calcium, such as bone-meal. Rations must include balanced concentrates mixture.
Feeding of Adult Rabbits
Adult rabbits require all six nutrients, viz. water, carbohydrates, fat, protein, all essential minerals and vitamins like a human being. By nature, rabbits fulfill their nutrient requirements by eating Green bulky roughages like grass, all types of green vegetable, leaves and hay.
Concentrates, which are feed low in crude fibre (under 20%) and high in energy (over 60% TDN). Concentrate mix is prepared by mixing more than one ingredients for enhancing nutritional adequacy of the feed.
Coprophagy is another important source of nutrients for rabbits which includes partially digested feed, containing protein, energy and vitamins those are needed by the rabbit.
Water consumption takes place through water content of feeds consumed and directly from drinking of clean water. A constant supply of fresh clean water is essential for rabbits.
Rabbits dislike dusty and gritty feeds and selectively eat certain ingredients of mashed feeds. They prefer pelleted feed, which is also the scientific method of feeding rabbits in modern commercial rabbit ‘farming. The advantages of pelleting are that it reduces the rabbit’s selection of preferred ingredients of the feed and improves growth performance by enhancing the nutrient utilization. Pellets also require less storage space and are easier to transport.
Rabbits prefer pellets of 4 mm diameter and 10 mm length. Two types of pellets are used for:
- All-grain pellets fed with hay or roughage
- Composite pellets which contain all the elements of a balanced diet, including roughage
Dietary Fiber Utilization by Rabbits
Rabbits digest ﬁber poorly because of the selective separation and rapid excretion of large particles in the hindgut. They do need a generous amount of ﬁber in the diet (15% Crude Fibre) to promote intestinal motility and minimize intestinal disease. Fiber may also absorb toxins of pathogenic bacteria and eliminate them via the “hard feces”. Diets low in fiber promotes an increased incidence of intestinal problems e.g. ‘Enterotoxemia.’ This may be the result of the higher starch content of low ﬁber diets. Starch is a substrate for the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria such as Clostridium spiroforme, which produce a potent toxin High ﬁber diets (20% Crude Fibre) may result in an increased incidence of cecal impaction and mucoid enteritis. Volatile Fatty Acid (VFA) produced in the cecum are important metabolites since they aid in the control of pathogenic organism by helping to maintain a low pH in the cecum.
Low ﬁber diet usually reduces the growth rate of fryer rabbits and for maximum growth rate, a minimum of 10% dietary crude ﬁber is necessary. Dietary ﬁber helps to prevent fur pulling and trichobezoas (hairballs) in the stomach.
Sample Feed Formula For Rabbit Feed
|Bran of Maize, Rice or Wheat||20|
|Wheat, Rye, Sorghum or Millet Middling||20|
|Groundnut Cake (GNC)||15|
|Dried Grass or Alfalfa Meal||37|
Model Feeding Schedule For Rabbits
|Approximate Body Weight (kg)||Quantity to be fed per day|
|Concentrate (g)||Green Fodder (g)|
|Bucks (Adult Male)||4 - 5||175||200|
|Does (Adult Female)||4 - 5||150||200|
|Lactating Does||4 - 5||250||250|
|Weaners (6 weeks)||0.6 - 0.7||50||100|
[DIY] How To Pellet Rabbit Feed At Home
Scientists have worked out a technique for pelleting rabbit food at home or on the farm.
- Select the raw material and thoroughly mix them by
- Sprinkling the mix with molasses and 40% water
- Place the mash in a cotton bag and cook in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes
- Feed the hot mixture into a meat-mincer and extrude through a 6mm plate to form pellets
- Dry the pellets in the sun or in an oven at 80°C for four hours.
- Break up the pellets by hand and pack.
General Tips on Rabbit Feeding
There are many manufacturers of rabbit feed, and your own local feed mill should be able to assist you in producing a diet for your rabbits.
In commercial ventures, rabbits are fed only pelleted food so that their diet is strictly controlled.
Whilst some rabbit growers prefer to feed their rabbits ad lib, this actually reduces their feed intake. If you feed an animal, twice a day, then the animal is eager to eat at both times of the day and actually ends up eating more. Always ensure that fresh water is available too, as water intake will also affect dry material intake. The water must not be too hot or too cold either, as this reduces water intake, and hence feed intake.
Rabbits, however, are well known for their interest in eating anything green, from carrot tops, which they particularly like, to dandelion leaves. They can also eat vegetables such as carrots but fruits such as apple (without the pips), should only be given in moderation.
Check the stools of the rabbit to identify if they are well. Different foods can be added in slowly, but by checking their stools for diarrhoea, you will be able to identify if there is anything upsetting them.
Rabbits eat at night time too, so food should be available at all times. If you are giving your rabbits additional food sources other than pellets, then ensure that hay is available all the time.
The does will eat 100 g per day, but when pregnant will increase her intake to 160 g. This jumps to 350 g when she is lactating.
For commercial rabbit farming, use pelleted feed only, and for non-commercial rabbit farming, use feed pelleted, hay and a mixture of greens and vegetables , with also a very limited supply of fruit, and observe your rabbit for any abnormalities when introducing a different diet.