Make sure your rabbits have a healthly diet.
Rabbits are grazers and in the wild they eat only grass and other plants – in fact, your rabbits’ digestive systems must have hay and/or grass in order to function properly.
Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously throughout their life and need to be worn down and kept at the correct length and shape by eating grass, hay and leafy green plants – if they don’t eat the right sorts of food they can suffer from serious dental disease.
They produce two types of droppings – hard dry pellets, and softer moist pellets which they eat directly from their bottom and which are an essential part of their diet.
Rabbits tend to eat for long periods of time, mainly at dawn and dusk when they like to graze, forage for food and be sociable, so try to feed your rabbits during their active period.
How much an individual rabbit needs to eat depends on his/her age, lifestyle and general health. But if a rabbit eats more food than he/she needs, he/she will become overweight and may suffer.
Food and drink
Your rabbits need fresh clean drinking water at all times – without access to water they can become seriously ill.
Check their water supply twice a day and make sure it doesn’t freeze if they live outdoors in winter.
Good quality hay and/or grass should make up the majority of your rabbits’ diet and should be available at all times. Each rabbit needs at least a ‘rabbit-sized’ bundle of good quality hay every day which should be sweet-smelling and dust-free. Feeding some hay from a hay rack or hanging basket keeps it clean and above floor level. Placing a hay rack above your rabbits’ litter tray may encourage them to eat more hay.
Find out which plants are safe to feed your rabbits. Offer them a variety of safe, washed leafy greens or weeds every day – ideally five or six different types. Safe plants include cabbage, kale, broccoli, parsley and mint.
Don’t feed them lawnmower clippings as these can upset their digestive system and make them ill.
A rabbit’s diet doesn’t naturally include cereals, root vegetables or fruit but you can give apples or root vegetables like carrots, in small amounts as an occasional treat.
Avoid feeding any other treats as these may harm your rabbits. You can also feed a small, measured ration of good quality commercial rabbit pellets or nuggets to help to ensure your rabbits get a balanced diet, but remember that hay and/ or grass are much more important and must be available at all times.
Make sure that any pellets/nuggets you provide are high quality and contain high fibre levels. If you feed pellets/nuggets, for a healthy adult rabbit, allow 25g (an egg cup-full) of pellets per kg of each rabbit’s body weight but take care to adjust the amount given according to individual rabbits’ needs, based on their lifestyle, activity levels, age and state of health.
Growing, pregnant, nursing or underweight rabbits may need a larger portion of pellets/nuggets. Make sure your rabbits have finished the whole portion before giving them more, i.e. don’t keep topping up the bowl/food dispensers, as this may result in them not eating enough hay and/or grass.
Muesli-style foods are associated with health problems in rabbits and should not be fed. Feeding muesli can increase the risk of rabbits developing serious teeth and tummy problems (including obesity), which can cause terrible suffering.
If you currently feed muesli, you need to gradually transfer your rabbits onto a healthier diet. This change should be done slowly over 14-28 days to avoid potentially serious tummy upsets (the exact time-scale will depend on each individual animal). Mix a small amount of pellets/nuggets into their current food, gradually reducing the amount of muesli, until it has been completely replaced.
Your vet can advise you on how to provide the best diet for each of your rabbits and how to safely transition them onto a hay, leafy greens and pellet/nugget based feeding plan.
Take note of the amount each rabbit eats and drinks every day, and watch out for any changes in an individual’s eating, drinking or toileting habits. For example, if the number of droppings gets less or stops, or if there are soft droppings sticking to his/her back end, talk to your vet straight away as your rabbit could be seriously ill.
Don’t make any sudden changes to your rabbits’ diet as this could make them very ill.
Introduce new foods and make any necessary changes gradually to avoid upsetting their digestive systems. By keeping a careful eye on your rabbits you will be able adjust how much you feed them in order to make sure they don’t become underweight or overweight.