Rabbit Diet: From Grasses to Carrots

Many owners think that it is very easy to feed rabbits appropriately. After all, there are countless whole foods to buy that can simply be filled into the bowl. Or is it not? It’s actually not that simple. Find out here what your rabbits like and what is good for their health.

For decades, the image of pet animals nibbling on frugally practical dry food has established itself in many minds. But with pre-packaged feed, the Mümmler is far from being fed comprehensively and appropriately: in fact, the majority of rabbit food should consist of fresh components. You can treat the vegetarians to a lot of vegetables and fruits, which also appear on your own menu. All sorts of nutritious greens from the meadow and from the herb garden are even more important.

How Do Rabbits Use Food?

In order to decide which food is suitable for rabbits, you should have a basic understanding of their digestive physiology. In some respects, this differs significantly from that of other domestic animals or that of humans. It starts with rabbits being pure herbivores. Your entire gastrointestinal tract is set up for the metabolism of plant-based foods, mainly herbs, grasses, and leafy plants. To a lesser extent, it also includes food rich in cellulose, such as wood in the form of fresh nibbles and some vegetables. Root vegetables in particular are a relevant nutritional component in nature. The energy requirement of rabbits is very high, the preferred foods are rather low in calories. As a result, the animals spend a large part of the day grumbling in order to get enough energy.

The rabbit’s stomach and intestines are prepared to digest very large amounts of material and filter out the necessary nutrients: the indigestible components are quickly excreted. Only finer food particles, shortened to the correct format by the rabbit through chewing, reach the appendix, where they are broken down further. From the nutrients digested in the appendix, the rabbit intestine forms a certain type of feces, which the rabbit excretes and usually eats up again – it takes up predigested substances again and can only feed them into the organism in this second digestive process. Since the intestinal muscles of rabbits are only very weak, it is also important that feed is regularly supplied in order to keep the intestines moving. A rabbit that has not ingested food for a while will quickly develop indigestion. It takes about four to six hours from chewing to poo. A secondary aspect of eating coarse-grained food is that the teeth are worn evenly.

Where Can I Find Rabbit Food?

You can grow grass and herbs in your own garden: There are special seed mixtures in specialist shops for creating “rabbit meadows” from which you can harvest or let the rabbits eat. If you live in an apartment or if you only have a balcony, it is worth growing kitchen herbs in large quantities in flower boxes. Of course, you can also pick directly from the meadow and the roadside; however, you should avoid the immediate vicinity of roads and not necessarily use the local dog meadow for harvesting. Thoroughly wash off any fresh greens. Use unsprayed goods for fruit and vegetables.

What Can Rabbits Eat?

The rabbit’s digestive system is therefore relatively complex and highly specialized: it is perfectly set up to utilize the plant food that the rabbit would eat in its natural environment. It follows from this: Rabbits need fresh food, if possible directly from the meadow, and they need suitable food that does justice to their digestive tract.

The appropriate rabbit food includes:

  • Herbs and grass: twice a day the rabbits need freshly picked greens such as grass, herbs, and meadow flowers unless they have access to a rabbit meadow anyway. Caution: some meadow plants are indigestible or even poisonous for rabbits. Do some research before harvest. You can play it safe with herbs such as parsley, basil, or carrot greens.
  • Vegetables: Rabbits like vegetables, but not every variety is wholesome. Here, too, you should find out in advance what the animals can eat apart from carrots, salads, celery, and broccoli.
  • Fruit: Rabbits like to eat fruit. However, please only give them in small portions, as excessive amounts of the fructose it contains can disturb digestion and promote diabetes.
  • Fresh twigs: Rabbits like to nibble on twigs from different trees, especially when there are still fresh buds on them as a delicacy.
  • Hay: Must be available at all times. Rabbits bridge the time between two feedings with dry hay as raw fiber. This is important to keep the bowel activity going and also serves to wear down the teeth. When you buy hay, make sure it is of perfect quality: it must not be overlaid, too dry, or even moldy.

Rabbits like to eat dry food or pellets, but practically do not have to be chewed and therefore have no particular effect on dental care and wear and tear. In addition, dry food tends to swell in the rabbit stomach, which in turn can lead to digestive disorders. The dry feed should only be served in small amounts as a supplementary feed, but not as a complete feed. A good guideline is one tablespoon per day per animal. On the other hand, seeds and grains are not part of the natural diet of rabbits: too high a grain content in dry food has an unfavorable effect on the rabbit’s metabolism.

What Should I Watch Out for When Feeding Rabbits?

Rabbits cover a large part of their fluid requirements with fresh forage. Also make sure that clean, freshwater is always available. Portion the food into smaller pieces and, if necessary, several bowls, so that even when the animals are envious of food, they do not claim everything for themselves and each gets its part from the food.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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