What food is best for rabbits?

Rabbits really are what they eat. Domestic bunnies haven’t changed physically from their wild cousins, and their bodies are designed to graze throughout the day. A rabbit’s digestive system is crucial for their health; it needs to tick along constantly to keep the body in good working order.

Rabbits need three different food types for a healthy diet:

  1. A constant supply of hay or fresh grass to nibble on (85-90%)
  2. A variety of fresh veg and leafy greens (10%)
  3. Small quantity of high-fibre pellets (5%)

Read more about each of these, why it’s important to get the balance right, and easy ways to work out these percentages, below.

Why rabbits need to eat lots of hay or grass

Rabbits need a constant supply of hay or fresh grass to nibble on – in fact, 85 to 90 per cent of their daily diet should be made up of the stuff. This should be available to them throughout the day. 

How much do they need? A ball of hay around the size of their body per day.

Rabbits’ teeth continue to grow throughout their lives, so they need to chomp on fibrous hay or grass to help wear the teeth down. As well as preventing teeth from overgrowing, access to a constant supply of hay keeps their digestive systems moving along healthily.

Note: freshly cut grass is toxic to rabbits and can cause serious health problems, so don’t give this to them.

Feeding your rabbit a high percentage of grass or hay will help keep overgrown tooth and associated mouth problems, like abscesses, at bay.

Plus, like all animals, rabbits need to be able to exhibit their natural behaviour so spending much of the day nibbling and foraging means your bunny will be a happy one.

Fresh vegetables and leafy greens

Around 10 per cent of your bunnies’ meals should be made up of fresh and washed vegetables and leafy greens. 

How much do they need? A quantity of herbs and vegetables that amounts to about the size of your rabbit’s head, per day.

Think natural – good foods are spinach, kale, watercress, broccoli, celery, and dandelion leaves. Rabbits also enjoy munching on fresh herbs such as mint, parsley, dill and thyme.

Note: carrot, sweet potato and fruits, such as apples, make tasty treats for bunnies, but are high in sugar or starch so should only be eaten a couple of times a week.

High-fibre pellets

The final five per cent of a rabbit’s daily food supply should be in the form of high-fibre pellets that also ensures they get the minerals they need. 

How much do they need? One egg cup full of pellets, twice a day.

rabbits eating hay

Rabbits need fresh water

Rabbits also need a constant supply of fresh water. This should be changed daily. Rabbits prefer to drink from water bowls than from bottles. Whichever you use should be cleaned regularly and bottles inspected to check they are working properly.

What not to feed your rabbit

Remember cereal-based diets (the muesli-type) are high in sugar and low in minerals, and should not be fed to rabbits.

While muesli style feeds look appealing to us because of the mix of colours and textures, many owners find their rabbits choose to eat only certain parts of the food and leave other bits.

This is called ‘selective feeding’ and is a problem for rabbits because of just how intrinsically linked their diet is to their overall health. 

If your rabbit is allowed to choose which bits of muesli they eat, they will likely go for the bits that are high in sugar and/or starch. A diet that is high in these substances and low on fibrous foods can lead to serious health problems for rabbits, including dental disease, obesity, digestive problems and flystrike.

Rabbit Awareness Week 2018

Each year, charities, organisations and welfare experts come together to raise awareness and improve welfare of this often-misunderstood species, and Blue Cross is proud to support and be a part of this worthy initiative. 

In 2018, Rabbit Awareness Week is encouraging a move away from muesli. If you currently feed your rabbit a muesli diet and would like to move them towards a healthy diet of 85 to 90 per cent hay or grass, 10 per cent veg and five per cent high-fibre pellet, the four week plan below will help you with controlling the amounts of each food type during the transition. Read more here. If you have any queries, please contact your vet for advice.

Image shows four food bowls, from weeks one to four stating at week one on the left. Week one is three quarters muesli and one quarter pellets, week two is half and half, week three is three quarters pellets and one quarter muesli, and week four is all pellets

 

— Page last updated 01/04/2019

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