RABBIT DIET: general information
Rabbits have open rooted teeth, meaning they constantly grow, therefore require a constant supply of hay for the abrasion of teeth
Hay should be fresh smelling, dry and have long strands (benefits the gut). It also keeps the cecal flora balanced
Rabbits have a thin stomach and a long intestine. Hay keeps the intestines in momentum
The longer hay is stored, the lower the nutritional content
Ideal storage for hay is in a dark, dry place - for example an old duvet case or pillow cover
You can buy good quality hay from horse suppliers and farmers; opt for bales instead of wrapped hay to save money
If you don't feed pellets, aim to feed 10% of their body weight in veg daily - if your rabbit weighs 2000g, aim for 200g+ veg daily
5-6 different varieties should be present daily, in order to get enough vitamins & minerals
Too much fresh food at once can lead to serious digestive problems, therefore multiple feedings should be given throughout the day
Allow veg to reach room temperature before feeding - this helps prevent digestive problems
The bulk of their vegetables should be made up of mainly leafy greens & other green vegetables (celery, pepper etc)
Hand feeding veg is a great way to bond with your rabbits as they learn to associate you with positive things
Fruit that can be fed 1-2 times a week: Apple, Strawberries (with green tops), Rosehips, Currants, Blackberries, Blueberries & Raspberries
Fruit contains lots of fructose so should be given as a treat - between 1 and 2 times each week is ideal
Exotic & tropical fruits can lead to digestive problems such as indigestion; they also have a very high sugar content so should not be fed
Fruits supply many healthy vitamins
Stone fruits are not very well tolerated by rabbits. The stones themselves are toxic so must not be fed
Forage is definitely the most healthiest food for rabbits to be consuming. Their digestive systems work the same way as the wild form of our domestic rabbits. They have a thin stomach and a long intestine. They consume countless small meals each day (including hay, grass, vegetables, fruit, forage, herbs) as their digestive systems are designed for this. A good variety of grasses and meadow plants contain almost all the vitamins and minerals required. In the warmer months, a variety of grasses, plants etc can be fed instead of veggies (the forage must be varied and offered in large quantities).
Herbs are a very healthy addition to their diet, containing a variety of healthy nutrients. The vast majority of herbs have some healing effect, which can can be used as remedies for existing health problems. These medicinal impacts can have some side effects, however with a healthy and varied diet, this should not be a cause for concern. Herbs have a high calcium content, nevertheless, they also have a high water content (an estimated 70-80% of water). The high water content is able to flush out surplus calcium, so fresh herbs can be given regularly. On the other hand, dried herbs should be given in moderation because they do not contain enough water to flush out the calcium, which could eventually promote the formation of bladder stones if fed in excess. Dried herbs are especially beneficial during the colder months as fresh herbs are not easily available. Herbs can be purchased from supermarkets, or alternatively you can grow your own at home.
Examples of plants you can grow at home:
Lavender, Marjoram, Oregano, Mint, Sage, Coriander, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Nasturtiums, Pansies & Dill
Collecting Wild Grasses & Plants
During the warmer months, a variety of grasses and plants are available to collect. If grasses and plants can be collected in large quantities at least twice daily, then fresh fruit and vegetables can be replaced partly, or entirely with a mixture of different meadow plants and grasses.
Here are a few basic guidelines for foraging:
Do not pick from farmers' fields, or anywhere that plants/grasses will have been sprayed with pesticides/fertiliser
Avoid forage if it is likely to have been contaminated by dog urine/faeces
Do not risk feeding forage if you are not certain what plants you have collected - an identification guide is useful
If your rabbit(s) have never eaten certain plants before, introduce them to their diet very slowly
Stay away from forage next to busy roads - exhaust fumes contaminate the plants & are unsuitable
Branches are a great supplement for rabbits. In general, my rabbits recieve branches on a weekly basis. Branches also contribute to the abrasion of their teeth - this is important as they are continuously growing! The branches I feed include apple & hazel branches as these are most common where I live, and can be fed in larger quantities unlike some other branches.
Pea flakes are a healthy dietary supplement
Starch in the peas breaks down when crushed
They are easily digested by rabbits
Vital minerals & amino acids (lysine)
1 pea flake each day per rabbit is sufficient
Very fattening - useful for weight gain
Shelled sunflower seeds can be fed as a treat
They contain essential fatty acids
A couple of seeds each week per rabbit is sufficient
Very fattening - useful for weight gain
Other Safe Seed Examples:
Grass seeds (not treated!)
To find out more about feeding seeds and pseudo grains, click here
Is Calcium Dangerous?
Many rabbit owners worry about feeding too much calcium to their rabbits. This is because too much calcium could contribute to the formation of bladder stones. What most people don't realise is that too little calcium can be equally as harmful. Calcium is important for healthy, strong bones and teeth. If you live in an area with hard water, it is advised to filter the water to reduce calcium content. As long as your rabbits are receiving a healthy, varied diet (with no pellets) then you should not worry too much about feeding too much/too little calcium. Also, we should not worry about the calcium content of veg as most veg contains a sufficient amount of fluid, meaning excess calcium will be excreted during urination. Kidney & bladder problems related to diet are often caused by too much dried food including pellets and muesli. Dried herbs fed in excess and with little fluid intake could also cause problems, however hay actually has a similar calcium content to most dried herbs. Avoid the high calcium dried herbs if your rabbits are prone to developing renal problems.