How much food do meat rabbits need?
The amount of feed pellets, hay and other foods necessary to keep your meat rabbits satisfied and healthy is not set in stone and may vary from breed to breed, or even rabbit to rabbit. You will have to figure out for yourself whether your rabbits seem overweight or underweight, and how you need to adjust their food intake.
Active, growing and producing meat rabbits need about 1100 calories a day. A doe and her litter will usually eat 100–120 lb. of feed during an 8-week period. A variety of hay and straw must also be encouraged all day long (i.e. replenish available hay a few times a day) so that your rabbits get all the fiber and roughage needed. Be sure to also include plenty of twigs for them to gnaw on which keep teeth filed down. Rabbits can be fed twigs from apple, pear, fir, hazel, hawthorn, maple, spruce and willow trees or from blackberry and raspberry patches.
If your rabbit is leaving a lot of food behind from one feeding to the next, cut back on feed. On the other hand, if your meat rabbit seems to be hungry all the time, give it more food. Just remember that overfeeding can lead to poorly producing meat rabbits, especially does. Does start to build up fat which leads to breeding complications and makes it more difficult for them to give birth. If your meat rabbit suddenly loses its appetite or has no interest in food, it could be a sign of health problems.
The easiest way to tell if you are giving your rabbit the right amount of food is to stroke its backbone regularly. If the ridge of the backbone is present but feels rounded, your meat rabbit is receiving the right amount of food. If the ridges of the backbone feel pointed and sharp, start giving your rabbit more food. If you can’t feel the backbone, decrease your rabbit’s intake. A quick weekly check while you are inspecting feet and other parts is recommended.
Generally, pregnant does, lactating does with litters and growing fryers (1-3 months old) can be fed as much as they will eat (until they start leaving food behind). Replacement meat rabbits being brought into the breeding cycle and bucks you are currently using for breeding should be fed about 6-8 ounces of pellets a day. Dry does and bucks which are no longer reproducing have lighter needs of about 4-6 ounces a day.