Episode 8 – Feeding Meat Rabbits

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Feeding Meat Rabbits can be a complex undertaking but the simple answer is to buy a pellet feed from a feed store.  These pellets are specially formulated to meet the dietary needs of the meat rabbit at different stages of life.  In the show note for today’s episode is a simple chart that breaks down the protein, fat, and fiber needs for different groups.

  Protein Fat Fiber
Dry Does, Breeder Bucks, & Growing Youngsters 12-15% 2-3.5% 20-27%
Pregnant Does & Nursing Does 16-20% 3-5.5% 15-20%
Episode 8   Feeding Meat Rabbits

Photo courtesy of toolking.com

I think that offering a free-choice hay is also a good idea.  If you are feeding your meat rabbits in the evenings (the time rabbits prefer to eat), then offer them some hay in the morning when you check them again.  Be sure to buy good quality hay that’s mold-free, dry and breaks easily.  You can cut it 4-6” long and tie it high on the side of the hutch if you have square or rectangular pens.  My pens are Quonset-shaped and with two pens next to each other they form a great hay rack with their roofs.  If you’re not familiar with this style of pen you should check out my video.  Be sure to keep the hay off the floor to avoid waste and spoilage.

General guidelines for feeding meat rabbits state that dry does, breeder bucks, and growing youngsters should be limit fed to keep them fit and trim.  Limit feeding is when the amount of feed is restricted.  Monitoring them closely helps set you limits.  Pregnant and nursing does should be allowed to eat as much as they want.  A good rule to help you determine how much you should be feeding animals at different ages/sizes is to use the following formulas:

Dry does should consume 3.8% of their live weight daily,

Episode 8   Feeding Meat Rabbits

Photo courtesy of naturalrabbitfood.com

((Doe weight in pounds X 0.038) X 16)=Oz. Fed/Day

For example, if you had a 10 pound dry doe:

((10 X 0.038) X 16) = 6 oz./day

Bucks and growing youngsters should consume 6.7% of their live weight.

((Animals weight in pounds X 0.067) X 16) = oz. Fed/Day

Hopefully that’s as clear as mud! 

This was just a guideline and you must observe your rabbits.  If you are petting a rabbit and she feels a little bony then she may need a little more to eat.  Feeding time is the most important and productive time to observe your rabbits.  If a rabbit is slow to come to fresh feed or has left some uneaten you should check her more closely.  Is her water working?  Thirsty rabbits won’t eat and can quickly dehydrate and die.  Are her eyes bright?  Does she appear to have diarrhea?  Is she breathing differently?  It’s much easier to treat a rabbit and help her recover faster in you catch the problem sooner.

We’ve talked a little about feeding your rabbit and the importance of water.  Let’s finish today’s post with a discussion of feeding hardware and setup.  If you plan on wire hutches then I would suggest using screened-bottom self-feeders.  These feeders attach to the outside of the hutch, are easy to fill, easy to clean and allow you to leave a couple days of feed if necessary.  While it is possible to feed on the cheap with a modified coffee can or bowl your rabbits will waste lots of feed by tipping it over, using it as a bathroom, or scratching feed out.

The method I prefer for watering is an automatic watering system that pipes water directly from a storage tank, down tubing to the hutches and to automatic values that drip water when the rabbit bites it.  I recommend keeping the storage tank small and allowing it to fill with a float valve.  This will help keep the water fresh and help reduce the chances of freezing in the colder climates.  Be sure to have a valve at the end of the line to drain the system for cleaning or extreme cold.  I currently use water bottoms since my setup needs to be small and mobile.  Alternatives could include ceramic bowls or a tin can but these are plagued with problems.  They tip easily and are more difficult to clean and keep full.

Today we covered feeding meat rabbits in a conventional manner using pellets and hay.  If you are a beginner I would suggest you start here.  Once you know how much a rabbit eats, what their poop and pee looks like, then you can experiment with other feeds.  Down the road I have several podcasts that will be dedicated to feeding your rabbits from your garden and kitchen scraps.

 Episode 8   Feeding Meat Rabbits

Episode 8   Feeding Meat RabbitsEpisode 8   Feeding Meat RabbitsEpisode 8   Feeding Meat Rabbits

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