What do Rabbits eat? – Learn the truth about how to properly feed rabbits. Information about feeding pet rabbits, wild rabbits and bunny rabbits is discussed within this article.
Even with the most loving caretakers and pet parents, it is often difficult to notice all the health issues their pet bunnies are suffering from. Rabbits cannot always successfully communicate their ordeals to their owners. Sometimes they try to hide the problems. At other occasions, they may try to communicate but we are not able to understand. More often than not, health issues arise from improper feeding habits. This is why it is of vital importance that you take utmost care about what you are feeding your rabbit.
What to Feed Rabbits – Best Food Recommendations
This soy and grain-free rabbit food is arguably the best and most popular health food formula when it comes to rabbit pellets. The product currently enjoys a hopping 84% 5-star ratings at Amazon. This vet used and recommended 100% balanced diet formula uses a combination of timothy hay and legumes such alfalfa and clover which is also the natural diet for rabbits and other small herbivores in the wild.
The product separates itself from other typical timothy or other hay or grass-based pellets in that the formula does not contain any soy or grain by-products. The latter prevent proper digestion for the rabbits and lead to malformed poops. The Sherwood formula, on the other hand, promotes the growth of healthy microflora and this leads to improved fermentation in the rabbit’s ceacum and results in healthier poop. You’ll also notice more and better urine and less sludge since this balanced diet formula helps minimize renal bicarbonate levels that are the primary cause for sludge.
All of this translates into a healthier, happier and lively pet that you will love to have with you. In short, we highly recommend this pet health formula for all adult rabbits.
This soy, corn, and wheat-free formula is ideal for growing and lactating habits. You may start using the foods in small quantities when the babies are still nursing and slowly increase the amount and continue using after they have been weaned till up to 12 weeks. With high energy, protein and fat content, the formula (which uses whole oil seeds as well) is able to best replicate the nourishment the babies had been receiving from their mother’s milk. The high fiber content of the alfalfa hay prevents diarrhea and enteritis and is also essential to the young one’s growth since alfalfa (which is really a legume) is rich in calories and calcium content. The formula also contains appropriate amounts of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, vitamin E and natural oils.
Again, a highly recommended product. One can gauge the popularity of the product from the average 4.8/5 rating it enjoys at Amazon as also from the detailed reviews posted by many happy and satisfied verified purchasers.
Reasons you Should Feed your Rabbits Sherwood Pet Health brand food
There is a reason why Sherwood Small Animal Health Food brand has able to garner such a huge popularity among pet parents in such a relatively short time. Dr. Sherwood, who has a PhD in Molecular Biology and has studied extensively in the fields of geology, biotechnology and plant physiology, approaches the question of small animal (particularly herbivores) health and their feeding habits in a holistic manner. An active, happy, healthy and lively animal is one which has been paid proper heed to its nutritional, environmental, and emotional health as well as its wellness needs. And the mission of the Sherwood Pet Health company is to educate all small animal pet parents on these matters.
It often happens, for example, that a rabbit may look healthy and otherwise fine, and yet it may still suffer from one or more health issues, the most common among them being poor appetite, dental issues, urinary sludge, malformed poop, improper body weight, digestive problems and joint/arthritis pains. Therefore, when Dr. Sherwood (who has himself been a small animal lover/parent from his early childhood) set out to create his own pet food formulas, his primary aim was to come up with balanced diet and nutrition formulas that would be able to eliminate all of the above-mentioned problems. Devoted and painstaking research as well as his already acquired knowledge in the related matters came to his aid and thus we have today the Sherwood Pet Health formulas that, we may safely venture to add, are superior to all other rabbit and small animal food offered by the other brands. To know more about this and to read the Mission Statement of the Sherwood Pet Health, please visit this page: http://sherwoodpethealth.com/about-us/.
Feeding Rabbits 101
For rabbits in the wild, the largest portion of their diet consists of a large variety of plant materials and herbs. Fresh or dry grasses and leaves of different plants are the staple diet of a bunny, whether wild or a pet. But rabbits also thrive on tender sticks and twigs of certain plants, roots and sprouts as well as seeds, legumes, fruits and a variety of different vegetables, although the latter varieties they should only consume in small amounts.
This also makes sense since fruits and vegetables are not easily available in the wild as grass or plant leaves. So, their digestive system has evolved in a manner so they can consume foods that are high in nutrition value only if given in smaller quantities. Below, we will talk about rabbit foods and food habits that apply, for the most part, pet or domestic rabbits that include show rabbits, house pets, adults and baby bunnies.
Types of Rabbit Food
As we mentioned, the rabbits thrive primarily on fresh grass or hay (which is dried grass). House rabbits will consume many different types of grass, most commonly timothy, brome, oat hay, orchard and alfalfa hay (for baby rabbits). These grasses are rich in calcium, protein, Vitamin D & A as also in other nutrients and these help develop healthy gastrointestinal tract and good teeth in the little creatures.
However, for most rabbit owners, it is difficult to procure a regular and adequate supply of fresh grasses or hay. Which is how rabbit pellets entered the scene. Pellets were initially manufactured for commercial rabbits that are raised for their fur and the meat. Gradually, however, rabbit parents have warmed up to the idea and today, all home rabbit diets will typically contain a combine of pellets and grasses.
However, as we’ve mentioned above in Part 1 of the article, you need to be careful when choosing rabbit pellet foods and you should only go for the ones that provide proper nutrition to your rabbit and do not contain any ingredient that may negatively affect the health and wellbeing of the little one.
Also, you should pay heed to the fact that there are different commercial rabbit feeds that are designed for different breeds as also those which are meant for use at different stages of a rabbit’s life cycle. For example, Sherwood offers three different rabbit feed formulas for maintenance & show rabbits (M/S), for pregnant rabbits (P), and for babies or lactating and growing rabbits (L/G).
Rabbit Food Brands
Today, you’ll find a host of Rabbit Pet Health Formulas designed by a large variety of brands. A few of the most recognized brands in this field include Burgess, Beephar, Allen & Page, Kaytee, Oxbow and Sherwood, of course. Some of the formulas offered by these brands are indeed good enough, but we’ve already discussed why Sherwood formulas surpass almost all of them when it comes to a happy, healthy and active life of a rabbit and its overall wellbeing.
Also, be on your guard about advertising hypes that lead many of these brands to label their products “all natural”, “premium”, “gourmet” and so on. Instead, always check the ingredients list and the nutritional analysis printed on the back of the packet so you know exactly what you’ll be feeding your beloved pet.
Rabbit Food Prices
Typically, some of the most popular rabbit food formulas will cost you anything between $11 and $18 for a packet of 4-5 lbs. It is obvious that given the quantity of the packets, the difference in prices don’t amount to much. So, our suggestion is that you go for the best formulas even if they cost you a few extra bucks.
Feeding Baby vs Adult Rabbits
First of all, you should never feed anything to bunnies less than 3 weeks old. Up to that point, they should be feeding their mother’s milk only. If the mother is not around for nursing, hand over the bunnies to some rescue center where they would be bottle-fed the right kind of milk. Anything else, the bunnies will die.
You can, however, feed them baby food formulas from after3 weeks to up to 12 weeks, after which they will be ready to switch to adult pet food. If you are combining grass with pellets, make sure you use alfalfa hay for young rabbits since alfalfa contains the most balanced natural nutrition for these little cuties. As for feeding adult rabbits, kindly read the next sections of the article which we hope will give you an adequate idea regarding proper feeding habits of an adult rabbit.
Feeding Pet vs Wild Rabbits
There is little difference between nutritional needs of pet and wild rabbits. For both wild and pet rabbits, grass is the main dish at every meal. Wild rabbits mainly survive on fresh grass and plant leaves and occasional vegetables, as and when they can get some. With pet rabbits, we have more choices. Pellets are a good idea as long as you make sure they are quality food and do not contain grains, soy, seeds or fruit extracts. It is also okay to feed pet rabbits some vegetables and leafy greens, but only in small portions. Rabbits also enjoy some fruits such as apple or banana but fruits should only be given to a bunny occasionally, in small portions and as treats only. For pets, just make sure that you are not giving them too much food. House rabbits are nowhere near as mobile as their wilder counterparts and too much food can easily lead to obesity and other health issues.
Feeding Show Rabbits
For show rabbits, it is best not to give them too many vegetables, not even in small servings. Show rabbits best thrive with foods that are low in fat and protein content. Timothy hay is an excellent choice because of its high fiber that helps keep the show rabbits’ digestive system in proper condition. With high fibre food, the bunnies will not get overweight and will have a smooth and shiny coat. Sherwood’s M/S (maintenance & show) Pet Health Formula which is high fiber and low energy and contains whole oil seeds is an excellent choice as show rabbit pellets. Also make sure that you always give fresh (and never stale) pellets to your show rabbit.
How much do rabbits eat?
The quantities of foods rabbits will eat vary depending on whether we are talking babies or young rabbits, young adults, mature adults or senior rabbits. In this regard, it is important to follow the guidelines closely, especially since house rabbits normally are not too active and feeding them more than they should may lead to some serious health issues. Here is a good source on what quantities you should feed your rabbit at different stages of its life: https://rabbit.org/faq-diet/.
Feeding Vegetables and Fruits
You may have seen plenty of images and visuals showing rabbits happily nibbling away at a piece of carrot or some lettuce. However, as we’ve mentioned already, vegetables, although you can (and should) add them in your house bunny’s regular diet, but only in small servings. The thing with vegetables is that they come with high nutrition value in a relatively low calorie count. However, veggies do not contain long and high fibers that are so vital to a rabbit’s digestion’s process.
As for fruits, rabbits enjoy them because of their high sugary content. But that is also the reason why you should not feed them regularly at all. If fed too frequently, some rabbits also get addictive to fruits and then it becomes difficult to make them eat their normal diet. Too much fruit may also give your bunny diarrhea and can make him fat. Once in two or three days, you may give your pet bunny some small fruit treat such as a few thin apple slices or a few berries, and that’s all!
Safe Vegetables and Fruits List
The vegetables and herbs that are normally considered safe for a rabbit include carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, bell peppers, parsley, kale, celery, romaine lettuce, squash, radish tops, mint, basil, fennel, cilantro, green pepper and dandelion. The best scenario, of course, is if you can get organic versions of the fruits and vegetables!
As for fruits, wild rabbits most commonly eat various types of berries—strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry. In addition, house rabbits also enjoy small pieces of apple, pear, peach or melon. And all of the above are safe for him as long as he does not eat too much of them.
Here’s a useful (and extensive) list detailing what fruits and vegetables you may or may not give to your rabbits (and some which you should only give them occasionally): http://bunnyapproved.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/List.pdf.
Foods to Avoid Feeding
Following foods are complete no-nos for your bunny:
• No meat of any kind (rabbits are HERBIVORES!)
• No dairy products (so no cheese, sour cream, kefir, yogurt, and so on…)
• Any plant item high in oxalic acids (such as rhubarb)
• Gassy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, iceberg lettuce, cabbage (these can lead to bloat)
• Shallots, chives, leeks or onions (will lead to blood disorders)