Question about BOSS

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Richard & Tresa

Active member
May 29, 2014
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Well, we only recently discovered that "BOSS" was not a brand name or special food and that it stood for Black Oil Sunflower Seeds! LOL!

I've read in a post elsewhere that it's the same stuff sold to feed wild birds.

Our question is: Are they similar to regular sunflower seeds in that they have hard shells? Do we need to shell them before feeding them to our rabbits?

We have a first time NZW Doe (PERFECT MOTHER!!! She went beyond what is hoped for from getting more friendly and touchy-feely during pregnancy to build her nest and pulling fur early to caring for her kits. She delivered 11 kits 8 days ago (one died on the wire, another runt died a couple days later. Everyone else is doing great!) We want to be prepared to feed oats and black sunflower seeds to them when they're ready but not sure if there are different kinds of BOSS?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

Richard & Tresa
You could give the boss to the doe now to help her milk. The whole seeds in their shell are fine.

I usually give boss to the does but not the kits (they wouldn't share anyway!), and oats (old fashioned oatmeal) to my kits when they first start nibbling solid foods.
It wasnt until this year that I found out, same as you, what BOSS actually stood for. Since then we have been experimenting, carefully because food changes should be gradual with buns.

Even now every bun gets just a few.

To my knowledge there aren't any other types of BOSS because black oil is a type of sunflower. Any BOSS will do some places sell larger quantities than others. The cheapest way to get it is to plant your own which you can do with seeds you buy. The rabbits can eat both the plant and seed!

Do not crack them open as part of the benefit we have found is the shell as it helps to wear down teeth and provides fiber.

As of right now we are using it on everyone and so far we have noticed a few things change in our herd: (this is anecdotal)

Pregnant/Nursing does got back into condition quicker and thereby were bred back quicker.

Shinier and softer fur and pelts all around.

Less pellet intake on grow outs

Increased feeder digging (we have labeled it bunny crack)

More fat on growouts.

More milk production on does which has translated to an increase in kit survival so we went from an average of eight kits weaned per doe to nine and a half.

More mellow (i know it is an ambiguous word) flavoring on the newly butchered grow outs.

I know that you didn't ask for all this but maybe it is of use... :oops:

Going out right now to buy some.

Loved your list of "benefits" too!

I'm guessing from the sound of it, that BOSS is fed "sparingly"? As in maybe "treat rations"?

Thinking it would be good for our buck too with regards to fur conditioning... He's been shedding for a while.

Milk production would be great too... Tresa has been feeding our Doe, what she calls "Pregnancy potion" (We learned about a lot of medicinal/herbal plants and their benefits... Blackberry leaves for increased circulation and ability to cope with heat (We have fans and misters and double layer shade with thermometers in all the cages... even when it gets up to 103, the cages are still below 85...)

We followed a thread here regarding a condensed Goat milk/egg yolk/syrup mix to feed young kits (Ours are 7 days old) using eye droppers. We do have one small runt who still looks like he's going to make it. (Caprica, our 7month old doe/first timer) gave birth to 11 kits, lost one on the wire and another (runt) died a couple of days later. Caprica has been the STELLAR mom! Early nest builder (with a tunnel), lots of fur, SUPER loving and has no problem with us removing the nest box. One of our kits is a HUGE MONSTER! Beautiful sheen and solid grey. Most are the same size and average. a couple are smaller and then the tiny runt. We fed the smaller guys until they didn't want any more (no forcing and only a drop at a time until we see their mouths stop sucking it in.) We've not witnessed any of the feeding times, but lots of nice plump bellies and great growth, but I'm thinking of BOSS helps with milk production, it wouldn't hurt! :)

With regards to feeding the kits BOSS... At what age and how much per kit? We have learned that Oatmeal (not instant) is a good starter food besides hay, but even there, not sure as to how much? We've learned that handling the kits this early is great to support easier management later and besides... I still have "warm and fuzzy" all over me from our experience feeding the babies last night.

Thank you for helping!

Black oil seeds can be fed with shell and have health benefits. Striped seeds can be dangerous if fed with the shell but can be bought as just the meat for birds. While it loses the benefits of the black oil shell it has extremely high protein. BOSS is usually fed by teaspoons or tablespoon amounts daily. It has the highest calories of pretty much anything you can feed to a rabbit. Flax or chia seed can also be fed whole with sunflower seeds and has complimentary vitamins.
BOSS is BOSS, yep, the same stuff you feed to birds. I'm sure there are different cultivars, but it doesn't matter. Just look for "black oil sunflower seeds". :) In the shell, they are about 12% protein, and shelled they're something like 22%. But the shells give them roughage, so don't worry about shelling them.

akane":yr16n8hc said:
Striped seeds can be dangerous if fed with the shell but can be bought as just the meat for birds.
I think this is a carryover from horses. Horses cannot chew the tougher striped seed hulls. If I'm not mistaken, rabbits can eat the striped ones, too (bird seed grade, I wouldn't feed the human grade ones covered in salt and all).
Not all of what I listed is considered a real benefit of BOSS just all of what we've noticed so far in our herd since using it.

One of the biggest problems on the list is the feeder digging. We were lucky to have not encountered digging before now and I kick myself daily when I walk out into the rabbitry only to see a bunch of pellets wasted on the ground under hutches. We brought this on ourselves! To remedy the situation I now feed BOSS in a separate container than the J-feeders. We use a crock inside the hutch and feed the BOSS in the evening after they've had sufficient time with the rest of their feed.

The extra fat on the carcass is also a downside. good flavor, bad fat. It's a waste in my opinion although we haven't had any infertility issues do to the consumption of BOSS, which one might expect upon finding more fat on the rabbits. So far anyway...

As far as feeding the little ones. Just put the rations in with the doe and the little ones will eat what they want when they are ready. It's important to make sure the doe is eating it so that it can be introduced to the kits via nursing first. Sometimes if not introduced this way kits will have a hard time adjusting due to how vulnerable their GI is until reaching 12-14wks. Though all bunnies vary. you just have to get to know your rabbits and adjust accordingly.

The biggest benefit is split between the increase in the ability of our does to nurse greater numbers well and the reduced time between litters as our does are better able to stay in condition.

Serving sizes vary and are vague: working does get the most, followed by grow-outs and lastly the bucks will get one to two lonely seeds if at all. Some days they don't get any because I'm rushed or not around so another person has the pleasure of feeding and they don't like the specifics I have outlined (I'm looking at you hubby :lol: )

Rabbits can adapt slowly to change. It just has to be...gradual (and you thought I was going to say slow again!)

Glad I could be of some use to somebody :D

Oh and one last thing, BOSS does give coat condition a boost but can also cause rabbits to "blow a coat'. Meaning that they may also molt a new coat in when being fed BOSS.
It is the oils in the BOSS that help the sheen or shine to the coat.
It is important to keep an eye out for any problems which may be
brought about by feeding too many black oils or too soon.
As was stated they [BOSS] can easily and quite quickly create a "Fat Rabbit".
I usually use the Black oils as a top dressing, and mostly during the Winter,
colder months. The Black oils help the Rabbits to maintain body heat,
this can create problems during the Summer if feed too much or too often.
They, being a GREAT tool should be used as such.
Ottersatin. :eek:ldtimer:
I use a small amount of BOSS as an evening feeding [after all pellets are eaten]for rabbits that are under weight or nursing a big litter, IMHO, "just for me", - the cost factor would prohibit over feeding to the point that I have fat rabbits. Also I think it is very important to mention , that when feeding BOSS,or other high energy feeds, [like rolled oats], we should make sure there is good grass hay available, [or some other source of long stem fiber] -to make sure the rabbit can adjust to the extra energy/ low fiber food, by adjusting it's fiber intake . [some of my rabbits shell the sunflower seed, and just eat the meat inside, and some eat the whole seed shell and all ]
But all of this kind of goes along with "my theory", that rabbits who are given a choice, will adjust their feed intake to meet their individual needs, so I like to provide some variety, and lots of hay, especially for older rabbits who seem to need a lot more fiber in the diet as they get older.
I try and get as little body fat as possible on my fryers while still getting good growth.

That is big a part of why I do not feed it to kits. The same goes for non-lactating does, because fat buildup harms reproduction.

Here's an interesting review about fat metabolism in rabbits and the use of oils and fats as a feed. I stumbled across it when I was trying to figure out why any company would ever add "animal fat" to their rabbit pellets.
(which I still feel offended by) ... le/366/353

Somewhere in there, it mentions that dietary fat is a good way to increase energy intake for does with large litters, and that fats in a lactating does diet goes almost directly into milk production.

I couldn't find any good reason to give it to bucks or growing fryers. I'd also want to keep it as far away as possible from any doelings I was growing out to breed.
Thanks everyone!

We're starting out with a teaspoon of BOSS (Ha! Now I can use the acronym too! LOL! ..and know what I'm actually saying! LOL) to our nursing Doe. We'll up it gradually to a tablespoon mixed in with Tresa's pregnant doe mixture. We have one runt (out of 9 kits) and two that could use a little extra feeding (We mixed up a condensed goat's milk/egg yolk and syrup feed supplement for the little one and a couple of the others that are on the small size. If the BOSS can add to milk production, we figure it's worth a try. Overall, our doe is very healthy and active (comes to greet us at the cage door every time, whether we're bringing greens from the garden or not... Very calm, very happy...

Kind of interesting in that we have a group of kits that are all about the same size, one that is HUGE (The grey one), two smaller ones and the little guy... Is it usual that there be such a difference in sizes amongst the group? The grey one is about 125% larger than the average.

OK... here's some pictures of our little guys:


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They are NZ? Usually their litter size is pretty uniform. Extra large kits do sometimes happen though and often make the kits growing near them come out smaller so you get the weird difference in size. If this is a first time litter or close to it then it will probably improve. If not I would cull her. Extra large kits can kill a doe and small kits won't grow as well so you don't want to keep around a rabbit or the offspring of a rabbit that continually throws messed up litters unless there is something extremely good about the doe.
Your big grey kit looks like an opal to me.

I had a giant kit once, he wasn't born large but quickly overtook the rest of the litter in size.

He just kept growing and growing. Finished up at 10 lbs around 6 months old.
I've been trying to get growth like that consistent, but so far, no luck. :(
Hi Akane,

Thanks for the input.

"Caprica" was 6 months old when we bred her. This was her (and our) first kindle. She is a NZW and there are SO MANY reasons to keep her.


Fist off, she was stand-offish when we first got her at 12 weeks (wasn't handled by her breeder), but after a couple of months of green treats and petting, she now get's excited when we approach (even without treats). Instead of going to the back of the cage, she now crawls all over us at her cage opening, places her front paws on our shoulders and nuzzles us (again, without treats)... She built her nest a week early, Built a tunnel and pulled a lot of hair and never messed the nest. She let's us handle her kits and pull out the nest box and well, we just LOVE her... We'll give her a few more tries, but honestly, we just love her! We are raising rabbits for meat, but we consider our breeders as pets and unless there are any aggressive issues, we will keep her.

We got her with a sister (who we named Trinity ... from the Matrix... Think: black leather, weaponry, assassin). She fit the part... Extremely standoff-ish, would never let us get near her. We traded her with our veterinarian friend for an 10 week old CA/NZW mix who we named "Oreo". She's lived in her cage on our dining room table getting TONS of affection with the intention to have her just as friendly and easy to handle. (Our NZR buck on the other hand, just wants to be petted and even if we bring his favorite treats, he'll drop his head waiting to be petted before partaking of whatever we bring him. We could pet him for hours if we let him! LOL!

Not sure if the larger one is a buck or not (a veterinarian friend of ours who raises rabbits will sex them for us (We're still newbies), and we'll decide what to do then regarding separating the kit (if it's a male) from our doe.

Interestingly, I was just out there and got to witness the large grey kit climb out of the nest for the first time! Caprica had no issue with me trying to catch it and place it back in the nest. I moved most of the hay and fur away from the front of the nest to help keep it from happening again (Their eyes are still not open), at least until I go get a red brick to place in front of the nest box so any future "escapees" can have a little help climbing back in.

Thanks again!

Richard <br /><br /> -- Fri Aug 08, 2014 11:01 am -- <br /><br /> Zass,

What's an "Opal"? Is that a type of breed or a term to describe a large kit? Again, we're Newbies...

If this one keeps growing like you're describing and reaches a weight like you're describing, would he/she be a candidate for keeping as a new breeder? We plan on adding two more does and a buck to complete our rabbitry, but we had hoped that none of the breeders were related...


You doe sounds wonderful!

Opal is the color name for a dilute chestnut agouti. Your brown kits are chestnut agoutis, and the white kits are called REW.
I don't think early size or growth rates have anything to do with gender, but in general, I've noticed that my fastest growers have hit sexual maturity later than the slow growers.
Opal is a color. It's a blue agouti whereas chestnut is a black agouti color.

You want your rabbits somewhat related. If you remove any bad genes from your herd then you can inbreed forever and get a more consistent result. Every time you bring in an unrelated rabbit anything can come out of them and it may set the quality of your herd back a bit. Unless your rabbits have a common fault you need to bring in another rabbit to fix it's good to inbreed.
Thanks again for the input! THIS IS A GREAT SITE with WONDERFUL people!!!

We have always wanted a "blue/grey" rabbit!

As for inbreeding... I'm still researching both for our rabbits and our Quail.... I've been so busy with all our "Urban Homestead" projects which include several aquaponic systems, solar, evaporative cooling and solar heating...

I have tons of bookmarked pages on breeding/inbreeding and so much of what you shared makes TOTAL sense regarding keeping desirable traits... I'm already there with our quail as they go from hatching to breeding in 6~10 weeks... I'm trying to "in-breed'" fast growth, large bodies, good egg laying and compatibility... I guess the same goes for rabbit breeding/in-breeding... If this large kit continues to outgrow the rest, we may just be starting our second hutch/breeding trio, sooner than we thought... Regarding breeding traits (especially quick grow rates and large size for butchering, would there be any difference if this one were a buck or a doe? (I know this is way off topic, but, does it matter which traits come from which sex of the breeders? I'm guessing both parents contributing similar traits would be optimum?)

I've read that good mothers breed good mothers? If that were the case, I'm HOPING this one is a doe, especially if "she" continues to grow like this!

Does have greater impact on kit size, growth rate, and mothering skills but a part of that is nurture rather than genetics. Better milk will increase growth and does will learn some mothering skills and interactions with humans from their mother. Genetic birth weights and litter sizes is impacted slightly more by the female than male of most species to avoid surpassing the female's ability to produce offspring safely.
Thanks again!

We've been feeding the runt of our litter each night (Goat's milk/egg yolk formula)... He took 3 eye droppers! Yesterday was 2 and the day before was 1. I had the camera out but I didn't even think of photographing the runt, an average size and the grey "giant" together...

Here's some photos of our grey: He/she is 10 days old. Since this is our first, I don't know if this is considered large... (Haven't weighed yet... Just WAY TOO MANY projects around here focusing on "Urban Homesteading" (Chickens, Quail, several Aquaponics systems, solar, house heating (for winter and super low wattage house cooling... And then there's work... LOL!



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