So you love to see your little bunny friend prance around! Great, but then, do remember that all that frolicking around requires a lot of energy, which means the need to feed it some excellent food – both natural and manufactured. You’re probably familiar with the broad eating habits of rabbits, but let’s do a detailed check to find out what they should or can eat, what’s good and not so good for them, and what’s really important for their diet. So what can rabbits eat?
A Rabbit’s Diet
Rabbits require a variety of foods, including;
- Rabbits love to eat and particularly enjoy eating fresh vegetables and fruits.
- Fresh hay and grass is something that rabbits really like to lap up, with a whole lot of clean water to push in the food. Actually, the bulk of their diet needs to be made up of fresh hay to give them all the nutrition they need.
- Timothy, grass and oat hays are excellent for adult rabbits, while alfalfa is perfect for the young ones. You need to choose hay that looks and smells fresh; anything brown or smelly will put them off at the outset.
Rabbits love anything that’s green and juicy. It’s a long list of course, but some common vegetables that come to mind are;
- Broccoli (complete with its leaves), artichoke leaves, celery leaves, cabbage, cucumber, peas and green beans.
- Some of these things need to be consumed within limits; for instance, too much cabbage can trigger digestion problems, as can broccoli.
- Beetroot, radish top and brussel sprouts are other vegetables that can cause gas and need to be taken within limits.
- Some of the fancy things that rabbits love to try and seem to enjoy eating are asparagus, baby sweetcorn (the real small variety that they can easily chew), carrots (but within limits due to their high sugar content) and cauliflower (complete with the leaves).
- Celeriac, pumpkin, rocket, peppers (all varieties), fennel, curly kale, romain lettuce (not iceberg), Spanish green, spring greens, squash, turnip, watercress, among others. It’s a good idea to occasionally feed them spinach.
Give them assorted vegetables everyday and see your pet bunnies grow full of energy. The vegetables need to be fresh and pesticide-free, thoroughly cleaned and washed before feeding. If experimenting with a new vegetable, feed it in a small quantity to see the reaction.
Fruits are also great for rabbits as long as they are consumed in moderation (too much sugar in the fruits is not healthy for them).
- Feed your pet rabbit apples (without the pips), apricots, bananas (high levels of potassium), blackberries (with leaves that have amazing astringent properties), blueberries, cherries (minus the plant and pits), grapes, kiwi fruit, mangoes and melons.
- Papayas, tomatoes, plums, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries (with the leaves) and tomatoes (but no leaves). It’s wonderful the way these bunnies simply gobble up fruit. Apparently, they have a sweet tooth.
Herbs are excellent for rabbits, though they don’t seem to like the strong flavor much. Help them inculcate a taste for herbs like basil, coriander, dill, mint, parsley, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme by starting off with small doses. Mind you, root fruits and vegetables are not something rabbits naturally like eating. They prefer the leafy stuff and require loads of leafy greens, hay/grass, which actually needs to be the main source of their food, given their body constitution.
Lettuce, as mentioned, is good but only of a certain kind. Iceberg and light green lettuce are actually quite harmful for rabbits if taken in large quantities.
Commercial Rabbit Food
Commercial food, such as pellets, nuggets and muesli, is quite nutritional but needs to be handled with caution.
- Too much of muesli, for instance, is quite bad for their teeth and stomach. Small, measured amounts of pellets or nuggets every day will keep them packed with all the vitamins and minerals they need.
- Remember to buy them fresh and look for ones that are high in fiber and low in protein. If you really want them to have healthy teeth and stomach, ensure that a lot of hay or grass is included in their daily diet.
- Another downside of commercial food is that rabbits tend to eat it quickly, instead of savoring it, leading to monotony, which may eventually cause them to give up this kind of stuff.
Fresh water, as mentioned earlier, is a big must and a water bottle hanging in the cage or a bowl placed inside is something you need to ensure is always there.
Feeding By Age
Feeding a rabbit is determined by age as is the case of humans.
- Baby rabbits need all the mother’s milk they can get, pellets and alfalfa hay is just right for bunnies till the age of 7 months.
- Young adults (7 months to a year) need to have timothy, grass hay and oat hay around them through the day as the fiber in this stuff helps strengthen their digestive system. This needs to be coupled with vegetables and some fruit.
- Mature adult rabbits need to cut down on their pellet intake and increase the consumption of grass, hay and leafy greens.
- Elderly rabbits, over 6 years of age, have the same diet as mature adults, except if they’re beginning to lose weight. If the rabbit is underweight it’s a good idea to feed him alfalfa (but check first to see if the calcium levels are normal).
Planning a rabbit’s diet will help to ensure a good balance between essentials and taste, with regular monitoring the key to their long and healthy lives. Checking their droppings is one way of ensuring they’re getting the right kind of food; if the droppings become infrequent or soft, then their diet is definitely a problem. We hope we’ve introduced you to what rabbits can eat. Does your bunny have any particular likes and dislikes? Let us know via the comments below.