What Do Rabbits Eat?

A rabbits diet is a fundamental part of their overall care and quality of life but exactly what do rabbits eat?

If you asked 100 people on the street that same question, you’d be amazed by the answers!

Most people will say… Yes, you guessed it… CARROTS!!

But carrots shouldn’t really be part of a rabbits’ eating plan at all. Carrots should only be offered as a special treat – a bit like you with a big bar of chocolate.

Rabbit Diet & Feeding Fundamentals

So let’s take a look at the fundamentals of a rabbits diet, break it down into bite-sized chunks, so to speak and answer some common rabbit diet questions.

If you have a particular area of concern or interest, click the links below to jump to that section:

Fundamentals Of A Rabbit’s Diet

  • The Importance of Water – A clean, fresh, abundant water supply is vital in a rabbits diet for them to remain healthy. They need lots of it too. Here you’ll see why…
  • Rabbit Food Pyramid – A basic layout of what a rabbits diet should look and the percentages involved in the foods they should eat. Also, a list of toxic and dangerous foods.
  • The Importance of Hay! – Some people don’t even offer their rabbits hay, some rabbits won’t eat it. Here are the reasons why it’s so vital and what you can do to encourage your rabbits to eat it.
  • Safe & Unsafe Foods – Different greens in a rabbits diet each day are important. Here are two basic lists of common green plants and vegetables, the ones to avoid and ones that are good!
  • Toxic Garden Plants & Bulbs – Why rabbit owners everywhere have a secret little panic-attack every Spring and your solution about what to do about it!
  • Rabbit Pellets – Why is the fiber content in pellets so important in a rabbits diet? What are the best brands? Here are some advice and pointers.
  • Fruit & Treats – You can give your rabbits treats providing they are not overweight or suffering from illness. You can make some great natural, healthy treats too.
  • Answers to Common Rabbit Diet Questions – How can I get my rabbit to eat more hay? What does GI stasis mean? What’s so bad about muesli for rabbits? My rabbit has stopped eating, is this bad? and more…

The Importance Of Water

Water is a vital nutrient in a rabbits diet, they require more than any comparable species.

In one day a 5lb pound rabbit can drink as much water as a 24lb dog!

Because this is so important and you may not have realized, let’s just repeat that…

In one day a 5lb pound rabbit can drink as much water as a 24lb dog!

In fact, the average rabbit consumes between 50 and 150 milliliters of water per 2.2 pounds of body weight per day.

Please bear this in mind when you put water out for your rabbits. Think of each rabbit as a mid-sized dog and you’ll be about right!

Bottle It or Bowl It!

A water bottle with a metal spout is the best and most rabbits pick up how to use it quite quickly.

You can encourage them with some jam on the end to get them started though. Make sure you check the spout every day to make sure it’s working properly.

A water bowl can be susceptible to contamination from poo or urine. Also, some rabbit breeds have large dewlaps and if this is getting wet when they lean over to drink, they could get a skin infection. However, if you do, use a bowl making sure it’s one that’s heavy and won’t get knocked over.

Rabbits Get Heatstroke

Rabbits can’t go without water for more than 24 hours (even less during hot weather) without serious health consequences.

Rabbits tolerate cooler weather much better than warmer temperatures.

If the temperature gets above 84 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s dangerous as rabbits don’t sweat as we do.

Rabbits Diet Food Pyramid

The food pyramid below shows the proportions and types of food your rabbit should eat daily. It’s only a rough guide but you get the picture, yes?! Hay – Hay – Hay!!

Rabbit Food Pyramid

The Importance of Hay in Your Rabbits Diet

Why Hay?

There are numerous reasons why hay is so important in a rabbits diet and why it should make up 80% or more of their overall diet. It should also be readily available at all times of the day so they can graze on it when they want to. Here are a few reasons…

  • Digestion – Rabbits have a digestive system specially adapted to break down the fiber in vegetation. Much of the fiber necessary to keep this system working properly is found in, yes you guessed it – hay!
  • Dental Health – The constant chewing of hay wears down a rabbits’ teeth and prevents molar spurs. These sharp spikes can be very painful to the rabbit especially when eating and they may stop altogether.

Understanding Hay

Get answers to the following questions…

  • What Kind of Hay is Best for My Rabbits?
  • Where can I buy the best type of hay for my rabbits?
  • How much hay should I give my rabbits?
  • What should I do with old stale hay?
  • Is all hay the same?
  • What can I do if my rabbits will not eat hay?

The answers to these questions are vital to your rabbit’s health and longevity.

Safe and Unsafe Foods

Safe Greens, Plants & Herbs

Safe Greens

Greens are important in a rabbits diet and should make up about 12% of their total daily intake of food.

Safe Herbs

You can buy all the best and most delicious herbs from supermarkets or farmers’ markets, which are still growing in pots and keep them on your windowsill, just break a few sprigs of each variety and mix in with your rabbit’s hay!

Mmm, delicious and a great way to get your buns to eat more hay too!

Your rabbits will love eating them fresh, straight from the plant given half the chance, so why not get some seeds and grow your own!

Inspiration at your fingertips!

Safe Foraging – Weeds & Garden Flowers

Safe Weeds & Flowers

Weeds such as dandelions and goosegrass always go down well in a rabbits diet.

These, and a handful of fresh grass sprinkled in with their hay will go down a treat too.

You will be surprised at the delicious menu available right on your doorstep or growing in your nearest hedgerow!

Toxic Garden Plants and Bulbs

Poisons That Lurk in the Garden!

Every Spring, rabbit owners everywhere have a secret little panic-attack. Bulbs and unknown plants popping up in the garden that they are not sure if their bunnies can eat safely or not!

Yes, they may look pretty and announce the welcome first signs of Spring but most rabbit owners know, most bulbs and many pretty flowering plants are highly poisonous to rabbits.

The more worrying thing is, they pop up everywhere, in the flower borders, under trees, in the lawn, etc.

If you have lived in your property for a long time then it’s probably you that has planted your garden and you’ll know exactly what you’ve planted and where. (If you can remember that is!)

Year-Round Worry 

It’s not only Springtime you have to worry about, but you also need to be wary of what grows in-between the grass on the lawn, the vegetable patch and what’s dangling over the fence from the neighbor’s trees!

If you have moved to a new home and are not familiar with what’s in the flower borders, under the lawns, or what type of tree fruit is good or bad for your bunnies, then the following information is of vital importance!

  • You’re worried what your rabbits are eating, right?
  • You buy your pet rabbits packaged food because you know it’s safe, but it’s costing you a fortune.
  • You’d like to give your rabbits fresh, home-grown food, all the time, but you don’t have a clue what plants are safe and what plants are poisonous.
  • It’s a toxic mine-field in your own backyard!

There is a Solution!

Most sensible, caring rabbit owners like yourself, know that providing a good wholesome diet for your rabbits is half the battle when it comes to their health and longevity.

But when it comes to common garden plants, and food that we often eat ourselves, we get a little stuck. We don’t know if they are safe for our rabbits to eat or not.

They don’t come with labels like the packaged rabbit food, do they?

So let’s make it clear…

You need to know WHAT NOT TO GIVE your rabbits, to keep them safe!

Rabbit Food Pellets

Nutritional Content

An adult rabbit should have a pellet food with a fiber content of at least 18-20% and a protein content of around 12-14%.

Young rabbits need a higher protein level of around 16% as they are still developing.

There are various rabbit pellets that are commonly used in a rabbits diet among experienced breeders and owners and most have high fiber contents.

However, if you don’t have time to pop over to that page now, you can’t go far wrong with the Supreme Science Selective. This is an excellent product, especially with them having recently raised their fiber content to 25%.

A Just Rabbits favorite!

Changing Pellets in Your Rabbit’s Diet

If you want to change your rabbit’s pellets, you must do so gradually as they have a tendency to get addicted to certain varieties, especially the ones that are classified as junk food.

Some rabbits will even urinate in their food bowls if they think the food is yukky – yes, we get the message! However, once they have slowly adjusted to the change, they will be healthier and much happier for it.

In fact, rabbits are very stuck in their ways and getting them to do anything different usually takes a good two weeks of slow adjustment. Perhaps that infamous phrase about leopards never changing their spots should be adapted for our stubborn buns instead 😉

Steps to Changing Your Rabbit Food

If you need to change pellet food, it is recommended you do so very gradually.

Fruits and Treats In A Rabbits Diet

Notes About Fruit

Fruits

Fruits can be included in a rabbits diet but should be used as a treat and fed in moderation because of the high sugar content they all have.

Make it a rule to only give your rabbits 2 tablespoons of fruit per day. My rabbits only get fruit treats once a week (unless they help themselves to my strawberry plants like they did the other week – little scamps!)

Did You Know?

Dried pineapple (in small doses due to high sugar content) contains enzymes which are thought to be good to help break down ingested fur. This makes it a good part of your rabbit’s diet, especially if they are molting.

Treats in a Rabbits Diet

Rabbits, like any animal, including us, can have a very ‘sweet-tooth’ and crave those high calorie, high sugar treats – they love them and would happily eat them all day instead of their hay so you must say ‘no’ to their cute little bunny faces and make sure they get a properly balanced diet!

Any type of “human” food, (processed in some way and not naturally growing – i.e. bread is processed as you don’t get bread plants!) should NOT be given to rabbits. It is very dangerous for their digestive system. They should eat a natural, preferably organic, vegetarian diet that is high in fiber.

You may think that because we love chocolate for example, then our rabbits will love it too. In fact, you can buy rabbit-safe chocolate drops from most pet shops but all these do is help you to empty your wallet and put your rabbits in an early grave. PLEASE DON’T BUY THEM, they are full of unnatural sugars and are extremely bad for your rabbit’s digestive system!

Instead, treat your rabbits with natural sweet treats such as fruit or small chunks of ‘sweet’ vegetables such as carrots and broccoli.

Natural Healthy Treats

There are loads of ways you can treat your rabbit without hurting your rabbits or your wallet!

Using Treats for Training

If you call your rabbit and they come to you reward them with a treat. They will soon start to associate the two things together and will come to you every time you call.

This is called training by association – it works on kids too – try it lol!

Get All The Answers To Common Rabbit Diet Questions

Finally, all the answers to your rabbit’s diet dilemmas get answered here once and for all.

Download and keep a super “getting started” guide and never be unsure about what to feed your rabbit and why.

Get answers to such questions like…

  • Q: My rabbits won’t eat hay, why?
  • Q: How can I get my rabbit to eat more hay?
  • Q: My rabbit has stopped eating, what should I do?
  • Q: Why would teeth problems cause my rabbits to stop eating?
  • Q: What is GI Stasis?
  • Q: Should I give my rabbits water in a bowl or bottle?
  • Q: I think one of my rabbits is drinking more than usual, is this important? 

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Liese Miranda Hawkins
Miranda currently lives just outside Colorado Springs, Colorado with her husband, 8-year old son, and what she lovingly calls her “zoo.” Miranda grew up in the Midwest and always had animals around while growing up. After graduating from college, she married her husband Sam and they moved to the mountains of Colorado where Miranda became very involved with the regional rabbit rescues.

Currently, her “zoo” includes two dogs, one rambunctious cat, and three indoor rabbits. Oliver, a delightful Black Otter Holland Lop, and Juniper, a gorgeous Opal Satin Angora, are a bonded pair and have been together for three years.

She had the pleasure of adding an energetic Fawn Flemish Giant to her family one year ago, named Sir Gregor. He had been abandoned outside a pet store and was put up for adoption. Miranda feels very blessed to have this lovable lagomorph living amongst her family and is a strong advocate for educating people about rabbits and how special they truly are.

Miranda has put together a team of rabbit lovers and breeders from across the country and hopes you will find the information and resources on the JustRabbits.com site beneficial. She loves to hear from her readers and looks forward to seeing many more people become loving responsible bunny parents.