A good diet is the cornerstone of your rabbits’ health – but what can rabbits eat? According to bunny experts RWAF (the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund), the essential thing is to provide rabbit food that mimics what they would eat naturally.
Wild bunnies feed on weeds, grasses, wildflowers, and flower and vegetable plants – foods that are naturally high in fibre, which keep their digestive system functioning properly and wear down their continuously growing teeth.
The ideal rabbit diet for bunnies should consist of rabbit foods that are high in fibre for a healthy digestion. Also look for no artificial colours or flavours and a carefully formulated balance of nutrients.
What is the best food for rabbits?
Your rabbits’ feeding plan should consist of:
85% – 90% unlimited grazed grass (not grass cuttings) or high-quality feeding hay (not bedding hay, which may have poor nutritional value). As a guide, provide each rabbit with at least their own body size in feeding hay every day.
A small handful of rabbit-safe leafy greens, vegetables and herbs.
Pelleted rabbit food– around one egg cup a day per rabbit. Rabbit nuggets help ensure your buns get all the vital vitamins and minerals they need.
Your rabbits must also have access to plenty of fresh water at all times. Provide a bottle and a bowl of fresh water daily – lapping from a bowl is more natural to rabbits, but bowls may be knocked over, so a bottle is a good back-up.
Rabbits eating lots of fresh grass will drink less, whilst those eating mostly hay will drink more. Importantly, their digestive system only works properly when it is well hydrated.
What vegetables can rabbits eat?
If you’re wondering what rabbits like to eat, then a selection of rabbit-safe leafy greens – a handful per day, per bunny – will feature highly on your rabbits’ favourite food list. This also helps add variety to a well-planned rabbit diet.
Sweet treats – Some treats that are marketed as rabbit food – such as milk-based yoghurt drops or sticks of sweetened cereals – can contribute to obesity and tooth decay.
Lettuce– Some types of lettuce, such as iceberg, contain lactucarium, which can be harmful to rabbits in large quantities. Light-coloured lettuce varieties are high in water, have very little nutritional value and will just give your rabbits the runs.
Avocado– It’s very fatty and should never be included in your rabbits’ diet.
Chard– It’s a leafy green but not one that rabbits can tolerate, causing colic and bloating.
Grass cuttings– Rabbits should be given unlimited access to steadily graze on fresh grass, just as they would in the wild, but a pile of grass cuttings can be very harmful to them.
Rhubarb – This common garden plant can be poisonous to animals if eaten raw.
Bread, pasta and crackers– High-carb foods can cause series stomach issues.
Nuts– All nuts are high in fat, not fibre, and will give your rabbits extremely uncomfortable indigestion.
If you’re not sure whether something’s safe for your rabbits to eat, it’s best avoided.
Encourage your rabbits to eat more hay by putting it in toys such as willow balls or even a cardboard tube. They will love throwing them around!
When fed a muesli-style diet, rabbits will often selectively feed. Selective feeding is when rabbits pick out the high starch and sugary elements of their food and leave behind the high-fibre parts. This leads to the rabbits eating an unbalanced diet which can result in poor health. Research supported by Burgess showed that feeding rabbits a muesli style diet may increase the risk of several health problems. Following the Excel Feeding Plan of feeding hay, nuggets, fresh greens, a nature snack and fresh water can help ensure your rabbits are getting the best diet and prevent selective feeding.
Best food for your rabbits' life stage
Choosing food tailored to your rabbits’ nutritional requirements and life stage can also be beneficial.
The way you feed your bunnies is also important and rabbits love to snuffle around for titbits. So, rather than putting their food in a bowl, place it around their enclosure, in their tunnels, in paper bags, cardboard loo rolls or under some hay, to encourage their natural urge to go foraging.
Plus, it’s easy to order online, with free delivery over £25.
The Excel Feeding Plan
Following our Excel feeding plan will ensure that your rabbits get the correct balance of fibre, vitamins and minerals. 85-90% of a rabbits’ diet should be high quality, dust extracted feeding hay or fresh grass. This should be supplemented with a small portion of Excel nuggets, the occasional Excel Nature Treat, a small handful of fresh greens and plenty of fresh water.
Rabbits are herbivores who live on a plant-based diet. However we like to call them ‘fibrevores’ as fibre is by far the most important part of their diet and is essential for their gut and dental health.
Types of Fibre
Rabbits need to keep their digestive systems busy with a mix of two kinds of fibre moving through the gut at all times. These types of fibre are called digestible fibre and indigestible fibre. They get this fibre mainly from good quality hay, such as Burgess Excel Feeding Hay.
Rabbits can’t get enough nutrition from fibre when it passes through their gut the first time. So they excrete caecotrophs, soft, sticky-type droppings. They then eat these again to get the rest of their vital nutrition.
Burgess Excel Nuggets have been specifically formulated to ensure that your rabbits get all the vitamins and minerals they need when fed alongside feeding hay or fresh grass. Excel was developed with leading small animal vets and nutritionists.
Digestible fibre is moved up into an organ called the caecum – which is like a giant appendix.
Good bacteria in the caecum ferment the fibre, making it easy to digest. This emerges in the form of clumps of sticky droppings – we call these droppings caecotrophs. Rabbits then re-eat the caecotrophs directly from their bottom and the essential nutrients are then absorbed when the digestible fibre passes through for the second time.
Indigestible fibre is moved through their digestive system and excreted as separate, round, hard droppings. This type of fibre keeps the digestive system moving and your rabbits’ appetites stimulated.
If rabbits don’t get the right amounts of both digestible and indigestible fibre, it can rapidly lead to serious health problems. At Excel, we call the correct ratio of these two types of fibre ‘Beneficial Fibre’.
Give your rabbits the right amount of fibre in their diet by sticking to The Excel Feeding Plan. The Excel Feeding Plan was developed in conjunction with one of the world’s leading small-animal vets, to provide a perfect daily balance of fibre and nutrition.
Our rabbit food range
Burgess Excel Rabbit Nuggets are a delicious, complementary food. We have a range of nuggets for your rabbits throughout their life, from junior to mature.
In the wild, rabbits graze on grass, leafy shrubs and bark. This is a very high fibre diet, and your rabbits' diet should mimic what they would eat in the wild. This is why our Excel Rabbit Nuggets are rich in grass and fibre.
Good quality feeding hay or fresh grass should make up 85-90% of your rabbits' diet. Our Excel Feeding Hay is harvested straight from the field.
Burgess Excel Feeding Hays and Grasses are made from fresh Timothy hay, meadow hay and barn-dried grass. 100% natural, they're great sources of beneficial fibre to help maintain gut and dental health.
Natural snacks can be fed in small amounts by hand to help with bonding and training. You can also spread them around your rabbits' housing to help reduce boredom and keep your rabbits occupied by encouraging their natural foraging behaviour!
Transitioning to Excel nuggets
Transition your rabbits’ diet over a period of 14-28 days by gradually reducing the old food and replacing it with Excel.
Don’t forget the hay!
& ensure there is plenty of fresh water available.
Need more advice?
If you’re at all unsure about the best way of feeding your rabbits or have any concerns about specific nutritional requirements, ask your local veterinary practice for advice.
You can also call our expert team, available 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, on +44 (0)1405 862241 who’ll be happy to help. Alternatively, use our online contact form to get in touch.
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