What should pet bunnies eat? A good rabbit diet needs more than just carrots and lettuce. Rabbits require a balanced diet of hay, fresh veggies and fruit, and a few pellets. However, it's important to note that rabbits have sensitive digestive tracts, so the transition to hay or pellets — or the introduction of new fruits and vegetables — must be done gradually to allow their system to adjust.
Here are foods that make up the best diet for rabbits.
Hay: The staple of a rabbit diet
The bottom of the bunny food pyramid would contain long-stemmed ﬁber, in the form of hay, which makes up 80-90% of a rabbit’s diet. As grazing animals, rabbits need to have an unlimited supply of fresh hay daily.
You’ll want to feed your rabbit grass hays. Good types of grass hay for bunnies are timothy, orchard grass, brome, and oat hay. You can feed your bunnies either one type or a mixture of different grass hays. Buy the freshest hay possible, and check for the presence of mold or dust, which can make your rabbit sick.
Alfalfa hay is not a good choice for an adult rabbit. It’s a legume, not a grass, and as such is too rich to be fed on a daily basis. Alfalfa can be given to rabbits once in a while as a treat. Rabbits under 1 year old can be fed alfalfa hay, but as they get older they should be switched to grass hay, especially if they are also being fed alfalfa pellets.
Bunny pellets: Feed small quantities
Timothy hay pellets can be given to bunnies in small quantities. An average-size (6-10 pounds) adult rabbit only needs 1/4 cup of pellets daily. If your rabbit is under 5 pounds, feed just 1/8 of a cup. Moreover, rabbits larger than 10 pounds do not need more than 1/4 cup, as it’s not a crucial part of a bunny’s diet.
Rabbits under 1 year old can be fed alfalfa pellets. Be sure to feed grass hay (rather than alfalfa) if you are feeding your young rabbit alfalfa pellets. Look for pellets with a high ﬁber content — the higher the better. Also, be aware that many foods marketed to rabbits aren’t actually healthy for them and can sometimes be harmful, so please read the ingredients. Do not buy the rabbit pellets that have dried corn, nuts, and seeds added because those foods can potentially be harmful for rabbits.
Vegetables: A rabbit’s favorite foods
Rabbits count vegetables and herbs among their favorite foods. Most greens found in a supermarket are safe for rabbits, with a few limitations and exceptions. (See the list of foods to avoid below.)
No more than 2 cups daily of fresh vegetables should be given to adult rabbits. Dwarf breeds and rabbits under 5 pounds should get just 1 cup of fresh veggies per day. A variety of two or three vegetables is ideal. Add one new vegetable at a time, and watch for signs of loose stool or diarrhea because of bunnies' delicate digestive systems. Certain vegetables can be given every day, while others should be fed sparingly — one or two times a week.
Do not feed your rabbit potatoes, corn, beans, seeds, or nuts. These foods are difﬁcult for rabbits to digest and can cause serious digestive problems.
Vegetables that can be fed to a rabbit daily:
- Bell peppers
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Carrot tops
- Herbs: Basil, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
- Lettuces: romaine, green leaf, red leaf, Boston bibb, arugula, butter
- Okra leaves
- Radish tops
- Sprouts: Alfalfa, radish, clover
Vegetables and plants to give sparingly (one or two times a week) to a bunny:
- Broccoli (stems and leaves only)
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens (pesticide-free)
- Flowers: Calendula, chamomile, daylily, dianthus, English daisy, hibiscus, honeysuckle, marigold, nasturtium, pansy, rose
Fruit: Give once or twice per week
Fruit should be given to your bunny one or two times a week. The appropriate serving is 1 to 2 tablespoons of fruit (either one kind or a mixture) per 5 pounds of body weight. As with vegetables, fruit should be introduced slowly and one at a time.
Fruit to feed your rabbit (one or two times a week):
- Apple (no seeds)
- Berries: Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries
- Cherries (no seeds)
Rabbit treats: Feed sparingly
Like lots of people, many rabbits have a sweet tooth. As with humans, treats are at the top of the food pyramid for bunnies and therefore should be fed sparingly. Healthy treats for your bunny include small pieces of fresh or freeze-dried fruit (the approved fruits listed above); natural, unprocessed mixes that include hay and dried flowers (the approved flowers listed above); and Oxbow brand rabbit treats.
Always read the ingredients list on store-bought treats because not all of them are safe for bunnies. Avoid treats that include added sugar, preservatives, and artificial coloring, and never give your rabbit human treats.
Foods you should not feed your rabbit
Some foods are not good for rabbits under any circumstances because they can make rabbits extremely sick. Here are foods you should not give your bunny:
- All human treats
- Beet greens
- Corn or corn-cob treats
- Iceberg lettuce
- Mustard greens
- Turnip greens
Fresh water: Unlimited supply
Finally, rabbits need to stay hydrated, so they should have an unlimited supply of fresh water, which should be changed daily. The water container should be cleaned with soap and water at least every few days. Water bottles are not easy to clean and can be difficult for rabbits to use, so bowls are better. A heavy ceramic bowl is ideal because it doesn’t tip over easily.