Rabbits have evolved over the years to eat grass, and lots of it! They can chomp on grass for hours every day and their diet is supplemented with a large range of treats such as wild plants and vegetables with the occasional bonus of fruit.
Domestic rabbits are basically the same as their wild cousins so their diet should mimic that of a wild rabbit as closely as possible. This is known as The Natural Diet.
The Natural Diet consists of
- 80% grass and hay
- 15% of a variety of leafy greens and vegetables
- 5% of pellet food
It’s advisable to allow your rabbit unlimited access to grass and hay as this is the foundation of a healthy diet. As well as meeting their basic nutritional requirements it has many other benefits, including keeping their teeth in order.
Hay provides lots of fibre which is essential in maintaining healthy digestion and gut movement. Grass and ha has at least 20% fibre, 12-15% protein, a trace of minerals and is very low in fats, starch and sugar.
Rabbit’s teeth are constantly growing. The chewing action of eating grass and hay keeps their teeth naturally worn. This is fundamentally important as rabbits that don’t eat enough hay will develop sharp edges or points on their teeth where they haven’t worn down properly. These are often known as ‘spurs’. These points will then cut into your rabbits gums and tongue and it restricts their ability to eat. If this is left untreated then rabbits can starve. Because of the need for this specific chewing action, ‘Complete’ rabbit foods that are available are not a replacement for hay and grass. They provide the correct nutrients, but not the important dental exercise.
Good quality hay should be dry, have a sweet aroma and be free of grit, mould and dust. Dried grass products can also be used alongside hay as this will provide different trace elements which are beneficial. You can never give your rabbit too much hay! They will nest in it, play in it and chew on it constantly.
Commercial foods were once the foundation of a rabbit’s diet. Times have moved on since then, but there is still a place for a small quantity of excellent quality pellets in your rabbit’s diet. Aim for a food with a high fibre content and we suggest opting for an extruded pellet rather than a muesli type food. Our advice is to feed a medium sized rabbit no more than 2 egg cup size portions per day. This is alongside the unlimited supply of hay.
Rabbit mixes look a lot like muesli and are popular with many owners simply because they look interesting as they are brightly coloured. However, this food can encourage selective feeding and is not recommended to be given in large quantities.
Pellets are bite sized nuggets and each mouthful has the same structure, which helps guarantee that your rabbit is eating a balanced diet. Although not as pleasing to the eye as the muesli mix, pellets are a much better option due to its nutritional value.
In extruded foods, the ingredients are mixed, cooked and the ‘extruded’ (squeezed or forced out). They have all the important nutrients but much more palatable than pellets. More advanced brands of extruded foods contain the same long strand fibre that is similar to hay.
Complete foods, as they are known, are formulated to contain all the nutrients that rabbits require. These foods don’t contain the important fibre that rabbits sorely need. It is vital that your rabbit has constant access to fresh hay.
There are many varieties of plants that are perfectly safe for rabbits to eat. These include both wild plants such as dandelions to store bought veggies such as broccoli and even parsley! Aim to vary what you give them and keep each portion small.
Fruits are classed as treats as they are naturally high in sugars. Portions of fruit should be kept to around 1-2 tablespoons per day.
Some rabbit owners are choosing to feed their rabbits on The Hay And Veggie diet. This is an alternative diet that is popular in America. This diet consists of hay and grass with regular small portions of plants and vegetables.