What to Feed Pet Rabbits

Rabbits are herbivores and naturally in the wild they will graze on grass, leafy weeds, forbs 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 food is available but studies show that feeding muesli can lead to severe and painful dental problems.  It is best to stick to giving a small amount of pellets or nuggets supplemented with plenty fresh hay and leafy vegetables.  A good quality hay should be fed such as grass hay, timothy, or orchard hay and should be available to the rabbit 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 rabbits diet and should be offered twice a day (morning and evening).  One cup of greens should be fed to 2 lbs per rabbit, so a 6lb rabbit should be fed three cups of greens.  Suitable greens and vegetables are:

  • Asparagus
  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Dock
  • Dandelion occasionally as this can increase bowel movement
  • Carrots occasionally as they are high in sugar (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 rabbit’s iceberg lettuce as it has no nutritional value and can cause diarrhoea.  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 it is high in sugar.  Suitable fruits are apple, strawberries, pear and berries.  Never change the diet suddenly with new food being introduced 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 in working order and there are no breakages.