Rabbits – food and water
Nutritional information for rabbits.
Rabbits must have access to adequate and appropriate water for their age, stage of production and weather conditions.
A clean, adequate supply of water, placed in a cool shaded area in hot weather, is required.
There are a range of types and sizes of rabbit drinkers available.
If automatic nipple drinkers are used, they should always be fitted with a failsafe mechanism and mounted at the correct height for the size of rabbit kept. Water bowls can also be used to supply water but they need to be cleaned out regularly and checked at least twice daily to ensure they have not been tipped over or broken. Where possible, place the water container on the hard surface or grassed area of the pen to avoid wetting the bedding.
Make sure that new rabbits are drinking out of the type of container provided, as rabbits used to drinking from a bowl may not know how to drink from a bottle.
Rabbits require from 50-150mls of water per kilo of body weight depending on feed type, weather conditions and whether they are lactating or not. If rabbits are provided with a very dry diet such as hay and pellets, their water intake will be increased. During hot weather and during lactation, water intake is also significantly increased. Lactating and pregnant does will have a much higher water requirement.
Rabbits must have access to adequate and appropriate feed for their age, stage of production and weather conditions.
Regular assessment should be made of the needs of the rabbits in relation to the quantity and quality of feed. This can be done by weighing rabbits and performing visual assessment of their condition. The rabbit’s age, size, breed, sex, production stage, production type and environmental factors will influence dietary requirements.
Rabbits are naturally grazing and foraging animals and so for optimum digestion should be provided with a variety of feed and vegetation. Fibrous material, grass or hay, should make up 80-90% of the rabbit’s diet.
A rabbit’s teeth grow continuously throughout their life and adequate fibrous feed is essential to avoid overgrowth, especially of incisors.
A commercially prepared pellet will provide some fibre and essential vitamins and minerals and should be provided ad lib. In addition, it is recommended to feed vegetable materials such as broccoli, parsley and lettuces.
Rabbits gain both physical and behavioural enrichment from having access to vegetation such as grass, vegetables, shrubs and chewing objects like sticks in addition to their daily ration of concentrate and hay. Rabbits kept in more intensive housing without natural environmental enrichment should be provided with objects to chew on. Before feeding vegetable matter, it is important to check which vegetables and plants are suitable for rabbits with your veterinarian. Some vegetables can be detrimental to a rabbit’s health.
The following table gives examples of suitable and unsuitable plants and vegetables:
|Brussels Sprouts||Elder Poppies|
|Celery leaves||Most evergreens|
|Dandelion (in moderation)||Rhubarb leaves|
Rabbits have digestive systems that allow them to make good use of fibrous substances. Rabbits can do this by producing caecotropes. These are a special type of faeces that the rabbits eat directly from their anus. They are different in appearance to normal rabbit faeces as they are bigger and softer and resemble a small bunch of grapes covered with a film of mucus. They are not a waste product. Caecotropes result from bacterial fermentation of food in the caecum and contain amino acids, fatty acids and vitamins, especially Vitamin B. It is vital for rabbits to eat these caecotropes so that they can access the nutrients contained in them.
When changing or introducing new feeds, the rule is to introduce the new food types slowly and carefully.