Incorrect feeding underlies many health problems in rabbits. Rabbits do not need a high calorie diet as their digestive system has evolved to use bacterial fermentation to break down fibre to form the nutrients they need.
Rabbit’s teeth grow continuously throughout their life and need to be worn down and kept at the correct length by constantly grinding on grass, hay and leafy green plants. Failure to eat the right diet can result in serious dental disease.
For both these above reasons, rabbits should eat approximately their own body size in hay each day. Owners should provide constant access to grass or clean, good quality hay that is not part of their bedding. Hay or grass should constitute 80-85% of their diet. Young rabbits up to 6 months old have a slightly higher protein and calcium requirement. Therefore we recommend that alfalfa hay is fed for the 1st 6 months and timothy hay thereafter.
Fresh vegetable matter/dark leafy greens should constitute 10-15% of the diet. A handful of fresh greens morning and evening should be sufficient. Examples of good choices include spring greens, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, sprouts, kale and leafy herbs such as basil, parsley, watercress. Owners should vary these in order to achieve a balanced diet. Lots of rabbit owners give their rabbits carrots, but these should only be fed occasionally as they are high in sugar. The leafy tops however are high in calcium, which is beneficial.
3% of your rabbit’s diet (approximately one table spoon per day) should consist of a good quality commercial rabbit nugget. We do not recommend a rabbit muesli as this encourages selective feeding and therefore would result in your rabbit getting an unbalanced diet. Don’t keep topping the bowl up as this may result in it not eating enough hay and/or grass. Growing, pregnant, nursing or underweight rabbits may need a larger portion of pellets.
Don’t make any sudden changes to your rabbit’s diet as this could upset the digestive system and make him/her very ill, particularly when young as juvenile rabbits are far more susceptible to enteritis than adults because a healthy gut flora is not established.
Provide fresh clean drinking water at all times. Check the water supply twice a day. Make sure water does not freeze if your rabbits live outdoors in winter.
It is normal for rabbits to eat some of its own faeces. These are called caecotrophs which are soft mucous-covered pellets. These are usually passed and eaten in the morning and contain many nutrients that are very important to your rabbit’s diet. A diet too high in protein or too low in fibre can stop your rabbit eating caecotrophs which can then accumulate around the anus, predisposing to fly strike.
Remember; always monitor the amount your rabbit eats and drinks. If your rabbit’s eating or drinking habits change, the number of droppings gets less or stops, or there are soft droppings sticking to his/her back end, talk to your vet straight away as your bunny could be seriously ill.