A rabbit’s diet should consist of 80% good quality hay or grass, 15% fresh vegetables and 5% pellets.
In the wild a rabbit’s diet mainly consists of grass, they also forage for a wide selection of plants, fruits and vegetables and strip bark from trees. Rabbits have evolved to be able to survive on this diet and our domestic rabbits should try to have as close a diet to this as possible to remain happy and healthy.
Rabbits should eat their body size in good quality fresh hay every day. The hay should be dust free with no mould and should be kept away from moisture and damp places.
Although hay may not seem very nutritious to us it actually fulfils a lot of the basic nutritional content that a rabbit requires. The long strand fibre in hay maintains the healthy gut movement. It is also one of the biggest contributors to good dental health and keeps rabbits teeth worn down and healthy. A lot of cases involving dental problems in rabbits can be attributed to a lack of good quality fresh hay.
Most hay in pet shops is expensive for the quantity that you get and is not the best quality; you can get good quality good value hay in farm shops as well as from online specialists.
Do not feed your rabbits haylage or grass clippings. The fermentation process puts your rabbit at an increased risk of developing bloat, which is fatal.
Fresh Vegetables/ Fruit
Your rabbit should be given an amount of fresh vegetables preferably leafy greens every day; this provides them with additional vitamins and minerals.
Due to high calcium levels in some vegetables such as curly kale and carrots it’s advisable to feed those to your rabbits in small quantities (follow this link for more on calcium and your rabbits).
Scattering and hiding vegetables around your rabbit’s living space is a great way to encourage your rabbits to forage, this is a natural behaviour they would exhibit in the wild. You will also be encouraging them to move around and exercise as well as preventing boredom.
Fruit can be given to your buns, but due to the naturally occurring high sugar content it should be fed sparingly and as a treat, no more that a spoonful per bun per day. The smaller you cut it up the more they will have to work for it.
Manufactured products that contain sugar and starch and often advertised as rabbit treats are not good for their overall health. Too much of this type of food can result in your rabbit becoming overweight, this has its own associated health problems. It’s advisable to not feed these treats to your rabbits; they don’t need them nutritionally and will get just as much enjoyment from healthy vegetables.
Herbs are a fantastic healthy option for your rabbits, they have the same benefits as other plant matter as they are naturally abrasive so help keep their teeth worn down. You can even mix it in with their hay to encourage them to eat more of it and forage at the same time.
The best type of rabbit food to give your buns is pellets rather than a rabbit muesli mix. Pellets contain all of the nutrients that your rabbits require, where as muesli mixes encourages selective eating. This means your rabbit may only eat the food it enjoys and won’t receive all of the nutritional benefits from the other foods.
You should feed your rabbit between one and two egg cups of pellets each day. Be aware that over feeding can cause serious health problems. If your providing your rabbit with too many pellets they wont eat any hay, this will have a massive impact on their dental and overall health.
Rabbits need constant access to clean fresh water at all times. Some rabbits may prefer bottles to water bowls so it’s advisable to provide them with whatever they prefer. It’s important to note that in the winter the ball in the bottle may become frozen and stop working so this must be checked regularly. If your rabbit prefers drinking from a bottle make sure that in hotter weather you provide both the bottle and the bowl to help keep them well hydrated.
- If your rabbit stops eating contact a rabbit savvy vet immediately there could be some serious health issues that need investigating.
- If your introducing new foods to your rabbit, introduce them in small portions. New foods may cause your rabbits stomach to become upset and may result in diarrhoea and potentially fly strike.