Watching you rabbits nibble on different foods is just plain adorable.
The way their nose and mouth just go to town cracks me up every time I see it.
I love feeding my rabbits natural treats, such as seeds, but I’d heard some contradicting information on sunflower seeds.
I wanted to get to the bottom of it as far as safety goes, so I researched and asked other rabbit experts: Do rabbits eat sunflower seeds, and can they do so safely?
Rabbits love to eat sunflower seeds, whether they’re salted or black oil sunflower seeds as is. Sunflower seeds are a good source of fat, fiber, protein, and many vitamins. Still, the oil makes this a treat food and not a staple; most owners go for 6 seeds once per week with this seed.
Feeding sunflower seeds to bunnies is a bit more complex an issue than you may have thought.
Let’s dig into the nuances in the rest of this article.
Table of Contents
Can Rabbits Eat Black Oil Sunflower Seeds?
Rabbits enjoy the taste of black oil sunflower seeds (or BOSS as they’re called for short).
Even rabbits who seem to be off their taste or off their food will still nibble on these seeds.
To them, it’s a total treat!
And this is where it should stay in their diet: as a treat.
The commonly held belief is that 6 seeds in their food once per week is plenty.
Other than this, there is some debate on sunflower seeds.
Most owners recommend hulling them or removing the shells before feeding them to bunnies.
Others say the shells are good for fiber.
I think the shells are fine to keep on, and the reason for removing the shells is derived from salted or regular sunflower seeds.
The kind we eat, as humans, is already higher in salt before we add even more to our packaging.
Rabbits don’t need this extra salt, so removing the shells avoids this issue.
Another area of contention with BOSS is what time of year to offer them to your bunnies.
The oil and high-fat content make them great for giving your pets sleek fur as well as running their body temperatures up a bit.
For this reason, some owners only offer them in the colder months.
But others offer them all year without issues. Show rabbits eat them in the days before a show to help their coats look their best.
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS) Vs. Regular Sunflower Seeds
There are two main types of sunflowers to look at for your rabbits: Black oil sunflower seeds and regular sunflower seeds.
Each one is a bit different from the others, and of the two, BOSS is better.
But still, it’s worthwhile to look at some of the differences.
|Appearance||Small back seeds||Larger striped shell, black and white or off-white|
|Nutrition||Good oil, fat, fiber, protein, and some other vitamins||Good fiber, protein, and some other vitamins|
|Watch our for…||Too much fat and oil, especially in the summer||High salt levels, tough shell|
|Best served||As is, 6 seeds once per week||Shell off, 6 seeds once per week, unsalted if possible|
|Availability||Look at Tractor Supply or other bird feed stores||Everywhere: pet supply and grocery stores|
Nutrition Facts For Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
Since BOSS is the better option, let’s look more specifically at the makeup of these seeds.
This information is a percentage, so all BOSS will be similar amounts per seed.
- Fat – 28%
- Fiber – 25%
- Protein – 15%
Other vitamins you’ll find include:
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
Benefits Of Sunflower Seeds For Rabbits
Sunflower seeds don’t carry enough nutrients to be the main food for your rabbit, but they contain enough good stuff in moderate amounts; it’s a great addition to your bunny diet in small amounts.
The biggest benefits are listed below with why they’re so good for your furry friends.
Fats aren’t great in high amounts, but it’s good for rabbits in small doses.
Fats help them burn energy and stay large enough to withstand cooler temperatures.
Fats aren’t common in their natural diet, consisting mostly of grasses and greens.
The little bit of fats given by sunflower seeds are just right for your furry pets.
Fiber is critical for rabbits to have a healthy digestive tract and growth and energy.
In captivity, rabbits have a harder time getting the fiber they need, which is why we offer fiber pellets as a normal part of their diet.
Sunflower seeds have a good burst of fiber.
It’s not enough to replace the pellets, but it’s a great supplement.
Protein is another necessary supplement to a pet rabbit’s diet.
Fiber pellets and the added greens you offer will help a lot, and there’s a small amount of protein within BOSS.
Protein is needed to help with growth, but even more importantly, it helps with immune system health and overall energy.
Calcium, Vitamin E, and Potassium
Among the other good things above, sunflower seeds have some, but not a ton, of other good vitamins and minerals.
Calcium is important for good skeletal structure and overall health.
Vitamin E pairs well with protein in improving immune system effectiveness and removing toxins from the body.
Baby and young rabbits are much more susceptible to disease, so Vitamin E is especially important at this stage.
Potassium helps regulate the fluids in the body.
How To Feed Sunflower Seeds To Rabbits
Feeding sunflowers seeds isn’t the hardest thing in the world to do.
As we touched on before, there are only three things to keep in mind.
One important element we didn’t talk about is NOT cooking them.
Cooking removes a lot of the good nutrients rabbits need. So even though it might seem tastier to us to cook them, rabbits prefer them raw, and it’s healthier for them this way.
Offer As A Treat
Make sure rabbits don’t get too much of this seed.
Its high oil and fat content will cause bigger issues in high doses.
The recommended amount by most rabbit experts is 6 seeds once per week.
This may not seem like a lot, but it’s a safe amount.
Peel The Shell First
Peeling the shell may seem extra, but if you want to ensure your rabbit has zero issues, it may be worth the little extra effort.
With BOSS seeds, it’s not needed, but with regular sunflower seeds, peeling is a good idea.
Keep It To The Cooler Months
As mentioned above, the extra fat and oils are great for warming up the rabbit’s body and encouraging a sleek and warm coat.
But in the summer months, this may lead to overheating on some thicker coated rabbits.
Some rabbit owners encourage you to keep the sunflower seeds for the winter months when the risk is lowered.
What Seeds Can Rabbits Eat?
Rabbits can eat pretty much any seed in moderation or as a treat.
Some seeds contain chemicals in large amounts, which may cause severe illness or even death.
Crabapple and apple seeds are great examples of this.
This is why many recommend against feeding your rabbits any seeds at all.
This is a good rule to follow, but it’s OK in the case of sunflower seeds.
Seeds, in general, are harder for rabbits to digest, so in large amounts, it could cause impaction or other digestive problems.
Commonly Asked Questions
Do Wild Rabbits Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Wild rabbits will eat sunflower seeds if they come across them.
While they may eat a larger amount at one time, it’s only a couple of times per year (when the flowers drop their seeds), so it’s not exceptionally dangerous for them.
If they ate it regularly, it would cause problems.
If you’re considering feeding wild rabbits, DON’T.
Wild rabbits need foraging instincts to survive, and you don’t want them to grow reliant on you.
Are Sunflowers Toxic To Rabbits?
Sunflowers from stem to flower are all safe for rabbits to eat.
They should be used as a treat, or the greens can be a normal part of the green part of their diet.
Learn more about rabbit diet and what causes them to overeat.
What Types Of Flowers Should Rabbits Not Eat?
Rabbits will nibble on most flowers, but there are a few with rabbit-repelling properties:
- Butterfly bush
- Russian sage