Sunday, May 19, 2024

Rabbit Feeds and Feeding Guide

Management of kittens from birth through weaning to maturity depends largely on quality of feeds and appropriate application of feeding principles during the growth period.

Young rabbits are left with the does to have access to milk until weaning at 56-60 days to attain 1.5kg weaning weight. Litter size (number of kittens per birth) determines the average litter weight due to competition for milk and feed.

During lactation, adequate good quality concentrate, sufficient succulent greens and plenty of clean fresh water should be provided to ensure production of abundant milk for the young ones.

Milk consumption at early stage of life of a kitten offers nutrients that ensure immune protection and rapid growth during the pre-weaning growth period.

As such kitten weighing about 60g at birth attains 1.8-2.0kg at the weaning age of 50-60 days. At four-eight weeks, kitten would have grown hair coat to conserve body heat without the dam providing warmth for them. They should on their own eat some concentrate, greens and root supplied to their dam.

At weaning, the dam is simply removed from the litter and kept separately away in another hutch. Sudden removal of the dam while the milk still flows may results in a caked udder. In order to avoid this condition at weaning, a few kittens especially those having slow rate of growth be left with the dam for few days until milk flow ceases.

Read Also: Common Rabbit Diseases and How to Cure them

Besides the removal of dam at weaning a number of activities are usually carried out immediately for ease of good management such as:

(1) Identification of individual weaners using ear tags, tattooing or notching methods.

(2) Sexing: separation of males and females weaners.

(3) Selection for breeding especially for replacement stock.

It is important to note certain principles guiding the feeding and nutrition of rabbits. The domestic rabbit is primarily herbivorous and will eat most types of green vegetation, hays, grains, tubers and roots.

Thus rabbits may thrive on feed ingredients from plant sources. This convenient feeding habit derives from the special adaptation of the digestive system of rabbit. The digestive tract basically is that of a monogastric consisting of a simple stomach and a pair of large caeca (plural) where cellulolytic microorganisms reside.

The latter additional structures aid in digestion of forage feeds which other simple stomach animals cannot easily digest. Another special ability of rabbits supporting the use of poor quality feed ingredients is the recycling of soft faecal pellets to supplement protein quality and B-vitamins and further aids better digestion of poorly digestible feed.

The protein-rich soft faeces (coprophage) is produced from bacterial protein synthesized in the caecum (singular). The stomach adaptation of empowers rabbits to utilize non-protein nitrogen ingredients (urea, poultry manure, biuret) as sources of protein which further ease feed and nutrient requirements of rabbit while contributing to faster growth.

Read Also: Considerations and Requirements for Rabbit Housing

The nutrient needs of rabbits consist of suitable amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fat, minerals, vitamins, water and roughage. It is essential that feeds containing these nutrients must be provided in a palatable form and sufficient quantity.

Feeds and feeding guides for rabbits

Nutrient requirements of 17 per cent crude protein (plus 0.65 per cent lysine and methionine), 2450 kcal digestible energy have been recommended the protein sources may include soybean, groundnut, cottonseed, palm kernel and sunflower meal in combination with non-protein nitrogen sources. While the energy may be derived from fats, tubers, grains and forage feeds.

Fat supplementation as energy source should not exceed 20-25 per cent depending on age. It is of necessity to add a satisfactory level of roughage or any fibre source into the diet of rabbits to avoid enteritis and to aid both microbial activities and bowel movement.

Staple food by-products commonly consumed in many cultures have been tried and found to be useful for feeding rabbits e.g. dry cereal and legume grains.

The use of cassava tuber peels and leaves, bambara nut wastes, poultry manure, maize and sorghum offal have been recommended as cheap alternative feedstuffs for rabbit without comprising growth rate and development of body tissues.

Read Also: The Recommended Feeding Pattern for Rabbit Kits


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with over 12 years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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