This is a little guide on what to feed pet rabbits based on my experience and vast research.
Feeding the right foods is critical for;
- A rabbits overall health – a rabbit eating a healthy diet is less likely to be ill and will have lovely soft fur and clear eyes. They will seem happy in themselves with no behavioural problems due to boredom. They will produce nice hard round pellet type poos with only the occasional caecal here and there.
- Keeping teeth ground down (Rabbit teeth continously grow, like our hair and nails). Having a healthy diet will ensure rabbits teeth are kept nice and short (including the back teeth).
- Preventing common digestive illnesses which can be fatal (e.g. GI Stasis, diharea)
- Preventing Flystrike – excessive soft poos (caecals) which are not eaten by the rabbit can stick to rabbits bums, often caused by a diet which is too rich (too many pellets for example), which can lead to flies laying eggs in the poo stuck to the rabbit. When the larvae hatch they will literally eat the rabbit alive, burrowing into the rabbit (ugh). This is a very painful illness and is potentially fatal.
- Behavioural Problems/Issues – A rabbit should spend 8 hours a day eating! (My idea of heaven haha). If a rabbit doesnt have the right diet, combine this with being kept in a hutch for the majority of its life you are guaranteed a rabbit with behavioural problems (aggressive, grumpy etc)
- Bonding – If all you do is chuck in a bowl of food once a day for your bunny then you are missing a golden oppurtunity to bond with your rabbit by provding them with yummy natural foods fed by yourself. Your rabbit will get sooooo excited just by the sound of you coming to their living area, as they will know you are bringing something great. This is an easy way to begin to bond with your rabbit and associating yourself with food is not a bad foundation for the bond with your rabbit at all! A rabbit who is well bonded to its owner is much less likely to be rehomed at a later period.
No one can say which commercial brand of food you should definitely chose. It will depend on where you live, what is available to you and yours and your rabbits personal preference. However, you will need to pick a food which is good enough for your rabbit. It doesnt need to cost a fortune. Here’s what you are looking for;
- At LEAST 18% fibre and between 12-14% Protein generally
Shop shelves are full of rabbit foods which are no where near good enough for your rabbit. If you have more than one rabbit in a living space, you should without doubt completely avoid musili type foods and opt for pellet foods. This is because the rabbits will eat their favourite bits first and they wont be benefiting from all the ingredients and their health could suffer (one rabbit will be dominant and will therefore be getting all their favourite bits while the other rabbit gets all the healthy bits haha and neither rabbit will have a balanced healthy diet). If the musili food is pretty and colourful AVOID it, these colours are not natural.
- Grass/Hay should make up the majority of the Pellet and not cereals.
Ingredients are listed in order of the highest content first, so you are looking for Grass and Hay to be first on the ingredients list.
- No commercially bought food is ever “complete”.
Your rabbit needs a lot more than just pellets, it isnt fair to just feed them pellets and nothing else. Think of the rabbit and their life, eating is one of their greatest pleasures, so try to give them more variety than just pellets and hay.
- Read Labels – Do not be fooled by Rabbit Food Manufacturer’s Marketing Techniques
Please be aware that the manufacturer can (and will!) use meaningless and often misleading ‘buzz words’ on packaging to sell more of their product. Reading the labels is the only way we can see how good it is for our rabbits. Just because they state it is premium food or complete food does not mean it is! Check the label, food needs to be at least 18% Fibre and 12-14% protein. Here is a website which gives an excellent guide and comparison for rabbit food brands in the UK http://www.therabbithouse.com/diet/rabbit-food-comparison.asp. You’re Welcome!
How Many Pellets?
Giving your rabbits too many pellets can have serious health risks, such as;
Obesity – Rabbits love pellets and they will eat them all up!
Producing too Many Ceacals – The diet is too rich and this can make a mess of the rabbit and their living area. There is a thought that the rabbit will not be absorbing their nutrients well enough (as they are not re-eating these poos)
Not eating enough hay – Rabbits will eat pellets all day long… if they are allowed to do this then they will not eat hay, which has a serious affect on their health and will not be eating enough fibre. This can be fatal for your rabbit – please see Rabbit illnesses.
The recommended amount is one egg cupfull (25g) per kg of rabbit. Personally I think this can be too much and a bit misleading. Did you know a baby rabbits pretty much eats as much as an adult rabbit? So, your average mini lop (2kg) should be given 2 egg cup fulls. Some other people believe this is too much. I feed my rabbits on Supreme Science Selective Rabbit Food. They have an egg cup each per day (a handfull, roughly 25-30g each) which I give to them in the morning.
Hay and Grass
Rabbits love hay and it is perfect to provide them with a high fibre food to constantly munch on and should always be available to them (fresh hay that is, in addition to hay in their bedding etc). Hay should be fed in somekind of hay manger so they have somewhere to eat hay which they dont stand all over and poop on! Rabbits should spend 8 hours per day muching… Hay helps provide them with this opportunity. It also provides their little digestive system with the vital fibre they need too.
There are different types of hay and the quality of it varies quite a lot. Hay should smell sweet (not musty) and be a nice dried greeny colour (basically, it shouldnt be brown!). You should only really feed alfalfa hay to young rabbits, but, I personally wouldnt because you want them to be eating what they will eat as adults so they dont become fussy and precious and reject normal hay! Alfalfa hay will make an adult rabbit fat, and a fat rabbit will be an unhealthy one, with lots of health problems.
I have two types of hay myself… A large hay bale I keep for their bedding, I get a big hay bale for £5 from our local farm, I use the fresher green parts to feed them with, the yellowey parts for their bedding and lovely hay I make myself for them to munch on which stays a beautiful green colour! I make this by collecting grass on a dry day, laying it out in my little green house, turning it regularly, when it is dried out (it will make a tinkle type noise when its dry enough) it is ready for your buns to give it a taste test! Make sure it is dry enough as it will go mouldy when you store it (use hessian or an old pillow case), do not feed hay to your buns if it is mouldy or smells damp).
Leafy Greens / Plants / Weeds / Veggies
Wild rabbits and pet rabbits love foraging! So feeding leafy greens, plants and weeds is a natural and very healthy food necesity. You dont have to spend a fortune! Forage locally for safe weeds and grass. Use up left over safe veggies from your home. Grow your own suitable rabbit produce. There are lots of ways to include everything your rabbit needs at a reasonable, low cost and totally free! Having a healthy a varied diet will keep your rabbits occupied and ensuretheir wellbeing.
For a list of safe leafy greens that could be found in your garden please see this link https://minilopbunnies.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/identifying-plants-weeds-uk/ . You need to be aware of what may be toxic to rabbits, especially what is toxic in your own garden and area. I made this list just from what I found locally and I was shocked by how much was toxic just in my garden alone. I have tested this too (by accident of course!), rabbits who are confined, will eat things that are toxic, not all toxic things, but definitely some. Its better to be safe though and not let me near toxic things (e.g. Ragwort, if you have this you want it well out of your garden!).
- celery leaves
- cauliflower and leaves
- cabbage, curly kale
- raddish tops
- carrot tops
- sprouts (can be gassy so limit)
- baby sweetcorns
- courgette and its flowers
- peas/beans in pods (starchy so limit)
- peppers green red yellow
- romain lettuce (not iceberg or light colored lettuce, i avoid all lettuce to be honest)
- swede (limit)
- turnip (limit)
- vegetable peelings and ends… like carrot, parsnip peelings are great, free and save waste.
As a general rule, most veg we eat a rabbit can eat but remember rabbits digestive systems do not cope well with high carbs. Think of how the vegetable your thinking of giving to your rabbit grows… is it naturally available to rabbits, if so what part would they eat, i.e. which is above ground? I always think that things which grow on the top are generally fine and things which grow on the bottom should be avoided or limited, bulbous or onion-y types should be avoided (think of what horses can and cant eat, this can be a great help, i know for a fact onions are known to kill horses).
My rabbits Favourites are…
Brocoli (a little head each)
Grass (always goes first out of everything!)
Be Treat Wise – A rabbit’s digestive system is totally different to our own. They have to eat mainly fibre. In the wild they mainly eat grass, weeds/flowers, leaves, roots, they eat bark too. Bear this in mind when giving them their vegetables. If a vegetable is higher in carbs/sugar then give less of it (e.g. carrots are higher in carbs and you shouldnt give lots and lots of them). If I give my rabbits carrots, I will usually just give them the top of the carrot that I cut off when preparing them for tea, a couple of these tops each. Its nice to give them the greenery on the tops too if you happen to get your carrots from a market or posh grocery store (i just got my carrots with tops from Lidl for 99p woo hoo, happy buns!)! If not, grow your own, excellent to do with your children!
Only feed natural treats – 100% natural is the best way to go.
Commercial Rabbit Treats – Avoid anything in a packet which has an unnaturally bright colour.
Do not ever feed a rabbit human food, their little digestive systems can not handle it. NEVER feed chocolate, cake, crackers, cereal, pasta, bread, rice, etc… just stick to rabbits food.
Because of the high sugar/carb content of fruits I would consider fruits to be a treat and a tiny amount of them should be fed to your rabbits, if at all. I always think, what would a rabbit naturally be able to forage in this country? So, I stick to the following to be fed as very occasional ‘treats’;
apples – one slice (an eigth) no seeds
pear – one slice
strawberry – one
blackberry – three
raspberry – three
tomatoes – one cherry tomato (no leaves)
I only feed fruit if there is a bit left over from the kids wasting them lol. Even then, its still not fed on a daily basis because it does worry me. I would never feed a young rabbit fruit. When your baby rabbit is older, say 4 months, introduce tiny bits of dried fruit, then very slowly move to fresh and never ever give large amounts to your rabbits.
What Do I Feed My Rabbits?
Per typical day, I feed the Tiggy Winkles Crew rabbits, per rabbit;
- one handfull of pellets in the morning (roughly 25g);
- hay (unlimited handfuls in a hay rack, at least one pile as big as an adult rabbit);
- grass to graze (either when they are in their run or from margerine spread tubs of grass we have grown for them), or cut grass we have collected from the big playground behind our house (we have a dog so cant really collect it from our own garden);
- variety of fresh veggies, palm sized amount (which ever I have in and which ever need using up, seasonal is best due to the price);
- there are always a selection of twigs available for the rabbits to strip (fruit tree twigs are an absolute favourite and always get stripped down to the wood);
- a big handfull of a selection of forage we have collected walking the dog that day (normally nettles, dandelion leaves, doc leaves, blackberry leaves, if it is winter then I have them dried ready. If you cant forage for these or dry them out yourself, you can buy them if it is within your budget). I am always careful not to over pick an area and leave plenty for the local wildlife. We always walk different areas. (I am currently in the process of attempting to grow our own weeds, for some reason dandelions are scarce around here!)
- Always fresh water available, changed everyday, supplied in a water bottle and a sturdy dog bowl of water. I use both because the water is too irresistable to not jump into for the rabbits!
- very occasional bits of fruit (apple slices, banana, pear,blackberry, a cherry tomato)
Rabbit Food Pyramid – For a Mini Lop Rabbit
For more on feeding from an excellent website, please click here http://www.therabbithouse.com/diet/rabbit-plants-vegetables-fruits.asp