In our discussion on rabbit nutrition, we noted that these pets require proteins, carbohydrates (including fiber), minerals, and vitamins as they play various roles. A deficiency or excesses, in some cases, cause symptoms.
In this work, we are going to focus on best rabbit foods and in which proportions they should be served both for adult and young rabbits.
Wild rabbit food?
In the wild, bunnies consume vast volumes of grass as well as some herbs, leaves, tree barks, twigs, shrubs, sprouts, fallen leaves, fruits, seeds, and other types of vegetables, depending on the seasons and what is available.
Domestic or house food list
Unlike their wild counterparts, domestic bunnies don’t fend for their food. Therefore, as their parent, you need to ensure they have a nutritionally balanced diet.
While their diet is much similar to those in the wild, reduced activity and domestication brings in small change. There needs will also vary with age, breed, size, and other factors.
Naturally, these pets are concentrate selectors where they will opt for foods higher in nutrients and calories like plant shoots and not mature, leaves that are high in fiber. This eating habit makes house bunnies vulnerable to obesity. Therefore some parts of their diets must be restricted.
Letting them exercise outside their cages for 3-5 hours daily and properly feeding them will make them happy, healthy, and have vibrant litters. Wrong diets and no exercise may cause overweight, slow growth, listless or dull coats, a weak immunity, and s shorter lifespan.
Here is how to feed your baby, young, adult, and older rabbits:
1. Baby rabbit food: 0-7 months
|0-3 weeks||Let them have their mother’s milk or kitten milk replacers. Mother’s milk has antibodies to protect kits from diseases during the first few days.|
|3-4 weeks||mother’s milk plus alfalfa pellet and hay nibbles|
|4 to 7weeks||Mother’s milk and access to alfalfa hay and pellets|
|7-12 weeks||Unlimited hay and pellets plus mother’s milk|
|At about 8 weeks||Slowly start weaning them off mother’s milk|
|12+ weeks feeding||Begin introducing veggies, one type at a time, and fruit treats. Fruit treats should be 1 – 2 ounces per 6-pound bunny.|
2. Young adults 7-12 months
- Introduce grassy hay like timothy and oat hay while reducing alfalfa
- Reduce pellets to 1/2 cup per 6 pounds and alfalfa hay
- Increase daily vegetables to ration
- Give them treats at 1oz. to 2 oz. per 6 pounds of body weight
3.Mature adults 1-5 years
- Feed them an unlimited amount of grassy hay type
- 5-10% pellets
- Two cups of vegetable mix per rabbit weighing 4 pounds
- 0-5% or 1oz. (two teaspoons) of all treats including commercial, fruit treats, and non-leafy veggies per rabbit weighing 4 pounds
4. Six years and above
- Continue with the adult diet if they maintain their body weight.
- You can give them unlimited pellets if they are frail. You can also include alfalfa if they don’t have high calcium issues.
- Take any geriatric rabbits for annual blood work
Note that diets for some breeds like those that have long hair (like Angora and Jersey woolies), Giant breeds (like Flemish or Checkered Giant), Rexes, the ill, obese, underweight, lactating, and pregnant, may need different diets.
Rabbit food list and ration (amount)
|Hay||at least 80%||Go for grassy hay like timothy, orchard, Bermuda, meadow, and so on. Alfalfa should be for growing (under seven months), wooly breeds like angora, nursing or pregnant may have some alfalfa hay.|
|Vegetables and fresh foods||10-15%||Give them a mix of 5-6 chopped veggies, including no more than one type that high in calcium or oxalic acid. Don’t forget to have one high vitamin A vegetables.|
|High fiber pellets||5-10%||Buy high fiber pellets for adults or young bunnies.|
|Treats||0-5%||Commercial treats, safe fruits, and non-leafy veggies like carrots. Don’t exceed an oz. per 4-pound rabbit|
|Drinking water||About 10mg/100g of body weight||Ensure they have access to fresh, clean water all the time. You can use rabbit water bottles, bowls, or automated waterers.|
The above table gives you only a summary. It is time to go to details of each of these vital parts of your rabbit diet listing exact foods.
1. Hay – 80% of rabbit food
Domestic adult bunnies need unlimited grassy hays like timothy, orchard, oats, and meadow, among other grasses or a mix. It should account for at least 80% of their food intake.
Only growing, nursing, underweight, or pregnant bunnies should have alfalfa hay as it is energy-dense, higher in proteins and calcium. Some of the benefits it has included:
a). Nutritionally balanced
Rabbits depend on foods that are high fiber but low in energy and nutrient foods like hay. Furthermore, hay an ideal balance nutrient, i.e., proteins, some vitamins, fats, and minerals, and will prevent obesity.
b). Source of fiber
Hay is high in fiber (29-34%). Therefore, it will promote a healthy gut and food movement, stimulate appetite, caecotrophy, absorb bacterial toxins, prevent hairballs, among other benefits.
Bunnies that don’t get enough fiber may suffer from GI stasis, stomach upsets, and so on.
c). Will promote dental health
Furthermore, hay is fibrous and repeated chewing that includes side to side movement as they macerate and tear it will help wear down their ever-growing teeth. Remember, they gro at a rate of 12 cm per year and hay minimize chances of dental spurs and malocclusion.
Don’t forget to get safe chew toys too, like Ware Manufacturing Willow Branch Ball for Small Animals, Kaytee Perfect Chews, and many others.
d). Minimize boredom
As animals that find delight in chewing, it will satisfy their chewing urge. Furthermore, the tossing, turning, rearranging, as they look for the one to bite will keep them busy.
Choosing feeding hay to bunnies
Settle for long strand (not cookies, cubes, or compressed one), sweet-smelling, dust-free, and slightly green hay. Avoid moldy, mushy smelling, or low quality.
Get details of the best rabbit hay to buy where Small Pet Select 2nd Cutting “Perfect Blend” Timothy Hay Pet Food tops the list.
To feed them, invest in a good rabbit hay rack or balls such as Kaytee Hay and Food Bin or Living World Hay Feeding station hay wheel to minimize the mess. Also, ensure you place it at hard to avoid areas including in front of their litter trays.
Finally, in addition to hay, dried grass and grazing may help these pets have roughages. However, avoid giving them lawnmower clippings as the mowing makes the grass ferment fast and may cause stomach upsets.
2. Fresh foods and veggies 10-15% of food intake
Fresh foods include vegetables, weeds, fruits, flowers, non-leafy vegetables, and other safe plants. They are a source of nutrients like vitamins A, C, carbs, minerals, water, and some fiber. Fresh foods should account for 10-15%.
a). Leafy vegetables and plants
Leafy vegetables, especially dark green, weeds, and safe leafy plants, should account for 75% of their fresh food ration, i.e., about one packed cup of a chopped mixture of at least three but ideally 5-6 leafy vegetables per rabbit weight two pounds.
In your veggie’s mix, ensure you have only one type of vegetable high in calcium, at least one kind high in vitamin A and not more than one high in oxalic acid.
High calcium will cause kidney stones. Similarly, high oxalic acid or oxalates may cause kidney stones and mage as tingling of mouth or skin. Oxalates will bind with iron making it unavailable in their body and with calcium to form kidney stones.
Besides oxalates, some veggies have mild toxins, including alkaloids and goitrogenic depending on when harvesting occurs, soil composition, or seasons of the year. They are unlikely to harm your bunnies if you feed your rabbits well.
For instance, research has shown that goitrogenic don’t affect rabbits as they affect humans. You need a lot before you can detect its presence in a rabbit’s blood.
Finally, there is an assumption that most members of the cabbage family make bunnies gassy. There isn’t enough evidence that this happens if feed well.
i). List of leafy veggies that rabbits eat
|Category||Vegetable examples||Feeding instructions|
|High oxalic||Mustard greens|
Beet greens or greens
1-6 days sprouts
Feed sparingly and only include one type. If possible, only add these veggies a few times a week, like 1-3 times a week.
|High in calcium (mg/100g)||Collard greens -235mg|
Carrot tops (243 g
Yu Choy (Chinese greens) -235.3mg
Dandelion greens -187mg
Spring greens -210 mg
Turnip greens- 190mg
Kale -150 mg
Mustard green -115mg (also high in oxalic acid)
Beet green -117 mg
Bok Choy -105mg
Spinach – 99mg (also high in oxalic acid)
Data source USDA and other sources
|Only include one type of high calcium veggie as they may cause urinary stones.|
|High in vitamin A||Carrot tops or greens (also high in calcium), collard greens (also high in calcium), mustard greens (also high in oxalic acid), endive|
Spinach (also high in oxalic acid and calcium), kale including curly kale, Turnip greens (also high in calcium),
|Include one least one of veggies high in vitamin A. Vitamin A helps in boosting sight and vision, fighting infections, helps in growth, development, reproduction, and so on.|
ii). Other rabbit safe veggies
- Alfalfa sprout and plant
- Artichoke leaves
- Bean plant and sprout
- Broccoli leaves
- Cabbage (green, Chinese, savory, sweetheart, etc.)
- Calendula leaves
- Cauliflower leaves
- Celeriac tops
- Celery leaves
- Clover leaves
- Cucumber leaves
- Goosegrass weed
- Grass – wheatgrass, meadow, ray, orchard, Bermuda, timothy, Napier, redtops, brome, fescue, crabgrass, oats, bluegrass, redtops, among others
- Lettuce – Boston bibb, red or green leaf lettuce (has mostly water with meager amounts of nutrients)
- Nasturtium leaves
- Okra leaves
- Pea plant
- Plantain leaves
- Radish tops
- Romaine lettuce
- Sow Thistle
- Swede tops
- Yarrow leaves
b). Rabbit safe non-leafy vegetable
Non-leafy vegetables are low in fiber. Some are higher in sugars, others are starchy, and both are not good for your rabbit’s teeth. Therefore, keep their amount at 1oz. or two tablespoons per rabbit weighing four pounds.
Excess of starches may disrupt cecum microflora balance. This disruption will result in GI stasis, stomach upset, gas, and diarrhea or may cause weight gain for those that are highly calorific. This disruption happens because of starch ferments faster, unlike cellulose, which slows fermentation.
Safe non-leafy veggies include the following
- Tomato fruit only
- Eggplants s
- Squashes (winter and summer)
- Celery stems
- Green bean and pea pods (before the seeds mature)
- baby sweetcorn (before they mature)
- yellow, green and red bell pepper
- Brussels sprouts
- Chicory root
c). Herbs safe for bunnies
Herbs are nutrient-rich, will add variety, a new taste, taste, and aroma to your rabbit’s diet. Furthermore, some have antibacterial, antiseptic, antiparasitic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Besides these roles, they may aid in digestion, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, and urinary tract infection, as well as pain relief, appetite stimulation, calming, and managing stress. However, don’t use any for therapeutic reasons, unless your vet allows you to do so.
While most bunnies will love herbs, their strong taste means you start with a small amount. When serving them, sprinkle a small amount of chopped or dry herbs on their foods. They don’t need much. Even human beings don’t eat large amounts of herbs.
Rabbits can eat herbs include borage, fennel, mint, basil, rosemary, marjoram, parsley (high in oxalic acid), peppermint, and cilantro (coriander). Others are dills, thyme, caraway, lavender, lemon balm, sage, comfrey, tarragon, oregano, chamomile, shepherd’s purse, and mustard.
d). Bunny-safe flowers
There are several flowers and flower heads that bunnies cat eat. They are a good source of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. However, they are high in sugar and low in fiber. Therefore, like non-leafy veggies, the recommended amount is two tablespoons (1 oz.) per a four-pound bunny occasionally.
Rabbit-safe flowers include cauliflower, broccolini, broccoli, nasturtium, roses, daylilies, snaps, chamomile, and calendula. Also, rabbits can eat hibiscus, clovers, courgette, honeysuckle, pansies, marigolds, English daisy, among others.
Ginger root isn’t toxic but quite intense tasting and may cause GI upsets.
Finally, don’t buy them from florists as they are sprayed with some harmful chemicals. Instead, go for organically grown flowers.
e). Fruits that rabbits eat
Fruits make a wonderful occasional treat. These pets will love them since they, too, have a sweet tooth. However, limit the amount. Rabbits should have two tablespoons per a rabbit weighing four pounds
Since fruits are high in sugar, an excessive amount will fatten your rabbits as well as cause microflora imbalance that will result in stomach upsets, diarrhea, bloating, and so on. Also, they are bad for their teeth.
When serving them, remove stones or pips unless stated they are safe. Some require pealing and cutting into small bite-size slices. Safe fruits include:
- All types of cherries fruits without pits and avoid cherry plants as they re toxic, i.e., they have cyanide.
- Apple (without pips or stem)
- Berries like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries (their leaves and stems are also safe)
- Kiwi Fruit
- Melon including its seeds and skin
- Pineapple (without skin)
- Star fruits
- Tomatoes (avoid leaves, they are toxic)
If very sugary like bananas or grapes, reduce the amount. Furthermore, rabbits can eat dried fruits. However, since they are high in sugar, you need to give them even smaller amounts.
Pineapple and papaya have papain and bromelain enzymes that help in breaking down hairballs or trichobezoar and aid indigestion. These enzymes make them useful during molting. Commercially, you can buy Sherwood Pet Health Digestive Support, Papaya (100 Tablets – 60 Grams), or Oxbow Animal Health Natural Science Papaya Support.
3. Rabbit pellets 5-10% of food intake
Rabbit pellets are higher in calories and have added vitamins, essential fats, proteins, and minerals. They will help ensure your rabbit meets all its nutrition needs because factors like soil, weather condition, and location may affect nutrients in hay and fresh foods.
They are also energy-dense, making them ideal for commercial rabbits. However, for domestic or pet bunnies, let pellets account for 5-10% of their diet and opt for grass-hay based if you have adult bunnies.
Approximately give them:
|Rabbit weight||quantity of pellets|
|2 to 4 pounds||¼ cup|
|4 to 7 pounds||½ a cup|
|7 to 10 pounds||½ to ¾ a cup|
|11-15 lbs.||¾-1 cup|
Serve as a single portion or divide them into two or more servings. This amount may vary depending on age, size, breed, and health status. Your vet should help you come with the right amounts.
However, unlimited amounts of pellets will predispose your rabbits to obesity, soft stool, dental problems, bouts of appetite lose, urinary bladder and kidney stones (if high in calcium), and so on. These issues happen because only a small amount is enough to meet their nutritional needs, and this will not meet fiber needs. Also, rabbits will choose pellets over hay.
When buying pellets for your bunnies, choose those whose fiber is 18% or more but low in calcium 0.6-1%, and phosphorus 0.4-0.8%. Also, they should be low in fats, i.e., 3%, but best at 1-1.5%, have 6000-10000 IU/kg of vitamin A, 800-1200 IU/kg of vitamin D, and 40-70 mg/kg of vitamin E.
For proteins, adults should have pellets with 12-14% while wooly like angora, larger breeds, growing, nursing pregnant can have bullets with 16-18% protein.
Avoid any brand with real dried fruits, whole seeds, nuts or grains, kibbles, or muesli diets. Furthermore, ensure they are fresh (not stale, old, or mushy smelling).
If you need the best rabbit hay to buy, our top pick for adults is Oxbow Animal Health Bunny Basics Essentials Adult Rabbit Pet Food timothy hay-based while young can have Kaytee Forti Diet Pro Health Rabbit Food for Juvenile Rabbits.
Take advantage of many good pellet feeders, including automatic ones like WOPET Automatic Pet Feeder Food Dispenser, combo for hay and pellet, gravity bins, and bowls when feeding them.
Finally, if you want your bunnies to lose weight, restrict pellets, and let them exercise but don’t fast them as they may end up with GI stasis. Instead, give them hay and veggies.
4. Bunny treats 0-5%
Treats are essential for training, bonding, and playtime. You can use fruits and some non-leafy veggies or go for those on sale. Avoid those with whole grains, nuts, dried fruits, muesli diets, soluble carbohydrates, junk foods, or animal products, and so on.
Give no more than a tablespoon (half an ounce) per rabbit weighing two pounds in a day. This amount includes all commercial treats, non-leafy veggies, fruits and flowers
5. Vitamin supplements
If you give them well-balanced diets, they don’t need vitamins as they can get them from pellets, cecotropes, and other foods. Only supplement if your vet advises you to do so.
6. Drinking water
All your rabbits have access to an unlimited amount of fresh, clean, drinking water using anti-tipping bowls, drinking bottles, or automated water dispensers. Ensure the bottles don’t freeze during winter and keep the bottles or crocks very clean.
Unsuitable, harmful or poisonous foods
Not every food safe to human beings or other pets is also suitable and safe for rabbits. Some are deadly, toxic, or unhealthy, and they include the following:
1. Toxic foods
Avocado, chocolate, iceberg lettuce, potato and tomato leaves, chives, leeks, onions, coffee, tea, rhubarb, among others, have harmful or toxic substances.
Others are aloe Vera, amaryllis, agave leaves, bluebonnet, bloodroot, buttercups, elder, Echinacea, belladonna, blue-green algae, bluebonnet, and eucalyptus
Also, don’t allow your bunnies to eat holy, hemlock, hog wort, jasmine, eucalyptus, oak leaves, nutmeg, ragwort, poppy, mistletoe, milkweed, and lily of the valley.
2. High carbs foods – starchy or sugary
Rabbits should not eat cereals, nuts, seeds, and grains like legumes (soybeans, peas, beans, etc.), walnuts, popcorn, wheat, and corn, so on are high in carbs and present a choking hazard.
Similarly, bunnies shouldn’t eat cakes, chips, refined sugars, rolled oats, crackers, breakfast cereals, pasta, bread, pretzels, cookies, potatoes,
3. Animals and animal products
As stick herbivores, these pets should not eat meat, poultry, fish, or animal products, including cheese, yogurt drops, among others.
4. Foods for other pets
Don’t give them hamster, dog, cat, cattle, or chicken foods since their nutritional needs and how they process foods are different unless also meant for rabbits.
Choosing and offering rabbit food
All food you give to your rabbits should be:
1. They should be free of harmful chemicals
Ensure any fresh food doesn’t have fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, and other harmful chemicals. Also, ensure you thoroughly wash them.
2. Introduce new foods slowly
Their hindgut or cecum has a delicate balance of microflora (bacteria, yeast, and protozoa). A sudden change of diet may affect this balance encouraging overgrowth of the harmful bacteria that may produce toxins or harm your pet’s deficient fiber foods.
In such a case, expect diarrhea, soft stool, and other GI issues.
Therefore introduce only one new type of food at a time, gradually for 7-14 days, starting with a tiny amount as you increase the amount. Check their feces after 24 hrs and withdraw the new food in case of soft stool, revert to usual diets for at least a week before trying anything new.
Similarly, high carb, low fiber, antibiotics, and so on may also cause a shift of the ideal microflora balance.
3. Vary their diets
Once you successfully introduce them, mono diets are not very healthy and may lead to boredom. As you saw, there are so many foods they can eat.
4. Avoid spoilt foods
Rabbits should not eat wilting, molding, or rotting foods. Don’t treat them as your trashcan.
5. Remove uneaten veggies
After 3-4 hours, remove any veggies they have not eaten as they may spoil.
6. Make mealtime fun
Make feeding time fun, incorporate hay stuffed in card boxes, toilet rolls with some dried herbs and pellets hidden inside them or scatter herbs and their ratio of pellets, and fresh veggies on their hay.
Also, spray a little pineapple juice to entice them to eat if they don’t seem to like their food.
Signs of poor diet
Healthy rabbit dropping should have a uniform size and should drop them as usual (not more or less). Soft, malformed, bound with hairs, or absence within 24 hours is an indication something is not well. See your vet for further diagnosis.
The presence of GI stasis symptoms where food movement in the gut slows or stops leading to accumulation and impaction, gas, and so on. Rehydration, proper diets, exercise, petroleum-based laxatives, may help.
A small urine color change may occur due to colored foods. However, molding foods and other causes may make their urine to change from usual clear, white, orange, or red-orange urine color. Furthermore, ensure it is not blood.
Finally, the absence of or not eating cecotropes or night feces (darker and softer than normal droppings) may indicate a problem. Cecotropes are a vital source of energy, amino acids, some vitamins (especially B complex), minerals, and other nutrients. If your bunny doesn’t produce or eat them, see your bunny vet.