Essential Rabbit Nutrition for Health and Longevity
Rabbits, being herbivores (plant-eaters) by nature, thrive in a rich plant-based environment like fields of grassy lands. In the wild, they feed mostly on grass and leafy plants. They also eat soft tree barks and twigs, but in smaller quantities. Their wild relatives natural habitat provides them with the freshest options for their food. The rabbits we keep as pets have been separated by their distant wild cousins by hundreds if not thousands of generations. As a result, particular care must be given to our furry family members. While a lot of their diet is similar to their wild brethren, we have the option of providing nutritious pellets, and can ensure we give them a complete diet.
The Basics of Rabbit Food
Quality should not be compromised in listing the basics of rabbit food. The freshness of their food adds to the nutrients they get. The variety must also be considered. Like humans, rabbits enjoy different textures in their food. Grass hay must be stored and offered in almost unlimited quantities. While grazing is still the best way to feed, the lack of a proper timothy hay or grass garden should not hinder you from owning a rabbit at home. Pellets were developed to serve as partner to grass hay. But, it is not advisable to feed them with only pellets for a longer period of time. It is recommended to introduce this to young rabbits to make sure they get the right nutrients needed for their growth. Otherwise, pellets must serve only as small part of their diet, and the diet composed of grass hay and leafy greens is still your best bet. Also make sure that there is always sufficient water all the time. It is also possible to get pelleted hay, but it’s still recommended to feed this in conjunction with fresh hay and vegetables.
Feeding Baby Rabbits
Like humans, the milk of the doe is the best food to take by newly born baby rabbits. It contains the highest form of nutrients and antibodies the rabbits need to resist diseases. After three to four weeks, slowly introduce pellets and alfalfa hay as additional supplement to the milk of the rabbit. Alfalfa is a kind of plant that is cultivated for grazing and hay. Make sure to cut the food into smaller portions and assist in feeding. By four to seven weeks, as part of the weaning process, you may transfer the food in container, but make it shallow so baby rabbits won’t have a hard time reaching it.
Feeding Young Bunnies
By eight weeks, up to seven months, you can entitle your now young bunnies to unlimited access to alfalfa hay and pellets. When they reach three months, start introducing vegetables in their diet. Do this gradually, one type at a time to allow them to enjoy the new experience. Also, give them a variety of textures, colors and taste to enjoy with. Better to rotate your bunny food so it won’t get boring. In addition, introducing one type at a time will make it easy to track the culprit should problems in digestion arise.
Feeding Adult Bunnies
When they reach seven months, continuing to one year, your now adult rabbits can enjoy fruit in their diet. But since fruits are high in sugar and calories, limit the quantity but do not keep them from enjoying this addition to their growing choices. Give it in limited quantities. Take note of the healthy weight requirement of rabbits based on age to assist in observing whether you give enough, or more than enough food, then adjust accordingly. At this point, also limit their bunny pellets intake as these contain many calories that can make your rabbit overweight. To compensate, increase the intake of grass hay and vegetables. You can also introduce other types of hay such as oat hay and timothy. Hay makes a great source of nutrients that aid in proper digestion, thus should be offered continuously.
Weight Gain and Mature Rabbits
What rabbits can eat now as mature adults by the age one to five are now more varied than before. Continue giving all day access to grass hay, other types of hay, and limit fruit offerings. Also when giving leafy vegetables, choose the dark ones because they are more nutritious than the lighter varieties. Observe your pet’s intake of rabbit pellets, and remember the standard rule of ¼ cup pellets per 6 pounds of body weight. Or better yet, treat pellets only as treats, and still do the rule of thumb in quantity.
The Senior Years
Now that your rabbits reach their senior years (over six years), the aim is to maintain a healthy weight as possible to prolong their lifespan. Just continue with their adult diet and adjust accordingly should certain problems arise. By this time, rabbits are more susceptible to other diseases which are mostly digestive in nature. You should extend extra care for old rabbits by strict observation of their diet. As in everything, balance is the key. If your senior rabbit begins losing weight, be sure to give them unlimited pellets.
Feeding by Age
|Age||Type of Feed||Quantity||Treats allowed|
|Birth-3 Weeks||Mother's Milk||Free Choice||No|
|3-4 Weeks||Mothers Milk, Small amounts of alfalfa hay or pellets||Free Choice||No|
|4-7 Weeks||Mother's Milk, Free choice Alfalfa hay or pellets||Free Choice||No|
|7 Weeks - 7 Months||Free-choice Alfalfa Pellets and Hay||Free Choice||Introduce Vegetables *one at a time at 12 Weeks (Under 1/2 oz|
|7 Months- 1 Year||Introduce Timothy Hay and Other Hays, decrease Alfalfa, daily vegetables||1/2 cup per 6lbs(2.72kg) body weight. Increase Vegetables Gradually.||2 oz. max daily ration of fruit per 6lbs(2.72kg) of body weight.|
|1 - 5 Years||Timothy and pellets, Vegetables, Fresh Hays||1/4 to 1/2 Cup Pellets and 2 cups Vegetables per 6lbs(2.72kg) Body-weight, depending on metabolism and||2 oz. max daily ration of fruit per 6lbs(2.72kg) of body weight.|
|Over 6 Years||Continue Adult diet.||If weight is not maintained, switch to freechoice pellets.||Alfalfa to under weight rabbits, 2 oz. max daily ration of fruit per 6lbs(2.72kg) of body weight.|
What, specifically, are rabbit pellets?
Basically, rabbit or bunny pellets are developed as a convenient source of nutrients needed by rabbits since the time we took them from the wild. They are usually comprised of a staple hay (alfalfa for baby-teenage rabbits and timothy hay for older rabbits), and have additional vitamins added to ensure optimal rabbit health. It is also an economical alternative to sustain the nutritional requirements needed to raise healthy domesticated rabbits. Rabbit pellets are essential in any breeder’s, rabbit owner’s, and even rabbit trainer’s (Yes, they exist!) disposal. It promotes a quick and easy way to attain optimum growth and weight gain for rabbits. But with everything, moderation is the key in order to reap its real benefits.
The Rabbit Pellets’ Market
A variety of brands and types of rabbit pellets are available in the market. Choosing the right kind could be an overwhelming task to many, but the key here is not to settle with advertising. Aim for the kind that is a compromise in price and quantity of fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and fat. Opt for organic varieties if possible. Also, be wary of other additives that offer nothing but added calories.
|Which Ones?||Daily Nutritional Requirements|
|Dry Does, Herd Bucks and Developing Young||12-15% Protein
|Pregnant Does and Does with Litters||16% Protein
A lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise is essential for optimum growth and weight gain for your pets. Rabbit food is an aid for the rabbit to grow healthy and long, so take time to research for the best to offer. For other concerns, it is still best to consult the experts. Your pet’s health is anchored on your wise choices. Take the journey to health.
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