Homemade Rabbit Food – How to make your own rabbit foodMaking your own homemade rabbit food can be a real challenge. I have put together this page in response to a e-mail I received and I know it will answer a question that many people have asked and tried to accomplish on their own. Below is a copy of the e-mail; Thank you Michael for allowing this to be published.
"I have been feeding my rabbits a pelleted commercial feed and getting along well but want to switch over to an organic or natural feed. Problem is the expense for the amount I need. I have several cert organic farmers in the area but need to know what would be used to make up my own non pelleted feed. I am talking percentage of alphalfa pellets/corn/beans/oats or wheat that you would want to blend together to get a good high fiber feed for them to eat. Any help would be appreciated. Right now I am paying a little over $$$ for 50 pounds of 17% pellets but I can buy the corn/beans/oats at market cost and then grind my own but need to know what to put in it."
Thanks for any help! Michael
The first thing I want to address when thinking about making rabbit food is BALANCE. If you add more fiber to the diet of your rabbit then it will reduce the protein and energy concentration of that diet and vice versa. It’s a trade off. You cannot increase the fiber concentration of the feed without decreasing the energy or protein concentration. So how much of these things do your rabbits need?
Right now I’d like to bring your attention to what I call the “limiting factor.” You see, when most people think of making their own rabbit food they think of just the macro ingredients like fiber and protein. Of course, when making your own rabbit food you’ll want to provide enough of each but how much is enough and does it hurt to add a little more? Wouldn’t the rabbits naturally eat (pick and choose) what they need?
To some extent they do, but not in the way you might think. Plants are comprised of more than just a few 'ingredients' such as protein and fiber. They also contain vitamins, minerals, and secondary metabolites such as tannins, saponins, and other compounds. Furthermore some of these things interact with each other in surprising ways. A rabbit that is eating a plant to get more of a specific nutrient still has to process all of the other components which, when in excess, just go to waste or stress the system.
Research has found that even when a rabbit’s diet contains plenty of protein, fiber, and other macro ingredients that growth, and health can still suffer if they are lacking in certain other “limiting factors” like minerals and vitamins. Natural feed ingredients simply don’t have high enough concentrations of some of these nutrients (like choline and phosphorous) to make efficient use of the protein, energy, and other macro nutrients already naturally in the feed. Can you still feed your rabbits exclusively on natural feeds? Yes!, but know that you will not get the long-term health.