It’s important to know what to feed rabbits to ensure that they live happy, healthy lives. Whether you’re raising meat rabbits, or just have a pet bunny or two, their health and quality of life matters! In this post I’ll give you a basic overview of what to feed your rabbits. I won’t tell you every single vegetable or grass they can have because there are just too many! I will however, recommend other great resources that will dive a bit deeper into this topic.
The Standard: Pellets & Hay
When you think of bunny food, do you think of carrots and lettuce? I did, and I was shocked to learn that rabbits really shouldn’t eat carrots, and Iceburg lettuce is actually bad for rabbits. Kale is a much better choice. Check out this article by RSPCA.org to read about more rabbit food myths.
We did a lot of research on what to feed rabbits before we got our first New Zealand reds. The book “Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits” is a great resource, and if you’re planning on raising meat rabbits, it’s definitely worth the read. We settled on pellets and timothy hay as our main source of food for our rabbits. We use Purina Complete Rabbit Feed for our pellets, and we typically buy timothy hay by the bale from our local feed store to get a better price.
According to Storey’s Guide, Adult rabbits of a medium weight will eat about 5 oz of pellets per day. For our rabbits (Silver Fox and Rex) we’ve found that 3/4 – 1 cup of pellets per day, plus constant timothy hay, seems to be the sweet spot. Kits under 12 weeks and nursing does should have unlimited pellets. Also keep in mind that in the winter, rabbits need a bit more food, and in the summer, they need a bit less. We learned the hard way that if your rabbits bite you at feeding time, they need more food! And if they have tons of fat on them at butchering time, they need less. You’ll learn what’s right for your herd with time and practice.
Fresh Grass, Veggies, & Branches
We also wanted to provide our rabbits with as much fresh greens as possible. We found the PDF “Types of Hay & Rabbit Grass” has lots of valuable information. We printed it out, and keep it with our rabbit records to refer back to.
I recently read the book “Beyond the Pellet,” and that had some great insights. It’s another one that’s definitely worth the read. It’s written by a couple of guys with over 30 years of rabbit raising experience, and they share what they’ve learned in that time about feeding rabbits naturally. I plan on implementing some of their tips this year!
I’m going to be planting a little field of wheat and oats near my rabbitry so I can easily cut fresh grass for our buns. I’ll also be planting a “rabbit garden” in that same area with things like dandelions, radishes, arugula, comfrey, & kale to provide some more easy access nutrition. Our rabbits won’t be fed 100% fresh foods, but our goal is to feed about 1/4 cup of pellets in the summer, and provide the rest of their food in the form of grass and veggies. In the winter, we will go back to mostly hay and pellets while those fresh greens aren’t as available.
We also like to provide our rabbits with twigs and branches to chew on. It’s a good source of fiber, helps grind down their teeth, and gives them something to do! Rabbits LOVE to chew! We’ve got a little orchard on our property, so at pruning time we collect the branches from our apple, pear, walnut, and maple trees for our rabbits. As far as wild trees go, we mostly give them Alder and Bebb’s willow branches.
Herbs for Rabbits
I love using herbs to keep my herd healthy and happy. My favorite herbs to feed are Chamomile, Rosemary, Lavender, Oregano, Mint, Thyme, Red Raspberry Leaf, and Blackberry Leaf. I feed those herbs because they grow so well where we live, and the rabbits love them. The only time I can remember ever having a sick rabbit was when we had them set up in our garage. One of our bucks had a snotty nose. I fed him some mint regularly, and he hasn’t had that problem since!
Here are potential uses of these fantastic herbs:
Chamomile: Pain and anxiety relief.
Rosemary: Lowers blood pressure. Treats exhaustion, weakness, and depression in rabbits. The stems and leaves increase circulation and stimulate digestion. Great for rabbits in the cold.
Oregano: Boosts immune system. Anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, helping rabbits to protect against infections.
Mint: Firms loose stools and decreases the milk flow of does during weaning. Treats mastitis. Safe as food for dry does and bucks. Do not feed to lactating does because it will decrease the milk flow for her kits – give only when it’s time to wean. Treats colds, indigestion, & eye inflammation. Do not give any form of mint to young babies, and avoid prolonged use.
Dandelion: Anti-inflammatory. Purifies the blood and treats respiratory ailments, bladder infections, and diarrhea. It increases the milk flow of nursing does, so it’s a good treat for does after having a litter. There have been tests on rabbits that were treated with dandelion showing that it is effective against pneumonia, bronchitis and upper respiratory infections. Regulates constipation & diarrhea.
Thyme: Treats diarrhea, stomach ache, and chills. Expels worms.
Lavender: Boosts immune system. Anti-tumor and anti-fungal. Treats circulation problems, nervous stress, exhaustion, and induces labor. Use sparingly. I like to feed this to my pregnant does who are going past 30 days, or any rabbits that seems excessively stressed.
Red Raspberry Leaf: Treats digestive ailments including diarrhea, infertility in bucks, and fevers, and is a safe introductory green for young kits. It prevents and treats kindling problems like retained afterbirth. It also improves condition during pregnancy, ensuring a speedy and strong birth. I always like to feed my pregnant and nursing does Red Raspberry Leaf!
Blackberry Leaf: Good for pregnant does. Stimulates appetite, treats diarrhea and is a safe introductory green for young kits. Blackberry is very soothing to rabbits and can help cool rabbits in the summer heat by increasing circulation. I like to feed this to my rabbits on hot summer days.
Keep in mind that I’m not a veterinarian. The information listed above comes from my own experience, and research that I’ve done online and in books. Feed these herbs to your herd at your own risk. This article from Rise and Shine Rabbitry is my favorite resource for rabbit herbs. It includes most of the herbs I’ve listed here, plus a lot more!
When introducing new greens to your rabbits, make sure you do it slowly. One at a time is best. That way, if your rabbit gets sick, you know exactly which green made them sick.
What can rabbits eat?
To sum it all up, rabbits should eat mostly grass hay and pellets. How much they eat will depend on how old they are, how big they are, and what the weather is like. Rabbits will benefit from eating fresh grasses, greens, and herbs. Some examples of good forage for rabbits are: timothy grass, oat grass, wheat grass, kale, carrot and radish greens, dandelions, comfrey, chamomile, red raspberry leaf, and more!
Hopefully this will help you figure out what to feed your own rabbits! You’ll learn a lot about what your rabbits like based on trial and error, but this should give you a good starting point for keeping a happy, healthy herd. Good luck on your rabbit journey, and if you have any questions, let me know in the comments!