Overview: Feedstuff for rabbits
- Grass and meadow herbs
- Kitchen herbs
- Dried herbs
- Cereals and seeds
- Food supplements
Grass and meadow herbs
A wide selection of herbs and a few grasses are the only feed that can be described as “complete feed”. With a large selection of herbs (unlimited), no other feed is necessary. Fresh green is an ideal feed for rabbits and should be offered in large quantities if possible. After slow feeding it can be available for free consumption and does not have to be portioned.
How to start best…?
We have picked out herbs that are especially easy to recognize for beginners and grow almost everywhere. You can recognize them by a photo and practice their determination. To the beginner’s course meadow plants.
The small collector-1×1
Recommendation: Photograph an unknown plant every day, pick it and take it home with you. Then decide for yourself. In this way you get to know a new plant every day and at some point you can determine the entire flora in your own collection area. Herb hikes are offered in adult education centres, on which you learn to identify many wild herbs.
Collected plants should be offered as fresh as possible. It is best to put the peel in the shade and then keep it for a day.
If you only collect every two days, you can put the portion for the next day in the fridge vegetable compartment or in the cool cellar. Never store pressed green fodder, always spread it out airily!
It is advisable to collect at dawn or dusk, especially on very hot days, so that the herbs keep longer.
Many herbs become fresh again when placed in a water glass.
Fresh green must also be fed slowly. If the rabbits have a healthy digestion, you can start with a handful and then increase the amount to ad libitum within a week.
It is best to collect further away from the streets in order not to feed the pollutants of the exhaust fumes.
A selection of grasses is at most a supplement for the herbivore rabbit, but never suitable as a sole fresh fodder.
Umbelliferae are partly excellent fodder plants and partly highly poisonous. Who has the possibility, should give its rabbits run on the meadow, there they can select their fodder themselves. Otherwise also meadow in the bowl is desired.
“The calcium content of the green plants is an effective remedy against bone softening. The green fodder has a dietetic (health-promoting) effect when mixed with spicy weeds, which are partly aromatic, partly containing bitter substances and healing and noticeably stimulate appetite and digestion. The more you can give valuable green fodder, the more successful the rearing of young animals is”.Thorn, 1989
Sources of supply
Meadow herbs and grasses can be harvested on meadows and fields, on field edges, on fallow land, in gravel pits, on forest clearings and in other places offered by our nature. In cities you can also find places to collect: playgrounds, parks, older cemeteries or forest cemeteries, fallow land, backyards, planted roof terraces, building sites, undeveloped plots, fallow land along railway tracks (not directly on the railway embankments, here you can spray!)… Furthermore you can buy fresh dandelions in Turkish shops.
Tip: Beginner’s course meadow plants
Rabbits in the open air twoto a balanced diet contributes the regular feeding of fresh, unsprayed tree branches. These can be completely fed with bark, leaves, flowers, buds and fruits. Rabbits especially like to eat the fresh leaves, occasionally the bark is gnawed or very thin branches are eaten whole. We recommend offering fresh twigs throughout the week and replacing them with fresh twigs twice a week.
Barking branches is a popular and species-appropriate activity for rabbits. In addition, their high concentration of secondary plant substances makes them healthy for digestion and important for a healthy diet.
Apple tree, hazelnut and willow branches are particularly popular. In principle, all native tree species are suitable as fodder (except the yew, which is highly poisonous!), but care should be taken with non-native bushes, such as those planted in ornamental gardens and parks. Which branches are suitable?
Dried leaves (leaves) can be fed as roughage, making winter feeding more varied and species-appropriate. They can be stored well in autumn or dried in summer.
Green twigs in winter: When twigs are brought in and placed in water in winter, they sprout and the fresh leaf tips can be fed. Blackberries and bamboo are also green in winter and therefore ideal for winter nutrition.
Where to buy
Branches and twigs exist as “nibble-ticks” in the zoo-trade, however, these woods are very short, old and often treated -and therefore unpopular with the rabbits, most don’t touch them. If possible, you should cut fresh branches in the garden or ask acquaintances and friends with the garden. You can also cut untreated branches in the wild. Branches are also offered in Internet shops.
Stone fruit branches such as plums, cherries and mirabelle plums contain prussic acid.
The branches of all stone fruit fruits can be fed without problems. They contain neither prussic acid nor amygdalin, a cyanogenic glycoside that breaks down into prussic acid and fructose when it comes into contact with water. Amygdalin is only found in the stone fruit pit, but not in the bark or leaves.
“The cyanides are only found in the seeds of the fruit stones. This means that the branches of the stone fruit species may be offered to chinchillas, guinea pigs and dwarf rabbits, provided they have not been sprayed.”Dr. Jacqueline Kupper, University of Zurich: Source: ZZA 4/2003 P. 57
The incisors are worn by gnawing wood (branches etc.) or other hard objects.
The hardness of the chuck has little effect on the abrasion of the teeth (whether for the cheek teeth or incisors). The incisors are worn out by the grinding movements of the lower jaw during normal chewing and not by gnawing branches. Branches are therefore not important for cutting tooth abrasion, but can still be offered because they are a suitable material for employment.
Rabbits, which do not get many herbs and meadow plants, are dependent on vegetable feeding. They should be fed as varied and as many vegetables as possible; there is no such thing as “too much”. The focus must be on green fodder (leafy vegetables, vegetable greenery, etc.).
In winter or when you do not have the possibility to feed green fodder from the meadow, vegetables can be used as fodder. It is eaten with pleasure, is rich in nutrients and provides the animals with vitamins and liquids. If the rabbits have grass and herbs at their disposal around the clock, vegetables can be removed from the feed plan or restricted.
Which vegetables can you offer at all? Vegetable list for rabbits
Leafy vegetables are the most suitable, as they come closest to the natural diet of rabbits. Therefore, salads, cabbage, carrot green and other leafy vegetable components should be fed.
Leafy vegetables in general: All kinds of salads (see salads), leaves of many cabbage varieties (see cabbage vegetables), carrot green, celery, spinach, radish green, fennel green, chard, beetroot green, radish green, celery green…
Cabbage vegetables are also very leafy and well suited. Cabbage should always be fed slowly, then it is tolerated without problems.
Cabbage vegetables: kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, green cabbage, Romanesko, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, white cabbage, Brussels sprouts, pointed cabbage, pith cabbage, palm cabbage, Pak Choi…
Salad is also a leafy vegetable and should be generously present on the menu.
Salad: lettuce, chicory, endive, rocket, iceberg lettuce, lollo rosso, oak leaf lettuce, roman salad, radicchio, lamb’s lettuce, sugar loaf…
In addition, other vegetable varieties should be offered, mainly root and tuber vegetables.
Root/bubble vegetables: carrots, parsnips, beetroot, parsley root, celeriac, kohlrabi, beetroot, radish, Jerusalem artichoke, fodder or sugar beet, fennel…
Other vegetables are insignificant for rabbit feeding.
Other vegetables: cucumber, tomato, pumpkin, courgette, paprika…
What should I bear in mind when feeding vegetables?
Vegetables should always be offered fresh and never mouldy, rotten or withered – to prevent digestive problems. Frozen and cooked vegetables are also unsuitable.
It is important to emphasize a great variety, because then more vegetables are tolerated. A good mixture is healthier and more digestible than a large amount of a single vegetable. A lot of vegetables should be fed with bitter substances (endive, chocoree, etc.).
To detect allergies at an early stage, it is advisable to feed the vegetables slowly.
Well-tolerated varieties are suitable for changing over to vegetables. The best one begins with fennel, then with carrot and afterwards very slowly with further vegetables. Only at the very end after the conversion cabbage should be fed and can be tried out.
Vegetables in organic quality, from our own cultivation or regional vegetables are preferable, as they are less contaminated with harmful substances.
By washing the vegetables, at least some of the pesticides and spraying agents are removed. Please wash only with cold water, not hot water.
It is advisable to feed approx. five types of vegetables daily and to combine another 10-30 alternately so that at least seven types of vegetables are fed each day. On the one hand the portion is varied and the digestion can adjust well to the feed.
Are vegetables unnatural?
Wild rabbits are followers of culture and plunder vegetable gardens and fields. Vegetables are not insignificant in their diet.
Is vegetable also similar to meadow herbs and suitable as a substitute
Many vegetable varieties are closely related to meadow herbs. Endives and chicory are derived from the common chicory, our carrots are closely related to the wild carrot, which is very often plastered by wild rabbits, and turnips are closely related to rapeseed. Chinese cabbage, turnip and many more are systematically very close to the turnips, which are wild weeds. The original form of the normal garden salad is the wild fence lettuce, which is also widespread here, the cultivated cabbage varieties are very similar in composition to the wild cabbage, which is eaten by wild rabbits in masses. Does it make a big difference whether the rabbit eats dandelion from the field or edible dandelion? By breeding the vegetables, however, the proportion of plant fibres and secondary plant substances was mostly reduced. For this reason, vegetables are not suitable as a sole substitute for meadow herbs.
It’s the mixture that makes the difference: Ideally, you should offer your rabbits varied green fodder (leafy vegetables, vegetable green, etc.), hay, twigs and herbs around the clock – they eat something of everything in the right proportions.
Native fruit varieties can be a valuable addition to the diet, especially in autumn. In principle, all indigenous fruit varieties are suitable for rabbit feeding. Fruit is a source of energy that is particularly appreciated by large breeds. However, fruits are always only suitable as an addition and not as a large part of the food, because they contain only a few plant fibres. Fruit is also very suitable as a treat.
Which fruit can I feed on?
Fruit is often presented in connection with a high sugar content. This picture is persistent, but fruit is not much richer in sugar than hay and meadow plants. Natural sugar in combination with vitamins and other nutrients, as contained in fruit, hay, vegetables and meadow plants, can be fed to rabbits. Pure sugar (granulated sugar, honey, etc.), on the other hand, is completely unsuitable and harmful to health.
- Carrots: approx. 5% sugar
- Dandelion: approx. 8.5% sugar
- Hay: approx. 10-20% sugar
- Apples: approx. 10% sugar
- Grapes: approx. 15% sugar
- Banana: approx. 18% sugar
- Pear: approx. 10% sugar
- Plum: approx. 8% sugar
Stone fruit contains seeds that can have toxic ingredients, but they are still completely harmless when fed, because the seeds are too hard and are spat out.
Rabbits need a wide range of herbs to stay healthy. They are indispensable for rabbit nutrition, their high content of secondary plant substances stabilises digestion and their high vitamin and mineral content provides them with important substances. Especially when few wild herbs are available, fresh kitchen herbs are an important food component. They are rich in secondary plant substances, vitamins and minerals. The high mineral content is often said to be a negative characteristic of these rabbits, as it is said to lead to urine semolina and bladder stones, which, however, is not the case with a diet rich in fresh food.
All commercially available kitchen herbs are suitable for rabbits.
Keeping herbs fresh
Fresh herbs can easily be stored in the refrigerator for 1-3 days.
Herbs are offered in pots as plants. This type of “storage” has the advantage that you can harvest them fresh and they still have the full vitamin content (through storage time vitamins are lost).
Bought bundles of herbs should be cut fresh on the stem. You can then put them in a glass of water. This will keep them fresh and wilted herbs will recover.
Herbs are the basic food of our rabbits and therefore very important for the nutrition. Dried herbs should always be offered unlimited, if fresh herbs are not available unlimited (however only with continuous, varied fresh food offer without break!).
Dried herbs have some disadvantages compared to fresh herbs, so fresh herbs are preferable:
- extremely reduced water content (fresh herbs 80%, dried herbs < 15%)
- less nutrients and especially less vitamins (loss: approx. 6-8% per month)
- rabbits can select dried plants only to a limited extent
- active ingredients are lost, but they are important for rabbit nutrition.
The dried herb offer is best offered in a very large, stable stoneware bowl and filled up twice a day as a mixture. The low water content can be compensated if the remaining feeds and especially the main feeds have a normal high water content (green forage). Dried herbs have a high calcium content, but it is as high as hay and similar dried products.
Sources of supply
A small selection of dried herbs and flowers is available in pet shops or as tea (only pure herbal teas without additives!). Only use if you are sure). They are cheaper in shops, where you can get a larger selection. You can also dry your own herbs. Many growers dry a handful of the plucked herbs every day so that they have enough dried meadow herbs in stock in winter. Now you can buy open dried herbs & flowers at certain pet supply stores. An easy way to produce inexpensive dried herbs for winter is to put a handful of fresh green on the heating every day in summer and store them for winter.
Hay for rabbits serves as a meadow substitute (natural staple food for wild rabbits), as it is easy to store and therefore also available in winter. It must be available around the clock for free consumption in any quantity. And in the best possible quality. But what does “good quality” mean? Which hay is best suited?
The drying process from meadow green to hay means that some of the vitamins are lost and the water content drops drastically, which is why fresh grass and meadow herbs are always preferable and healthier. Due to the low water content, kidney and bladder diseases are favoured…
The longer hay is stored, the more worthless it becomes, so you should not offer overlayed hay.
Hay as your main food?
Important: Rabbits should not be dependent on eating all the hay before there is something new! The hay contains different plants, the rabbit selects the suitable plants (there are also poisonous plants!) and selects the different plants in different quantities according to its own need. If it only gets something new when the old is eaten up, you force your rabbit to eat poisonous plants and it can no longer absorb the components according to its own needs! Usually only 50% of the hay is suitable for consumption.
Criteria for good hay
The most suitable hay is one with a good fragrance (beware, but not with artificial fragrances!), green, herb-rich and very dry hay, which is often eaten.
First or second cut?
Depending on the cut, the hay has different characteristics and qualities.
Recommendation: It is best to feed both cuts mixed and to orient yourself to the taste and health of the animals, i.e. the rabbits themselves choose which cut they need. Usually, the second cut is preferred, but in winter frost the acceptance then tilts to the first cut. The second cut is richer in herbs and nutrients.
Sources of supply
Hay is available in handy plastic bags at any pet shop or DIY store (with animal department). For horses or other farmers you can get it very cheap. In internet shops you can have hay delivered to your door.
Cereals and seeds
Seeds are taken up in rather small quantities and strongly seasonal by wild rabbits. In summer, they plunder the green, growing grain on fields or the ripe grain in autumn and eat grass seeds and similar seeds in summer. However, cereals and seeds generally make up a small part of the total feed ration and are therefore more of a supplement.
If the feeding is rather one-sided or unnatural, one should select and offer appropriate seeds to supplement and enhance the feed. Therefore, it is recommended to deal with the different feeds and especially with the different seeds in order to ideally coordinate the different feeds and complement each other.
Attention: Adult, well-balanced and healthy dwarf rabbits indoors do not need to receive any seeds. The amount of seeds has to be adapted very precisely to the energy requirement and the life situation/nutrition, too much or too little energy has a negative effect on rabbit health! A table or eating spoon per day is already sufficient in many cases with increased need.
Increased need can exist with: Young animals in growth, breeding animals (especially extreme during lactation!), diseases, outdoor animals in frost, large breeds, unbalanced feeding, in autumn to eat the protective “winter bacon”…
Comparison of flour seed and oil seed
Flour seeds are characterised by a very high starch content, whereas oilseeds have a high fat content and contain relatively few carbohydrates, and are also richer in protein. Oilseeds are also tolerated by sensitive animals without any problems, but care should be taken with flourseeds. Flour seeds must be fed slowly, as rabbits with sensitive or damaged digestion do not always tolerate them. Oilseeds are helpful during the change of coat and for a healthy coat and a good digestion, they supply the rabbits with vitamin E (sunflower seeds 37.770,00, pumpkin seeds 4.000,00, poppy seeds 4.000,00 µg per 100g). Flour seeds are mainly fatteners for animals with increased energy requirements.
In what form?
The small seeds can be offered as normal in a bowl. If you want to feed cereals, you should put them in their natural form in the enclosure. That means with husks (commercially available) or even with the entire grain ear, because only then it has the fiber-rich shell, which is important for digestion. You can also let the grain or the seeds germinate (all except linseed) and feed them germinated, by the germ nutrients are broken down and are better digestible in this form. Green cereals (e.g. green oats) are also very healthy and well tolerated.
Grain in flake form can be used better and is therefore useful for sick animals to nourish, but rather less for healthy rabbits.
Sources of supply
Seeds are available in health food shops, organic food shops and in many drugstores. As a basis you can buy a budgerigar, canary or bird exotic food in the pet shop and then add individual seeds. But the bird food should not be enriched with synthetic vitamins! These are listed under “additives” on the packaging (If the word “additives” appears on the packaging, the food is unsuitable!).
You can also get a good and inexpensive selection of high-quality seeds on the Internet.
Even if a rabbit drinks nothing or little because of fresh food-rich nutrition, it should always have water available. Due to different influences (heating, change of temperature, change of food, illness) the water requirement can change abruptly, so that if there is a lack of water there is internal dehydration, which can be fatal.
The right bowl
Suitable as a water bowl are without exception stable bowls, so that the rabbit does not knock him over. Many drinking machines for cats are stable, as are a large, heavy ceramic bowl with an inwardly curved rim or a bird bowl that can be hung on the grate. The bowl must be raised slightly (floor, house roof, on a stone) so that it does not get dirty. Or you can place it on a litter-free surface.
Sources of supply
Normal tap water has drinking water quality as long as it has not been chlorinated. Alternatively you can buy still water (without carbonic acid!) in the trade (beverage markets, supermarkets…).
In the zoo trade various vitamin preparations are offered, which should be administered (according to packing recommendation) daily to secure the health of the rabbits and prevent lack illnesses.
The species-appropriate nutrition cannot be replaced by vitamin preparations, there are more than 100 other substances, which are important for the health and well-being of rabbits and are ingested through food. That is: A species-appropriate nutrition is inevitable independently of added vitamins.
And if you eat the right food anyway, you don’t need synthetic vitamins in return. If you don’t eat the right food for the right species, artificial vitamins may be “better than nothing”, but we can’t recommend such a diet.
Why is it now better to cover the need naturally than with synthetic vitamins?
In chemical terms, artificial and natural vitamins are not identical, e.g.
Natural vitamin E: RRR-a- tocopherol = d-a- tocopherol
Synthetic vitamin E: all-rac-a- tocopherol = d,l-a- tocopherol
The full effect of vitamins can only be achieved if they are integrated into all the accompanying substances of the plant. They then have a much more positive effect on health than synthetic vitamins.
The substances that we ingest as synthetic vitamins do not exist in nature in this way. As a comparison you may remember your chemistry lessons. A substance has completely different properties when mixed with another substance or separately. For example, uranium is present in water and rock (harmless), but if you take it out and use it in its pure form, you should not have direct contact with it.
Bioavailability and absorption are higher than with synthetic vitamins.
An overdose of natural vitamins (which are bound to their environment in the plant) is not harmful, but if the substance is administered purely (not bound to a natural environment), e.g. synthetic vitamins, then an overdose is often harmful.
Plant accompanying substances increase the efficacy, synthetic vitamins do not contain them (e.g. vitamin C is improved fourfold by bioflavonoids).
The risk of allergies and undesirable effects is lower.
In addition, the dosage recommendations are usually inevitably associated with an overdose. The preparations contain the entire range of vitamins without being adapted exactly to the needs of rabbits or single animals. They are usually recommended for all small animals, although these animals have completely different needs.
Therefore we recommend not to use such products. They are not necessary but are harmful to health and in the worst case can lead to serious damage and illness!
In case of illness, special vitamin supplements may be necessary. For example, the administration of vitamin B complex in E. Cuniculi. Such doses should be discussed exactly with your vet and dosed carefully. If a veterinarian recommends vitamin preparations in principle (no matter which disease), this is not sensible but only shows that he is interested in selling these preparations – at the expense of animal health.
Many minerals and trace elements contained in salt are essential for rabbits to survive. However, common salt is highly purified, so that rabbits would have to be fed vast amounts of common salt to meet this need for minerals.
Salt lickstones consist of common salt. Highly dosed sodium chloride, however, is toxic to the organism in this isolated form. Small amounts are excreted by the kidneys, larger amounts overload the kidneys, which can lead to serious kidney damage or even kidney failure. Salt has a dehydrating effect, due to the resulting lack of water, the poison common salt can no longer be diluted and has a correspondingly more harmful effect on the organism. This leads to saline poisoning.
Rabbits thus have a need for natural salts, trace elements and minerals, but these are no longer contained in the salt stone, but the salt stone is so highly concentrated that it can already lead to poisoning when ingested in normal amounts.
The need for minerals and salts can usually be met well and harmlessly by green fodder, soil (kept outside) or branches offered, the bark of which is gnawed off.
Who would like to offer a salt stone, should not select a cooking salt stone from the zoo trade, but offer a Himalaya salt stone (or another natural salt stone, natural quarry stone). In order to exclude the consumption from boredom (then it can be harmful to health), it should not be offered in the enclosure, but only in the free run.
Lime stone or rodent stones
These consist primarily of calcium. A normal diet, however, more than adequately covers the lime requirement. Excess calcium destroys the calcium-phosphorus balance in the body, resulting in a wide variety of diseases such as bladder stones or urine semolina.
Seeds and germ feeds
Seeds of different plants should always be considered as supplementary feed.
Seeds at change of coat:
Oilseeds of all kinds, especially crushed linseeds and sunflower seeds. Standard value: For dwarf rabbits up to 1 tbsp per day.
Seeds as a source of energy:
Increased energy requirement can exist with: Young animals in growth, breeding animals (especially extreme during lactation!), diseases, outdoor animals in frost, large breeds, unbalanced feeding, in autumn to eat the protective “winter bacon”…
A seed mixture consisting of two thirds flour seeds and one third oil seeds is recommended.
Seeds as a dietary supplement:
Oilseeds in particular contain important fatty acids that are essential for rabbits. Therefore, they should be fed regularly in smaller quantities.
Oil cakes, press cakes
The production of oil produces press cakes, which are very valuable for nutrition. Care must be taken with pellet press cakes, which can get into the trachea and have life-threatening consequences.
It is widespread:
Linseed press cake/linseed pellets (change of coat, digestion…)
Black cumin press cake/black cumin pellets (digestion, change of coat, bacteria, viruses, fungi, immune system)
Neempresskuchen (digestion, fur-change, parasites, fungi…)
Germ food makes nutrients more usable and incompatibilities and digestive problems with seeds can be avoided. Wheat germs contain very large amounts of vitamin E.
Healing earth can be offered if the rabbits do not have access to natural earth. It is used to neutralize toxins and absorb minerals. It also helps with diarrhoea.
The pet shop offers a wide range of different snacks, in their colourful rabbit treats fruit rabbit packs invite you to buy. Almost all of these treats are unhealthy for the sensitive digestion of rabbits, even in small quantities.
Harmful treats: snack bars, yoghurt drops, loftis, snack rings (and similar treats), hay bells, hard bread, rabbit muffins, human food (sweets, spiced kebabs, etc.), oat corners, colorful rodent sticks, rodent brittle, green bodies (and other extrudates), similar treats from the pet shop.
Healthy treats (please in moderation!): pea flakes, oat flakes, sunflower seeds, dried vegetables, pieces of fruit from rarely fed fruit (e.g. a grape, a piece of banana), nuts, ears of grain (the whole ear, available in pet shops), foxtail millet (available in bird supplies), dried vegetables (e.g. unsulphurised raisins). Most rabbits, however, enjoy a healthy diet, especially fresh herbs, in their favourite meadow herbs.
There is still a persistent rumour that hard bread is important and useful for tooth abrasion. Hard bread is not hard enough to wear the rabbit’s teeth, on the contrary, it fills the rabbit, so it chews less than other food. The less the rabbit chews, the worse the teeth will wear out. See tooth abrasion.