Since I first learned about rabbits – which was probably in kindergarten – I believed rabbits only eat carrots. I held this belief for a very long time, but bunnies eat more than just carrots!
“Eh…What’s up, doc?” – Says Bugs Bunny crunching on a carrot.
Like me, I’m sure you, too, believed the myth – that rabbits eat a lot and a lot of carrots. But, no. They should only be given carrots or fruits high in sugar in small amounts as treats. So, the question arises, what do rabbits eat?
Rabbits mainly eat hay or grass, some hay pellets, and some occasional treats of fruits and vegetables. In this article, I will discuss in brief about what rabbits eat and drink.
What to Feed Rabbits?
Rabbits are herbivores. Which means they only eat from plants: such as hay, grasses, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Herbivores do not eat anything animal-based. It is also not suited for their stomach – having any animal-based food may cause them to be ill!
What Do Wild Rabbits Eat?
While most rabbit lovers are more concerned with what to feed rabbits that are domesticated, some of you may take in wild rabbits as a pet—wondering what do rabbits eat in the wild?
Rabbits living in the wild don’t have a food chart much different from a domesticated rabbit. But, they may not always have easy access to all vital nutrients.
A wild rabbit mainly eats grass stems that they find around their warrens. You’ll see wild rabbits munching on grass more often. They don’t get all the necessary nutrition from hemp, so they tend to eat more in quantity to survive.
Although, rabbits eat green plants: such as green or dry grasses, shrubs, or tree seedlings, clover, forbs, and leafy weeds. In colder seasons, their diet is different. In winter, they have wood-based food: such as gnaw tree bark, twigs, and pine needles.
It may seem as though wild rabbits would not have a preferred diet and eat whatever fruits and vegetables they have access to. But, in reality, they are picky eaters. They prefer to eat fresh greenery.
You’ll find them climbing trees and hopping to the greener section of the land to have fresh leaves or dew-laden vegetation.
Wild rabbits also re-eat 80% of their droppings – cecotropes. Cecotropes are high in nutrients and contain more protein and vitamins that a rabbit needs to stay healthy.
Changes in Diet
Since wild rabbits have to find their food, their diets keep changing. The changes in the diet depend on the region they are in – as wild rabbits have to keep moving or have to avoid staying above round to be safe from predators.
They consume the most nutrient-dense plant they find around. Their diet also changes with the availability of certain plants. This means wild rabbits in different areas will have different diets.
What Nutrients Do Rabbits Need?
To feed a domestic rabbit it is necessary to know what nutrients rabbits need. Let’s go through the vital nutrients rabbits need for a healthy living.
The most important for rabbits is fiber. Rabbits have a delicate digestive system, which requires at least 80% of their foods to be high in fiber.
Rabbits need carbohydrates for energy, digestive system, and dental health. Rabbits can get high fiber from grass and hay. This is why it is their staple food.
Fat is another source of energy for rabbits.
A study found fats can replace starch to increase energy content while keeping the important fibers under consideration. But excess fat in a rabbit’s diet should not be good as it may lead to obesity, among other health issues.
Rabbits need a diet high in minerals. Minerals that should be in a rabbit’s diet for better health:
- Calcium – for healthy organ function.
Phosphorus – for energy metabolism.
Magnesium – for energy production.
Sodium – for their dental health.
Copper – for skeletal muscle growth.
Iodine – for fresh liver, and
Cobalt – for healthy blood cells.
Your rabbit’s diet should be enriched with Vitamins A, D, E, K, and C. These vitamins are present in staple rabbit foods – grass, hay, and other leafy greens.
What Do Pet Rabbits Eat?
Pet rabbits don’t need to gather their food; their masters are there to serve them! Hold on! Are you the master of your pet, or is he the master of you; either way, you have to serve your pet the necessary food they need.
A domesticated rabbit has a much versatile diet, which mostly consists of hay, some pellets, and some fruits and vegetables.
Hay is the staple food for all domesticated rabbits. It has all the necessary nutrients your rabbit needs. It has low calories and high fiber, which is ideal for your rabbit’s diet. Make sure 80% of your rabbit’s diet consists of hay. They will be munching on hay throughout the day to have a healthy digestive system.
Hay is also good for dental health as it wears down their continuously growing teeth. Rabbits will be chewing on hay throughout the day, even when they are on the litter box doing their business.
There are quite a few different types of hay to feed rabbits – timothy, grass, oat, and alfalfa. These are all grass hays and not easy to identify the difference unless you’re an expert. They all vary in the amount of protein, fat, and fiber. To find more about all protein, fat, and fiber content for each type of hay, please go through this article.
You can feed timothy, grass or oat hay to adult rabbits. Alfalfa hay is best mostly for feeding baby rabbits and is not recommended for adults. Alfalfa is higher in protein and sugar.
Rabbits may not get all the necessary protein and vitamins from hay. Some batches of hay may lack some nutrition. To balance it and ensure they receive all vital nutrition, they need to have pellets.
Pellets are processed rabbit food that consists of all the vital nutrients in the proper amount. It’s recommended to feed those pellets high in fiber and low in protein.
Limit the amount of pellets you feed your rabbit as they grow older. Pellets are high in protein that can lead adult rabbits to obesity and other health issues.
Treat your rabbit to a variety of vegetables daily. But, choosing the proper vegetable is crucial as parts of certain vegetables may be poisonous to rabbits.
For example: While tomatoes flesh is good for rabbits, whereas other parts of the plant – stem, leaves, seeds, vines or green tomatoes are poisonous.
In case you want to introduce your rabbit to new vegetables, wait 24 hours to see how they react to it before you feed it again. You need to learn if your rabbit likes it or does it give your rabbit an upset stomach.
Here’s a list of vegetables your rabbit may enjoy:
• Alfalfa sprouts
• Bell peppers
• Bok Choy
• Brussel sprouts
• Dill leaves
• Mustard greens
• Radish tops
• Romaine lettuce
• Spring greens
• Summer squash
• Turnip greens
• Zucchini squash
Check out this list of plants and vegetables you must avoid feeding your rabbit that could be poisonous for the Rabbits.
Feed your rabbits some fruits as a treat. Like humans, rabbits too enjoy some treat to feel appreciated. And fruits are the best option for treats. But, the amount of fruit should be kept to a small as fruits are high in sugar. You should not feed too much sugar or carbs to your rabbit!
To treat your rabbit some fruits you need to chop them up in small chunks. You can choose to hand feed them. This helps build trust faster and also created a bond of friendship between you and your rabbit.
Here’s a list of fruits safe to treat your rabbits:
Apart from food your rabbits also need plenty of fresh waters. Hang one or more water feeders on your rabbit’s cage. On a hot day add some cold water or drop an ice cube into their feeder. Clean out the feeders and refill daily to ensure your rabbit stays healthy and does not get infected by any bacteria.
What NOT To Feed Rabbits?
Contrary to popular belief, rabbits are high maintenance. They are fragile and need to be carefully fed. They may suffer from poisoning and die.
Rabbits have a very sensitive digestive system and here’s a list of food you should NEVER feed your rabbit:
• Yogurt Drops
• Iceberg Lettuce
• Hamster Food
• Peanut Butter
Check why these foods are poisonous to your bunny.
Keep a close eye on your rabbit while you let them out in the garden to play. There may be poisonous or deadly substances in your yard: like pesticides, washing powder, gardening products, or any sharp objects like broken glass. Also be careful about common causes of sudden death in rabbits.
I hope this article answers the question – “what do rabbits eat?” And gives you a better knowledge of what to feed and what not to feed your bunny.
Make sure to keep your rabbit well-fed and more importantly, properly fed. It’s important to have a proper understanding of your rabbit’s diet before you start feeding them. And remember, like us humans, every rabbit has their unique preferences. Take time, observe your bunny to know what they like to eat!