How do you make a rabbit molt?
How often do your rabbits molt? Once a year, twice? Three times? I hope not. Molting is the normal process of changing a coat when the old one has lived out its term. Molting is a good thing at the right times, because it keeps a rabbit’s fur fresh and clean. However, a rabbit in molt will not have good show condition, so molting can cause problems. Some people seem to struggle with rabbits that are always in molt, but I’ve had more of a problem with rabbits hanging on to their dead coats for months, as if retro-wear was in fashion. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help both situations.
Did you know that the rate of growth of a rabbit’s hair is linked to its metabolism? Perhaps this is why babies, which use a lot of energy, can grow a lengthy coat in three weeks. If your rabbit’s coat has gone stiff and dead but seems reluctant to let go, you can speed up the process and get your bunny in show condition faster by increasing the protein or energy in your feed. A simple way to do this is throw a palm full of calf-manna in your rabbit’s feed every day. You can keep your rabbit on high protein/high energy feeds until the new coat is just about primed—then cut the conditioners. Once the rabbit has its show coat, you want it to keep it as long as possible. Diets with high fiber take longer to digest and make the metabolism slow down. Abundant timothy or grass hay is an important part of a show rabbit’s diet: not only is hay high in fiber, but rabbits with hay to play with seem less inclined to chew on their own or their neighbor’s coats.
Temperature also plays a role in your rabbit’s coat growth. If it is cold out and you’d like to force a molt, try moving your rabbit to a heated area for two weeks, along with the energy supplement. Cool dry weather is better for growing and holding a thick clean show coat.
Genetics definitely has an impact on your rabbits’ molting patterns. Some rabbits will lose a few hairs at a time, while others will blow a coat all at once. Select for the rabbits that hold a show coat a high percentage of the year.
Rabbit owners sometimes complain of their rabbits “always molting.” If you dig deeper into these situations, you often find that they are frequently switching feeds, or feeding a diet that is too high in energy and too low in fiber. Buying Feed Brand A one week and Feed Brand B another week is never a good deal; it will wreak havoc with your rabbits’ coats and conditions. Rabbits require fresh and consistent diets with plenty of fiber to keep them eating regularly and keep quality in their coats.