What to feed rabbits in winter?
While a balanced rabbit diet in the summer consists of juicy greens and fruits and vegetables, the winter feed is often difficult. The reason is obvious: there are significantly fewer suitable feeds available. To ensure that your rabbit is well fed in winter, we would like to give you some important tips below.
Ingredients of the winter feed
Even in winter, roughage is the main component of the diet and should therefore be available daily. Since fresh grass and juicy herbs are not available in sufficient quantities during the cold season, it is best to serve your rabbit a high-quality hay, which may also come from your own garden. Another component of the winter diet should still consist of greens, such as cabbage.
Together with hay, these should make up about half of the daily winter feed.
The following cabbage is a very good winter food
Leaves from kohlrabi
Accustom the rabbit to cabbage slowly, as it can cause flatulence. Feed only small amounts at first and increase over time. Instructions on how to get your rabbit used to cabbage can be found here.
You do not necessarily need dry food, which you can buy for example in the trade in different variants, also with the winter feeding. For supplementation and variety, dry food without additives is very suitable, but it should be fed very sparingly and should not make up a significant part of the winter diet.
For a special taste experience, you may additionally give a small amount of dried herbs every day. These smell wonderful and round off the taste.
Fruit and vegetables in winter
Vegetables, such as carrots or fennel, may be on the menu daily and you can also offer fruit to the rabbit. You can chop this up and give it raw in the hutch or give it in the form of treats. How about dried apple rings, for example, which are a real treat for most rabbits?
You should use fruit sparingly due to its high sugar content. A small handful daily is sufficient.
Additional food for free-range rabbits
If you keep your rabbits outdoors during the winter months, the energy requirement increases accordingly. Due to the cold, food is utilized more quickly, so that the general feed requirement increases a little, so that the rabbit can “eat a thick skin”. In order to meet the high energy requirements, it is recommended for keeping free-range rabbits in winter to additionally feed them with so-called oilseeds.
The following oilseeds are suitable as a supplement in winter:
Treats for the winter
It is true that most native plants are not green in winter. However, you can still give your rabbit a real taste treat. When the trees – such as birch – have lost their leaves, you can put the branches in water. After some time, buds will form, which are very tasty for rabbits.
Likewise, various food scraps, such as potato or carrot peels and lettuce leaves, are suitable treats for the winter. Dried flowers from the summer are also excellent as a winter variety.
Water in winter
Due to the comparatively high amount of hay and dried herbs that rabbits eat in winter, the need for fluids increases accordingly. This means that the animals must be supplied with fresh water around the clock.
If you have free-range rabbits, always make sure that the water in the drinker does not freeze.
For the winter, there are special drinkers that keep the water always ice-free. Only in this way can you reliably provide the rabbits with drinkable water at all times.
Making winter feed yourself
Of course, there is the possibility of making the winter fodder yourself. Those who have their own garden can even produce the hay themselves and store it appropriately protected so that it is still tasty in winter. It is important to store it in a dry place to avoid mold. Do not store hay in plastic bags under any circumstances to avoid fermentation.
Similarly, dried herbs are suitable for winter feeding. You can forage during the summer months and tie the herbs into small bunches and hang them. Fully dried, they can be stored for a long time and provide a pleasant change in the winter.
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