Feeding Wool Rabbits

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Find out what you should be feeding your woolly Angora rabbits to keep them in tip top shape!

Feeding your wool producing rabbits is not always as easy as going to your local pet store and picking up a bag of rabbit pellets.  Because Angoras are constantly producing silky soft wool they need a diet higher in protein than your average rabbit.  They also need plenty of fresh greens & hay to keep excess wool from building up in their intestines in a deadly condition known as wool block & GI stasis (click here to read more!).  So what should you feed your wool rabbits to keep them healthy?

Rabbit Pellets

Feeding your Angora Rabbit

Wool rabbits should have a pellet feed with 18% protein.  It is important to check the protein tags, many commercial pet rabbit brands available only have 14% protein as that is sufficient for most pet rabbits.  The higher protein pellets will usually be marked “pro”, “show” or “performance” but still always check the tag.   I have yet to find a high protein feed in any of my local pet stores, but my feed store carries some.  We feed our girls Nutrena’s Nature Wise Performance Rabbit Feed.  The other thing to look for with the feed is an all pellet feed.  Some feed comes with colorful shapes and treats mixed in with the pellets.  Your rabbit doesn’t need these treats and will usually dig all these treats out and eat them first.  You don’t want them to fill up on snacks first and ignore the pellets!  Its like when you were a kid and your mom would buy you a cereal with marshmallows in it and you would go through the box and eat all the marshmallows leaving just the cereal behind.  Don’t buy huge feed bags that will take you more than a month or two to go through, and keep the feed in an air tight container so it doesn’t get stale.  For the smaller English Angoras plan on about 1/2 cup pellets per day. For the larger Satin, German, French & Giants it will be closer to a cup per day per rabbit.  The pellets should be measured out daily, if they are offered free choice the rabbits will gobble up all their pellets and could become overweight.  The only time pellets should be offered free choice is when the kits are under 6 months old.  After that, they are full grown and the pellets should be measured.  We use a mesh bottom feeder that attaches to the cage.  The wire sifts out any dust and because it is attached to the cage they can’t grab the dish, dump it and toss it around.

Feeding your Angora RabbitHay

Fresh Timothy hay should be offered daily, free choice.  Rabbits should be encouraged to eat as much hay as possible.  The roughage is critical to keep their digestive system moving smoothly.  Timothy hay is the most popular choice, but most grasses can also be used.  Alfalfa hay should be avoided (or used very seldom) for adult rabbits as it contains too much calcium for them.  Many commercial pellets have alfalfa in them and that is ok, you just don’t want to compound it by also feeding Alfalfa hay.  The hay should be replaced daily so it stays fresh and smells inviting for them.  Keeping the hay in a manger will keep it cleaner, off the floor and out of their wool.  Try stuffing some hay into a cardboard paper towel or toilet paper tube.  Not only will the rabbits eat the hay, they will have fun playing with the tube and chewing it up.

 

Fresh Produce

Fresh vegetables (and fruits in moderation) should also be part of your rabbit’s daily diet.  Aim for 1-2 cups of fresh produce per day per rabbit.  Rabbits are not designed to thrive on store bought pellets.  In the wild, most of their diet would be foraged greens, berries and grasses.  Just like with humans, providing a varied diet will ensure they get all the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy.  Most days my rabbits each get half a romaine lettuce head.  I try to switch it up when I can by adding in fresh herbs, other dark leafy greens or slices of fruit or veggies.  Great foods to try include romaine lettuce, kale, beet or carrot tops, dandelions, clover, peas, broccoli, herbs (oregano, mint, parsley, rosemary, lemon balm, thyme & basil seem to be favorites).  Special treats they will love but that should be fed sparingly because they are high in sugar include carrots, dried fruit, melons, berries, apples, bananas, papaya & pineapple.  Foods you should NEVER offer your rabbit include “junk” food like cakes or cookies, salty foods like chips or pretzels, chocolate, raisins, onions, garlic, nuts, or dairy products.  Click here to see my recipe for healthy, homemade rabbit cookies!

Supplements

Papaya Enzyme Pills are an excellent supplement to your wool rabbit’s diet.  It gives them the digestive benefits without the added sugar of eating the fruit fresh.  Papaya enzymes help to break down excess fur in the digestive tract preventing wool block.  The rabbits LOVE these pills, we usually offer 1-2 pills per week to each rabbit.

Fresh Water

Of course having fresh water available at all times is just as important as quality food.  Your rabbit should never be without clean water, especially in the hot summer months when woolly Angoras can die from heat stroke.  The water is needed not only to quench thirst but it helps regulate body temperature.  Hanging water bottles are a better choice for wool rabbits than a water dish or crock.  The water stays cleaner in a hanging bottle and keeps the rabbit from getting their fur wet and matted.

Feeding your Angora Rabbits




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9 comments

  1. Niele Da Kine says:

    We had to quit feeding the Nutrena pellets since it had been a year and no baby bunnies. After switching to organic alfalfa pellets we started getting litters again. It may have something to do with spraying herbicide on the fields before harvest, I think, but it’s not proven it’s just my suspicion. It may not matter, though, if you’re not trying for baby bunnies.

    • Liz says:

      That is very disturbing to hear! Everything they eat can definitely have an impact. Alfalfa is generally not recommended for adult rabbits because it is lower in fiber than timothy hay based pellets. Alfalfa is also really high in protein so is great for baby rabbits that are still growing. Do you find the alfalfa makes your adult rabbits heavy? I can see where the high protein would be good for supporting pregnant does though.

  2. Niele Da Kine says:

    In 2011. the use of an herbicide to ‘ripen’ the alfalfa fields was approved and that’s when my records show the beginnings of a decline in litters and litter sizes. When we’d gone for a year with no babies (yet does constantly bred), their feed was switched to organic (April of this year) and now there’s babies again. I’d always used the higher protein feed because of wool growth and pregnant does, but then there were no litters and another person in town who has rabbits was feeding the same pellets and she didn’t have any litters either. She emailed the feed producer and their reply was that they didn’t know if the alfalfa was harvested with herbicide, they relied on the farmers to follow the allowed procedures.

    I wish we could get the adults heavy, keeping weight on them has always been a challenge. Although, we did start out with one of the foundation bucks being on the small side, so some of this is probably genetic. We’ve also been selecting by fiber quality and not bunny weight. I’ve now added size of bunny and size of litters into the selection criteria for breeding.

    With the organic alfalfa pellets, BOSS, calf manna and rolled oats, they’re finally gaining and maintaining weight. They also have about half forage, assorted grasses, leaves and such. There’s ti and mulberry next to their hutch which even makes feeding forage almost easier than pellets.

    I’m still gathering data, though, we just switched to organic in April. I’d heard about the possible problems of herbicide laced alfalfa from a gardening forum where they said there was enough herbicide left in the manure to affect gardens.

  3. Mary says:

    I have a 3-1/2 month old English angora who weighs 3-12 pounds, how much do you think i should feed him? He almost looks full grown.

    • Liz says:

      Rabbits usually hit their full adult weight around 6 months, so he probably still has a bit of growing yet. I would give him 1/4-1/2 cup of pellets, 1/2-1 cup fresh produce and unlimited hay

  4. Noel says:

    Do any if you feed flax as a supplement? My male angora has very, very dry skin. Our vet said it wasn’t mites, so I’m looking for solutions. Thank you!

    • Liz says:

      I haven’t given flax seeds to my rabbits, but I have heard they can be excellent for healthy coats & skin. In moderation, they can be an excellent supplement

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