To help your rabbits live a long and healthy life, their diet should be as natural and varied as possible. Rabbits are herbivores who require a full belly of fibre at all times. A healthy rabbit diet should include the following:
- Hay makes up 85% of their diet. Your rabbits will need a constant supply of soft, long, green, sweet-smelling hay added fresh in their enclosure for them to graze on. Offer a mixture of varieties such as bales of mixed meadow hay, forage treat hay by Burgess and small amounts of timothy hay or Readigrass. Avoid short, brown or yellow, dusty smelling hay as this may harm your rabbits
- 10% of their diet should be made up of a daily ‘5 a day’ selection of safe plants and vegetables. See the list below for all the healthy fresh foods you can pick and grow
- The remaining diet is made up of a good-quality pellet food such as Burgess. Feed no more than an egg cup or half a feed ball’s worth of pellets to each rabbit once a day.
Daily fresh water is extremely important. Many rabbits prefer to drink from a bowl - bottles are suitable but can often leak and be tricky to clean.
Foraging wild and garden plants for your rabbits
Foraging for your rabbits is a cost-effective and organic way of feeding them. Some forage, like stinging nettles and rose petals, can be dried out and given as treats later in the year. Other plants such as vegetables or soft leaves like mallow can be fed on the day.
How to forage safely
- Use suitable secateurs and garden gloves for the prickly ones
- Take a plant ID or forage book with you so you don’t pick dangerous plants
- Don’t pick from areas close to roadsides or areas likely to have been toileted on by dogs and cats
- Only pick from gardens and areas you know are free from chemicals
- Introduce new foods slowly to avoid a bad reaction to the sudden change
Safe garden and wild plants
- Blackberry, raspberry and strawberry leaves – very good for poorly rabbits
- Wild mallow
- Wild geranium
- Dried out nettle
- Shepherd’s purse
- Goose grass
- Rose leaves, petals and wood
- Herbs - mint, basil, lemon balm, rosemary, parsley, herb marigold and lavender
- Sow thistle
- Golden rod
- Ground elder – not elder tree or shrub
- Willow leaves and wood in fresh cut twig form
- Apple or pear twigs
- Peppers, not spicy hot
Safe fruit and vegetables to grow or buy
It is important to remember most fruit and vegetables do not naturally make up a part of a rabbits diet. Naturally rabbits feed on large quantities of hay/grass and a wide variety of wild weeds, herbs and bark. Feeding any of the below in large and regular amounts can lead to digestive, urinary or weight issues and ideally offered mixed in with a variety of fresh forage.
- Cabbage & spring greens
- Carrot tops
Plants, fruits and vegetables to avoid
- Lettuce and many fruits, are the most common cause for loose faeces in rabbits - and have limited nutritional value
- Carrots are ok in small amounts, but are extremely fattening.
- Pet shop treats such as yoghurt drops, chew bars etc are very fattening and can contribute to poor dental health.
- Wild garlic
- Lords and ladies – common in damp or woody areas.
- Any plants with bulbs
- Buttercup leaves and flowers can cause extreme discomfort and in some cases be fatal
- House plants such as the spider and rubber plant
All muesli-style feeds should be avoided as they’ve been proven to be one of the most common causes of fatal dental and digestive disease. Colourful treats, sticky honey based treats, salt licks and mineral blocks can all be harmful to your rabbit and are unnecessary. If you’re feeding a good quality, natural diet, you’ll not require any form of supplements.