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Feeding rabbits is neither complicated nor expensive, but it can hard work delving through all the information that’s out there.
Rabbits have very delicate digestive systems and they have to eat very frequently to keep it in optimum condition. They’re also very greedy – or at least mine are. If i give them a bowl full of pellets, they’ll happily munch it all, whether it’s good for them or not.
What is the most important part of a rabbit’s diet?
Hay. A rabbit that eats exclusively hay will be healthier than one that eats exclusively pellets. Hay is high in fibre, which rabbits need a lot of in order to keep their digestive system in tip-top shape. Hay also helps to wear down their constantly growing teeth.
Some rabbits don’t like to eat hay – especially if they’re used to unlimited pellets. It can be difficult to convince them that eating a lot of hay is in their best interest, but it is worth it. If you’re struggling to get your bunny to eat their hay, check out my post on convincing rabbits to eat more hay.
How much hay should a rabbit have everyday?
Rabbits should have access to unlimited amounts of fresh hay. Ideally, they should be eating a ball of hay twice the size of their body every single day. Some rabbits will eat more, some may eat a little less, but in general, that’s what we should be aiming for.
How much water do rabbits need?
Rabbits need more water than you’d think – a small rabbit can easily drink the amount of water as a considerably larger dog. Drinking a lot of water helps rabbits to digest their hay and keep their digestive system running slowly.
What’s the best way to give rabbits water?
It’s recommended that rabbits are offered a bowl of water rather than a bottle, because it’s a more natural way for them to drink. If they find the bottle frustrating to drink from, they may not drink as much water as they would if there was a bowl.
It’s not always as easy as that though. One of my rabbits flat out refused to drink from a bowl, preferring a bottle. Since she drank a lot of water, it didn’t really matter, so don’t worry if your rabbit prefers a bottle.
Which pellets are best for rabbits?
I use rabbit pellets from Burgess, and Oxbow seems to be the favourite brand in the USA.
The important thing is that your rabbit is given a high-quality pellet, rather than the old-fashioned muesli-style rabbit food. Not only do theses mixes typically have a higher sugar content than is healthy, but they can have ingredients like seeds and grains that are bunny-suitable.
How much pellet food should my rabbit be getting daily?
Less is more.
It’s important to remember that pellets are a supplementary food – they’re not actually necessary to your rabbit’s health. If you overfed a rabbit pellets, they can quickly become overweight.
I give my two small rabbits a third cup of pellets between twice a day, and that’s more than enough.
It’s no good me telling me to give x amount of pellets per lb of rabbit, because rabbits differ a lot in terms of exercise level and rate of metabolism. One of my foster bunnies couldn’t lose weight on a no-pellet diet because she was bred as a meat rabbit – designed to put on weight.
Still, the general rules are 1/4 cup per day per 6lbs of rabbit. Adjust if your rabbit is overweight. If they just seem ravenous, leave them. Give the more pellets if they’re skinny.
Rabbits are ALWAYS hungry and they LOVE pellets. Mine are actually surprisingly accurate at telling the time, so they have to be fed at 7pm in summer and 8pm when the clocks change. They won’t accept my explanation of daylight savings time.
Which veggies can I give my rabbit every day?
Since rabbits have such delicate stomaches, always introduce new foods gradually. Some rabbits are more prone to gas than others, so if you notice a certain vegetable makes them sluggish, give it more sparingly.
Romaine lettuce is a great staple veggie that most bunnies can eat daily. Dandelion leaves are a great option, and you can pick them from your garden if you wash and dry them properly. Carrot tops (not carrots) are fine daily, as is bok Choi, bell pepper, celery leaves, and the leaves of cauliflower and broccoli – the florets can cause gas, so they’re better given less frequently.
Herbs are great for rabbits. Coriander/cilantro, mint and basil are great everyday options.
There are lots of fruits and vegetables rabbits can eat, but shouldn’t eat everyday, either because they can cause gas or weight gain:
- Brussel sprouts
How many veggies should I be giving my rabbits everyday?
A great rule of thumb is to give your rabbits a salad the size of their head. That’s the formula I use, and I stick to it. If your rabbit is overweight, you can cut out pellets and increase fresh vegetables.
What treats can I give my rabbits daily?
I don’t like the rabbit treats you can buy from pet stores, because they’re often full of sugar and even dairy (yoghurt treats for bunnies are a very real thing unfortunately). Instead, you can treat your bunny with veggies you already have.
The most effective treat, in my opinion, is banana. Rabbits LOVE banana. One slice per day is plenty. Fruits in general are a great option – strawberries and blueberries are firm favourite, and every little kids know that rabbits adore carrots.
Just be sure to only give your rabbit a small slice.
If you’re training rabbits and want to use treats, I would recommend using their pellets as rewards and adjusting their daily allowance accordingly. Not only are they high reward, but they’re small enough that you can get a decent amount of training done without ending up with a bunny high on banana.
They’re also dry, and easier to handle. Giving bits of banana as training rewards can be a very sticky business.
What’s the best way to weigh my rabbit so that I can feed them the right amount?
If you have very accurate digital scales, weigh yourself (and a carry case if necessary) then pick up your rabbit (or rabbit in carry case) and weigh again. The difference is your rabbit’s weight.
That way isn’t the most accurate because a lot of rabbits don’t weigh very much at all, and make a negligible difference to the number on the scale.
If you think you’re going to be weighing your bunny a lot (unlikely, in my experience) invest in a baby scale. They’re designed to accurately weigh small things that – crucially – may wriggle around. Though babies are less likely to actually jump out.
I have my rabbits weighed at the vet, but only because it’s the only way they can decide on a dosage for whatever they’re giving them.
Since a rabbit’s weight can vary depending on how much muscle they have (my Dutch was SOLID in his prime, and really heavy but not fat), what breed they are and the fur they’re carrying, the number on the scale doesn’t mean much.
Ideally you should be able to feel your rabbit’s spin and ribs – they should feel rounded, not sharp, and you shouldn’t be able to see them.
What to feed an overweight rabbit
It can be hard, because like I said, some rabbit just can’t seem to lose weight. Either cut pellets out completely, or just sprinkle half a dozen on their salad, and make sure they’re eating plenty of hay.
Stop giving them treats – their treats can be the 6 pellets.
What to feed an underweight rabbit
Firstly, check that the rabbit doesn’t have underlying issues, such as worms. Rabbits are naturally greedy, so a skinny rabbit is a worrying sign.
If you’ve adopted a rabbit and it’s been somewhat starved, you can offer them protein-filled alfalfa hay to help get them back up to weight. Alfalfa hay is also great for bunnies under 6 months, but is too high in protein for older rabbits.
If the rabbit has a clean bill of health, offer them unlimited pellets. A severely malnourished rabbit may benefit from having pellets formulated for young rabbits, as these typically are higher in protein and designed for weight gain.
As soon as you can no longer see ribs I’m afraid you’ll have to go through the arduous process of cutting down on pellets. Prepare for a lot of sulking.