I don’t know about y’all, but I’m over this whole winter thing. As the official start of spring grows nearer, I’m getting more anxious for warm weather. Now that that’s been said, let’s get down to the important stuff: Rabbits.
Rabbits are a great pet, but it can seem overwhelming to try and care for them with mixed information online. Last week I touched on this with an overview of my tips and tricks for rabbits- but I want to narrow it down even further. So without further ado, let’s talk nutrition!
Rabbit’s diet should primarily consist of pellets and hay, and should be supplemented with snacks like fruits or veggies.
From 0-6 months, your bunny should have unlimited access to pellets (i.e. free-feeding), after that point you should consult with your vet about an appropriate daily allotment for your bun. Keep in mind- bunnies come in a range of sizes, so there’s no one portion size that works for every rabbit. ALSO, rabbits need a diet high in fiber and pellets are their main source of this key nutrient. It’s recommended that pellets should always have a minimum of 18% fiber to maintain your bunny’s health.
* Try not to buy more than 6 weeks supply of pellets at a time, because they can go stale or become spoiled.
Hay is super important for rabbits, as it provides roughage. Roughage helps to stop blockages from occurring and reduces the chances of hairballs.
As bunnies grow older, hay should make up a majority of their diet, as pellets are slowly limited. The variety of hay to lookout for is grass hay, as this is what is recommended for rabbits. This is because its high in vitamins such as A and D, hay also provides nutrients like protein. It also supports healthy teeth (rabbit’s teeth will grow continuously and become uncomfortable if they don’t have enough things to chew on to wear them down), as well as aids digestion.
Your bunny should always have access to hay!
From birth to 6 months, bunnies can have alfalfa hay. However, alfalfa has a high caloric value, and more protein that most bunnies need, so after 6 months they should be transitioned off of it. Afterwards, you can feed your bunny timothy hay, which should be widely available in most pet stores. Mixing grass hays is also recommended, there are several varieties such as orchard, oat hay, brome, etc.
Apart from hay and pellets, leafy greens are great additions to your rabbit’s diet. Dark leafy greens are the best choice, as more watery greens such as iceberg lettuce can cause diarrhea. Other safe greens include things like kale, and arugula.
Something to watch out for are alkaloids, which are common toxins in plants. Though they don’t affect humans or animals in small doses, they can damage the kidneys and cause the tingling of skin and mouth in large doses. The most prevalent alkaloid is oxalic acid. Again, in most plants there are low levels of oxalic acid, but some notable plants with levels include parsley, spinach, and mustard greens. Reminder: this isn’t so say your rabbit can’t have those greens- but they should be given in small quantities, and greens should be given throughout the day, not all at once. Greens should also be mixed, rabbits need some variety in their diet; just like us!
Rabbits can also have other varieties of vegetables, like roots vegetables or “flowers”. Think broccoli and cauliflower. These foods are higher in starch than leafy greens though, and should be fed in lesser quantities.
*Avoid foods in the onion family
Last but not least, rabbits l o v e fruits. I had a rabbit growing up who would do just about anything for a strawberry. Fruit is a great treat to give to your bunny- but like everything else on this list, only in moderation. Bunnies are small little friends, so they can only handle so much at a time. Some great fruits for your bunny are apples (sans core and seeds), peaches (with the pit removed), and banana- no peel though! These are just a few in a broad list, but feel free to search up more. I’ll also include a list of links I found helpful!
Links to pages I loved on this topic:
Joy Shanahan is a student at Appalachian State University with a passion for community service. She can be found in the dance studios at ASU or researching helpful animal tips for Lee Shore.