Rabbits love black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS). They are a great winter tonic! I only feed BOSS to my rabbits in the cooler months, as it is a high calorie, high fat, “hot” feed. So it keeps them warm and shiny, great for a dry winter coat. This helps by putting the oil back into their coats.
I am talking about the black oil sunflower seeds, not the striped seeds. The striped seeds have thicker, tougher hulls. Black oil seeds have thinner shells and are more nutritious. Black oil sunflower seeds contain high levels of protein are rich in vitamin E, linoleic acid and provide a good source of fiber. Rabbits benefit from this snack seed as a high source of energy during cold temperatures.
I do not recommend using BOSS during the heat of the summer (June, July, and August here in Maine, it may be longer in your area). I feel that if fed during hot weather it will make them shed more and could cause gut troubles by hair blockage. But if you have a rabbit that is stuck in a molt, then this is a great additive to add to your rabbits diet. By adding the extra calories and protein this will get them to blow their coat and get in new growth. If rabbits are overfed BOSS or fed to often this can also trigger a molt so feed in moderation. This is used as a tonic not a feed!
Her are the general nutritional components of black oil sunflower seeds, I also listed some of the benefits of each next to the item
28 percent fat – Fat in a rabbits diet functions as an energy source, aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). It also adds luster and gloss to the fur and helps slow shedding.
25 percent fiber – This helps provide the bulk and forage requirements for a rabbit and also promoting a healthy gut.
15 percent protein – Protein is need for the growth, disease resistance, milk production, general health and reproduction.
Calcium – Calcium plays a key role in bodily processes, such as heart function, muscle contraction, coagulation, and electrolyte levels in the blood. But you do not want excess calcium in a rabbits diet as this can cause urinary tract problems.
B vitamins- A rabbit produces its own b vitamin by bacteria in the hind-gut of the rabbit, their requirements are fulfilled through caecotrophy. So B is not very important to a domestic rabbit.
Vitamin E – helps to remove toxins out of your rabbit’s body this helps to maintain the immune system.
Potassium- Rabbit need this when they’re sick as they lose potassium through watery feces.
Feeding rabbits BOSS- Rabbits should only be fed BOSS as condition mix or tonic treat, 6 seeds per a rabbit top dressed in the feed hopper or crock is enough! DO NOT OVERFEED! You do not want fat lazy rabbits. Feed with the hulls on this is a good added fiber for the rabbits digestive track. Some show breeders feed BOSS as a daily conditioner one week before a show. I do not think you should add them to a bulk bag of feed because you will not be able to control the amount of BOSS each of your rabbits consumes. Black oil sunflower seeds are not a complete source of nutrition for your rabbit, offering only a few necessary nutrients your rabbit needs. These should only be offered as part of a rabbit’s diet, not the sole source of nutrition.
Vitamins A and E are vulnerable to poor or prolonged storage in feeds. Both of these vitamins are needed for the willingness and ability of rabbits to breed. Instead of increasing the pellets, I suggest feeding about a tablespoon of black oil sunflower seeds for Vitamin E and a good handful of dark leafy greens (dandelions, plantain, raspberry,and Kale are fine) for Vitamin A. If the rabbits have never had greens, start with just a couple of leaves and work up to more to help with those unwilling does.
One of the things I like about the BOSS is that even rabbits who are “off their feed” will nibble at them. When I got my first Angoras many years ago I tried adding BOSS to their diet and the results could be noticed by coat growth and quality, I can only assume it is from more protein-rich foods. Coat growth in Angoras or any wool breed uses a lot of protein to keep the fiber growing having a little extra to burn is making their fiber thick, dense, and soft.
PROS- They are packed with nutrition, amino acids, and calories, so they are a great supplement for almost any rabbit to one degree or another. They do help with shiny coats also. The side benefit is the volunteer sunflowers that sprout. I grew some out this summer (Will be growing a plot of the in 2013) and saved the seed heads, then pulled the plant and gave it to the rabbits as a green treat in the cages. They would not only eat the leaves, but they would gnaw the stems until it was all gone!
CONS- Not to many, but possibly too high in protein and calories, which could cause heat issues during summer months. If fed too much too often maybe some weight gain, and molting problems. I believe the positives of BOSS out weight the negatives. Definitely feed with shells as they add necessary fiber and are easy to chew through for rabbits. Black oil sunflower seeds often stimulate your rabbit to gain weight due to their high fat content. This extra body weight helps rabbits maintain their body temperature in the winter, fall, and spring months. Your rabbit may not need to maintain as much body heat in the summer months, so consider cutting back the amount of black oil sunflower seeds your rabbit consumes during those months.
Hope this answers any question on feeding BOSS to your rabbits. If anyone has other ideas or question please post in the comment section. Will be working on a conditioning mix post for rabbits and BOSS is in to that mix. Also if there are any requests for new post and ideas, email me and let me know! JOIN THE RABBIT REVOLUTION! Like Us On Facebook, and subscribe to the web page to get updates as the are posted.