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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 rabbit's 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% protein 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 it actually helps a rabbit's 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. They 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 the 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 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 whatever 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Very good! Pellets are the chocolate of pets ;) high energy but less texture... – Allerleirauh Jul 30 '19 at 7:41
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In a healthy balanced diet for a rabbit you should include:

  1. Hay and grass daily

-Rabbits need at least one bundle of good quality hay that's as big as they are every day. Good quality, fresh hay should be available at all times and, ideally, rabbits should have access to growing grass for grazing or kiln-dried grass.** DONT GIVE THEM LAWNMOWER CLIPPINGS**These can make your rabbits ill due to the toxins when the grass starts to ferment.

  1. Leafy greens daily

-Rabbits must have an adult-sized handful(or a plateful) of safe washed leafy greens, herbs and weeds daily. Feed a variety of greens daily, ideally 5-6 different types, such as cabbage/kale/broccoli/parsley/mint. Introduce new types of greens gradually in small amounts to avoid potential stomach upsets.

Here is a list of veggies, fruits and herbs that are safe for bunnies! B Basil Broccoli Beetroot greens

C Cabbage (dark green varieties) Carrot tops and roots as a treat Cauliflower including the leaves Celeriac Celery Coriander Curly kale Courgette

D Dill

F Fennel

J Jerusalem Artichoke

M Mint Marrow

P Parsley Pepper Pumpkin

R Radish greens and roots Rocket

S Salad greens/lettuce (not many of these as they can make poos runny) Spinach Spring greens Sprouts – but if you get them a sprouting tree be careful of how much of the stalk they eat as it’s very tough Squash (any type – including cucumber) Sweet potatoes (as a treat)

T Thyme

W Watercress

In the wild (or garden!) A Agrimony Apple leaves and twigs Avens

B Blackberry leaves Blackcurrant leaves Burdock

C Camomile Calendula Cleavers (goosegrass or sticky weed) Cornflower Common mallow Chamomile Currant

D Dandelions

E Echinacea

G Goats rue Goldenrod

H Hawthorn Hazel

J Jerusalem artichoke

L Lemon balm Lady’s Mantle

M Marigold Melilot Mulberry

N Nasturtium

P Plantain (broadleaf and ribwort) Pear leaves and twigs

R Raspberry leaves Rosebay willowherb (fireweed) Roses (leaves and flowers)

S Shepherd’s purse Strawberry greens Sunflowers

W Willow leaves

Y Yarrow

But remember this rhyme : If in doubt leave it out!

  1. Pellets

-Feed your rabbit a small number of good quality pellets every day. Measure 25g of pellets per kg of your rabbit's body weight; For a medium-sized rabbit (2kg) it would be 50g of pellets or 2 egg cups full. Museli style rabbit food is not good for your rabbit, they can pick out the naughty pieces of food and leave the fibrous pellets out meaning they can have diarrhoea or become constipated.If your bun is on rabbit food like this you can easily switch them over to pellets.

  1. Healthy treats

-Feed part of their daily ration of greens/pellets/nuggets, as treats and rewards during training.

Feed carrots/apples, in small amounts as occasional treats.
Don't feed any other treats as these may harm rabbits.

  1. Top Tips

-Note your rabbits' weight. Adjust their food to ensure they're not overweight or underweight.
-Young/pregnant/nursing/ill rabbits have different needs. Ask your vet for advice on suitable diets.
-If you're unsure about providing the best diet for your rabbits, talk to your vet.

Hope this helpsx

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  • Do you have sources for this? Where did you get the list of vegetables? – James Jenkins Mar 11 at 13:47

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