Rabbit Awareness Week.

Hi I’m Teddy. My mum suggested I should do this post as Rabbit Awareness Week, (2-10th of June), is all about the move away from the muesli type food & I love my food. But just how bad is the muesli food?

Personally, I don’t have experience of eating the muesli food as I have always been given pellets.  However, my mum used to give all her rabbits muesli food.  This is what she told me. All her past bunnies were given a muesli mix & very few of them had gut or teeth problems. Any teeth issues were caused by genetics or were age related. Non were overweight or did selective feeding.  This was because a measured amount was given to each pair & if any food was left by the next feed then a reduced amount was given the following mealtimes.  They also had access to plenty of hay. However, my mum found that the muesli mix doesn’t usually have enough fibre in it, my mum’s muesli mix only had 11.8% of fibre whereas the recommended amount is a minimum of 18% & for the poor hay eaters that wasn’t a good diet.

So I asked mum why did she change to pellets?

She told me there were several reasons.  Firstly, it was the lack of hay being eaten. I can’t understand that myself as I love hay.  Anyway, there were some good hay eaters but there were also some bunnies who barely ate any.  It was noticed that these bunnies tended to be more susceptible to gut issues, namely gut stasis. I fortunately have never had that, touchwood, & do not want it either as it is a painful condition.
Secondly, over the years the colouring of the food had become brighter & my mum had misgivings about giving such highly coloured food.
Thirdly, one particular year was a very sad year in the bunny shed.  It was just before my time & a lot of bunnies passed away through illness & age. One particular bunny, Hank,  died because of the food. My mum had a post mortem on Hank & it was found he had a perforated stomach.  In his stomach was a mass of compacted food which had caused an obstruction in his guts.  No fluid or gas could exit his body so his stomach burst killing him.  This happened in less than 12 hours.  The vet said the cause was he’d been given too much food.  Mum struggled to understand how it could have happened as the amount of muesli food hadn’t changed for years & it was always carefully measured.  Hank had lost his partner a couple of days before so my mum was thinking the stress & muesli food were not a good combination.
The bunnies who were left had also all been affected by the deaths & had become extremely upset over the huge change in their family.  The stress meant lots of gut upsets & my mum could not get any of them right for long periods of time, even when they had all got new partners & settled.  It was thought the food was not helping & in light of what happened to Hank,  if they were eating more of a natural diet like hay their guts may have coped better & maybe Hank would not have died.
And finally the amount of dust found in the food seemed very high which was not good for us in particular our Rumble as he has an allergy & dust sets him off.


So what changes did my mum see when she moved everyone over to pellets?

Initially she moved everyone over to Burgess Excel pellets.  Most bunnies moved over to it reasonably well with just a couple protesting but they eventually came round. The gut issues did reduce & slightly more hay was being eaten.  However, after my mum did her research on food for us she noticed that Burgess Excel was at the lower end of the recommended fibre & that was the main ingredient my mum definitely wanted to be well within the recommended amount. Which is a minimum of 18%, Burgess was 19%. The fibre is what helps our guts stay healthy & working.  Also once again there seemed to be a lot of dust.  Ever since my mum noticed the dust issue even with the muesli food she has sieved our food.

Burgess Excel taken out of bag. Not sieved yet. Notice the dust.
Burgess Excel being sieved.
Dust from the Burgess Excel.
Burgess Excel sieved & ready for use.

So what did my mum do next?

After extensive research she came across a pelleted food that contained everything within the recommended amounts especially the fibre which is 23% in this food.  The food is a natural rabbit pellet by Allen & Page.  She moved us all on to this food except Rumble & Bubbles, Bubbles was ill at the time & didn’t need any more stresses.  I have to admit most of us were not keen but we weren’t going to get anything else so eat it we did.  The first thing she noticed is that we all ate a huge amount of hay along with all the pellets, this was great on the hay side of things but also meant weight gain!  So she took each individual pair & reduced their pellets until their weight remained the same each week.  My mum was really surprised just how much hay we were all eating, most of us were eating double the amount we were before. She was very pleased with us as she would prefer us to eat hay rather than the pellets.  Since the change over only one out of us in just over a year has had a gut upset & that was partly because they had another issue. The other thing my mum noticed is how well all our coats were looking. We have a real shine to us! Our poo is looking good too!
As with all rabbit food you are always going to get a certain amount of dust because in transport all those pellets will rub each other.  The Allen & Page pellet is a much more compact pellet than Burgess so it produces less dust.

Allen & Page Natural Rabbit Pellets.
Allen & Page taken out of the bag – not sieved yet. You can barely see the dust.
Allen & Page being sieved.
Dust from Allen & Page. Might be hard to tell from the photos but the Allen & Page definitely has less dust than the Burgess.
Allen & Page sieved & ready for use.

But my mum didn’t stop there, she had got a touch paranoid about these gut upsets especially since Hank’s death.  She also put us on to a food called Fibafirst.  It is a hay based food & comes in sticks. The fibre is 30% in this food & she gives us 1 stick a day, well except for me that is I get 2 sticks – I am a big boy you know.  We all love these & they smell great.

Fibafirst box. 2kg.
Fibafirst sticks.
A Fibafirst stick.

So folks this is how our dry food routine runs & it works for us.  Of course we all get veg, hay & forage everyday & on occasion fruit.

But what about yourselves? Should you move away from muesli?

If the fibre in the food isn’t up to the recommended amount & your bunnies do not eat a lot of hay or your bunnies are fat & suffer lots of gut upsets – then yes move to a good pellet food & give plenty of hay. If your bunnies are running well on your current food routine then why change a good thing?
My mum’s motivation to change to pellets was mainly because of what happened to Hank, she felt she had to lessen the chances of it happening again.
My mum likes the Allen & Page food because it pushed us all over to eating a lot more hay than we used to. She also says in her opinion you have to find what works for you & your bunnies.  Not every rabbit runs well on pellets.

The main thing to remember is to view giving us pellets/mix as a complementary food so don’t give too much as we are greedy & will over eat. Then we will get fat & have health problems. View hay & grass as our main staple diet with forage & veg added with a small amount of dry food.


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