The majority of your rabbits diet should consist of hay. Rabbits have very complex, delicate systems and an extremely long digestive tract. A diet high in fiber ensures that their digestive system functions properly to stay strong and healthy. Hay also provides many of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that a rabbit needs in their daily diet. Hay also keeps those continuously growing teeth worn down, particularly the back molars, which is something that feeding pellets alone can’t do. As rabbits lack the ability to throw up, hay also helps to break down blockages like hairballs and allows them to safely pass through their system. It is therefore important that fresh hay is fed in unlimited amounts.
How Much Do I Feed?
Hay should always be available to your rabbit.
What Kind Of Hay Can I Feed?
There are a wide variety of hays that are available to your rabbit. Timothy and meadow hay are the most popular but you can also feed oat, orchard and Bermuda grass occasionally as well. Mixing different hays together can provide variety for your rabbit and make their hay more interesting!
Unless you have a rabbit under the age of 6 months, please avoid alfalfa hay. Alfalfa hay is safe for young, growing bunnies and pregnant or nursing rabbits. Due to it’s high calcium and protein levels but low fiber content it is not suitable for adult rabbits and can cause health problems including bladder stones and sludge.
Find out more about the importance of hay here.
A wide range of vegetables add a variety of flavours to your rabbits palate as well as providing an assortment of vitamins, nutrients and minerals necessary to your rabbit’s well being. Many vegetables and herbs would also be items rabbits would find and eat in the wild. Fresh vegetables also provide your rabbit with additional hydration due to their higher water content.
How Much Do I Feed?
It is important to introduce any new foods gradually. You can begin introducing your rabbit to fresh foods around the age of 3-4 months. Herbs have a strong and enticing odor and are generally gentler on a baby rabbit’s stomach so I suggest beginning with these.
Start by giving only a small amount of veg per night to see if your rabbit tolerates it well. If your rabbit has loose, runny poos or seems gassy, discontinue feeding. Eventually you will be able to tell what your rabbit likes, what it doesn’t and what it does or doesn’t tolerate.
If your rabbit’s stomach is not bothered by vegetables you can feed 1-2 cups daily. You will know that you’re feeding too much or that your rabbit doesn’t like a particular type of vegetable if your rabbit leaves some of his veg behind.
What Kind Of Vegetables Can I Feed?
A varied diet is key however some vegetables should be fed in limited amounts, some are fine on a regular basis and some should be avoided all together. Dark leafy greens are considered the best to give your rabbit.
Safe Vegetables & Herbs:
Red/Green Leaf Lettuce
Feed In Limited Amounts:
Growing your own vegetables or purchasing organic foods is always recommended, however if these aren’t available to you make sure to thoroughly wash your veggies before feeding to your rabbit.
You can learn more about vegetables and your rabbit here.
Pellets are an assurance that your rabbit’s daily diet contains all of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs however they should make up a very small amount of your rabbit’s diet since they are higher in sugars. When given in unlimited amounts many rabbits tend to ignore the healthier food options also available to them. Many rabbit owners opt to feed their rabbits a pellet-less diet but added care needs to be taken to ensure your rabbit’s weight and nutrient requirements are still being met. If you are interested in going pellet-less I would suggest talking to your vet.
How Much Do I Feed?
The general rule is 1/8-1/4 cup of pellets given daily for every 5lbs of rabbit however you may need to adjust depending on age, size, health, amount of exercise your rabbit gets and coat length. Too many pellets in your rabbit’s diet can cause health problems such as obesity and sludge as well as teeth problems as only hay can wear down a bunny’s back molars. Weekly weigh-ins will also determine if your rabbit is gaining or losing weight. If you need to reduce or increase your rabbits pellet intake please do so gradually. If you are concerned about your rabbit’s weight please speak with your rabbit savvy vet.
What Kind Of Pellets Can I Feed?
If your rabbit is under 6 months of age or pregnant or nursing then alfalfa based pellets can be fed. Similarly elderly, ill or rabbits recovering from surgery or illness may be required to eat alfalfa based pellets as they are higher in calories.
Healthy adult rabbits should be fed timothy based pellets.
When choosing pellets please pick one that has a fibre content that is 18% or higher, a fat content that is no more than 5% and a protein content that doesn’t exceed 15%. We love Martin Mill’s Timothy Based Pellets at our house!
Many brands offer muesli mixes that also include bits of corn, seeds and other sugary treats. Please avoid these at all costs. Not only are they not healthy for your rabbit, but they are higher in sugars and can lead to obesity and other health problems. Your rabbit can easily become addicted to these types of foods and refuse to eat anything else!
Fresh water should also be available at all times of the day for your rabbit. Rabbits consume more water per body weight than any other animal and it is therefore essential that they get enough to drink. Water bowls provide easier access for your rabbit to drink out of but some people still prefer a water bottle. Others give their rabbit the option, providing both a water bowl and water bottle for their bunny. Either way please change the water at least once or twice a day and clean bowls and bottles once daily to ensure the water is as clean as possible.
Remember that any store bought treat is junk food to a bunny. If you are going to feed any of these treats to your rabbit please do so sparingly. Also avoid any treats that say they are rabbit safe but contain any kind of dairy such as yogurt drops. Rabbits are strict herbivores and dairy isn’t part of their natural diet.
The best treat to give your bunny is fruit. These are sweet due to their sugar content but still a healthier option then shop bought treats. Once in a while a teaspoon of fresh fruit will have your bunny delighted. As with vegetables try to stick to the organic section of the grocery store and wash thoroughly before feeding to your rabbit.
Safe Fruits To Feed Your Rabbit Include:
Apple (not the seeds)
Pear (not the pit)
My rabbits rarely get treats as I find they are so excited for their nightly vegetables it doesn’t seem necessary.
Please do not give your rabbit any type of human junk food. Cookies, crackers, pizza and chips are extremely unhealthy for a rabbit and could cause your rabbit to become very sick. Chocolate is toxic to rabbits.
Providing fresh or dried forage is becoming more and more popular with rabbit lovers. The theory to picking wild plants and feeding them to your rabbit is that this more closely mimics what your rabbit would consume in the wild. These also provide many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that your rabbit needs in order to stay healthy.
Please be careful where you pick! Your backyard is a great place to start as long as you don’t use any pesticides, fertilizers or have larger pets such as dogs that use the backyard as their toilet. Don’t choose public areas like parks, which are usually maintained by cities and treated regularly with pesticides. Roadsides are also not ideal due to gas emissions. Also be certain that what you are picking is safe for your rabbit. Pet rabbits have been domesticated over a long period of time which means they may lack the ability to identify safe and unsafe plants.
Fresh grass clippings (not from a lawn mower)
Smooth Sow Thistle
Apple (except apple seeds)
Bramble (Blackberry Bush)
Lily of the Valley
Any type of bulb plant such as tulips, day lilies and tiger lilies