In the wild, rabbits mainly eat grass. They can graze up to 6-8 hours a day. Their entire digestive tract, from teeth to the end of the gastrointestinal tract, is adapted to this diet and eating habits. Dietary fiber, entering the intestine, ensures its mobility and health. Disruptions in the digestive cycle of rabbits can cause gastrointestinal upsets and can be fatal. Grass is also necessary for the health of animal teeth.
Breeders are not always able to provide animals with fresh food. The solution to this problem is hay, which has the same properties and nutritional value.
For full development, the rabbit needs a sufficient amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The composition of the feed directly affects the fertility, growth and health of the animal. Proper feeding is, first of all, a normalized diet that takes into account the physiological condition of the animal, weight and season.
The rabbit diet can be divided into several groups ׃
It is mainly fresh grass and greens. Due to the high content of vitamins, minerals and proteins, it favorably affects the growth, reproduction of animals and the quality of rabbit fur. However, use only green feed is not worth it. If concentrated feed is not added, the rabbits lag behind in growth, and the females stop lactating after a month.
This group includes ׃
They are included in the diet mainly in the autumn – winter time (see also: how to feed rabbits in the winter). This group includes root crops, tubers, silage, and melons. They have high milk-producing properties and dietary characteristics, contain easily digestible carbohydrates and vitamins, however, proteins and minerals are not enough. Especially not enough phosphorus and calcium. Among all groups, they have the lowest total nutritional value expressed in feed units.
Carrots are considered to be the most useful root vegetables; animals with appetite also eat fodder beet varieties, cousuiko (a hybrid of forage cabbage and rutabaga), turnips, rutabaga, boiled and raw potatoes, and turnips.
Among gourds, pumpkin, fodder varieties of watermelon, and zucchini are most popular.
Silo is a nutritious feed that provides animal vitamins in winter and early spring. Most often, they use sunflower, pea and carrot tops, corn, oats, vetch, and herbs for silage. Silage is added to the feed gradually, 50-100 g each, so that the rabbits get used to the feed.
They are included in the diet in the autumn-winter period due to the high fiber content.
The composition of roughage includes hay, hay flour, certain types of straw and plant branches.
The main component of roughage should be hay. The most nutritious is hay from legumes and cereals, as well as from meadow and steppe forbs, mown before flowering plants and dried in the shade. Especially useful for young animals and females during lactation.
Herbal flour is made from overdried hay. It is used as an additive in soft feed.
Only some types of straw are suitable for feeding rabbits; they include ׃ oat, millet, pea and lentil straw. Other types of straw are used only as litter. Straw contains a small amount of protein and other beneficial substances. Her rabbits are reluctant to eat.
Branch feeds are high in rabbit nutrients. Harvested in summer and autumn. As food, you can use shoots of raspberry, plum, apple, willow, aspen, acacia, linden, maple, willow, etc. In winter, you can use branches of spruce, pine and juniper as a vitamin top dressing, gradually introducing them into the rabbits diet.
They have high energy value, contain a large amount of protein and other nutrients. It makes up at least 30-40% of the diet of rabbits. The amount of concentrated feed should be normalized, depending on the composition and nutritional value of another diet, the age of the animal, and its physiological state.
The composition of concentrated feeds includes grains of cereals and legumes, the remains of grain processing and Pancake week, animal feed, animal feed.
Oats are considered the most valuable among cereals because of its dietary properties. Also used for food are barley, wheat, corn, peas, beans, soy, lentils, oak acorns, oilcakes and meal.
Of bran, only wheat is recommended for nutrition. Rye should only be used in small quantities in extreme need.
The most valuable animal feed is meat – bone and fish meal. Due to its high content of calcium and phosphorus, it is also used as a mineral feed additive. Blood feed, silkworm pupa, whole and dried milk, and whey are also considered animal feed.
Mineral and Vitamin Feed
They are used as mineral and vitamin supplements in the diet, especially in winter and early spring.
These include fish oil (vitamin A and D, iodine), sprouted grains or young herbs (vitamin E), baker’s yeast (vitamin E, B), bone meal or ash (calcium and phosphorus minerals), salt and chalk.
Water should be given to animals every morning and evening before feeding. It is advisable to water the rabbits three times on hot days, once on cold days.
Young rabbits up to 2.5 months. and lactating females are fed 4 times a day, the rest – at least 3 times. The regimen is very important for animals.
Which hay is best for rabbits?
The best is hay from meadow and steppe forbs, dried in a natural way. It is a rich source of calcium and vitamin D.
Of the herbs, it is better to give preference to clover, burdock, dandelion, plantain, wild sorrel, a shepherd’s bag and yarrow. An excellent food is nettle, harvested before flowering.
Rabbits with appetite also eat some bitter and aromatic plants ׃ dill, wormwood, wild mountain ash, chicory. These herbs can be introduced into the diet for the prevention of helminthic infestations.
The most nutritious hay from legumes is sainfoin, vetch, clover, alfalfa. However, it must be mixed with other types of hay.
The appearance and nutritional value of hay depends on the type of grass, the time of mowing and the duration of storage of hay.
There are some guidelines when choosing hay ׃
How much hay does a rabbit need?
Rabbits must have access to hay all day. It is necessary to control the constant flow of hay. As a rough guide, a rabbit should eat hay equal to the size of its body on a day.
According to zoological standards, the daily need for hay for an adult rabbit is 300 g., For a young rabbit 100-200 g. In total, for one adult, 17 kg is necessary. hay per year.
The rabbit does not eat hay
Despite the high nutritional value of hay, many rabbits are reluctant to eat it. This is often due to the presence of tasty, but less healthy food, which contributes to the development of bad eating habits, which over time will be difficult to fix.
Refusal of hay can lead to tooth disease (see rabbit disease for details) and intestines, so some effort should be made to change the preferences of the animal.
Below are some tips you can use to stimulate a rabbit to eat more hay:
Hay Bunny Diet
The first stage of the diet (1-3 days) ׃ reduce the amount of feed to a minimum, continue to give hay in the same amount.
Second stage (4-6 days) ׃ minimize the amount of greens and vegetables.
The third stage (6-10 days) ׃ introduce only hay into the diet, carefully observing the rabbit. If the animal eats little, be sure to add greens, but so that it does not eat.
The fourth stage, the final ׃ gradually return the previous diet to understand how much other food the rabbit will eat hay.
Hay for decorative rabbits
As a rule, hay for decorative rabbits does not differ from the choice of hay for other breeds of rabbits. The main condition still remains the quality of hay and its composition.
How to replace hay rabbits
The rabbits need hay, it contains special fibers, without which the normal vital activity of the animal is impossible. Even greens and root crops cannot fully replace hay. Hay contains certain vitamins that affect the ability of animals to breed.
If some animal refuses hay, you can try to compensate for it with greens ׃ tops of radishes and carrots, leaves of cabbage, lettuce, and celery. Branches of apple trees and conifers are also needed. To replenish fiber and coarse fibers, granular feed should be included in the diet.
Harvesting hay for rabbits
Harvesting hay is best started in the summer before flowering meadow and steppe plants. Harvesting in marshy areas of the soil should be avoided; acidic herbs grow there.
It is better to do harvesting of herbs in the meadows, forest edges and outskirts.
Drying herbs is recommended in the shade on special stakes, which are arranged in the form of a hedge or a pyramid to ensure good ventilation. Thanks to this method of drying the grass to preserve all the useful trace elements.
There is a way to get excellent food, not much different from green grass, called haylage. The collected grass is dried to a moisture content of 40-45%, canned in a crushed state in airtight storages.
Hay from overgrown grass, mowed after flowering or caught in the rain has less nutrients and is poorly digested.
Store hay in a barn on a wooden floor, at least 50 cm from the ground.
Watch your pets carefully. Each individual has different preferences for hay. Some people like rough blades of grass from bitter steppe grasses, while others like softer blades of meadow grass. Having studied the eating habits of the animal, you can choose a highly effective balanced food that will not only appeal to your animal, but will also be useful to him.
Watch the video how to choose hay for rabbits