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FourRabbits
Midwest Rabbit Rescue & Re-home

Caring for Your Rabbit - Food

Your bunny has simple dietary requirements: unlimited timothy hay, a small portion of timothy pellets each day and some green vegetables each day. Of course, unlimited, fresh water should be provided. This diet is simple but yet very healthy for your bunny. You can give him a few treats each day, but only very small amounts.

Hay

Fresh timothy hay is the most important part of a rabbit’s diet. It both conditions the gut for proper digestion and the long fibers help keep the intestinal tract clear of obstructions. Chewing the hay helps grind your rabbits teeth (which grow throughout his life) and keep them healthy. Other grass hays can be given for variety, but most rabbits prefer timothy hay over other grass hays.

Your rabbit should have unlimited amounts of timothy hay. If you see his hay supply is running low, fill it up again. He will eat it throughout the day.

Wild rabbits eat grass, which is, in its dry form, simply hay. In addition to the invaluable fiber it contains, hay also provides vitamins, minerals, and protein in a form the rabbit's digestive tract can handle.

Young rabbits, less than six months of age, can be fed alfalfa hay rather than timothy hay. Alfalfa hay is higher in protein and calcium and lower in fiber than timothy hay. This is acceptable, even desirable, in young, rapidly developing rabbits. But alfalfa hay is unhealthy for adult rabbits. Rabbits between the ages of seven months and a year should be transitioned to timothy hay. Rabbits will prefer alfalfa hay, so during the transition you may need to mix the two types of hay. In some cases, a rabbit may rebel and not eat the timothy hay. However, if the pellets and vegetables are being given in appropriate (limited) amounts, he’ll eventually become hungry and eat the timothy hay.

(Rabbits under seven weeks of age should, ideally, still have access to their mother. If you have a rabbit under that age, please consult with professionals for advice.)

Pellets

There are two types of rabbit pellets, those made from timothy hay and those made from alfalfa hay. Adult rabbits should be fed only timothy pellets. Feed him only pellets. Do not buy the various types that include treats, seeds and the like. He might like them, especially the sugary items, but they aren’t good for him

Your rabbit should be given limited amounts of timothy pellets each day. Use the following as a guide to the amount to feed him.

Under 5 pounds: 1/8 - 1/4 cup per day

5 - 7 pounds: 1/4 cup per day

8 - 10 pounds: 1/2 cup per day

11 or more pounds: 1/2 - 3/4 cup per day

Many rabbits will not have a healthy weight over about 11 pounds. If your bunny weighs more than 11 pounds, please ensure it is appropriate for his breed.

The determining factor in the amount of pellets is that you use pellets to control your rabbit’s weight. If your bunny is too heavy, cut back on the pellets. (Assuming you are not overfeeding treats.) You will need to determine the correct amount of pellets for your bunny, which depends on his metabolism, amount of exercise and the makeup of the rest of his diet. But remember, he doesn’t need a lot of pellets - you want him to eat more hay - and you control his weight with pellets. If his weight is good, you’re probably feeding him the correct amount.

As with hay, the pellet diet is different for young rabbits. Rabbits between ages seven weeks and seven months can have unlimited amounts of alfalfa pellets. Rabbits between ages seven months and a year should be transitioned off unlimited alfalfa pellets and onto timothy pellets, in the amounts described above. Rabbits prefer alfalfa pellets, so your bunny may not at first eat the timothy pellets. During those ages you can feed a mix of alfalfa and timothy to aid the transition.

Vegetables

Your rabbit’s diet should include fresh vegetables each day. The amount is not as critical as with pellets, since vegetables won’t lead to weight problems. Most rabbits will do well with about one - two cups per day. Some rabbits will have an adverse reaction to certain vegetables, resulting in diarrhea. Introduce new vegetables one at a time. That way, if there is a reaction, you’ll know which one was the cause.

Give a variety of vegetables from the list below. A variety is necessary in order to get all the various nutrients. Vegetables are an essential source of vitamin A.

Suggested vegetables are: Alfalfa, radish & clover sprouts; Basil; Carrot tops; Cilantro; Dandelion greens and flowers (no pesticides); Endive; Escarole; Green peppers; Mint; Parsley; Raspberry leaves; Romaine lettuce (no iceberg or light colored leaf); Watercress; Wheat grass

Give in limited quantities: Beet greens (tops); Bok choy; Broccoli (mostly leaves/stems); Carrots; Celery cut into bite size pieces; Collard greens; Kale; Mustard greens; Pea pods (the flat edible kind); Radish tops; Spinach. (Carrots contain quite a bit of sugar, which is why they are on the list of restricted vegetables.)

Do not give Beans, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Rhubarb.

Don’t give your bunny leftover or stale vegetables - if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t give it to him.

Water

Your rabbit should have access to fresh, clean water at all time. You want him to stay hydrated! A water bowl is best, as he’ll be able to drink more from it than a bottle. Get a heavy bottom bowl so he doesn’t tip it over. Replace the water every day. You can give him a bottle as a backup, if you want.

Treats

You can give your bunny treats, but only in very limited quantities. Rabbits have a very big sweet tooth. This makes it fun to give them treats. But too much sugar is detrimental to both their health and maintaining their weight at the proper level. Many rabbits can not tolerate sweet treats as often as once per day. It’s up to you to limit the amount of treats - even though it’s so fun to see them so excited for them!

Make it fun and a time to interact and bond with your bunny by giving treats by hand.

Many rabbits also like timothy hay cubes (not alfalfa hay), which make a good treat. They are compressed hay, so they’re good for him, and they are fun to chew.

Fruits, including dried fruits, can be used as treats. Favorites include Apple (remove stem and seeds); Blueberries; Melon; Orange (without the peel); Papaya; Peach; Pear; Pineapple; Plums; Raspberries; Strawberries. Sugary fruits such as bananas, grapes and raisins should be used only sparingly, as occasional treats.

Remember, treats don’t need to be food! Your bunny will be very happy with new toys every so often. Give him different kinds once in a while. Like us, he is interested in new things.

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Online Sources of Hay

Good quality hay can be purchased in stores. However, since it is the staple of your bunnies diet, you can consider purchasing it in large quantities from online sources. Hay is just dried grass, so it can be stored for relatively long periods.

The following sources have excellent quality hay with little stems, so there is little waste. Try the second cut timothy hay!

American Pet Diner

KMS Hay Loft

Small Pet Select

What to Avoid

Most treats sold in pet stores are unhealthy for your rabbit, even though your rabbit might readily eat them. Indeed, they are designed so that your rabbit eats them and you purchase more, not for the nutritional needs of your rabbit. They frequently contain food that isn’t good for his digestive system or his overall heath. Stick to hay, timothy pellets, fresh vegetables and a limited amount of fruits and he’ll have a good diet.

Specific items to look out for and not feed your rabbit, even as treats: Pellets that contain seeds, nuts or cereal; Processed cereal, kibble, mueslix; Oat, Corn; Grains; Crackers; Candy (including yogurt drops).

Rabbits do not need vitamin supplements. A proper diet of unlimited hay, limited pellets and vegetables contains all the vitamins your rabbit will require.

Toxic Plants

Rabbit Advocates maintains a list of toxic plants at www.adoptarabbit.com/articles/toxic.html.