The central nervous melanocortin system forms a neural network that maintains energy homeostasis. Actions involving neural melanocortin-3 receptors (MC3Rs) regulate the expression rhythms in ingestive behaviors and metabolism anticipating nutrient intake. Here, we characterized the response of Mc3r knockout (Mc3r−/−) and wild type (WT) mice to a restricted feeding (RF) schedule where food access was limited to a 4-h period mid light cycle using a mechanical barrier. Mc3r−/− mice adapted poorly to the food restriction schedule. Anticipatory activity and the initial bout of intense feeding activity associated with granting food access were attenuated in Mc3r−/− mice, resulting in increased weight loss relative to controls. To investigate whether activity in specific hypothalamic nuclei contribute to the Mc3r−/− phenotype observed, we assessed hypothalamic FOS-immunoreactivity (FOS-IR) associated with food restriction. Food access markedly increased FOS-IR in the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH), but not in the suprachiasmatic or ventromedial hypothalamic nuclei (SCN and VMN, respectively) compared to ad libitum fed mice. Mc3r−/− mice displayed a significant reduction in FOS-IR in the DMH during feeding. Analysis of MC3R signaling in vitro indicated dose-dependent stimulation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway by the MC3R agonist d-Trp(8)-γMSH. Treatment of WT mice with d-Trp(8)-γMSH administered intracerebroventricularly increased the number of pERK neurons 1.7-fold in the DMH. These observations provide further support for the involvement of the MC3Rs in regulating adaptation to food restriction. Moreover, MC3Rs may modulate the activity of neurons in the DMH, a region previously linked to the expression of the anticipatory response to RF.