A Good Rabbit Diet Should Include Daily Fresh
Include a variety of vegetables from the list
(Those containing a high level of Vitamin A are indicated by an *.
Feed at least one of these each day.)
- Alfalfa, radish, and clover sprouts
- Beet greens (tops)
- Bok choy
- Broccoli (mostly leaves/stems)*
- Brussels sprouts
- Carrots and carrot tops*
- Collard greens*
- Dandelion greens (NO pesticides)*
- Green peppers
- Mustard greens*
- Pea pods (the flat edible kind)*
- Peppermint leaves
- Radish tops
- Raspberry leaves
- Romaine lettuce (NO iceberg or light
colored leaf lettuce)*
- Wheat grass
Pellets: Pellets are most important in the
younger stages of rabbit development because they are highly concentrated in
nutrients, helping to ensure proper weight gain. A quality pelleted food should
be high in fiber (18% minimum) and nutritionally balanced. As a rabbit reaches
maturity, however, pellets should make up less of the diet – replaced with
higher quantities of hay and vegetables. Overfeeding pellets in mature rabbits
can lead to obesity and other medical conditions.
Hay: Rabbits should have fresh hay available
24 hours a day. Rabbits less than 7 months old may have alfalfa hay, but older
rabbits should have grass hays such as timothy or oat hay. Hay is essential to
a rabbit's good health, providing the roughage that helps reduce the danger of
hairballs and other blockages.
Water: Fresh water should be available to your
pet around the clock, as well. Each day, change the water in the dish or water
bottle with fresh water. On a weekly basis, sanitize the water dish/bottle with
a mild dish detergent and rinse thoroughly before adding drinking water.
Vegetables: Vegetables provide valuable
roughage, as well as essential vitamins. As early as 3 months of age, you can
begin to offer vegetables. Introduce new vegetables one at a time. This way, if
a digestive upset occurs, you will know which food may be the culprit.
Eliminate those that cause soft stools or diarrhea. Continue to add new
varieties, including both dark leafy vegetables and root vegetables, and serve
vegetables of different colors. Once your rabbit is used to several vegetables,
feed him or her at least three different kinds daily for a mix of
Kale, mustard greens, and spinach contain high levels of oxalates (the salts
of oxalic acid), which can accumulate in the system and cause toxicity over
time. Rather than eliminating these veggies from your list (because they are
highly nutritious and loved by most rabbits), limit your use of them to 1 or 2
meals per week.
Chewing items: In addition to nutrition, hay
and vegetables are also important to your rabbit's dental health. A diet that
requires little chewing produces uneven tooth wear, causing enamel to grow on
the sides of the teeth. These spikes can cause severe oral pain and excessive
salivation (often called "slobbers"). They also cause reluctance to chew,
inability to close the mouth, and reduced food intake. The situation
deteriorates as the teeth continue to grow, and, if it is not treated, results
in severe malnutrition. In addition to hay and vegetables, you will want to
provide your rabbit with chew sticks or gnaw "bones" of untreated wood of
various sizes and shapes. Cardboard tubes and untreated wicker can also be
Treats: Treats, including fresh fruits, should
be given sparingly because of their calorie content. Rabbits can digest small
quantities of oats and barley, but again, they generally provide more calories
than necessary. And, too much carbohydrate has been associated with enteritis
Feeding rabbits through their stages of
Like human beings, rabbits need to be fed differently at different stages of
their growth to ensure healthy development, digestion, and weight. Throughout a
rabbit's life, avoid any sudden changes in diet; new foods should always be
introduced gradually. Remember to keep fresh clean water available at all
times, too. Water bottles versus dishes are recommended.
Baby rabbits: A baby rabbit, or kit, feeds
solely on its mother's milk for about the first three weeks. During the first
few days, the milk contains high levels of antibodies that help protect the kit
from disease. After three weeks, the kit will begin nibbling on alfalfa hay and
pellets. By 7 weeks of age, baby rabbits can handle unlimited access to pellets
and alfalfa hay in addition to mother's milk. Kits are usually weaned from
their mother's milk by 8 weeks of age, depending on the breed.
Juveniles: Between weaning and 7 months of
age, the young rabbit can have an unlimited amount of pellets and alfalfa hay.
At 3 months of age, start introducing small amounts of vegetables into your
rabbit's diet. Introduce one vegetable at a time. If any vegetable seems to
cause digestive problems, avoid feeding it in the future.
Young adults: Young adult rabbits from age 7
months to 1 year should be introduced to timothy, grass hays, and/or oat hay,
and it should be available all day long. The fiber in the hay is essential for
their digestive systems to work properly. At this point, they will require
little alfalfa hay, as well as fewer pellets. Alfalfa hay has more calories and
calcium than rabbits need at this stage of development, and the high calorie
content of pellets can also begin to cause weight problems. Instead of offering
unlimited pellets, a good rule of thumb is 1/2 cup of pellets per 6 lbs. of
body weight daily. To make up for the nutritional loss, you must increase your
rabbit's intake of vegetables and hay. You can feed your rabbit some fruits
during this stage, but because of calories, limit them to no more than 1-2
ounces per 6 pounds of body weight daily.
Mature adults: Mature
adult rabbits should be fed unlimited timothy, grass hay, and oat hay. Once
again, you should reduce the pellet portion of the diet. A standard guideline
is 1/4 cup of pellets per 6 lbs. of body weight per day. Several servings of
vegetables are required (2 cups per 6 pounds of body weight daily). Make sure
to choose dark, leafy greens, and feed at least three different kinds daily.
Iceberg or other light-colored varieties are NOT nutritious. Also, make sure
you are offering dark yellow and orange vegetables. Treats, including fruits,
must be fed sparingly.
Seniors: Senior rabbits over 6 years of age
can be fed the same diet as mature adults if they do not have weight loss
problems. You may need to increase pellet intake if your pet is not able to
maintain his or her weight. Alfalfa can also be given to underweight rabbits,
but only if calcium levels are normal. Annual blood workups are highly
recommended for senior rabbits to determine the level of calcium and other
components of the blood.