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Does feeding need to be corrected? And in which direction(s)?

Where I am now:

I have two rabbits born end of Feb 2016. Siblings, one male (castrated) and one female. They are both small for their age. I got them from a rescue place. The person I got them from said they have a genetic defect whereby they will grow slowly.

During the first few weeks I owned them I learned the muesli style pellets (muesli plus pellets) was not good for them, so I weaned them onto 100% pellets in a week. No problems there.

For the rabbits I provide the following daily amounts combined (not each).

Approx equal volumes of hay and greens. Total volume approx the same as the volume of the rabbits.

The greens comprise approximately equal amounts of nettles, young blackberry runners and dandelion leaves with some white clover in lesser amounts. Once a week I’ll go to the nearby fields and collect a large bag of these, mix them up and store them in the fridge.

70g pellets (recently increased from half that amount). Pellets are Vitakraft Emotion - I just realised these are for dwarf rabbits.

4 blackberries - either fresh off the bush, else from the freezer as I froze this year´s glut of blackberries.

1 tablespoon ripe nectarine or apple - fresh or frozen.

A small cucumber cut into 4 pieces lengthwise (usually about 10cm long, diameter 3 - 4cm).

Occasional amounts of any of celery leaves and stalks, lemon basil, peppermint, broccoli leaves, radish tops (all taken from our garden).

They have a 7 square metre circular run I improvised by wrapping 10m of chicken wire round the garden trampoline. It provides both space and shade. I used to move food from their hay rack in their main hutch to this play area, but I have stopped that now. I want them to eat the grass. They will eat grass. But not much during the day. They seem to like grass more if I pull a few strands and feed them through the chicken wire.

They don´t seem to be addicted to the pellets. That is, they will nibble on them and move on but they are usually eaten in 24 hours.

They will eat everything, but the hay only sparingly. So that means everything I give them is eaten, except the hay. I drop in some food in the morning around 07:30, and replenish in the evening, 19:00 to 20:00. In the morning they seem hungry, and know they are going to get their breakfast, but overnight they only eat the greens.

I have tried hay I made myself from fresh meadow plants (which I think is superior to anything I have bought, but only because it is still green :P ), nameless hay from the local supermarket, and I just took delivery of some Timothy Hay, “meadow hay” and also some dried dandelion leaves (intended as a reserve for the winter, provided they eat these).

So far I have given them only the Timothy hay, and they didn't seem to be impressed by it.

Where do I need to be?

Are they getting enough fibre from the greens I am giving them? But what about winter when there are no fresh greens like this?

Enough protein, minerals and vitamins?

How can I get them to eat more hay?

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    How are their droppings? Are they leaving caecatropes around, or only firm hard droppings? – Victoria Aug 15 '16 at 12:02
  • Possible duplicate of pets.stackexchange.com/questions/2361/… – James Jenkins Aug 15 '16 at 14:04
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    @Victoria: Over the last 72 hours I've seen only one caecotroph. There is the occasional, single dropping tht is wet. But that might have been urinated on. – Magic Thighs Aug 24 '16 at 14:02
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OK, I asked about caecatrophs because often a sign that rabbits are overeating is that they are leaving these around rather than ingesting them. If you aren't seeing them, that's a good sign for their diet.

The diet you are offering sounds really good and varied, but possibly is a little sweet - apple and blackberries every day? If you are keen for them to eat up their hay and grass like good little rabbits, you could probably reduce the sweeties in their diet a little. Hay is very good for rabbits but like us, they often prefer things that are delicious to things that are healthy!

If you would like to give them a bit more fibre and help them keep their teeth in order, twigs from apple trees are excellent and can often be got for free if you can spot a crab-apple tree that has grown from a pip or find someone with a big oldfashioned tree that need pruning. If you give them a largish piece, they can trim the bark off and snip the twigs into shorter lengths, so it's good enrichment activity as well as food.

They may possibly prefer grass you pull for them to grass that grows under the trampoline because the grass outside is sweeter - grass growing in shade doesn't grow so fast and sweet. Or they might just be enjoying the attention: a lot of rabbits seem to like being presented with items that they can snip in half or generally destroy, but would ignore if they were not presented as a special item.

Hope that helps. Sounds like they are pretty lucky bunnies.

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You make yourself a lot of thoughts about your rabbits. This is a good base!

In general the pet owners differentiate between "ad libitum" diet and the weighing diet (my wording).

The common weighing diet means, you choose the rabbits amount and sort of food and give it at the time you choose too. They eat it all in.

Ad libitum means, they have access to a wide variety of food any time they get hungry and choose themselves the sort and time and amount to eat. (see [2]) They will spare the sorts of food they do not like, because of taste or because of health reasons, for example self therapy (see [1]).

At the ad libitum diet I give my rabbits hay only as "back up". They have always a little (dry and clean) amount of it at their enclosure, but eat it only at winters time regularly. They love to make their sleep place of it. But after this it is not clean anymore, so they get additional hay.

In my opinion the fresh (grass, herbs) is every time better than the dry (hay in all kinds). I would probably more like my vegetables/fruits/even bread fresh, than as dried chips ...

For more information about rabbit diets you can look to this questions:

[1] How much food is too much for a baby bunny?

[2] What means "ad libitum" related to an animals diet?

[3] Are we feeding our bunny enough?

[4] What's The Purpose of Hay Pellets?

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