The first time you welcome a rabbit at home as a pet, there are many questions that come to your mind. Among all of them, one of the main ones is how much our new pet friend eats? I know this very well, because me like you, I once asked myself this very same question, when House and Gus, my two pet rabbits, came to live with us. So after extensive research and years of experience feeding them, I feel pretty confident I can help you answer this and some other questions regarding your pet´s nutrition.
So, How much a pet Rabbit eats per day?
First of all, the amount of food depends on the size of the rabbit. A general rule for adult rabbits is to feed 1⁄2 to 1 ounce of pellets per pound of rabbit per day, measured by weight rather than volume because different food formulations have different weights.
Let´s see an example:
As an example, to an 8-pound pet rabbit, a 5 ounce of feed will be enough. This amount keeps a rabbit healthy and at its ideal weight. With that being said, this is a general rule and you should let your rabbit tell you how much food needs, always inside the healthy measurements we mentioned before.
Also, you should take into account that in winter, the rabbits will need extra energy for maintaining their body heat.
But, if my Rabbit is not an adult yet, How much food will it need?
Don´t worry, in the next section I will tell you how much food you should give, not only to adult rabbits, also to young adults, pregnant rabbits, etc…
Let´s go one by one:
Baby Rabbits (Kits)
Baby Rabbits, also known as Kits, feed on their mother milk for the first 3 weeks. After the third week, the Kit will start eating some alfalfa hay and pellets. The Kits will increase progressively the amount of solid food they will eat week by week. In the meantime, they will keep feeding on their mother´s milk, until the eighth week.
Keep food available 24/7, not only for the Kits, but also for the lactating mother.
Junior Rabbits ( Juveniles ):
You should full-feed Juniors, from weaning to adult, meaning give them as much as they want, with feed available 24/7. When they reach the third-month mark, you can start introducing, little by little, different vegetables into their diet. Also, you can add one teaspoon of whole oats on top of each junior’s feed.
Few weeks before the 7th month of age, the Juvenile Rabbit weight gain tapers off, as it is getting closer to adulthood, At this point, you should begin reducing their feed, until they are receiving their adult rations at adulthood. Most rabbits begin tapering, or self-regulating, their food intake on their own.
A Rabbit is considered a Young adult when he reaches its seventh month of life, and a full-grown Mature Adult when reaches the first year. During this period of 3 months, the Young Adult will be introduced to Timothy, grass hays, and oats hays. Those should be available 24/7 to our Young Rabbit. Grass hays and Oat hays will help your rabbit´s intestinal tract work properly.
For a Young Rabbit, Alfalfa Hay is not as important at this stage of its life. Alfalfa hay has more calories than the other hays and if we feed to a young rabbit too much it can cause weight problems. Alfalfa will be essential for your Rabbit when it reaches Seniority because of the higher levels of calcium in it. Also, the higher level of calories will help our senior rabbit stop any weight loss caused by aging.
Mature Adult Rabbits:
To Mature Adult Rabbits, you should feed them their ration with nothing more than perhaps some grass hay. A healthy addition to their diet is a teaspoon of whole oats or a pinch of black oil sunflower seeds per day. This helps keep the rabbits well-conditioned.
You can add some treat to their diet from time to time. In this article, I speak about which treats are the most healthy and delicious for pet rabbits.
You can feed Senior Adult Rabbits a similar amount of food compared to a Mature Adult. In case, your Pet Rabbit is experiencing some weight loss you should check with a veterinarian.
Drs. Foster and Smith from the Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, recommend incrementing the amount of pellets if the Senior Rabbit is having problems keeping her or his body weight. Also, they point out the importance of checking calcium levels periodically, in Senior Rabbits. In case, of calcium deficiency, alfalfa hay will help, restoring the calcium levels, and also helping to increase the rabbit´s bodyweight.
Pregnant does have particular nutritional needs due to their condition. I like to follow the next procedure when feeding them:
- Once I’ve confirmed the pregnancy I increase gradually the amount of food. Always making sure the pregnant doe is eating the whole amount of food I’m leaving in a 24-hour period.
- After day 21 or so, there may be feed left in the feeder over a 24-hour period, as the appetite tends to drop in the few days left before kindling.
Full-feed, like we commented before when we were speaking about feeding Juveniles. The best way to ensure balanced nutrition for the increased nutritional needs is through free feeding commercial pellets. Many breeders offer a feed with 18 percent protein, but they may not take into account the increased need for fat. Rabbit milk is high in fat, ranging from 9 to 18 percent (as fed), increasing with the age of the kits.
Commercial pellets typically supply just 2 to 3 percent fat. Pregnant Does seem to need the extra fats in order to produce enough milk for their kits. You can add 2 extra tablespoons of black oil sunflower seeds on top of their rations. The oil-rich seeds do amazing things for milk production.
Answering Questions You May Have Regarding Rabbit Nutrition
Which should be the ideal nutrient formulation in Rabbit´s food?
Good commercial food for Rabbits should meet the next requirements:
- Protein should be between 12 to 18%
- Simple Carbohydrates should be around 4%
- Fats between 2 to 8%
- The fiber, always in fibrous shape, should be above the protein levels ( +20 %)
- The commercial formulation of your choice should supplement your rabbit with vitamins A, D, and E
- Also should contain the next minerals: following: calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, cobalt, and iodine.
Should rabbits have food available 24/7?
Youngsters under 6 to 8 months of age, depending on the breed, should have food available at all time, because they are still growing. Adults, on the other side, have their needs already stabilized, and they might overeat if you leave them food available 24/7.
What can you feed rabbits if you run out of rabbit feed?
Good alternatives are:
- Shredded wheat or dried (not moldy)
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole oats and/or black oil sunflower seeds
- Alfalfa (lucerne) hay is very nourishing and can be fed alone with water for a few days in the absence of commercial pelleted feed.
Which fruits can be served as treats to my rabbit?
Always keep in mind, an excess of sugar can cause diarrhea to your rabbit so serve them with caution and in small amounts:
You can serve a small slice of Banana, Apple, Melon or Orange. 1 or 2 Blackberries, Blueberries or Raspberries can be served as a treat.
Only serve one or 2 of the options above per day and always check your rabbit droppings in case your rabbit digestive system is in trouble.