Rabbits

Feeding Wool Rabbits

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Feeding your wool producing rabbits is not always as easy as going to your local pet store and picking up a bag of rabbit pellets.  Because Angoras are constantly producing silky soft wool they need a diet higher in protein than your average rabbit.  They also need plenty of fresh greens & hay to keep excess wool from building up in their intestines in a deadly condition known as wool block & GI stasis (click here to read more!).  So what should you feed your wool rabbits to keep them healthy?

Rabbit Pellets

Feeding your Angora Rabbit

Wool rabbits should have a pellet feed with 18% protein.  It is important to check the protein tags, many commercial pet rabbit brands available only have 14% protein as that is sufficient for most pet rabbits.  The higher protein pellets will usually be marked “pro”, “show” or “performance”.

I have yet to find a high protein feed in any of my local pet stores, but my feed store carries some.  We feed our girls Nutrena’s Nature Wise Performance Rabbit Feed.

 The other thing to look for with the feed is an all pellet feed.  Some feed comes with colorful shapes and treats mixed in with the pellets.  Your rabbit doesn’t need these treats and will usually dig all these treats out and eat them first.  You don’t want them to fill up on snacks first and ignore the pellets!  Its like when you were a kid and your mom would buy you a cereal with marshmallows in it and you would go through the box and eat all the marshmallows leaving just the cereal behind.

Don’t buy huge feed bags unless you have several rabbits. It’s hard to keep an open bag of feed fresh for more than a couple months. Keep the feed in an air tight container so it doesn’t get stale.  For the smaller English Angoras plan on about 1/2 cup pellets per day. For the larger Satin, German, French & Giants it will be closer to a cup per day per rabbit.

The pellets should be measured out daily. If they are offered free choice the rabbits will gobble up all their pellets and could become overweight.  The only time pellets should be offered free choice is when the kits are under 6 months old.  After that, they are full grown and the pellets should be measured.  We use a mesh bottom feeder that attaches to the cage.  The wire sifts out any dust and because it is attached to the cage they can’t grab the dish, dump it and toss it around.

Feeding your Angora RabbitHay

Fresh Timothy hay should be offered daily, free choice.  Rabbits should be encouraged to eat as much hay as possible.  The roughage is critical to keep their digestive system moving smoothly.  Timothy hay is the most popular choice with rabbit keepers, but most grasses can be used.

Alfalfa hay should be avoided (or used very seldom) for adult rabbits as it contains too much calcium for them.  Many commercial pellets have alfalfa in them and that is ok, you just don’t want to compound it by also feeding Alfalfa hay.  The hay should be replaced daily so it stays fresh and smells inviting for them.  Keeping the hay in a manger will keep it cleaner, off the floor, and out of their wool.  Try stuffing some hay into a cardboard paper towel or toilet paper tube.  Not only will the rabbits eat the hay, they will have fun playing with the tube and chewing it up.

Fresh Produce

Fresh vegetables (and fruits in moderation) should also be part of your rabbit’s daily diet.  Aim for 1-2 cups of fresh produce per day per rabbit.

Rabbits are not designed to thrive on store bought pellets.  In the wild, most of their diet would be foraged greens, berries and grasses.  Just like with humans, providing a varied diet will ensure they get all the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy.

Most days my rabbits each get half a romaine lettuce head.  I try to switch it up when I can by adding in fresh herbs, other dark leafy greens (the LOVE kale), or slices of fruit or veggies.  Great foods to try include romaine lettuce, kale, beet or carrot tops, dandelions, clover, peas, broccoli, herbs (oregano, mint, parsley, rosemary, lemon balm, thyme & basil seem to be favorites).

Special treats they will love but that should be fed sparingly because they are high in sugar include carrots, dried fruit, melons, berries, apples, bananas, papaya, & pineapple.  Foods you should NEVER offer your rabbit include “junk” food like cakes or cookies, salty foods like chips or pretzels, chocolate, raisins, onions, garlic, nuts, or dairy products.  Click here to see my recipe for healthy, homemade rabbit cookies!

Supplements

Papaya Enzyme Pills are an excellent supplement to your wool rabbit’s diet.  It gives them the digestive benefits without the added sugar of eating the fruit fresh.  Papaya enzymes help to break down excess fur in the digestive tract preventing wool block.  The rabbits LOVE these pills, we usually offer 1-2 pills per week to each rabbit.

Fresh Water

Of course having fresh water available at all times is just as important as quality food.  Your rabbit should never be without clean water, especially in the hot summer months.  The water is needed not only to quench thirst but it helps regulate body temperature.  Hanging water bottles are a better choice for wool rabbits than a water dish or crock.  The water stays cleaner in a hanging bottle and keeps the rabbit from getting their fur wet and matted.

Feeding your Angora Rabbits



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21 Comments

  1. We had to quit feeding the Nutrena pellets since it had been a year and no baby bunnies. After switching to organic alfalfa pellets we started getting litters again. It may have something to do with spraying herbicide on the fields before harvest, I think, but it’s not proven it’s just my suspicion. It may not matter, though, if you’re not trying for baby bunnies.

    1. That is very disturbing to hear! Everything they eat can definitely have an impact. Alfalfa is generally not recommended for adult rabbits because it is lower in fiber than timothy hay based pellets. Alfalfa is also really high in protein so is great for baby rabbits that are still growing. Do you find the alfalfa makes your adult rabbits heavy? I can see where the high protein would be good for supporting pregnant does though.

  2. In 2011. the use of an herbicide to ‘ripen’ the alfalfa fields was approved and that’s when my records show the beginnings of a decline in litters and litter sizes. When we’d gone for a year with no babies (yet does constantly bred), their feed was switched to organic (April of this year) and now there’s babies again. I’d always used the higher protein feed because of wool growth and pregnant does, but then there were no litters and another person in town who has rabbits was feeding the same pellets and she didn’t have any litters either. She emailed the feed producer and their reply was that they didn’t know if the alfalfa was harvested with herbicide, they relied on the farmers to follow the allowed procedures.

    I wish we could get the adults heavy, keeping weight on them has always been a challenge. Although, we did start out with one of the foundation bucks being on the small side, so some of this is probably genetic. We’ve also been selecting by fiber quality and not bunny weight. I’ve now added size of bunny and size of litters into the selection criteria for breeding.

    With the organic alfalfa pellets, BOSS, calf manna and rolled oats, they’re finally gaining and maintaining weight. They also have about half forage, assorted grasses, leaves and such. There’s ti and mulberry next to their hutch which even makes feeding forage almost easier than pellets.

    I’m still gathering data, though, we just switched to organic in April. I’d heard about the possible problems of herbicide laced alfalfa from a gardening forum where they said there was enough herbicide left in the manure to affect gardens.

  3. Mary says:

    I have a 3-1/2 month old English angora who weighs 3-12 pounds, how much do you think i should feed him? He almost looks full grown.

    1. Rabbits usually hit their full adult weight around 6 months, so he probably still has a bit of growing yet. I would give him 1/4-1/2 cup of pellets, 1/2-1 cup fresh produce and unlimited hay

  4. Mary says:

    Ok thanks.

  5. Do any if you feed flax as a supplement? My male angora has very, very dry skin. Our vet said it wasn’t mites, so I’m looking for solutions. Thank you!

    1. I haven’t given flax seeds to my rabbits, but I have heard they can be excellent for healthy coats & skin. In moderation, they can be an excellent supplement

      1. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (frequently referred to as ‘BOSS’) may help with a dry coat? I just feed it to try to fatten them up, but it may help with dry coat issues, too.

  6. Brandy says:

    How often can you feed an angora sunflower seeds, and/or what is an accurate intake if given often?

    1. Rabbits can eat sunflower seeds and they are good for their coats, but they are also high in fat so should really only be an occasional treat. I would say no more than a few a day

  7. Your website has been so helpful and informative! You mentioned your bunnies each get a half head of romaine a day, sometimes mixed with other greens. Do you give that once a day, or split it into 2 servings, for example morning and evening? Thanks.

    1. Hi Joan, I give them their veggies in the morning

  8. Aloha Liz!

    Just an update to let you know that my suspicions of Nutrena’s Nature Wise feed were completely unfounded. It turns out we had gotten Vent Disease in the herd from when we had fostered a baby bun who’s mum had died. At least, that’s what I think the vector was, but apparently I’m not good at accurate suspicions.

    So, in 2018 the whole herd got treated with penicillin to cure the Vent Disease (it’s rabbit syphilis but not transferable to humans). We’ve gone back to using Nutrena’s Nature Wise feed AND we’re getting baby bunnies again. Yay!

    There’s more information about bunnies and penicillin on their website if you ever want to know what we did with the bunnies here at Hillside Farm Hawaii. It’s on the March 2018 ‘Old News’ and the website should show up on an internet search, should you want to know.

    So, Nutrena’s Nature Wise high protein feed is good! We do add in a bit of rolled grain of some sort (oats, barley or wheat – not corn) and black oil sunflower seeds but the bunnies are fed in feed dishes attached to the hutch walls with enough room in them that they can dig out the bits they want without spilling the rest. They do eat it all by the time of the next feeding but some of the bunnies like to eat the pellets first and the rolled grain second, other bunnies prefer the grain first, others don’t seem to care.

    1. That is good to hear! It can be so hard to track down the culprit when there is a problem with your animals, so glad you got is sorted out. I will definitely check out your website!

  9. DMIS student says:

    I need to know what tower garden food is healthy for angora rabbits.

    1. Most lettuce mixes are great, the darker the leaf the better. Herbs are also a great bet and easy to grow in a tower system

  10. Peyton says:

    Hey, I’m a new English angora rabbit owner and I just wanted a few tips is all. My angora is 4 months and eats blue seal show pellets (about 1cup), free choice hay , and also a few alfalfa pellets (dumor alfalfa cubes). This is the diet that she has been on with her breeder so I’m deciding to continue this because it seems to be working for her. When should I try incorporating more vegetables and fruits and about how much should I add? Could you give me an idea of a six month diet for her?

    I also was wondering if you had grooming tips…I have my handy dandy slicker brush and a hair buster but I didn’t want to rush into grooming her because she just got here a few days ago. I do know however that with angoras it’s essential to groom. I don’t want to feel like I’m forcing her but she is matted especially near her stomach area and neck.I tried to groom a little today just to try to cut off some matts.

    Could you also give me tips for potty training? I have a manger hanging over her litter box (filled with pine pellets and hay) but she tends to get hay everywhere and also poops everywhere. Sometimes she uses her box and sometimes she doesn’t. Helpp

    1. Sounds like she is on a good diet for now. What sort of hay are you feeding her? Generally rabbits under 6-7 months get alfalfa hay as it is high in protein for growing rabbits. Once they are older & full grown, you can switch them over to Timothy or Orchard hay. But if you are supplementing her with the alfalfa cubes, that might be why your breeder suggested them. Anytime after 3 months you can begin introducing veggies & fruits. Start with about 1/2 cup per day, working up to 1 cup per day for an adult size rabbit. I would recommend you only introduce one new type of food per week, that way you can monitor her for signs in case something doesn’t agree with her.

      I recommend you begin grooming as early as possible. When they are little like your rabbit, you really aren’t going to be getting a ton of fiber off her, it’s mostly to get her used to being handled and brushed. Grooming is such a big part of their life, it’s important that she is used to sitting still and being turned upside down so you can get her belly & feet fur. So the earlier you can start getting her used to this the better. I like to start off the young ones with just short grooming sessions – 10 minutes or so – a couple times per week. You can read more about grooming angoras here: https://thecapecoop.com/how-to-groom-angora-rabbits/

      She is young still, litter training will come in time. You want to keep a little bit of poop in the box so she gets the scent of it in the box. It’s totally normal that she is getting hay every where lol, sometimes they like to dig through the manger to pull out just the right bit of hay. My rabbits are all adults and I would consider them litter trained, but I still find stray poops around the enclosure. They get 100% of their urine in the box and probably 95% of their poops in there. I keep a small dustpan and hand broom in my rabbit area and have made it a habit to sweep up stray poop daily and dump it in their box. Keep it up, she will get there! You can read more about litter training here: https://thecapecoop.com/litter-box-training-rabbits/

      1. Peyton says:

        Thank you so much for your reply, it means a lot. She is currently eating Timothy hay this was what the breeder was already feeding her. She was getting alfalfa cubes do I put a couple in there to make sure she is getting alfalfa hay.
        She just turned 3 months on the 10th. I’m working with her on grooming and getting her used to everything.
        I’m working on getting her started on a new vegetable I’m still deciding on what to start with and what could be most beneficial.
        Also about papaya supplements, should I offer her those or do you think it’s a little to early.

        1. I would keep offering her the alfalfa cubes to give her that extra protein boost while she is still growing. The papaya supplements are to help her digestive system so it doesn’t get gummed up with excess hair from her grooming herself. Where she is so young, she probably isn’t shedding a whole lot of fur so it’s not necessary. But they won’t hurt her and I know my rabbits really like them as a treat

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