Healthy Rabbit Diet and Nutrition

A balanced diet is essential for a rabbit, just like with all living creatures, so there is a range of foods that you must feed your bunny. Always consult a veterinarian specializing in rabbits for your specific rabbit's needs. 

Rabbit Pellets
Small pellets of food that are high in fiber. Most veterinarians recommend 1/4 cup of pellets for every 5 pounds of weight. All pellets can lose their nutrients so make sure they are kept refrigerated or cool and are kept dry. 

Loose Timothy Hay
Timothy hay should be fed daily in unlimited quantities. It aids in normal digestion and helps prevent hairballs. The chewing a rabbit does with hay also helps to wear down their teeth so there is less chance of them becoming overgrown. 

Veggies
Given in limited quantities and added slowly to their diets, fresh veggies are a wonderful addition. Carrots, carrot tops, beet tops, collard greens, dandelion greens, dark leaf lettuce (not iceberg), alfalfa sprouts, clover sprouts, clover and parsley are all good diet choices. You want to avoid cabbage, kale, rhubarb, iceberg lettuce, potatoes and beans. 

Water
Make sure you provide fresh water for your rabbit.

Chewing Wood
Chewable wood should always be available. Fruit tree branches (pesticide free) are wonderful, apple pear and willow are best; steer away from cherry, plum and apricot. 

Night Feces
This is not something that you have to supply for your rabbit, but you will notice them eating these "special droppings" and they are an essential part of their diet. During certain times of the day, usually in the evening, you will notice your rabbit licking his anal area and actually eating some of the droppings. These cecal pellets are softer and greener than the normal pellets they excrete and are rich in vitamins and nutrients.

How Much Food?
Now that you know what to feed your rabbit lets talks about the appropriate quantities to feed.
Teenage Rabbits - 7 weeks to 7 months

  • Unlimited alfalfa based pellets  
  • Unlimited timothy hay  
  •  At 12 weeks, introduce veggies slowly, one at a time, in 1/2 ounce quantities.

Young Adults - 7 months to 1 year

  • Unlimited timothy hay
  • Decrease timothy based pellets to 1/4 cup per five pounds of body weight  
  • Increase daily vegetables gradually  
  • Fruit should be used sparingly and as more of a treat than part of a meal. No more than 1 ounce to 2 ounce per 6 pounds body weight should be given because of the calories.

Mature Adults - 1 to 5 years     

  • Unlimited timothy hay  
  • ¼ to five pounds of body weight (depending on metabolism and/or proportionate to veggies)  
  • Although you do not need to cut up vegetables before you offer them to your rabbit, a good measurement of vegetables is a minimum 2 cups chopped vegetables per six pounds body weight
  • Fruit should be used sparingly and as more of a treat than part of a meal. No more than 1 ounce to 2 ounces per six pounds body weight should be given because of the calories.      

Senior - over 6 years

  • If sufficient weight is maintained, continue adult diet
  • Frail, older rabbits may need unrestricted pellets to keep weight up.
  • Alfalfa can be given to underweight rabbits, only if calcium levels are normal.

 Consult your veterinarian if you are considering changing your rabbit's diet because of weight loss. There may be underlying medical issues causing it. Annual blood work-ups are highly recommended for geriatric rabbits.

No matter how much they beg, avoid sugary bunny treats like yogurt drops. These treats are high in fat and sugar. Avoid any treat or food that contains birdseed, as rabbits cannot digest birdseed

Visit SaveABunny.org for more detailed information on portion size per age and weight, more recommendations on healthy fresh vegetables, and more guidelines on nutrition for rabbits
 
If you would like to talk to an Anti-Cruelty Society behaviorist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email help@anticruelty.org to schedule a consultation.
 

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