Rabbits only need to be fed once a day, preferably in the evening (they are most active at night). Try to feed at the same time every day.
Current commercial feeds should have everything a rabbit needs. Salt spools, hay, vitamins and other extras are not necessary. If the only thing you feed your rabbits are commercial feeds, you'll do just fine.
You should feed your dry does and bucks about 4 to 6 ounces of feed a day (I use an empty tuna fish can as a measuring cup). When the nest box is put into the pregnant doe's cage (day 28), you'll want to increase her ration of food. Once your does have a litter, you should feed them all they want to eat until their litter is weaned. Then continue to feed the young all they want to eat until they are about 12 weeks old (if you're keeping them that long). Taper off the doe's feed for the next few days after the kits are weaned down to 4 to 6 ounces a day. When she has another litter, feed her as much as she needs.
Feeding your rabbits too much results in bad health and limited reproduction. Overweight rabbits quite often stop producing all together. This is why we limit feed our rabbits (except for nursing does and young litters) vs unlimited eating. We recommend you do the same.
The feed conversion per fryer is about 1 pound of meat per 4 pounds of feed. This is feed conversion, not recommended feeding amount.
Protein % Recommendations
The protein percentage is another thing to consider. Most feed stores sell 16% protein feed. If this is all you feed your rabbits, you'll be fine. However, if you'd like to take it one step further, you can increase nutrients to nursing doe by adding 18% protein feed to your program. This will give you better production with quicker recovery for production does. So using the 2 feed system, you'll feed your bucks, jr does and weaned kits the 16% protein feed while feeding the pregnant, nursing and less than 4 week old kits the 18% protein feed. But if you had to choose between one or the other, 16% protein would be just fine for your rabbitry.
The actual protein suggestions differ depending on the expert. The following data is from the 2 most reliable sources available on rabbit production and nutrition.
"Rabbit Feeding and Nutrition" by Peter R. Cheeke:
- Normal growth from 4 -12 weeks: 15% protein
- Lactation & Gestation: 18% protein
- Maintenance: 13% protein
- Does and litters fed one diet: 17% protein
"Rabbit Production" by McNitt, Patton, Lukefahr, Cheeke:
- Producing does: 17.5% - 18% protein
- Weanling rabbits: 15.5% - 16% protein
- Fattening rabbits: 16% - 16.5% protein
Currently at AZ Rabbits, we only feed 16% protein feed to our rabbits. However, we will be experimenting with feeding production does the 18% pellets to see if there is a noticeable difference. We'll post our results afterwards.
Always remember to have plenty of cool water for your rabbits. During the hottest months of the summer, this is particularly important. You may need to change their water 3 or 4 times a day during the hottest months, depending on your rabbitry setup. Automatic watering systems are great additions to a rabbitry to ensure fresh drinking water available 24 hours a day. They also dramatically reduce daily chores in your rabbitry and free up time for other matters. Either way, your rabbits should never run out of water.
AZ Rabbits will soon be stocking our favorite brand of rabbit pellets available for purchase at great prices. Stay tuned...
We have tried several of the big brand names (and several small brand names). Many of them very expensive and some not very expensive. Also protein content ranging from 16% to over 18%. Some resulting in the rabbits wasting a lot through scratching. Some with longer pellets which caused lots of waste by the small kits just starting to eat. Some had an enormous amount of dust, some with chunks of ingredients, etc.
Overall, Star Milling 16% rabbit pellets are not only reasonably priced, but clean and impressively utilized by our rabbits. It follows most of the expert recommended guidelines and our rabbits have done very well with this feed. We confidently recommend these pellets to others and because of this, are also working on becoming resellers for this feed.
We feed our pregnant and nursing does the 18% protein from Star Feeds (Ace-Hi label). The content is posted here for reference. We like this compared to most other 18% feeds due to the fat content. Many other feeds have 1% to 2% whereas this one has at least 4%. This (along with all the other ingredients) is important in maintaining optimal health, weight an size, particularly when using accelerated breeding programs.
We will also be doing some documented studies utilizing a couple different feeds and different protein percentages. We will be sharing those results with the Rabbit Producers Association, which we recommend all rabbit breeders join.