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We have a few questions such as Why is adding hay to a rabbit's diet important? and Why is iceberg lettuce bad for rabbits? However, they don't necessarily tell you what the basic diet should look like.

So, as a rabbit keeper, what are some basic diet requirements that I should follow, and pay attention to, in order to help ensure that my rabbits remain healthy and happy?

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According the the University of Miami Biology department:

Hay:

The basic diet of a domestic rabbit should be primarily Grass Hay! This means not alfalfa or clover. Mostly because this hay is richer and higher in calories, protein, and calcium than most rabbits need. If all that you have available is alfalfa or clover hay that is better than no hay.

Pellets:

In order to ensure that your rabbit gets all the nutrients that it needs you should also feed a quality pellet. Most commercial rabbit pellets feature an alfalfa based pellet. You should try to avoid pellets that include Corn fillers. These are not beneficial to your rabbits diet and can harm their system(source see #7). If you look at most of the common rabbit foods on the pet store or supermarket shelves you will find the corn or soy fillers as well as many extras that your rabbit does not need. For this reason I personally recommend going with a quality commercial grade food like Purina, Pen Pals, Manna Pro, or other quality feed. Most areas have a farm supply store near by. I recommend talking with someone there to help you choose the right food. You will probably find that the larger bag of food will be cheaper there than the small bags of filler at the pet stores.

There are a few premium foods like Oxbow Essentials - Adult Rabbit Food or Zupreem that feature a Timothy hay pellet. None of the pet of Farm stores in my area carry them, but I did talk to my Farm Supply store and they were willing to order it in for me.

You do not need the highest quality pellets for most rabbits. If it is just a pet house rabbit then the 14-15% protien is fine, this is usually the cheapest variety. If you have a wool producing rabbit you may want to consider the 18-19% protein blend because this will help with the keep their fur nice.

Special Treats:

I limit my treats to 4 different things.

Parsley because actually helps a rabbits sensitive gut maintain balance. Parsley comes in bunches but if you give the rabbit too much you are liable to cause diarrhea. I generally limit my rabbits to 2 or 3 sprigs.

Carrot Greens When we make dinner with carrots we purchase the carrots with the green leafy tops so that we can treat our rabbits with the tops. The mostly love the greens but will also sometimes eat the orange tops.

Dried Papaya We treat with a small piece of dried papaya every few months. Usually for a few days after we notice a little more hair in their poop. This is the desired effect. If you have a wool(angora, Jersey Wooley, Lionhead, or Fuzzy Lop) breed you may want to increase the frequency to monthly. This is a sugary treat so you do not want to over feed it a small piece goes a long way.

Dandelions We pick them greens and flower then rinse them well in cold water. I would never use these if I thought there was a risk of pesticides. But dandelions are a very mild food and are one of the first treats that are safe to give young rabbits. They will eat the flower, stem and the leaves.

There are other things that you can use for treats as well. But it has been my experience that rabbits do best when their diet is constant and consistent. So what ever rabbit safe treats you choose choose a very few types, and stick with those. Never feed Seeds, Nuts, or anything that can cause gas. The rabbit system is fragile and these things can disrupt the balance and often with fatal results.

  • Do you use salt licks? – James Jenkins Nov 24 '13 at 11:37
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    alfalfa based pellet may only be appropriate for commercial rabbits, breeders, mothers and Kits. Due to the high calcium level, long term house rabbits do better with a timothy hay based pellet like Oxbow Essentials - Adult Rabbit Food or Zupreem – James Jenkins Nov 24 '13 at 11:45
  • @JamesJenkins - I used them, our rabbits liked to have them, though they didn't get heavily consumed. – John Cavan Nov 24 '13 at 16:05
  • @JamesJenkins - We do use salt licks, I updated the question to include the info on the timothy hay pellets. FWIW if I could find a reliable source of affordable timothy pellets that did not use corn fillers I would probably consider switching. – user9 Nov 24 '13 at 16:30
  • @Chad Yes, Oxbow is expensive, but it's worth it; pellets are essentially a treat anyway; the daily max you should be giving is 1/4 cup for every 5 lbs of rabbit(s) you have. That said, Kaytee and several other brands stocked at the bigger big box pet store now have offerings containing no corn. – virtualxtc Dec 28 '13 at 9:03
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In general, the best foods for rabbits are those that provide the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins a bunny needs for healthy growth and development. Most of these foods are actually similar to what wild rabbits will consume on their own (grass, forbs, and leafy weeds).

Note that the age of a rabbit also plays a role. Checkout House Rabbit Society for more detailed information.

Fresh Hay

The most important item in a rabbit’s diet is fresh hay (dried grass) and it should be available in constant and abundant quantities. Hay will provide your rabbit with the essential fiber to maintain a healthy gut movement. It also helps wearing down a rabbit’s teeth which continuously grow.

Fresh vegetables

Fresh vegetables are also key as they provide additional nutrients to the diet. The bulk of these vegetables should be leafy greens which help keep intestinal contents hydrated, making them easier to pass. On top of that, they will provide different tastes and textures for your long eared friend to enjoy. Offer around 2 cups of chopped vegetables per 6 lbs (=3 kg) of body weight per day and include around 3 to 6 types of vegetables.

Rabbit pellets

Rabbit pellets provide a concentrated source of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that a rabbit might not get if only fed hay and vegetables. However, only a small amount of pellets is needed to assure a healthy rabbit. Make sure to use good quality pellets and avoid muesli-style mixes.

Fruits

Fruits are to be considered as treats and should be offered in very limited quantities. As a general rule no more than 1 tablespoon per 2 lbs (=1 kg) of body weight per day. While fruit is a source of minerals and vitamins, it also contains a lot of natural sugars. Feeding your bunny too much fruit might lead to intestinal problems in the short term, as well as abnormal weight gain or other health problems in the long term.

Fresh Drinking Water

Last but not least we want to stress the importance of providing your rabbit access to fresh drinking water all day round. If a rabbit is deprived of water, ingested food becomes dry and difficult to push through.

  • Very good! Pellets are the chocolate of pets ;) high energy but less texture... – Allerleirauh Jul 30 at 7:41

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