What Do Rabbits Eat?

Rabbits are herbivores and in the wild they will graze on grass, leafy weeds, forbs (ie. herbs that are not grasses or sedges), and vegetable matter.  They would generally graze late in the afternoon or when their environment is free from predators.  

With domesticated rabbits, they should be offered food twice a day.  Commercial muesli, nuggets and pellet feeds are available but studies show that feeding muesli can lead to severe and painful dental problems.  It is best to provide a small amount of pellets or nuggets supplemented with plenty of fresh hay and leafy vegetables.  Good quality hays such as grass hay, timothy, or orchard hay should be available to rabbits at all times.  As teeth grow continuously, the hay helps to grind the teeth down and helps keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy.  Alfalfa hay should not be fed to rabbits as this is too high in calcium and protein.  The hay should be fed separate from their bedding.  

Fresh leafy greens should make up at least 75% of the rabbit’s diet and should be offered twice a day (morning and evening).  For every 2 lb (~1 kg) that the rabbit weighs, 1 cup of greens should be given, so a 6lb rabbit should be fed three cups of greens.  Suitable greens and vegetables are:

  • Asparagus
  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Dock
  • Dandelion (only occasionally as this can increase bowel movement)
  • Carrots (only occasionally as they are high in sugar although top greens are good)
  • Bell peppers
  • Watercress
  • Chicory
  • Fennel.

Parsley, spinach, sprouts, radish tops and mustard greens can be fed but only in small amounts as they are high in oxalic acid.  Do not feed iceberg lettuce to rabbits, as it has no nutritional value and can cause diarrhea.  Foods that should definitely be avoided are:

  • Onions
  • Chives
  • Rhubarb
  • Bindweed
  • Elder poppies
  • Foxglove
  • Laburnum
  • Evergreens
  • Ragwort.

Fruit should be given very occasionally and in small amounts as treats, as they are high in sugar.  Suitable fruits are apple, strawberries, pear and berries.  Never change the diet suddenly and new food should be introduced slowly over at least a week. Wild and domesticated rabbits will eat their own faeces as they get added nutrients from this behaviour.  

Fresh, clean drinking water should be available for the rabbit at all times.  Water can be offered in a bowl or animal drinking bottle, or both so the rabbit can choose its preference.  These should be cleaned daily to avoid a build-up of algae and checked to ensure they are in working order and there are no breakages.