What’s the Best Diet for Rabbits?


For new rabbit owners, understanding what rabbits eat can be a major concern. It’s important to note that what rabbits like to eat and what they should eat are two different things. Given that their digestive system is very sensitive, knowing what rabbits can eat is crucial.

1. What Should Rabbits Eat?

Rabbits are herbivores, meaning they eat plants. Their bodies are designed for a diet consisting mainly of large amounts of grass and leaves, as well as some types of flowers and fruits. Therefore, it’s best for rabbits to eat various types of plants.

The rabbit’s diet should include high-quality pellet food, fresh hay (such as timothy hay, meadow hay, or oat hay), water, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Other treats should be limited.

a. Hay

  • Hay is the main food for rabbits, making up to 80% of their diet. Fiber is crucial for the normal function of a rabbit’s digestive system.
  • The benefits of hay:
    • Rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein.
    • Maintains a balanced gut flora, promoting a healthy digestive system.
    • Chewing hay repeatedly helps maintain oral health, reducing the chances of rabbits chewing on other objects in your home.
    • A vital component of nutritional needs.
    • Prevents hairball blockages (especially important for Angora and long-haired breeds).
    • Satisfies natural foraging and chewing behaviors, reducing boredom, increasing activity, and providing a sense of security.

Make sure to always have hay available for your rabbit.

Rabbit Eating Hay

  • Additionally, hay helps create a feeling of fullness in a rabbit’s stomach, preventing overeating and obesity. It is recommended to offer your rabbit a variety of different hays, preferably sun-dried rather than commercially dried hay, as it retains more nutrients.

You can feed your rabbit hays such as meadow hay, oat hay, bermuda grass hay, or other varieties.

b. Vegetables

  • Another important component of a rabbit’s diet is vegetables. Depending on the size of the rabbit, they should be given 270-540 grams of fresh vegetables daily.
  • Vegetables provide additional nutrients, enhancing their overall health. Any leafy green vegetable safe for humans or horses is safe for rabbits.
  • Leafy vegetables are suitable for rabbits of all ages. Whenever possible, buy organic produce to ensure they are free of pesticides. Alternatively, you can grow your own greens and ensure they are thoroughly washed before feeding. All fresh foods, regardless of their origin, should be cleaned or scrubbed (for firm vegetables) before feeding them to the rabbit.
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Consider incorporating at least three types of leafy green vegetables daily to ensure a balanced diet. Avoid feeding the rabbit the same vegetable week after week. Instead, mix them together. For example, if you feed them parsley this week, then remove it from their diet next week and substitute it with something else. Rotating the greens will provide your rabbit with a variety of tastes, textures, and nutrients.

Rabbit Eating Vegetables

  • Leafy greens should constitute around 75% of a rabbit’s overall vegetable intake. Some examples of safe leafy greens for rabbits are:
    • Type 1: These should be fed sparingly due to their higher oxalic acid content:
      • Celery leaves
      • Swiss chard
      • Kale
      • Beet greens
      • Collard greens
      • Radish greens
      • Spinach (up to six days after sprouting, sprouts have a higher alkaloid content)
    • Type 2: These have a lower oxalic acid content:
      • Wheatgrass
      • Carrot tops
      • Mint (any variety)
      • Arugula, Endive, Watercress
      • Romaine lettuce, Sweetcorn lettuce
      • Cilantro, Basil (both the leaves and stems)
      • Curly kale (all types), Kohlrabi, Pak choi, Bok choy
      • Cucumber leaves, Beetroot leaves, Dandelion leaves, Lambsquarters leaves
      • Frisee, Red or green leaf lettuce, Romaine lettuce, Butterhead lettuce
      • Water spinach

Rabbit Eating Greens

  • Non-leafy vegetables: You can feed your rabbit other non-leafy vegetables like root vegetables, such as turnips. These types of foods generally contain more starch and sugar, so you should provide them in smaller quantities compared to leafy greens. The recommended amount is about one tablespoon per day per 0.9kg of body weight.
  • So what vegetables can rabbits eat?
    • Rabbits can eat a variety of fruits, including:
      • Apples (without core or seeds)
      • Cherries (without pits)
      • Pears, peaches, papayas, pineapples (peel removed)
      • Plums (pit removed)
      • Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.)
      • Melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew)

You can also offer dried fruit as a treat, but reduce the amount to one-third of the regular serving, as they are more concentrated.

c. Fruits

  • Including fruits in your rabbit’s daily diet is also necessary. They can be used as treats or rewards during training sessions. Fruits and vegetables are healthier and much cheaper than commercial rabbit treats.

However, feeding too many fruits can lead to weight gain or disrupt the rabbit’s digestive system. It is recommended to limit the fruit intake. The average amount of fruit for a rabbit is roughly one teaspoon per 0.9kg of body weight per day. You can give it to them all at once or split it into multiple servings throughout the day.

Rabbit Eating Fruits

Rabbit-safe fruits include:

  • Apples (any variety, without stems and seeds)
  • Cherries (any variety, without pits)
  • Pear, peach, papaya, pineapple (peeled)
  • Apricots, kiwi, apricot, passionfruit
  • Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.)
  • Various melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, etc.)
  • Banana (peeled; no more than 2-3mm slices per day for a 2kg rabbit)
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You can also feed dried fruits, but reduce the amount to one-third of the regular serving size due to their higher concentration.

d. Pellets

  • Pelleted food is primarily fast-growing rabbit food, with a relatively high caloric content. Since pellets don’t provide a sense of fullness like hay does, rabbits can easily overeat them, leading to obesity and excess nutrients.
  • However, pellets play an important role in a rabbit’s diet because they are rich in essential nutrients. It’s best to limit the amount of pellet food in a rabbit’s diet, aiming for 5% of their overall intake.
  • Good pellet options for rabbits include Mazuri rabbit feed and Oxbow Essentials rabbit food. These pellets contain a minimum of 20-25% fiber, about 14% protein (plant-based), and less than 1% calcium for most pet rabbits (neutered rabbits). Adjust the amount of pellets according to your rabbit’s weight.
  • The recommended amount of pellets per day is approximately 30 grams for a 2-3kg rabbit, 60 grams for a 3.5-4.5kg rabbit, and 85 grams for a 5-6.8kg rabbit. Young rabbits can have free access to pellets initially, with the amount gradually reduced to approximately 60 grams per 2.7kg of body weight at around six months old.
  • It’s important to transition your rabbit to eating mostly hay and fresh vegetables. Over time, your rabbit should consume fewer pellets, with hay and vegetables constituting the majority of its diet.

Rabbit Eating Pellets

e. Treats

  • Treats for adult rabbits weighing around 2.7kg should consist of approximately two tablespoons of fresh fruit per day. Store-bought pet treats are often unnecessary and can, in some cases, cause digestive issues due to their high carbohydrate or sugar content.
  • Additionally, you can provide your rabbit with apple or willow branches (pesticide-free) or other safe types of wood for them to chew on.

Rabbit Chewing Willow Branch

2. How to Feed Rabbits at Different Life Stages

a. What to Feed Baby Rabbits

  • Newborn to three weeks: Feed them mother’s milk.
  • One month old (3-4 weeks): Introduce them to mother’s milk, hay, and pellet food.
  • Two months old (4-7 weeks): Feed them mother’s milk, hay, and pellets.
  • Seven weeks to seven months: Pellets (feed freely), hay (feed freely), and introduce vegetables gradually (small servings, less than 14 grams).
  • Twelve weeks: Pellets, hay, and add vegetables (small servings, less than 14 grams).

Baby Rabbit Feeding

  • Before feeding any fresh fruits or vegetables, it is recommended to feed your rabbit hay for at least two weeks. Hay helps with the motility of the digestive tract and allows the young to readily accept new food.
  • You can start feeding vegetables to your rabbit at around 12 weeks old, offering small amounts and gradually increasing the variety. It’s best to introduce one new type of food every three days and monitor their stool consistency. If you notice soft stools persisting for a few days, remove that food from their diet.
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b. Feeding Adult Rabbits (1-5 Years Old)

  • Grass hay should make up 75-80% of their overall diet, such as timothy hay, meadow hay, or oat hay.
  • Pellets should make up 15% of their diet (feed up to 60 grams per 2.7kg of body weight).
  • Vegetables should constitute 5-15% of their diet (minimum of 270 grams of chopped vegetables per 2.7kg of body weight). Gradually introduce vegetables to ensure proper digestion.

Adult Rabbit Feeding

c. Feeding Senior Rabbits (6+ Years Old)

  • If your rabbit is a healthy weight, continue their adult diet.
  • Elderly or underweight rabbits may require more pellet food (no restrictions) to gain weight. Meadow hay can be offered to lighter rabbits, provided it has a normal calcium content. Regular blood checks for older rabbits are also recommended.

3. Some Considerations for Feeding Pet Rabbits

  • Commercial rabbit pellets should only be a small part of a rabbit’s diet. Rabbits can easily overeat pellets, leading to obesity. Ideally, commercial pellets should only make up 5% of a rabbit’s diet.
  • Always provide fresh, clean water for your rabbit and change it daily. Dirty water dispensers can be breeding grounds for bacteria. You can use a water bottle or a heavy dish attached to the enclosure to prevent tipping.

Rabbit Water Bottle

  • Which foods affect a rabbit’s digestive system? Rabbits should AVOID the following foods:

    • Foods rich in starch and fats, such as beans, bread, cereals, chocolate, corn, nuts, oats, peas, refined sugar, seeds, wheat, or any other grains. Even starchy or sugary vegetables (like carrots) should be fed in moderation as they can affect the rabbit’s health. These foods should only constitute a small portion of a rabbit’s diet.
    • Foods high in sugar can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria, causing gas or digestive upset.
    • Yogurt, cornflakes, biscuits, crispy cookies, or dried fruits with added sugar.
    • Dairy products, popcorn, bread, or fatty or oily foods.
  • It is unnecessary to provide rabbits with vitamin or nutrient supplements as they will obtain them from a correctly balanced diet. Overusing these supplements can lead to serious health issues.

Remember that good nutrition can reduce the risk of diseases in rabbits. There is a direct correlation between a rabbit’s diet and dental issues. Most healthy adult rabbits eat minimal calorie foods.

Rabbit Eating

A rabbit’s nutritional needs change throughout various life cycles. Pregnancy, lactation, excessive weight loss, aging, illness, and obesity all influence a rabbit’s dietary needs. Adjusting the feed during pregnancy and lactation is crucial.

Nutritional needs also vary based on body size. Specific breeds like Angoras (and other long-haired breeds), Rexes, or Giants have unique dietary requirements.

I hope this article has answered your question about what rabbits can eat!


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