Feeding your bunny
The food you give your bunny will contribute to his or her overall health and well-being.
These are some general guidelines; if you have any questions or concerns about your bunny’s diet, please contact us or your veterinarian for specific advice.
- Unlimited timothy hay (this is critical for the health of your rabbit!)
- Unlimited fresh water, preferably in a heavy crock or bowl (rabbits suck water and may not get enough from a hanging water bottle). Fresh water should be provided daily. Dump out water that is left in bottles or bowls and refill daily. Rabbits use more water from bowls than bottles because it is easier to drink. Use a heavy ceramic dish that can not be easily overturned. You may want to use a bottle as a backup, in case the bowl does get overturned. Water containers should be washed thoroughly with soap and water every couple of days, or run through the dishwasher. Scum build up in the bowl is not good for your rabbit. If you wouldn’t drink out of it, neither should your rabbit.
- Limited pellets (typically approximately 1/8 cup per 5LBs rabbit). Several companies make rabbit pellet food and you should be able to find it in your local pet store on online. Look for timothy-based pellets that are at least 18% fiber. Also, don’t buy more than a 6-weeks supply at a time, because pellets can go stale. Rabbits should NOT be fed primarily on commercially produced pellets. Commercial breeders who are raising rabbits for the table do pellet feeding. Rabbit’s digestive systems evolved to allow them to survive on a marginal diet; alfalfa pellets are far too rich and refined to provide a balanced diet.
- Fresh veggies. See video below for great advice on feeding veggies to your rabbit, and consult our safe veggies and treats list (below). Select a minimum of three types of vegetables daily. A variety is necessary to provide adequate nutrients.
- Limited treats, like fruit. Again, see the safe veggies and treats list for more information.
Hey Hey… Hay!
Delicious! Nutritious! Crunchy! Green! Stringy!
Hooray for HAY!
Hay is a critical part of your bunny’s diet. Every bunny needs unlimited timothy hay every single day, all the time, no exceptions! Bunnys have delicate digestive systems that must keep ‘moving’ all the time. Hay provides nutrients (believe it or not!) and the fiber your bunny needs to stay healthy and fit.
- Feed your bunny ‘grass hay’, like timothy, orchard grass, brome hay, and oat hay. This is different than ‘legume’ hay, which includes alfalfa hay. Legume hay is higher in calcium and calories; it’s fine on occasion, but not for daily feeding.
- Keep your hay dry! Never feed your bunny hay that looks overly dusty, has any sign of mold, or smells ‘off.’ Hay should look green and smell sweet. “Bad” hay can make your bunny very, very sick–it can even be deadly.
- Make hay fun! If your bunny turns up his or her nose at the hay you offer, try a different hay source and try making hay fun. Stuff it into toilet-paper rolls or into boxes with a few treats hidden in the middle. You can even find toys made just for hay.
- Find a great hay source. If you live in the Seattle / Carnation area, we of course think you should buy our Scrumptious Hay, which is a yummy blend of Timothy, Orchard Grass, and Canary Grass. Our buns absolutely love it. We sell it for $10 a flake (a flake is around 1/10th of a bale–it fills a large trash bag). 100% of the proceeds go to caring for our bunnies. Email or call us to find the Scrumptious Hay-selling volunteer near you!
Great video on feeding veggies…and how to spot gas symptoms.
It’s very important that you learn how to safely add new vegetables to your bunny’s diet, and that you learn to spot symptoms that can indicate painful and potentially deadly digestive problems. This is a great video that talks about veggies and, towards the middle, includes very specific recommendations for spotting gas issues–and treating them. It also includes photos so that you know what to look for, and how to interpret, digestive changes in your bunny. A must-see!
Bunny-Safe Veggie List
|* may cause problems in sensitive bunnies
** limit amount given, high in one nutrient that can cause problems
† Picky bunnies usually like this one!
A Good source of vitamin A
Beet greens (tops) A
Bell Pepper, Sweet Green
Bell Pepper, Sweet Red
Broccoli (mostly leaves/stems)* †
Collard Greens† A
|Cucumber and peels
Dandelion (pesticide free!) †
Green Leaf Lettuce
Lettuce, green leaf
Lettuce, red leaf
Mustard greens A
Red Leaf lettuce
Spinach ** † A
squash: zucchini and yellow
Bunny-Safe Treats List
Give treats in very small amounts, no more than 2x per day
|Apple (remove stem & seeds)
Blackberry (leaves, stems, fruit)
Carrot (tops and root) A
Grapes (no seeds)
Honey dew melon
|Orange (no seeds)
Raspberry (leaves, stems, fruit)
Which tree branches and types of wood are safe for my bunny?
Bunnies love gnawing on wood, but some trees produce wood that is toxic. Here’s a great list of bunny-safe tree branches from Kanin.org. Safe wood includes:
Blackberry or Raspberry twigs
Red & Black Currant
Visit Kanin.org to see photos of these trees.
Never give your rabbit wood from stone-fruit trees, like cherry, plum, or peach. These are toxic to rabbits.
Never give your rabbit any part of a plant or tree that may have been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides. If in doubt, don’t give it to your bunny.
Bite-Sized Shredded Wheat makes a great bunny treat. Some bunnies will do just about anything for a shredded wheat (check out the video of Herbert learning to walk just to get one!)
Offer your bunny only one or two a day. These are fattening, and fat rabbits are not healthy rabbits. Never offer your bunny the frosted variety!
Stay Away From Sugar!
Bunnies have a sweet tooth, and just like most human children, will choose sugary foods over healthful ones if left to make their own choices. And that cute little whiskered face is so hard to ignore, especially when your bun sits up and looks so deserving of that special treat.
Beware of packaged ‘Rabbit Treats’
Pet stores sell a selection of rabbit treats which are perfect for your precious rabbit. Right? WRONG!!! Most so-called rabbit treats are the equivalent of human fast-food, providing non-nutritious junk that can cause potential harm to your rabbit.
Confusing the issue is that many of these products use phrases that lead the buyer to believe that the product is healthful: “nutritionally fortified,” “natural feeding habits,” “for nutritional variety,” “the finest selected ingredients.” Commercial rabbit treats fall into several categories: pellets, processed cereal kibble, mueslix (dried seed/fruit/veggie mixes), cereal/veggie blends, and candies/sugars.
Still, the best diet for your beloved bunny is fresh greens and vegetables, high fiber pellets, and an unlimited hay diet. Be very careful with sugars! These can include everything from yogurt drops to sweetened papaya tablets. Excessive sugar is converted to fat, or will pass into the cecum where the bacteria will use it for energy and then rapidly overgrow, possibly leading to bacterial imbalance and GI stasis. The same can occur after feeding too much fruit.
Avoid feeding your rabbit simple sugars and never feed sugar substitutes. Instead stick with nutritious treats such as vegetables and herbs; save the sweets for an occasional slice of apple or banana, a plain mini-shredded wheat or a raisin.
Chocolate is especially dangerous! When ingested by rabbits (and other pets) the methylxanthines found in cacao seeds (from which chocolate is made) can cause heart arythmia, tremors, seizures and even death!
Better than treats…TOYS!
Better yet, spoil your bunny with safe chewable toys. They’ll keep your little one entertained and last longer than a sugar treat. Check out the toys at Bunny Bytes, The Busy Bunny, Bunny Luv, and Cats & Rabbits & More. There are lots of safe chews and toys, even some just for Valentine’s Day!