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Can Rabbits Eat Sunflower Seeds? Everything You Want to Know!

Bynewsmagzines

Feb 21, 2023
Striped sunflower seeds_Csaba Nagy, Pixabay

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Striped sunflower seeds_Csaba Nagy, Pixabay

As the 3rd most popular pet in the United States, rabbits can be found happily living in many American homes. Rabbits are also popular across Europe, especially in the United Kingdom. They’re Fluffy, adorable, and as docile as they come, and they make good pets. Rabbits eat mostly hay but also like small amounts of fresh veggies. Rabbits also like different seeds, including corn millet, nyjer, flax, safflower, and other types.

Sunflower seeds are an excellent snack for your rabbit and have several vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are good for their health. However, no seeds are a nutritionally complete food for rabbits, including sunflower seeds, so they should only be given to your rabbit in moderation.

If you’re interested in knowing more about sunflower and other seeds you can feed your rabbit, including which nutrients they offer, how many sunflower seeds you should give your pet, and more, read on.

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Which Type of Sunflower Seed Is best for Rabbits?

There are two types of sunflower seeds: black oil sunflower seeds and regular sunflower seeds. The best sunflower seeds for rabbits are Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, or BOSS for short. Regular sunflower seeds have much less nutritional value, but they aren’t toxic for your rabbit. They can thus be given to your fluffy pets in a pinch. It’s simply that black oil sunflower seeds offer much more in the way of nutrients.

Black oil sunflower seeds
Image Credit: LeoNeoBoy, Pixabay

How Should Sunflower Seeds Be Fed to a Rabbit?

Sunflower seeds are tiny and come in a hard shell that, while not toxic, isn’t edible and should be discarded. There is debate as to whether de-shelling is the best way to give sunflowers to a rabbit. Some say that rabbits can easily and safely remove the sunflower seed’s shell themself. Others argue that, for safety’s sake, you should remove the shell before giving your rabbit sunflower seeds. One thing to remember if you decide to give your rabbit sunflower seeds in the shell is that you should purchase them unsalted. The average rabbit doesn’t need the extra salt in their diet, and it can also dehydrate them.

Which Nutrients Do Sunflower Seeds Provide to Rabbits?

Although they aren’t nutritionally complete, sunflower seeds contain various nutrients that are good for your rabbit’s health. As we’ve seen, black oil sunflower seeds are recommended for rabbits. Thus, the ingredients below are based on BOSS sunflower seeds. Black oil sunflower seeds contain the following nutrients:

  • Fiber
  • “Good” Fats
  • Protein
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin B
  • Iron
  • Vitamin E
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin A
Rabbits
Image Credit: jatocreate, Pixabay

Can a Rabbit Eat a Lot of Sunflower Seeds?

Sunflower seeds are not a nutritionally complete food product and, for that reason, should only be given to your rabbit in moderation. Many rabbit experts recommend that between 6 and 10 sunflower seeds be given to your rabbit per week, which is admittedly a tiny amount. In other words, sunflower seeds aren’t a snack you should give your bunny every day. A few per week will keep your pet happy and healthy.

When Is the Best Time of Year to Give a Rabbit Sunflower Seeds?

You might not think it matters when you give sunflower seeds to your rabbit, especially if you only give yours a few sunflower seeds per week. However, since sunflower seeds have a high-fat content, feeding them to your rabbit in winter is recommended. That way, the extra fat will keep your rabbit warm and encourage their coat to get thicker and sleeker. Feeding sunflower seeds to your rabbit in summer might cause it to overheat because its coat becomes too thick.

rabbit lying on the carpet
Image Credit: ZouZou, Shutterstock

Why Should Sunflower and Other Seeds Be Given to Rabbits in Moderation?

One of the reasons you should give your rabbit sunflower seeds in moderation is that they are difficult for their body to digest. This difficulty can often cause trouble for a rabbit’s fragile digestive system, typically by causing an impaction that can be quite painful. Some veterinarians believe the ideal number of seeds, including sunflower, to give a rabbit is zero. They think that since sunflower seeds can cause problems and rabbits can get their nutrients elsewhere, why take the risk?

What Are the Best Treats for Rabbits?

Rabbits like sunflowers and other seeds, even though they aren’t healthy in large amounts. There are, however, many other foods you can give your rabbit as a snack. Be aware that you should always look for treats with no added sugar and no artificial ingredients to protect your pet’s health.

Also, if you feed your rabbits some of the wild plants you’ll see below, be sure they come from areas that haven’t been sprayed with herbicides or insecticides. They should also be well-cleaned first. Some of the best snacks for rabbits include the following:

close up cute netherland dwarf rabbit in lawn
Image Credit: CART00N, Shutterstock

Dandelions

If you have dandelions, you can pick them right out of your yard, including the leaves. Ensure that you take them from a clean part of your lawn and if you use any sprays or pesticides, wash them well first.

Most Herbs

You can keep some potted herbs in your home for year-round treats. The herbs and weeds bunnies can eat include:

  • Borage
  • Calendula
  • Chamomile
  • Chickweed (astringent)
  • Clover (leaves and flowers)
  • Coltsfoot
  • Comfrey
  • Dandelion (diuretic properties)
  • Goosegrass (cleavers) but may stick to coat!
  • Lavender
  • Mallow
  • Nettle
  • Nasturtium (leaves and flowers)
  • Shepherd’s purse
  • Sow Thistle
  • Plantain
  • Yarrow
funny dwarf rabbit eating a leaf
Image Credit: JackieLou DL, Pixabay

Dried pineapple

The enzymes in pineapple break down fur your rabbit ingests. They’re a great snack around molting time, but only in moderation, as they have a lot of natural fruit sugar.

Grass

Yes, plain grass from your yard sprinkled on your rabbit’s food is a great snack they love. Make sure it’s untreated, clean grass.

rabbit eating grass
Image Credit: TesaPhotography, Pixabay

Vegetables and fruits of different kinds

There are many fruits and vegetables that rabbits can safely eat. Be sure to wash any you give to your furry friend to remove pesticides and herbicides. Also, some fruits, like apples, have toxic seeds that should be removed first.

Which Seeds Are Toxic to Rabbits?

While your rabbit can safely eat most seeds, there are a few that you should avoid altogether. Most of them come from fruits and should be avoided because of their high cyanide content. The seeds to avoid giving your rabbit include the following:

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Cherry
  • Mango
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum
apples on a wooden table
Image Credit: pasja1000, Pixabay

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Final Thoughts

If you were wondering whether rabbits can eat sunflower seeds, you now know that they can but only in moderation. Veterinarians and rabbit experts recommend giving your rabbit 10 or fewer sunflower seeds per week, which admittedly is a tiny number. More than that number could cause digestion problems and blockages for your pet, and your rabbit only needs the extra fat in sunflower seeds in winter.

Still, sunflower seeds provide rabbits with a range of essential nutrients, including much-needed fiber. They aren’t toxic, and you can give sunflower seeds to your rabbit with the shell still on. Some vets, however, recommend removing the shell first to lower the risk of blockages and choking. Lastly, black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) are recommended of the two sunflower seed types, but regular sunflower seeds can also be given safely to your rabbit in moderation.


Featured Image Credit: Csaba Nagy, Pixabay

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