QUESTION: HI! We just adopted a Dutch buck from a young breeder who shows her dutches. He will be 8 weeks old on Feb 4th. He has a very large cage inside our home (46x24x24) and we take him out daily to run around the family room to play (very supervised of course). I think right now he has been out most of the day. He has timothy hay in a haybox and a water bottle. He won't be neutered until April.
Anyway, the breeder told me she uses Manna Pro pellets and to give him 1/4-1/2 cup daily forever. I had done a lot of research before getting the bunny and it said that bunnies under a certain age should have alfalfa pellets and over 1 yr should have timothy pellets. Manna pro is alfalfa based. So, I went back to the internet and there seems to be a huge debate as to which is better. She said it's fine for him and she has all her bunnies on it...she likes the high protein but she shows her animals. I just want what will help him live the longest! One site says alfalfa and the other says timothy. I will need to purchase pellets soon since she gave me enough to last about 2 weeks and I have no idea what to get. Oxbow? Zupreem? ones with corn? no corn Oxbow baby formula? or adult? The manna pro is extremely cheap compared to Oxbow and Zupreem but since he gets such a small amount, I don't mind spending a little more. Please help!
ANSWER: Hi Deann:
Thank you for selecting me as the volunteer to help you with your question.
Congrats on adopting your new bunny. If he could talk, he would say 'thank you' for giving him such a big cage and lots of free-roaming time. He is a lucky buck!
In regards to the type of pellets you should feed, all rabbits need pellets that are made from Alfalfa hay, regardless of age. Rabbits under 5 months old should be free fed - meaning they should have a supply that never runs out. Once they reach 5 months of age, their rations should be cut back based on the rabbit breed. But regardless of age, it should be alfalfa hay based.
Small breeds such as the Britannia Petite with a maximum ADULT weight of only 2.5 pounds, would get a very small ration - less than 1/4 cup per day.
Large breeds such as a 25 pound Flemish giant, would get 2+ cups per day.
Your Dutch buck will reach and adult weight between 3.5 and 5.5 pounds and once his growing peak is over, his daily ration will be about 1/2 cup.
The reason for feeding Alfalfa based pellets is protein. Rabbits need protein and alfalfa hay is high in protein. On the other hand, timothy hay has zero protein, a rabbit would become extremely malnourished on a diet of timothy hay based pellets.
There is no need to feed hay in addition to pellets as pellets are considered a "complete diet", however, if you choose to feed hay in addition to pellets, make sure it's timothy hay 'first or second cut' or orchard grass - NOT alfalfa hay. The combination of the alfalfa hay based pellets plus actual alfalfa hay would result in too much protein which will lead to liver damage. In my 39 years of rabbit breeding, I have never seen a timothy hay based pellet, so finding an alfalfa based pellet will be easy.
The 2 most important factors in rabbit feed are protein % and fiber %. Regardless of which brand and formula you choose, the fiber % should be equal to or greater than the protein %.
Unfortunately, feed choices vary based on region and in some places you wont find a feed where the fiber is equal to or greater than the protein level. If that's the case, then your buck's diet should be supplemented with a small amount of timothy hay. About a handful a day is all you need. You can stuff it in empty toilet paper ot paper towel rolls to make it fun for him, or even bunch it up and tie a small piece of cooking twine around it and hang it from the top of his cage so it hangs down just in his reach. You'll have less waste if you feed it 'in' somthing or tied in a bunch, vs. just putting it in his cage.
The next factor is choosing a feed with the correct protein percentage for your rabbit. The amount of protein a rabbit needs in it's diet is based on the type of rabbit and it's purpose. Feed comes in 15% protein formulas, 16% protein formulas, 17% and 18%.
Doe rabbits being bred for the commercial meat market need to have a pellet with 18% protein; nothing less. Reproduction demands a lot of protein and anything under 18% will be inadequate for the doe to care for her kits. On the other hand, a buck used in siring meat rabbits can do just fine on a 17% protein pellet. He's not nursing a litter and doesn't need as much protein.
Rabbits being bred for pelt or fiber should have a 16% or 17% protein pellet. 18% would cause excess shedding because they dont burn as much of the protein as they are taking in (they don't nurse) so the energy is sent outward - into shedding. The same is true with rabbits being bred for show; 16% or 17% is adequate
House rabbits/pet rabbits, such as yours do perfect on an alfalfa hay based pellet that has 16% protein and 16% or higher in fiber percentage. If you cant find one with the matching fiber % in your area, you can feed a handful of timothy hay per day.
For your dutch, you should feed approximately 1/2 cup per day after he reaches 5 months old. I say 'approximately' because each rabbit has a unique metabolism and some get more exercise than others. A ration that might make one rabbit fat might cause another rabbit of the exact same breed and size to become too thin.
The best way to judge if your feeding correctly is to put your hands on the rabbit, often.
Starting at the head, slowly move your hand down the rabbit 'slowly - with pressure' and 'feel'. You should be able to easily feel his ribs with minimal pressure. if you cant, then he's overweight and you need to cut back. There should be no 'pouches' hanging from his belly. From a visual standpoint, you should be able to just barely see the first rib, but not the rest. If you can see all of them just from looking, then the rabbit is underweight. If you cant see or feel his ribs and he has flabs, he's overweight.
Mannapro brand rabbit feed is a good brand. It's one of the few that are corn free and corn is very bad for rabbits. The best formula for your buck would be the mannapro SHO formula. Is has 16% protein and contains Yucca extract. Yucca helps remove odor from rabbit feces which is nice for a house rabbit. The Mannapro PRO formula also has 16% protein, however, it does not have the added Yucca, papaya or minerals, so its not as good of a choice for pet rabbits.
The Mannapro GRO formula has 18% protein, which is too much for a pet rabbit and should be avoided. Please copy and paste the link below into your browser window to see a chart comparing the different mannapro rabbit feeds.
If your local feed store does not have the formula you need, have them special order it for you. Any store that sells Manna products can order any Manna formula. A store that does not sell Manna products, cannot order it - so if you go with Manna, find a Manna Dealer.
I dont know if you plan to feed any fresh fruits or greens, but if so - there are do's and dont's about what should be fed, what should be avoided and how much/how often to supplement. If you choose to feed extras and are uncertain about what/how much to give, i'd be more than happy to guide you.
I hope this adequately answered your question, if not, please post a follow up question. If I have properly addressed your needs, would you kindly leave a positive rating for me.
Thank you and good luck with your new pet.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thanks so very much, that was extremely helpful! I would love advice on what kind and how much greens and fruits he should get. I was going to order the papaya tablets because I read they are very good for him but I wasn't sure when to start them and the other stuff. Some sites say 8 weeks some say 12....It's so funny because we have 5 kids, a bird and a turtle and it's like having a new baby. So worried I am going to break him.
We are trying to litter box train him and I am hoping he picks it up. He seems to pee in it most of the time but the poops are another story but I will keep going. I am concerned that the bottom of his cage will give him sore feet because it is just plastic with a few small lines it it..he has a Living World deluxe xlarge pet habitat. I was afraid bedding or a blanket or grass mat on the floor would confuse him with the litter box but I don't want his feet getting sore either...even though he has been out on the carpet most of the days anyway.
I really do appreciate all of your advice. It is nice to know I will be helping him to hopefully see 10! Thank you!
I didn't see your follow up as it was at the bottom of our last question/answer series. Normally follow-ups come to the top.
If you choose to give greens, you can do so at any age. No such thing as too young. In the wild, rabbits start eating greens by 10 days old. I introduce greens to the rabbits I raise on the day their eyes open, which is generally 10-11 days old. Go easy and keep it simple and in small quantities.
Avoid all Cruciferous vegetables, which include Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, radish, horseradish, turnip, rutabaga. Also avoid any low-nutrient high water greens - such as celery and iceburg lettuce. All these should never be fed. Cruciferous vegetables create a large amount of gas during digestion. In humans and most other animals, the gas is released through burping or hind-end flatulence. Rabbits have a very unique digestive system and they are unable to release gas - from either end. Since the gas cannot escape, they can literally burst. I get many questions about that, after its too late..... The inability to pass gass is one of the many unique qualities that cause rabbits to be classified as 'Lagomorpha' and they are the only animal in the Lagamorpha category. The very wet, low nutrient greens will result in runny stools and diarrhea which can also be fatal.
A bit of kale or swiss chard is a good treat. You can also give a couple of baby carrots - yes, rabbits really 'do' like carrots ☺. They like spinach, but keep it to a minimum. The favorite food of rabbits is fruit. I haven't found a fruit they dont like. Oranges, kiwi, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, etc. They go crazy for it, and its good for them. A small amount a couple days per week is enough to satisfy them without upsetting their delicate digestive balance.
As for litterbox training - you will only get 'so far'. Rabbits are absolutly adorabele, fuzzy, cuddly creatures, but in fact they are one of the least intelligent creatures - which is why they are at the very bottom of the food chain in the wild. Their lack of skills makes them an easy prey. If you keep a litterbox in whatever room the rabbit is in, you can often teach the rabbit to urinate in it with good results. However, pooping is another story. Rabbits urinate only 3-4 times a day, but they poop every 2-3 minutes. They aren't going to run to the litterbox every 2-3 minutes, nor do they have the ability to hold it in between litter box visits. Some rabbits get so curious when out of their cage that they 'forget' to poop (which is quite funny) and they can go longer between dropping pellets. In cases like that - it appears that the bunny is litterbox trained, but its nothing more than the rabbit having more on his mind. If you have him free roaming, you'll need to do a poop cleanup on a regular basis. As long as he learns to urinate in the box, you did good.
Lastly, are you aware of Caecotrophy? Caecotropes is the 'night poop' rabbits produce that looks very different from normal fecal pellets. Normal pelles are round, and hard, but cecotropes look like bunches of grape. Each cecotrope consist of 10-15 tiny, wet, pellets and the rabbit eats them directly out of the anus; you'll rarely see them - if ever. Caecotrophy is to a rabbit what chewing cud is to a cow - its a vital proocess in complete digestion. You might find an occasional cecotrope on the cage floor now and again, but if you begin to see many of them - that's a sign that there is something wrong and its serious.
Here are a couple links for you to read more about this process:
This one shows regular fecal matter and a cecotrope: http://www.mekarn.org/prorab/leng_files/image004.jpg
For this link,scroll down about 1/4 of the page until you see:"Digestive tract and caecotrophy"
Again, i hope I've answered all your questions and please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Ah... one last thought - rabbits love papaya, but the tablets are really not worth the money. The digestive enzymes that papaya offers is lost during the manufacturing process of the tablets. If you wish, you can feed a small amount of fresh papaya a couple times per week. It is claimed to minimize odor, but it makes only a tiny difference in most rabbits.