There are so many different types of rabbit feeds that choosing one for your pet can be confusing. It is recommended that the best pellets for rabbits are those that are high in fibre which will support the digestive system. Rabbit pellets should also be free from sugars and unnecessary ingredients to promote dental health and minimise selective feeding. Brands such as Selective Science and Oxbow contain antioxidants and prebiotics which sustain the rabbit’s natural gut bacteria, whereas ingredients such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 maintain healthy fur and skin.
It is recommended that pellets should only make up 5% of a rabbit’s diet, with good quality hay making up the bulk of what they should eat daily. For an average 2.5kg rabbit, 50g of rabbit food pellets alongside unlimited hay and 100g of fresh greens or herbs is enough to sustain them daily. An egg-cup amount twice daily should suffice, and although this may seem like a small amount, dried rabbit pellets are very concentrated which is why they don’t need so much.
However, rabbits that are underweight, ill or have medical conditions may benefit from extra pellets. Also, pellets can be used to ensure the nutrient requirements of rabbits that refuse to eat a significant amount of hay or green vegetables. Following the feeding guidelines on the back of the packaging will help you to determine how much your rabbit needs to be fed daily.
Avoid muesli-type food pellets as these are often high in sugar which upsets your rabbit’s delicate digestive system and contributes to poor dental health. When fed this type of diet, rabbits will often selectively feed, picking out the sugary and high starch parts of the feed and leaving behind the high-fibre parts which are what they actually need to be eating! This leads to an unbalanced diet and even obesity. Pellets that all look the same and are made from good quality fibre are the best type to feed your pet.
All pellets should be weighed out with food weighing scales to ensure the correct amount is being given for your rabbit’s body weight. This helps to prevent your rabbit from eating too much or too little. Some owners prefer to give their rabbits their pellets in a bowl so that they can see how much they have eaten every day. If feeding from a bowl, make sure it is heavy so it can’t be tipped over and it is made of materials that the rabbit won’t chew.
On the other hand, scattering the weighed-out pellets into your rabbit’s hutch or their run area will help provide mental stimulation and exercise whilst they are foraging for their food. Scatter feeding encourages a more natural feeding pattern as in the wild, rabbits eat off the ground whilst moving. It also helps stop your rabbit from eating too quickly or from guarding the food against another rabbit, preventing them from their share.
It is a good idea to mimic the natural feeding patterns of a rabbit as best as possible. Rabbits will feed in the early morning, evening and at night as in the wild, this is when they would be safest from predators.
Any changes to your rabbit’s diet must be made gradually as sudden changes can upset the delicate balance of bacteria found in their gut. This leads to diarrhoea which is very dangerous. Introducing a different type of feed should be done over a period of 14-28 days, gradually reducing the old food and replacing it with your chosen pellet.