Molting or Shedding in Rabbits

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.

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.

Molting in rabbits is linked to metabolism

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 palmful of calf-manna in your rabbit’s feed every day. 

What do you feed a rabbit shedding?

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.

How does genetics impact rabbit molting patterns?

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.

What happens if your rabbit is shedding all 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.

What else can make domestic rabbits shed?

It’s not uncommon for rabbits to start molting when they move to a new environment. Anything that can trigger a change in diet or inconsistency in blood sugar can trigger a molt.  

Every rabbit is different as far as how often they molt.  Most of mine are once or twice a year at most, not every 3 or 4 months.  

If you aren’t planning to breed your rabbit (at least until after your fair), you don’t need a very high protein feed.  16% is adequate, though 18% is fine, too.  I wouldn’t go higher than that. 

Give him as much clean hay as he can eat.  The fiber will help him get through a molt without getting fur block in his stomach.  You could also trim the coat during this time.  Make sure the hay you are giving him is timothy or grass hay rather than alfalfa, as alfalfa is higher in energy and protein.  

Prevent GI stasis by feeding a molting rabbit high fiber

Your rabbit should molt now and then grow a good coat.  If you want to hold that coat as long as possible, you can keep giving him a high fiber, relatively low protein and energy diet.  If it seems like he doesn’t grow a prime coat, but just stays in a state of constant molt, that could be another sign of the diet being too high in protein or fiber.

If he’s finishing a coat in say April and you’d like to trigger a molt then to give you 3-5 months before fair, you can increase protein and energy through sunflower seeds and move him suddenly to a warm place.  Just make sure to switch to a high fiber, low energy diet to help him get through the molt once it has started.

Ultimately it’s impossible to control this to an exact science.  Even the most experienced breeders sometimes find their top show animals molting at the worst of times.  But if your rabbit has a coat you’re happy with a month or so before fair, the best thing you can do is keep his diet consistent and avoid any sudden stress, diet, or temperature changes that could trigger a molt.


If you feel like your rabbit is losing fur faster than you expected, or it’s that time of year that they normally molt and they aren’t, you can check the neck and back for early signs of molting. Rabbits shed for about six weeks, but sometimes they get stuck in a molt and don’t stop. When that happens, grooming them regularly and making sure there’s lots of fiber in their digestive system can go a long way toward making your rabbit stop shedding fur.

Do domestic rabbits have a summer coat and a winter coat?

Not really, not like a snowshoe hare.