Feeding your rabbit a healthy diet is essential to your rabbit’s health. Bad diets can easily result in serious illness and/or death, so it is essential that you know what your rabbit should eat. Bunnies are able to eat large quantities of food. What bunnies eat in the wild is subject to availability, meaning that they eat lots of greens and leafy fauna in the spring, and dried grass and leaves later in the year. They are sometimes forced to eat bark, twigs and shrubs. In order to get the proper nutrition, they have to consume large amounts. Bunnies also love to forage, so searching for food can be another game you and your rabbit play together. Hide various snacks around the house and let your rabbit find them.
You can monitor your bunnies diet by observing the type of by-products your rabbit makes. Bunnies produce two types of pellets; fecal pellets (in the litter box) and caecotropes. Fecal pellets are normal single little raisinette style poops that you normally see. Caecotropes are shaped like a cluster of grapes that are soft and pungent. The latter are re-ingested by your rabbit to obtain essential nutrients. Your rabbit has a normal level of bacterial and fungal flora in his intestines that are essential to digestion. An imbalance in these levels causes variations in the fecal matter your rabbit excretes. This imbalance shows up as liquid or mushy caecotropes, or in layman’s terms, “runny butt”. Things that can cause this are a diet too rich in digestible carbohydrates and too low in crude fiber, and oral penicillins. Bunnies also need a constant supply of water. Dehydration can cause digestive upsets too. Any time you see a slight softening of the stool, you can give your rabbit uncooked oatmeal only, until his system returns to normal. If this does not work, a vet visit is needed.
Bunnies 0 – 4 weeks of age need mother’s milk. They will start eating pellets, veggies and alfalfa at about two to three weeks old, but they are still quite young to be without their mother. Orphaned bunnies at this age, especially newborns, are extremely difficult to rescue. The biggest reason why these babies don’t make it is due to low blood sugar level and low body temperature. Extremely small babies are difficult to feed because their mouths are so tiny it is hard to feed them milk without them inhaling the formula. If you have orphaned babies, it is best to see your vet and get help. If that is not possible, you can feed your babies KMR, a kitten milk substitute. Mix one large scoop of KMR with one drop of Karo syrup, and add goat’s milk until it is the consistency of cream. Heat until warm,but not too hot, you can seriously burn the little babies. Feed with a syringe or bottle. They should eat at least 6-10 mL of liquid twice daily. Only feed them twice daily, unless you are having trouble getting them to eat enough food. DO NOT OVER FEED! Mommies only feed their young one to two times per day. Place the babies under a heat lamp, half in and half out of the light. Their bed should be a small well or depression, filled with soft bedding such as rabbit fur or cotton. After about two weeks, you can start to offer food for your babies, so it is available for them when they are ready to eat. Again, a veterinarian is the best bet for this situation.
Bunnies of adoption age to one year old should have pellets (22% or higher crude fiber), alfalfa hay, fruits in limited amounts, and leafy greens. The pellets should be available at all times, along with the alfalfa. Fruits can be given once daily, about one to two tablespoons per rabbit. Too much fruit can cause diarrhea, so limit as needed. Leafy greens can be given more liberally, about 1-2 cups. Try giving him a certain amount, see what your rabbit eats, and adjust accordingly.
Bunnies that are older than one year should be given a limited amount of pellets, generally 1/2 to one cup per day depending on your bunnies weight, and timothy or oat hay in unlimited amounts. Their main diet should be hay. Daily fruits and greens are also a healthy addition to your bunnies diet, consisting of 1-2 tablespoons of fruit and about 1-2 cups of greens.
Bunnies who have stopped eating should be taken to a vet within 12 hours. Bunnies must continue to eat all the time, not eating can cause digestive problems that can lead to death. Force feeding can be done with a syringe. Feed your rabbit “Critical Care for Herbivores”, a must have for all rabbit owners and supplied by your veterinarian. For any rabbit owner, I recommend having this as a staple in your house. Full grown bunnies should eat 20-30 mL three times per day. Again, if your rabbit is not eating, he should see a vet. Have the critical care on hand for emergencies when the vet isn’t yet open. If your rabbit is not eating, you can’t get to a vet, and he won’t take the critical care, try this formula:
One large level scoop KMR (kitten milk replacement)
One large level scoop Critical Care
One large drop of Karo syrup
Mix hot water in until the consistency is like cream. Try feeding this to your rabbit. KMR is rich for them, but they need the calories especially when they haven’t been eating. This is what we use for our 200+ bunnies when they are sick and we have great results. Don’t forget to offer water to a sick rabbit, dehydration is a threat!
rabbit snacks can be raisins or any other dried fruit, graham crackers, dried banana chips, unsalted peanuts, fruit flavored yogurt, honey nut cheerios, pretty much anything that your rabbit likes. Keep in mind, all of these things are snacks only, not to be given in large amounts. Too much of these snacks can and will cause a digestive system imbalance. NOTE: Chocolate is toxic in bunnies just as it is in dogs.
Chew toys are an essential need for bunnies of all ages. Bunnies teeth continue to grow for their entire life, so it is imperative that they have things to chew on to help keep their teeth trimmed down. Chew toys can be things like straw and natural wood (except redwood), with or without bark. You can purchase straw in a bale, loose, or woven into baskets. Baskets are a great chew toy that they can play with too! Wood should be dried first before giving it to your bun. Tree branches and scrap wood are good, in addition to a log for the fire. Chew toys are a great diversion for your house bun to keep him from damaging your possessions.