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?
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.
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 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!
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.
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.