How we feed our rabbits at Lupin Lapin Rabbitry
2015 presentation at ARBA Convention Portland Oregon
Lupin Lapin Rabbitry is located inland from San Francisco Bay, in a Mediterranean Climate and situated on an ancient sand dune. Currently only a small portion is under cultivation.
Our first priority is to develop and increase soil fertility (compost, rabbit manure, worm castings) while preventing wind erosion and moisture evaporation.
We try to feed our rabbits as much locally sourced and sustainably produced foods as we can, ideally growing as much as possible ourselves. This method of feeding might be less expensive, but it is initially more time consuming. With planning and practice, we have become proficient in integrating rabbit fodder collecting with other garden duties.
Fresh WATER is extremely important for rabbits. They can go without food, but NOT without water for very long.
We add a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar to a gallon of water poured into deep crocks.
It has been found that rabbits can drink 4x more water from a container than a bottle with a tube.
Apple Cider Vinegar ads trace nutrients and helps the water stay fresher longer.
ACV also makes travel water taste like home.
Rabbits are single stomached(“Monogastrics”) and rely on hind gut bacteria in their cecum to digest every possible nutrient from their food as well as manufacture B vitamins and other things.
An abrupt change in diet throws this delicate population balance off, could cause diarrhea and possible death to the rabbit.
We believe a rabbit accustomed over time to a varied diet helps build resiliency.
IMPORTANT: Please begin any diet changes with small amounts, slowly, over time to enable the gut bacteria
to develop and to make sure the item is well tolerated. It is an excellent plan to keep a rabbit food diary.
Not every rabbit is able to convert to this diet.
IF YOUR RABBIT EVER DEVELOPS DIARRHEA -STOP AND FEED IT ONLY HAY UNTIL IT RESOLVES.
It is believed that if mom ate this diet, then her babies can too, as they have picked up beneficial bacteria
in her environment as well as by digesting her cecatopes during their development, up until weaning.
Weaning before 8 week old is stressful and could deprive the young bunny of optimizing its gut bacteria populations.
Cecatropes are soft clusters that rabbits predigest to further ferment and digest.
They differ from the hard round poops that rabbits are well known for, which are mostly just fiber.
Some rabbit owners are totally unaware of this important aspect of rabbit digestion!!
We feed a species appropriate plant based diet- No pesticides/herbicides/chemical fertilizers are used.
Nothing cooked. No sugars like Molasses, honey, etc. No Probiotics-They have not been proven to survive transit through the rabbit's digestive system.. No Soy. No Corn. No animal by-products like dairy/yogurt, animal fats, oyster shell or bone.
Rabbits are naturally more active in early morning and dusk, so this is when we feed them.
1#) HAY is number one= Orchard grass mostly or any other dried grass. Rabbits need long fiber to keep their digestion moving. Some Alfalfa hay to babies and moms. We hang hay high on wall or from ceiling of enclosure to increase exercise / muscle development. HAY CUBES are fed when traveling/attending shows.
Dried, safe varieties of fall leaves and herbs are supplemented seasonally.
#2) FRESH grasses, bunny safe: 'weeds', herbs, garden surplus (damaged, going to seed, trimmings) Kitchen scraps.
Dead headed flowers. They love roses! Sweet potato leaves and roots.
Artichoke, burdock, sunflower / sun-choke plants are an excellent PREbiotic.
A Prebiotic encourages growth of beneficial gut populations all ready present.
Our rabbits get a mixed salad as big as their heads...sometimes more!
Never feed plants with rot, fungus, mold, or insect infestations.
If you see cecatropes in your rabbit's poop tray, back off on the amount of fresh: You are feeding more than it can digest.
#3) Rabbit safe TREE trimmings; TREES are able to mine minerals from deeper in the soil.
Trimmed branches from apple/pear trees. NO branches from stone fruit trees.
Grape and Berry leaves, vines and fruit stems. Willow, Elm, Pomegranate, Guava, Citrus...
as well as our personal favorite MULBERRY leaves and branches. (better than alfalfa!!)
WHOLE oats/ WHOLE wheat and crimped Barley. Black oil sunflower seeds('BOSS')
We feed grains dry or sprouted. Crimped, steamed or otherwise altered grains will not sprout.
Adults get about 1/8 cup-More during cold weather: Babies and moms are unlimited free fed.
NONE of this mix when weather is hot!
Some rabbits hull the grains, some will eat them whole. If you think rabbit isn't eating them, make sure bowl isn't full of hulls!
We feed grains separately in a tip proof dish, otherwise rabbits will dig through it for their favorites.
Very young bunnies get rolled "5 Grain Cereal" from grocery Bulk Bins.
If we feed sprouted grain, then we don't feed dry grain blend.
If you smell ammonia in your trays, back off on the % amount of grain / protein you are feeding.
#4) Sprouted whole grains. Depending on number of rabbits being fed:
system could be a mason jar on its side with mesh top for rinsing / draining,
stacked trays with drainage holes drilled in the bottom or a fancy Hydroponic system.
The wonderful thing about sprouting is that just one cup of grain transforms to four to seven times the volume of food.
Actual amount depends on when and what stage you desire to feed it. Feel free to eat them too.
You can chose to harvest just the green tops and they will continue to grow! Cut it with shears like mowing a lawn.
Spouts are more easily digestible, so more nutritious with activated amino acids plus it increases water intake.
We usually sprout more in the summer when our natural grasslands are dry/dormant.
Don't feed fermented, fungus/moldy or otherwise questionable sprouts.
#5) Complete Rabbit pellets- Occasionally fed to supplement on days when we are unable to feed fresh,
to enable rabbits to recognize pellets as food, and enable new owner transitional feeding.
If you smell excessive ammonia in your trays, back off on the % amount of grain / protein you are feeding.
Some fiber/long coated breeds are fed higher protein in the belief that it produces hair...But that isn't needed with our breed.
FRUIT as a treat. Apples, Citrus*, Bananas*, Grapes, Pomegranates* (* we also feed them the peelings)
Pineapple, Papaya for beneficial enzymes. Some people feed these to clear fur blockages, however, since we feed a high fiber natural diet, we never have issues with this! Our breed also has a medium coat and doesn't seem to shed excessively.
PUMPKIN SEEDS: Antiviral and a natural dewormer. Sometimes we feed them salted to entice rabbits to drink more water.
A few ripe ACORNS in the Fall- as we live in an Oak Savannah.
Dried PINE CONES for chewing on and playing with.
With rising food and fuel costs: conventional pelleted feed will continue to go up in price.
Feeding a non-processed, non-pelleted rabbit diet is sometimes considered "alternative feeding",
however this is the traditional way of feeding rabbits all over the world before industrial animal food was developed.
Hopefully you have found this information helpful.