A Bunny's Gotta Eat

How much, what’s safe, what isn’t?

Authored by:

Edited by:

Jacqueline Arndt

Sarah Erickson, Carrie Oswald, and Terri Harris

Any suggestions made below or by volunteers is not a replacement for medical care and should never be treated as such. Always discuss dietary needs and changes with a rabbit-savvy veterinarian.


The Basics


Water – It should be fresh, in a bowl and available at all times!


Hay – Hay is the most important part of your bunny’s diet! Hay should be available 24/7 and be checked for mold and other contaminants before being placed in the rabbit’s enclosure. Whether timothy, orchard, oat, or botanical - hay should comprise 80% of a healthy adult rabbit’s daily intake. Alfalfa hay is only appropriate for young or elderly rabbits (or an occasional treat for adults). Please see https://rabbit.org/faq-diet/ for a good age-based guide. Eating proper amounts of hay keeps their dental and digestive health in check. In a perfect world, a bunny would eat a pile of hay equivalent to their own torso size each day. Some bunnies are better hay eaters than others, but just as you do with yourself or children, it is important to encourage them to eat the healthy stuff before the fun stuff!


  • Hay keeps gut flora in balance and promotes proper motility

  • Repetitive chewing keeps teeth properly aligned and at healthy lengths

  • Hay helps prevent fur blockages

  • Encourages natural foraging behavior and reduces boredom


Have a fussy bunny? Try different types of hay -- your bunny may just be bored of eating the same thing every day. Different hays may be crunchier or sweeter thus boosting interest! Try hiding their pellets or small pieces of treats within the hay to encourage their interest.


Papaya tablets – Not only do these taste great, but they are a fabulous safeguard against blockages. A rabbit should receive at least two a day, one in the morning and one in the evening. If you notice an increase in shedding or fecal pellets that are strung together like a pearl necklace, feel free to double this amount! RMHRR uses the Country Life brand, and these are available to purchase at our shop as well as retailers like Sprouts.


Pellets – These should be a high fiber pellet and comprise about 20% of their daily intake. We recommend Oxbow, Sherwood and Small Pet Select, and Science Selective pellets (House Rabbit and Grain-Free formulas only) as these are the most nutritionally sound pellets available on the market. It can be tempting to purchase the cheaper bulk pellets available at feed stores, but these are formulated for maximum growth for competition showing and meat production – not long healthy lifetimes for house rabbits. It is also important to not be suckered into the rabbit pellets that feature seeds, nuts, or colored bits. They may look tasty but they are nutritionally empty -- it would be like feeding your bunny sugary cereal every day! These also present a choking hazard. It is important to always measure your pellets as it is very easy to over-feed.


If your bunny is packing on the pounds, pellets and treats are usually the culprit!


  • 1lb-3lb bunnies should receive 1/8-1/4 cup of pellets each day, split into two feedings (morning and evening). It is important to monitor your rabbits’ weight and activity levels to find the perfect amount to feed.

  • 4lb-8lb bunnies should receive 1/4-1/3cup of pellets each day, split into two feedings (morning and evening). It is important to monitor your rabbits’ weight and activity levels to find the perfect amount to feed.

  • 9lb-12lb bunnies should receive 1/3-3/4cup of pellets each day, split into two feedings (morning and evening). It is important to monitor your rabbits’ weight and activity levels to find the perfect amount to feed.

  • 13lb-18lb bunnies should receive 3/4-1 1/4cup of pellets each day, split into two feedings (morning and evening). It is important to monitor your rabbits’ weight and activity levels to find the perfect amount to feed.


A proper weight can vary between individual rabbits. A rabbit at an ideal weight will have ribs that feel like they are covered with a layer of felt. They shouldn’t be visually seen but felt easily, the harder it is to feel the ribs the more likely it is that your bunny is overweight. It is important to remember that obesity is incredibly hard on a rabbit’s body due to the incredibly small size of their lungs, - they occupy 1/5 of their torso compared to 1/3 in humans and other animals. Obesity also increases the odds of arthritis as well as causing it at a younger age.


Veggies – The best part of any bunny’s day! Vegetables should comprise 5-15% of your rabbit’s daily diet. Greens provide essential vitamins, minerals, and extra hydration. It can be hard deciding what vegetables to provide for your bunnies but fear not! We have included a handy chart on the next page! Vegetables should be rotated to ensure proper nutrition, avoid boredom, and avoid possible issues such as a buildup of oxalic acid and starches.


  • I bet you are wondering what the heck oxalic acid is and why it can cause problems. Oxalic acid is a naturally occurring alkaloid that many plants produce to protect themselves in the wild. In large amounts it can cause tingling of the mouth and skin, and long-term exposure in very high amounts can even cause kidney damage.

  • Wondering how to figure out how much veg to provide? Loosely gathered in your hands, you should provide enough veggies to equal twice the size of your bunny’s head. Perfect!

  • It is important to always introduce new veggies and fruits gradually!


Fruits and Treats – Yes, fruits and treats are lumped together. Anything with a higher sugar content belongs in this category and should only comprise less than 5% of your bunny’s daily intake. Too many treats can cause GI upset, GI stasis and obesity. Not sure what belongs in the treat category? Take a peek at the next page!


NEVER EVER, NOT EVEN ONCE, DON’T YOU DARE – These are foods that should never cross your bunnies’ lips! This includes the insidious yogurt drops and seed treats available in every pet store!


If your bunny indulges in any of these it is a good idea to call your bunny veterinarian and ask if they should be seen –


  • Meat or dairy of any kind, sorry bunnies no pepperoni pizza for you!

  • Salty, sugary, fatty human snacks – yes, they smell good, yes, they want to try them – no you shouldn’t let them. An oreo is technically vegan but still isn’t a good bunny snack!

  • Cat or dog food. Yes, they will eat it and yes, it is a big deal. Exposure to meat proteins can cause major digestive upset and can even cause life long digestive inflammation.

  • While there is no conclusive data showing that chocolate is harmful to rabbits, let’s not be the people who prove it.

  • Dried, cooked, or raw beans such as lima, kidney or soy

  • Avocado, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, potatoes, dried or fresh peas, corn in any form!

  • Rhubarb leaves, Tea leaves, Coffee plants

  • Nuts, seeds, millet, maize

  • Iceberg lettuce, it is nutritionally empty!



 


 

Leafy Veggies Safe for Everyday Consumption


  • Arugula

  • Basil

  • Bok Choy

  • Borage Leaves

  • Butter Lettuce

  • Carrot Tops

  • Chicory

  • Cilantro

  • Clover

  • Cucumber Leaves

  • Dill

  • Endive

  • Escarole

  • Fennel (Tops and Base)

  • Frisee Lettuce

  • Kale (all types)

  • Lettuce

  • Mache

  • Mint

  • Pea pods, leaves and stems (not the peas themselves!)

  • Radicchio

  • Raspberry Leaves

  • Red and Green Leaf Lettuce

  • Romaine Lettuce

  • Spring Greens

  • Turnip Greens

  • Watercress

  • Wheatgrass


Leafy Veggies That Should Be Fed 2-3 Times Weekly


  • Beet Greens

  • Dandelion Greens

  • Mustard Greens

  • Parsley

  • Radish Tops

  • Spinach

  • Swiss Chard


Non-Leafy Veggies


(1 TBSP PER 2LB OF BUNNY PER DAY)


  • Bell Peppers

  • Broccoli (stems and leaves)

  • Broccolini

  • Carrots

  • Celery (Should always be cut into one inch or smaller slices)

  • Green Beans

  • Summer Squash

  • Zucchini Squash


**Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage can be given in very small amounts, but bunnies should be watched carefully as they can cause bloating**


Fruits & Treats


(1/2 TSP PER 1LB OF BUNNY PER DAY)


  • Acidophilus tablets

  • Apple (any variety, no stem or seeds!)

  • Apricot

  • Banana (no peel)

  • Berries (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry)

  • Cherries (any variety, no stems or pits!)

  • Currants

  • Kiwi

  • Mango

  • Melon (any, rind and seeds ok)

  • Nectarine

  • Papaya (no seeds)

  • Peach (no stem or pit)

  • Pear (no seeds or stem)

  • Pineapple (no skins)

  • Plain barley

  • Plain rolled oats

  • Plum (no stem or pit)

  • Starfruit

  • Tomatoes