Feeding your rabbits

Food plays a really important part in your rabbits' health and wellbeing. It’s best for rabbits to stick to a diet that’s as healthy as possible to help them live a long and healthy life.

The wrong diet can cause all sorts of health problems, such as dental disease, gut stasis and obesity. Keeping their diet natural will help prevent dental problems and keep them a healthy weight. Rabbits need lots of good quality foods to give them all the nutrients they need.

 

What should I feed my rabbits?

A white rabbit and a brown and white rabbit eating and sharing some leafy greens

The best diet for your bunnies is one that’s as close to a wild rabbit’s diet as possible. Our vets recommend the following diet alongside constantly available fresh drinking water:

  • At least their own body size in good quality hay each day (so if you put the daily amount of hay next to your rabbits, it should be at least as big as them). As a rule, either fresh hay or growing grass (not grass clippings) should always be available.
  • An adult-sized handful of suitable fresh greens morning and evening – you can find out which vegetables are safe for rabbits online.
  • Just a tablespoon of rabbit nuggets once daily (or twice daily if the rabbits weigh over 3.5kg). Don’t feed a muesli style diet.

You can download our feeding guide for extra tips on what you should and shouldn't be feeding your rabbits.

Can I feed my rabbits fruit?

It’s OK to feed your rabbits a little fruit every now and again as a treat, but remember that it’s high in sugar and shouldn’t be part of their daily diet. Apples, grapes, pears, plums and strawberries are all safe for your rabbits, in small amounts (for example, 1/8th of an apple or pear, given occasionally).

Although rabbits love carrots, they contain a lot of sugar and calories but not any good fibre to help keep their guts moving. Like fruit, carrots are OK but only occasionally as a treat.

What's the difference between bedding hay and feeding hay?

Although they’re both hay, bedding hay and feeding hay are very different. Feeding hay is fresher, smells more fragrant and is usually greener than bedding hay. Feeding hay tastes better (for rabbits!) and has far more nutrients in it. Bedding hay is usually quite dry – ideal for getting cosy but not so great for nibbling, though your rabbits might sometimes snack on some and it won’t do them any harm as long as they have plenty of feeding hay available too.

My rabbits' food looks boring

Your rabbits’ food might look boring to us, but for them it’s perfect. In the wild, rabbits spend more than half their time feeding. Their ideal food takes a long time to eat and has a lot of fibre, helping to keep their guts moving. Did you know that if a rabbit’s guts slow down or stop it can make them seriously ill?

Because a rabbit’s teeth keep growing their whole life, their diet needs to not only keep their stomach healthy but also help them to wear down their teeth.

What about 'muesli-style' mixes?

Our vets wouldn’t recommend muesli-style mixes for your rabbits. Muesli-style rabbit food contains a mixture of seeds and flakes and can cause serious health problems because:

  • Rabbits tend to pick out and eat the less healthy, sugary (tastier) bits.
  • Muesli mixes can lead to dental disease. Eating muesli often leads to their teeth getting curved or too long (even if rabbits are also fed hay) which causes serious problems.
  • Rabbits don’t tend to eat the bits that contain lots of fibre, which can cause gut problems.

Sadly, our research shows 21% of rabbit owners are still feeding their rabbits muesli-style mixes. If you feed your rabbits muesli-style food, we recommend slowly changing their diet over to a healthier option.

Obesity in rabbits

Pets that have a poor diet can get fat and often develop health problems. Rabbits need to stay active and eat a diet appropriate for them. Rabbits with the wrong diet can also lose weight, which can be just as dangerous.

Download our rabbit body shape guide for tips on keeping your bunnies slim and healthy

 

Changing your rabbits' diet

Three light brown rabbits all sharing the same piece of food

The diet recommended above may be different to the way you are feeding your rabbits at the moment. If so, you should change their food. But don’t change it suddenly, as this can upset their digestive system and stop them eating.

Adjust your rabbits’ diet slowly over at least two to four weeks. Feed a small amount of the new food on the first day, mixed into their normal food. Gradually increase how much of the new food you are feeding and reduce the old food day-by-day until your rabbits have adjusted to their new diet. Constant access to a large exercise run on grass will encourage rabbits to graze, while also letting them get the exercise they need.

If your rabbits have never eaten hay before, it can seem quite a bit task to introduce, but it’s well worth it for your rabbits’ long term health. Offer it to them fresh every day and try different types of hay to tempt them. Ask your vet if you’re struggling to get your rabbits to eat hay.

If you’re not sure how to change your rabbit's diet or what to feed them, ask your vet or vet nurse, they’ll be happy to help you.