If you’re a first time rabbit owner, learning what foods to feed your rabbit requires an entire mind reset. A lot of stuff we know about rabbits come from cartoons. And sadly, 99% of those facts are false.
Here’s a quick rundown.
Contrary to popular opinion …
- Rabbits do not have carrots as their main food. Why? It’s like giving a kid 20 Chupa-Chups lollipops.
- Those colorful “green for vegetables, orange for carrots” pellets? Unhealthy, bad and completely imbalanced. These unethical manufacturers are trying to rip off your money.
- Rabbits eat vegetables – yes. Any vegetable under the sun? NO. Some vegetables are not suitable for rabbits. If they eat too much, it may cause digestive upset or worse, diarrhoea.
Many severe health problems of rabbits are caused by owners lacking the knowledge on what to feed them. As a result, they provide the wrong types of foods.
Rabbits have delicate digestive systems. It’s very important that you provide the correct foods in the correct amounts.
This post will talk about what food to give your rabbit, how much to feed and why they’re important – step by step.
Let’s get right into it!
5 Essential Foods to Give Your Rabbit
1. Timothy hay
Hay provides roughage and fibre needed for your rabbit’s gut to move efficiently.
When rabbits chew on hay, the munching process wears down their ever-growing teeth naturally, preventing malocclusion (overgrown teeth). It also helps to reduce stress and feelings of boredom.
How much hay to give:
- Rabbits of all ages (excluding unweaned baby rabbits, of course), should be given unlimited Timothy hay. When your rabbit finishes the given amount, do not hesitate to place more.
- For young rabbits (below 6 months old), you can offer an additional 1/4 cup of Alfalfa hay daily, alongside unlimited Timothy hay. Alfalfa hay is higher in calcium and protein. Both nutrients are important for a growing rabbit.
The idea of offering unlimited amounts of a certain food might sound strange. Pets such as dogs and cats only have 2 – 3 meals a day.
Rabbits are completely different. Their digestive system needs to be constantly moving. Don’t worry, Timothy hay aren’t Chupa-Chups to them. Your rabbit will stop eating the hay when he/she had enough.
A note on hay:
- Alfalfa is yummier to rabbits but it’s much lower in fibre compared to Timothy. Avoid overfeeding Alfalfa, otherwise your rabbit may become picky and refuse to eat Timothy hay.
2. Quality pellets
Pellets provide nutrients and calories missing from other foods the bunny consumes. Choose pellets from reputable brands. Avoid those simply (and carelessly!) packed in a transparent plastic bag.
How much pellets to give:
- Young rabbits (2 – 6 months old): 1 tablespoon full in the morning, another tablespoon full in the evening.
- Adult rabbits (6 months and above): 1 tablespoon in the morning, 1 tablespoon in the evening. (1 tablespoon for every 2lb the bunny weighs.)
Oxbow and Small Pet Select are highly popular brands among small animal owners. The important thing to note when selecting pellets is to stay away from these types:
- Colorful pellets – they usually have a high sugar content, despite claiming to be made of vegetables or carrots. This makes your rabbit selective; he/she starts choosing sweet foods (such as the pellets) only. Even for dogs and cats, colorful kibbles are never recommended.
- Pellets mixed with nuts/grains/seeds/corns/oats – the added foods are bad for your rabbit’s gut health. These foods produces gas in the intestines of your rabbit. A built up of gas causes a loss of appetite and may eventually lead to GI stasis.
Make sure the pellets you purchase are generally brown in color and contains nothing else except for the pellets themselves.
A note on pellets – not too much!
- Overfeeding pellets cause your rabbit to become obese. Obesity in rabbits causes other problems like liver disease, heart disease, arthritis, and respiratory issues.
- Some rabbit owners provide a free flow of pellets. Personally, I do not recommend this. Given the choice, your rabbit is likely to eat the excess pellets instead of hay. Insufficient fibre intake would result in poor gut health for your rabbit.
3. Fresh vegetables
Like all things natural, fresh greens contain natural nutrients which pellets and hay will never have. These vegetables and herbs will also help to increase your rabbit’s daily water intake, allowing your rabbit’s gut to move smoothly.
And of course, rabbits love fresh vegetables. The enticing smell of those juicy greens will make any rabbit happy!
How much vegetables to give:
- 2 months and below: No veggies yet!
- 3 – 5 months: ½ cup of mixed greens daily for every 2lb (~1 kg) the bunny weights. Split into 2 – 3 feedings.
- 6 months and above: 1 – 1½ cup of mixed greens daily for every 2lb (~1 kg) the bunny weights. Split into 2 – 3 feedings.
Feed your bunny a variety of vegetables (2 – 3 types) every day, switch the types of vegetables fed every week. Herbs should only make up about 1/4 of the total amount of greens.
|Baby bok choy||Cabbage||Chye sym|
|Kale||Kangkong (Water spinach)||Dandelions|
|Sweet potato leaves|
|Parsley||Dill||Sabah snake grass|
Some vegetables are high in a certain substance and could have side effects to the bunny when consumed consecutively for a period of time. For example:
- Kangkong – high in oxalic acid/goitrogens
- Sweet potato leaves – high in protein, may cause slightly softer stools
- Cabbage – high water content, may cause soft stools or even diarrhoea if consumed in excessive amounts
You can feed them to your rabbit. Just remember to rotate them with other greens!
Notes on vegetables:
- Remember to wash the vegetables prior feeding to remove chemical pesticides.
- All vegetables must be fresh. Do not give your bunny cooked vegetables.
- If kept in the fridge, take out the vegetables 15 minutes prior feeding so they wouldn’t be chilling-cold when your rabbit eats them. Rinse slightly with clean, drinking water to wet the vegetables as well.
Fruits are sweet treats! They contain vitamins and nutrients for your rabbit, too.
How much fruits to give:
- 2 months and below: No fruits yet!
- 3 – 5 months: 1/4 teaspoon daily for every 2 lb the bunny weights.
- 6 months and above: 1 teaspoon daily for every 2 lb the bunny weights.
*Carrots and tomato (vegetables) are included here as rabbits should only consume them in “fruit” amounts.
Where necessary, remember to remove the peels, seeds and stem before giving it to your rabbit. For small-sized fruits such as blueberries, I recommend you to split it into several parts to prevent choking. (If you’ve seen how greedy and excited rabbits can be, you know this concern is legit!)
Notes on fruits:
- Wash all fruits thoroughly to remove the chemical pesticides on them.
- If there are parts of the fruit you would not consume (eg: slightly flattened/brownish), DO NOT give them to your bunny.
- All fruits given must be fresh. DO NOT give cooked/flavoured/dried fruit to your bunny.
Again – not too much!
- Never overfeed fruits – no matter how cute your rabbit looks. Unlike humans, consuming too much fruits cultivates an environment for the growth of harmful bacteria in your rabbit’s gut. This may lead to GI stasis, a condition in which a rabbit’s gut stops working.
Fresh, drinking water should be available for your bunny at all times. Other than the fact that it’s needed by all living beings, your rabbit may have slight constipation even if he/she eats a lot of hay.
A note on water:
- Even it isn’t finished, change your bunny’s water at least twice daily to prevent bacterial growth.
- Offer the water you would drink to your bunny. Do not give tap water. Bacteria and other potentially harmful substances are present in tap water, which is why humans don’t usually drink them either.
Bonus: 3-Question Rabbit Health Checklist
How do you know whether you’re feeding your rabbit correctly? Make it a habit to observe your rabbit daily and refer to this quick checklist below:
- Does your rabbit produce lots of poop every hour? If yes, excellent. That’s what your rabbit’s supposed to do!
- Is your rabbit actively engaging in his/her daily activities (e.g: grooming)? If yes, great! A happy, healthy rabbit exhibits curiosity in his/her surroundings and often carries out self-cleaning.
- Is your rabbit eating hay? Between pooping and grooming and everything else, your rabbit will automatically eat a consistent amount of hay throughout the day.
Have you been struggling to find out what to feed your rabbit? Drop your question below!