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Feeding Rabbits

The simplest way to ensure proper nutrition for your rabbit is to buy dark green pellets and supplement this with hay. Then you can offer a few treats as well. But if you are serious about breeding rabbits you should consider offering different rations according to their age and use.

A pet rabbit, or any rabbit you wish to simply keep healthy, such as a breeding buck, or retired doe, do fine on a very simple diet of hay and oats. This is known as a maintenance diet and the correct proportion, in weight, is

70% legume hay
29% oats
1% salt and minerals

If you have a number of rabbits making up your own feed will save you a considerable amount of money, and will also benefit your rabbits. Pellets may put too much weight on older rabbits, and do not offer enough for growing rabbits. This is especially important if you are economically raising rabbits for the meat market.

A growing ration should consist of:

50% Alfalfa hay
17% Oats
22% Barley
5% Soybean meal
5% Wheat bran
1%Salt and minerals

A pregnant doe needs:

50% Alfalfa Hay
45% Oats
4% Soybean Meal
1% Salt and Minerals

A lactating doe needs:

40% Alfalfa Hay
25% Wheat
22% Barley
12% Soybean meal
1% Salt and minerals

The quantity offered varies of course, but you can expect a rabbit to eat 60-140g of grain a day depending on age and use, with lactating does requiring the most. The maintenance diet is best kept at about 70g of grain a day to avoid obesity. Young growing rabbits should be free-fed.


There is a huge difference in the composition of commercial pellets. Here are two ingredients lists:

Feed A

Barley 25%
Oats 20%
Dehydrated Alfalfa 25%
Beet pulp 5%
Soya meal 17.5%
Tallow 0.5%
Lignosal 0.7%
IMC DiCal phosphate 18-20 2%
Calcium Carbonate 1%
Salt 0.3%
Premix 5 0.5%
Molasses 2.5%

Feed B

Sun-cured alfalfa meal 52.9%
Soya meal 20.6%
Wheat mill run 19.6%
Mineral salt 0.49%
Dicalcium phosphate 0.25%
Molasses 2.96%
Tallow 1.2%
Bentonite 2%

Both of these are adequate maintenance rations, and for the average pet or a few rabbits this is the most econmical and simple way to feed. For a commercial producer rf breeder however the weaknesses in the pellets could be a problem. For example Vitamin E is vital to rabbits, most pellets contain synthetic Vitamin E which can be destroyed by the heat of the pelletization process. Sometimes the Vitamins and Minerals in pellets are simply in too small proportion. Before relying on a pellet feed check the composition carefully.


In most livestick rations percentages of protein, carbohydrate, and fat are discussed. With rabbits the maintenance ration should be 12-15% protein, increasing to 16-20% for pregnant, lactating, and especially growing rabbits.

Often zealous meat rabbit producers over-do the carbohydrate proportion, and suffer losses from enteritis as a result. It's a bit of a balancing act trying to feed any growing animal enough carbs to make a profit without harm. Some experimentation may be necessary here, as in all farming

All rabbits need 12-14% crdue fiber.

Finally a word on water. I recommend a watering system if you have more rabbits than you can regularly fill and wash bottles for. Did you know that a large lactating doe in Summer can drink FOUR AND A HALF LITRES of water a day? That's a gallon! Personally I have no desire to fill water bottles 10 times a day, hence my watering system.

Rabbits who do not have enough to drink WILL NOT EAT PROPERLY. It is pointless offering expensive feeds trying to grow meat rabbits for profit if they are not eating due to thirst!