1. Do I need to supply any supplements or hay with my rabbit feed?
Normally, the answer is no. With today’s commercially prepared rabbit feed, like Show-Rite® Premium Rabbit Pellets, everything is already in the pellet. The fiber levels are high enough so you do not need to feed hay. All the vitamins and minerals are in optimal levels so no extra supplementation is needed and, with premium lines like the Show-Rite, yeast and probiotics, digestive enzymes and chelated minerals (for better mineral absorption) are already added.
2. How much should I feed my rabbit?
A lot has to due with what type of breed it is and how much work it is doing. A mature Californian rabbit can weigh around 9 pounds whereas a mature Netherlands Dwarf can weigh about 2 pounds. Most animals will eat about 2% of their body weight in feed a day which means the Californian should eat about 3 ounces per day whereas the Netherlands Dwarf will eat about 0.75 ounce per day. Most commercial feeds, like Show-Rite premium rabbit feed, contain a high enough fiber level to be fed free choice. But care must be taken not to let the animals become too fat. If they become too fat, just reduce the amount fed to them.
3. Normally, I notice that there are small feces pellets under the rabbit pen. However, every once in a while, I notice the rabbit produced much larger, softer pellets. Is this normal?
The answer is yes. A rabbit produces two types of feces. The first one is the hard, round pellets you normally see which is sometimes called "day" feces (or "hard" feces). But because the rabbit has a digestive tract where lots of fermentation occurs in the hind gut, the rabbit will produce large, grape-like cluster pellets called "night" feces (or "soft" feces). Soft feces are very rich in B-complex vitamins and high quality amino acids. The rabbit may consume this soft feces, a practice called coprophagy, which is part of a normal behavior pattern. Several other species also practice coprophagy, including horses and ostriches.
4. Should my bucks be fed the same way as my does?
If you are using your buck for breeding, the answer is probably no. Normally, a buck is used about 10 times a year per doe (assuming a 35 day rebreeding interval). Ten does would mean he is used about twice a week (10 does X 10 intervals divided by 52 weeks). All these numbers indicate that he is not very active and has a tendency to become fat and lazy. You can use the same feed that you give the does but make sure that the buck is given enough feed to prevent him from becoming too heavy.
5. How should I feed my pregnant doe?
Care must be used when feeding a pregnant doe. Towards the end of pregnancy, the female’s feed consumption is reduced due to the decreased body capacity from the growing fetuses. This occurs at a time where her nutritional needs are high. Then sometimes a young doe may die a week or so after kindling due to enterotoxemia or mastitis. Even a healthy litter of kits may die after a week after birth due to a condition called milk enterotoxemia, a condition due to overfeeding after kindling. So, it is best to make sure that the feed is gradually increased after kindling.