Rabbit Feeding Guide
Rabbits are herbivores, eat mostly plants and plant-based foods. Feeding rabbits the wrong things can lead to serious health problems, such as dental disease and gut status, and a balanced diet is important to keep them happy and healthy. If changes are needed for your rabbit’s diet, it is important to make these changes slowly to prevent an upset stomach.
The essentials for a rabbit’s diet
The best diet for your rabbits keeps as close to a wild rabbit’s diet as possible:
- Hay and grass – ideally unlimited in supply, but if this is not possible then allow roughly an amount equivalent to the size of your rabbit daily
- Fresh food including leafy greens, vegetables and herbs – roughly an adult sized handful twice daily
- Nuggets – they should receive around a tablespoon of rabbit nuggets once daily or twice daily if a larger breed rabbit
- Water – ensure constant access to clean, fresh drinking water
Hay and Grass
Hay and grass are the main staple of a rabbit’s diet, constituting around 85%. As mentioned above the amount should ideally be unlimited, but if this is not possible then allowing an amount that is at least the same size as your rabbit’s body.
Regarding hay, it is important to know the difference between ‘feeding hay’ and ‘bedding hay’. In essence, yes, they are both dried grasses, however they provide very different nutritional values.
‘Feeding hay’ is fresher and greener, and has a higher nutrient content – this means rabbits will find it more tasty. ‘Bedding hay’ is much dryer, so it does not provide the same nutritional value for our rabbits when nibbling.
It is good for rabbit to have access to grassy space. This will encourage them to graze as well as exercise, both very natural things for our rabbits. It is worth bearing in mind that too much grass or the introduction to new grassy spaces may cause an upset tummy due to its richness. Do not feed mown grass clippings as this can lead to serious health issues.
Greens and fresh veg
It is recommended that rabbits should have five to six different types of fresh plants, grass or vegetables every day to ensure a healthy and varied diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals. We have provided the list below of common safe greens and vegetables for your rabbits:
- Spring greens
- Spinach (small quantities)
- Mange tout
- Carrot tops
- Dark green cabbage varieties (small quantities)
- Brussel sprouts (small quantities)
- Broccoli (small quantities)
- Bell peppers
- Herbs – Basil, Coriander, Dill, Mint, Parsley, Thyme
Rabbit food (nuggets/pellets)
Dried rabbit nuggets are very concentrated so the amount they require may seem small. It is recommended to give around one tablespoon one a day, or twice a day for larger breeds. Be cautious when providing pellets as too many can sometimes lead to dental issues – the pellets can discourage our rabbits from chewing their hay which wears down their teeth.
Some people scatter their rabbits’ pellets to encourage foraging behaviour.
Should rabbits have muesli style rabbit food?
Muesli diets may look like they are more attractive for our rabbit friends as they include different colours and shapes, but these diets tend to lead to selective feeding. Rabbits will often choose only their favourite pieces in the mix, which commonly contain the higher sugar levels, and this can lead to health issues including obesity, gut problems and dental issues.
How should I change my rabbit’s diet safely?
If you need to make alterations to your rabbits’ diet, it is advisable to do this over a transitional period of 2-4 weeks. Too quick of an alteration to a rabbit’s diet can upset their stomach or stop them from eating.
Introduce the new food gradually, first mixing with the current diet, a little bit at a time, and increasing the amount gradually over the transition period until the change is complete.
Can my rabbit have treats?
Often pet shop treats are high in sugar which can lead to some health issues, but if you want to treat your rabbit the following fruits work well:
Treats for rabbits, as with all pets, should be given in moderation.