It must be mind boggling to the average pet rabbit owner to sort out what is best for their bunny.
Therefore I thought I would tell you what I do with my bunnies in an effort to help you make some wise decisions.
This is the basis of my feed regime.
As much as i would prefer to feed my rabbits a completely natural diet I have no room or time for such an endeavor. Figuring out the balance of salt and nutrients along with protein and fibre content is something I simply choose NOT to do, plus most of my bunnies move into pet homes where they will be fed pellets, so it makes the transition easier for them if I simply feed pellets.
What to look for in a pellet? Green colour, just pellets, no grains or colourful bits.
Why no grains?
It's like giving your rabbit main course plus dessert. Rabbits (with the temperament of many toddlers) will say DESSERT!!! I WANT DESSERT!!! and forget about eating their main course.
Why no fluffy colourful bits?
Well frankly who needs extra food colouring, fat, oil, and flour in their diet??? Honestly most rabbits DO NOT need that stuff.
I am not as driven as some about giving hay. I give it (in the winter every other day and daily during times of stress/change) and in the summer once a week (again daily during times of stress/change).
I only give a good solid handful and it changes depending on the rabbit involved. Some rabbits if I give too much hay won't eat their pellets, and others will eat ALL their hay and their pellets and act like starvation is just around the corner.
My reasoning is this...
1. Rabbits need fibre in their diet and a good quality pellet will provide that needed fibre.
2. Variety is the source of life, health and enjoyment. If I feed hay daily, how can I give other variety? How can my rabbits learn they can survive without hay (for those with a hay allergy who still want to own a bunny)?
3. hay is fed primarily for the enjoyment and stabilizing factor.
The type of hay does matter.. rabbits do best on a horse quality hay.. a grass hay. I buy mine by the bale, one slice last my herd for a day for the most part. Depends on who baled it.
I talk about the grain mix I use My Grain Mix and My grain mix part two.
I want my rabbits to be as balanced and capable of surviving regardless of how a person chooses to feed their rabbits. For those who feed a more natural diet, grains are an important part of the type of feeding regime. I've purchased rabbits who simply WON'T eat greens. They just say NOPE, never seen it, won't eat it.
I strongly desire rabbits who won't do that type of stuff as it's much less worrisome to the new owners.
In winter, every other day, in summer twice a week.
I find feeding grains really helpful in the heat of summer when the rabbits are too hot to really want to eat. They will eat oats if they are used to do so. Just a scoopful in the evening when it's cooler and they will do just fine.
I DO NOT buy greens for my rabbits.
In Ontario it is SO easy to find greens for your rabbits. It's the lawn to put up signs if uses sprays on your lawn, and most places it's rather restricted to businesses only to treat, so its usually not that difficult to find greens or even to grow them in your house/apartment.
I focus on GREEN feed, thinking like a rabbit as best I can.
REMEMBER>>> start slowly. Give their guts time to develop the proper flora needed. Mixing some fresh grass in with some hay to start and gradually increasing how much they get.
In the spring I'll feed dandelions, parsley, young leaves from GREEN leafed maple trees, young thistles, clovers, various grasses etc.
In the summer I'll add produce from my garden (lettuces, kale, swiss chard, turnip and radish greens etc). Along with plantain, prickly lettuce etc from my yard.
In the fall, maple leaves again are a favourite mixed with grasses, bean plants (without any dried beans on the plant), sunflower leaves, pumpkins or squashes I'm not using, etc. I'll pick up corn leaves and silk from vendors. Melon rinds are always a favourite.. water, honeydew, and cantelope.. YUM!
Every day they don't get grains or hay they get a big handful of greens, starting them off VERY slowly in the spring until their gut flora adjusts to having greens again until they are the full course.
What Don't I feed my rabbits?
I also feed very little in the way of cabbage family plants. Some rabbits will bloat from these plants and since I cannot predict by looking at them which ones might do that, and there are SO MANY other options out there.. feed the safe foods and leave the questionable ones behind.
If you've any questions.. just ask!
I'll do my best to answer them. :)