feeding rabbits without pellets

vickeym Posts: 2,019 ✭✭✭✭✭

Is it possible to feed rabbits on homegrown food only? I know everyone says to use the pellets and many say it's the only way to feed them.

I'm sure if anyone knows if it can be done, someone here will know.

I'd like to be able to grow my own feed to raise meat rabbits. Have not convinced my husband we need them yet.... but I will. 😅 Being able to grow the food for them would go a long way to convincing him.



  • heirlooms777
    heirlooms777 Posts: 208 ✭✭✭
    1. Hay — 80% hay diet for all rabbits, even those that eat pellets ; their teeth grow 2 mm every day, so they have to chew to keep them down. Rabbits 2 months to 6 months can eat alfalfa hay, which is a legume, for breeding rabbits (or fiber rabbits like mine) transition to a grass hay like oat hay, timothy hay, orchard hay, etc. They should be mostly on a grass hay about 8 months.
    2. Greens — 15% of their diet should be various greens, like carrot tops (NOT carrots, rabbits have a sensitive digestive system and you can hurt your rabbits), parsley, grains you sprout, dandelion greens, etc, mix it up a little (look up good and bad greens for rabbits, some like spinach in moderation only). Less for rabbits under 6 months.
    3. And a taste of pellets — I suggest for now 5% of their diet should be non-GMO pellets, just in case you have an emergency or have to leave the rabbits for awhile, they won’t starve or die because someone fed them the wrong thing, they can just feed them pellets
    4. A salt lick
    5. A little oatmeal — not much, perhaps in a different dish because they will fly all food to the wind to get at the oatmeal … it’s like crack cocaine to the little bunnies. Oatmeal can be introduced when hay and pellets are introduced during weening
    6. Treats — no more than one or two tablespoon of treats possible after six months of age, before then use greens as treats (or oatmeal for the little “oatmeal addicts”. By the way, treats are good for teaching your breeders, etc, tricks, which makes them happy bunnies knowing what to expect. Chop treats into tiny bits.
    7. I always have tree and bush branches in their cage, which they need to chew the bark and twigs for their teeth; be sure it’s from the right tree, stone fruit trees are poisonous to rabbits, for example (no cherry tree branches, no peach tree branches), so apple branches, pear branches, black raspberry branches (thorns okay, perhaps watch them while they eat them, though), Maple branches, willow tree branches, etc. I’ll try to find a larger list for you. Marjorie has amazing classes about rabbits, and many lectures. For example, she talks about a tree she feeds her rabbits, and how she keeps them in a rabbit colony (although she recommends cages for those new to rabbits, to learn the basics first; be sure to have larger cages, at least 2 1/2 feet by 3 1/2 feet or larger, especially if they don’t always go out into a place to run and eat fresh grass and/or a rabbit tractor —Christina

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    Wow, this is a fantastic list. When I had a rabbit, I had no idea of how to feed it so it just got pellets.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,019 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thank you @heirlooms777 . That helps a lot. Of the trees you mentioned the only thing I am aware of here is willow. Most fruit trees don't grow here. I do have raspberries but they are red and golden. Local trees are birch, cottonwood, spruce, willow and a little alder.

    Would you happen to know if there is a particular type of grass hay that is better for them? Can they eat it green too or just dried? I have some growing, but not sure what kind. Got some moldy bales from someone, several years ago. Tried it as a garden bed. Was only so, so as a garden bed. But anywhere we put the bales out there is now a good bit of grass that grows every year until the frosts and snow flies.

  • heirlooms777
    heirlooms777 Posts: 208 ✭✭✭

    @vickeym A rabbits diet for a beginner like me for an adult is 80% grass hay (no mold), 15% various greens, and 5% nonGMO (if possible) pellets. For babies they drink mothers milk, and hay can be placed on top of the cage for the mother to reach, and if a few fall to the little ones it’s okay. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers get unlimited food. As babies get weaned they start eating, transitioning to alfalfa hay, which is a legume, not a grain, and some pellets (perhaps twice in proportion as an adult, always unlimited hay for them now and the rest of their lives. At six months I transition to a grass hay like orchard hay, Timothy hay, oat hay. I also keep an eye on them when I give them fruit tree twigs as they can hurt themselves on the chewed sticks, but not from trees with pits. They love raspberry brambles with spikes, willow twigs, etc. By eight months they are mostly on the 80% grass hay, 15% greens, and 5% pellets. Note young rabbits get greens as treats, no treats until six months, and in tiny bits. Oh, and they love oatmeal, starting when younger. Hope this helps.-Christina

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,019 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Great information. Thank you.

    I will likely use pellets and hay, but I know hay can be hard to buy here sometimes and pellets can get hard to find as well as both getting expensive.

    Since we are at the end of the supply chain in Alaska (getting things shipped from lower 48) what we et is often after everyone else gets there's and not always best quality.

    Wanted to see what I could grow for them in case I can't buy either the hay or pellets at some point.

    I know oats and barley both grow here (at least in Fairbanks area it does.) I don't think Alfalfa does, but not sure of that yet. Never heard of Orchard hay, so I don't think it grows here.

    I do have raspberries growing, and willows are everywhere here. Will have to look into pellets more and see what is in them. Maybe figure out how to grow the ingredients or figure out a vitamin/mineral supplement if that is needed.

    I just want to make sure I can provide for them if commercial is not available or affordable.

  • Marjory Wildcraft
    Marjory Wildcraft Posts: 1,583 admin

    OMG, @heirlooms777 this is fantastic. I did not know the stone fruit bark wasn't good for rabbits. I've fed mine peach and plum tree prunings for many years. They didn't get a lot of course... I got the idea from seeing expensive rabbit treats in a pet store - a little bag of peach tree twigs.

    As a general rule, other than hay or pellets, I didn't feed my rabbits too much of any one thing. Never have one thing be more than 10% of their diet. I found out the hard way with the leucena tree that you can over do it :) I think it was the mimosine in the leuceana tree that caused their fur to fall out? I caught the problem before it went into the next stage of problem.

    Somewhere in the TGN library is a .pdf of feedstocks for rabbits which goes through nutritional values of various possible feeds. Ah, where is it???? Oh! here it is "Alternative Feedstocks for Rabbits" the easiest way to get it is probably to sign up for the free downloads at www.colonyrabbits.com Gosh, I should review it myself...

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,019 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thank you, @Marjory Wildcraft. I did sign up there and got the .PDF. Have to get ready for a doctor appointment. But can't wait to get home and check it out.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,356 admin

    I was going to comment that the rabbits people release outside in the city seem to survive very well & reproduce, and I don't think they eat pellets. 🤔 But, I'm a bit late to this discussion, and there are plenty, much more in depth answers than my simple observation. 😆

  • Owl
    Owl Posts: 346 ✭✭✭

    I feed my rabbits a huge amount of their diet in fresh greens but I worked up to it very slowly. In the beginning I started with just a couple of leaves at a time but now they get a dig handful of the fodder I grow for them year round in the greenhouse. I didn’t know about oatmeal, do you cook it or feed it raw? I’m currently bottle feeding a couple of wild babies that lost their mom and the oatmeal might help transition them into solids more easily.