Now that you have brought your precious new bunnies home you need to know what does your pet rabbit like to eat?
A constant supply of the correct fresh foods and water is the most important factor in maintaining your rabbits’ health.
A wild rabbit’s digestive system has evolved over millennia to process certain foods and your rabbit is no different.
If you try to feed rabbits the wrong food it could cause serious illness and even kill them.
Rabbits are relatively inexpensive to feed but it is vital that you supply them with not only the correct food but good quality food too. Remember, their health is your responsibility.
What Do Rabbits Eat – The Ultimate Rabbit’s Diet
So, what’s a rabbit’s favourite food? Hay or grass is by far every rabbit’s favourite food. Clean, fresh hay or grass should form around 80% of your rabbit’s diet.
Hay and grass contain plenty of long strand fibrous material that promotes healthy gut activity. Rabbits will nibble constantly on hay and they will nest in it and even play in it as well.
Grass and hay contain around 20% high fibre, moderate levels of protein (10-15%), as well as other essential minerals. Hay and grass are also low in fat, sugar and starch.
This represents the ideal balanced diet for rabbits. The only restriction is you need to be careful about using alfalfa hay. Alfalfa hay is extremely rich and should only be given as a treat.
A constant unlimited supply of hay is essential for rabbits’ dental health as well as it allows them to chew constantly. If they cannot chew constantly their teeth will grow to an unhealthy length and become painful.
You should choose clean grass hay that is dry and free from mould. Avoid collecting grass from areas such as roadsides that have been sprayed with herbicides.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Hay or grass form the bulk of a rabbit’s natural diet but the addition of some fresh leafy greens adds extra nutritional value and variety.
Leafy greens and vegetables should make up about 15% of your rabbits’ daily diet and could include vegetables such as the following:
- Iceberg Lettuce
- Carrot Tops
- Bok Choy
- Brussel Sprouts
- Romaine Lettuce
- Dandelion Greens
Provide these vegetables in small quantities per day and provide lots of variety.
As for carrots and other starchy vegetables, rabbits will eat them but they should only be given in very small amounts as special treats.
What About Fruit?
Fruit likewise should only ever be given as special treats in very small quantities.
The high levels of sugars in fruit will play havoc with the gut bacteria, tummy problems and digestive systems of rabbits. And just like humans, high fat/ sugar content diets can lead to obesity in rabbits.
What About Some Clean Water?
Fresh water is essential for your rabbits. Check daily that they have plenty of clean fresh water.
Rabbits find water bowls easier to drink from than bottles but they can be overturned easily.
You might want to provide both bottles and bowls but keep them clean and regularly replenished with clean water.
What About Rabbit Pellets / Pet Food?
Commercial rabbit foods are popular but they do not usually provide your rabbits with all their dietary needs.
Some of the muesli-like mixes are particularly lacking in those essential long fibre materials that are easily provided in hay or grass.
Some ‘complete’ pellets provide a good balance of nutrients but they are not a permanent substitute for grass hay.
Alfalfa Pellets are very rich and may cause some digestive system imbalances so avoid these except as treats.
If you do use pellets or other ‘complete’ foods then ensure that these contain at least 20% long fibres and less than 15% protein.
Rabbits should be fed no more than around 25g daily of pellets per average-sized rabbit.
What Do Rabbits Eat When They Are Just A Bunny?
Rabbits need a consistent diet. Sudden changes in their diet can cause fatal illnesses because their gut bacteria are not able to respond quickly enough.
Baby bunnies are particularly vulnerable especially when they’re facing the stress of entering a new home. Be careful to maintain the diet recommended by their vet or breeder.
As with adult rabbits, baby rabbits should have a constant supply of good grass to feed on every day.
Supplement this with some fresh leafy greens and vegetables. But always introduce new foods gradually; allow 1 to 2 weeks to make any changes in their diet.
What Not To Feed Your Rabbit
Feeding your rabbit the wrong kinds of food and in the wrong quantities will lead to serious health problems including dental problems and even fatal digestive problems.
Foods not to feed your rabbit include foods with high sugar, fat or protein content, rabbits need to chew constantly to prevent their teeth growing abnormally.
Highly processed foods including muesli-type feed may not provide the necessary wear for the teeth.
They also can encourage selective eating which will mean your rabbits miss out on essential nutrients.
Do not under any circumstances feed them human treats such as sweets, dairy and yoghurt coated treats or crisps.
Do not be tempted to feed your rabbits grass clippings when you mow the lawn.
Grass clippings can be bad for their health because as soon as you cut grass it starts to ferment and may contain dangerous moulds and other bacteria that will upset your their digestive system.
Of course, allowing your bunny to feed naturally on fresh uncut grass is a different story. Fresh grass provides similar nutritional value as fresh hay and should form 80% of your rabbit’s diet.
If you notice that your rabbit is are not eating their hay it may indicate some underlying dental problems.
This can happen if your bunny have become used to a poor diet and then you switch to a healthier diet. Don’t delay, it’s important to have your vet check them over.
Bunnies produce two kinds of droppings. Keep an eye on these as any variation in size, consistency and frequency may indicate some type of health problem.
They should produce fairly large hard, dry pellets, which will usually be dark in colour if they’re eating a lot of grass. This is normal.
Rabbits also produce smaller moist droppings called “caecotrophs”. If they are healthy you probably won’t see these very often as the they will eat these droppings directly from their anus.
This too is perfectly normal. It’s the bunnies way of ‘chewing the cud’ to extract all the essential nutrients from their food.
If you suddenly start seeing a lot more of these then you will need to check that their diet is adequate.
If this problem persists then you need to have your vet check your rabbit over. Rabbits can hide their health status really well so keep a careful eye on them.
But understanding what do rabbits eat and feeding them the correct diet will go a long way to ensuring your bunny have a long and healthy life.