The one part of caring for your pet rabbit that will affect their health and longevity the most is the food that they eat. Rabbits have a sensitive digestive system that needs a specific diet in correct proportions to function correctly. Following the correct rabbit diet will help your bunny maintain a healthy weight and prevent other health issues, lowering vet bills. They’ll also make for a happy and active rabbit.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about feeding your pet rabbit a safe, healthy, and nutritious diet. We cover all the types of food and quantities they should eat, as well as recommendations of the best brands of rabbit pellets and the best hay for rabbits. This whole article is filled with must know information for rabbit owners, but if you’re looking for specifics on a particular part of bunny diets, feel free to use the contents links to jump to that section. Bun appetit!
- Pet Rabbit Diet & Nutrition
- Best Hay for Rabbits
- Rabbit Pellets
- Safe Veggies for Bunnies
- Fruit and Treats for Rabbits
- Transitioning Rabbits to New Foods & Diets
- What to do if Your Rabbit Stops Eating
Pet Rabbit Diet & Nutrition
A pet rabbit’s diet is made up of four components: hay, pellets, fresh vegetables, and fruit (treats). They also need abundant fresh, clean water to drink. Water and hay should be available to your pet rabbit 24 hours a day.
Pellets are also an important part of a rabbit’s diet, though they type of pellets they get will depend on their age (see the next section on “Bunny Age and Diet”). In addition to pellets, they should also be given fresh vegetables. As a rabbit gets older, you should lower the amount of pellets they’re fed, and add more vegetables to their diet. Some owners opt to feed their adult rabbits hay and fresh vegetables exclusively (eliminating the rabbit pellets), but you should consult with a rabbit savvy vet before you fo this to make sure your bunny is getting adequate fiber, protein, and calories in their diet.
How and when you feed your rabbit pellets and vegetables is up to you and the routine you establish with your pet rabbit. Our routine is to feed the full amount of pellets in the morning, allowing them to eat those throughout the day along with their hay. Then in the evenings, they get their “bunny salad” with the fresh vegetables and greens. You can also give a half portion of pellets and veggies in the morning, and then another half portion in the evening.
Fruit is considered a treat and must be given sparingly. Fresh fruit is a much better option than commercial rabbit treats sold in pet stores or grocery stores. If you don’t have a safe fresh fruit on hand you can also give dried fruit to your bunny, but they must be given in smaller quantities than fresh fruit.
Bunny Age and Diet
Baby and young rabbits have different dietary needs than adult rabbits. While most rabbits you will find at a shelter will be adults, sometimes the rabbits purchased from breeders or pet stores may be younger. And if you have a rabbit who has an unexpected pregnancy, you may end up raising some baby rabbits you didn’t plan for.
A baby rabbit will only drink their mother’s milk until they are about 6-8 weeks old. Rabbits should not be separated from their mother until after 8 weeks when their digestive system is fully adjusted for solid foods. At that point, pellets and hay can be introduced (and they’ll probably start to nibble at their mother’s portions around 6 weeks if they are living together).
While diets for young rabbits are close to that of adult rabbits, there are a few changes you should make. Since young rabbits are doing a lot of growing, they need extra protein in their diets. One way this is achieved is through alfalfa hay, which has higher protein and calcium contents than other grass hays. It’s a good idea to mix it with other grass hays so your bunny gets used to them in their diet and then eliminated the alfalfa completely by 5 months of age.
Another way to help ensure your young rabbit gets enough protein is to feed them a pellet with a higher protein content that is formulated for young rabbits. We will give some recommendations for this in the section on Rabbit Pellets below.
Fresh vegetables can be introduced to a rabbit once they’re 12 weeks old. If you have recently added a young rabbit to your home, allow them to have a couple weeks to settle in before you make any changes to their diet. Introduce fresh vegetables and fruit one at a time and observe their droppings. If their stool becomes soft or watery stop feeding the new food to them. If need be, consult with a rabbit-savvy veterinarian about your rabbit’s diet.
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Best Hay for Rabbits
When we talk about rabbit grass, we aren’t talking about that plastic grass you find in Easter baskets. Instead, we’re talking about dried grass and hay that form the base of a good rabbit diet. Hay should be available to your rabbit 24/7. In the wild, rabbits can graze freely on grass and so your setup should allow for unrestricted access to fresh hay. Generally, you should expect your rabbit to eat any amount of hay equal to their body size each day–that’s a lot of hay!
Hay also provides several important benefits for rabbit nutrition and overall health. Hay is a roughage that helps prevent hairballs and the fiber helps their gut function and prevent illnesses like GI Stasis.
When shopping for hay you want to look for options that meet the fiber and nutritional needs for your rabbits (which is dependent on their age). You also want to make sure anything you buy is fresh: the hay should be green and smell fragrant but not moldy.
The final thing you should take into consideration when shopping for hay is that your rabbit will actually eat it! Bunny’s have their own flavor preferences and will sometimes have no interest in certain types of hay. Feeding a mixture of hay types is a good way to keep them interested and give some variety in their diet, but if your bun refuses to eat a certain hay type, give them something else.
When most pet owners think about hay, they assume the only thing you should buy is timothy hay for bunnies. While timothy hay is one of the most abundant and traditionally fed hay for rabbits, it is not the only option. You can feed your pet rabbit any of the following hay types and even provide them a mixture:
Recommended Hay Types for Rabbits
- Alfalfa Hay (under 1 year old only)
- Barley Hay
- Dried Grass
- Meadow Hay
- Oat Hay
- Orchard Grass
- Timothy Hay
- Wheat Hay
A Reminder About Alfalfa Hay: Rabbits under 1 year of age should be fed alfalfa hay in addition to other grass and oat hay. Because of the high protein and calcium content of alfalfa hay, it should not be fed to adult rabbits.
If you can buy hay directly from a farm or feed store, this is usually best. Not only will it cost less than hay from pet stores, it will often be fresher. If you don’t have direct access to a farm or feed store, you can easily order good quality hay for rabbits line.
Recommended Rabbit Hay Brands
Our recommendations include national brands you can find in pet stores or order on Amazon. We also have some farms that you can order from directly in larger quantities.
If you’re shopping for timothy hay for bunnies, you may have a choice of “cut” either first, second, or third cutting. These numbered cuttings refer to the crop of hay it came from during the growing season. Generally, the second cut is the best as it has a good balance of nutrients and fiber. Many owners prefer third cutting timothy hay, but it is rarer and during a bad season may not happen at all.
Oxbow Rabbit Hay
We are a huge fan of Oxbow and they are one of the best brands available in many pet stores in the US and they’re extremely easy to order online. They offer many varieties of hay that are great for small animals like rabbits. Their hay is grown in the USA and hand selected to ensure a good quality product. They have a great variety of hay types available, which is perfect if your bun is a picky eater.
The options they offer for bunnies include:
- Timothy Hay (Check price on Amazon)
- Orchard Grass (Check price on Amazon)
- Alfalfa Hay (Check price on Amazon)
- BeneTerra Organic Meadow Hay (Check price on Amazon)
- Botanical Hay (Check price on Amazon)
- Oat Hay (Check price on Amazon)
Small Pet Select
A newer food distributor is Small Pet Select. They’re receiving positive reviews from exotic pet owners and are worth considering when shopping for your rabbit. Unfortunately they only offer timothy hay and orchard grass.
One thing that Small Pet Select does differently, is they pack and ship their hay in a cardboard box, which is the best long-term storage option for keeping hay. They offer timothy hay in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cuttings.
Check out their hay for rabbits:
Kaytee is one of the most common brands of hay and food available, often seen in national pet store chains and grocery stores. They’re also usually the cheapest option. Some rabbit owners complain about the freshness and have seen inconsistent quality, but we have used it without issue. (When buying any hay you should check the freshness and quality of it before feeding it to your pet.)
Kaytee offers the following hay options for rabbits:
- Timothy Hay (Check price on Amazon)
- Alfalfa Hay (Check price on Amazon)
- Orchard Grass (Check price on Amazon)
- Orchard Blend with Timothy, Bermuda Grass, Orchard Grass, & Mint (Check price on Amazon)
Farmer Dave Pet Supply
Farmer Dave is located in New York State and specializes in organic, high-quality pet supplies for small pet owners. His hay selection is unfortunately limited to timothy hay, but he offers it in 1st and 2nd cuttings. He also ships LARGE boxes of hay, great for rabbit owners that have a whole warren of hungry bunnies. Currently, he offers 10 lb., 25 lb., and 35 lb. boxes.
(If you’re in the market for toys & chews for your rabbit, check out his apple sticks.)
If you’re interested in buying rabbit hay directly from a farmer but don’t need such large quantities, check out Fay’s Hay. Also located in New York State, Alicia Fay owns a small family farm that sells hay to large animal farms in the northeast. Now they offer their delicious bunny grass to small pet owners as well. All of their hay is pesticide and chemical free, and naturally sun and wind dried on their farm.
They only sell a timothy hay and orchard grass blend that has a small amount of clover, but it is available in 1st and 2nd cuttings, or a mixture of the two. Available sizes include 1 lb., 5 lbs., 10 lbs. and 20 lbs.
Pellets are an important part of a balanced rabbit diet. When shopping for bunny food there are a couple of things to keep in mind in your hunt for the best rabbit pellets. First, you want to make sure the rabbit food meets the nutritional requirements for rabbits. Then you want to make sure the feed you buy consists of only pellets. A lot of food advertised for rabbits in pet stores or grocery stores contains nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or colored pieces. Those added in bits are junk–basically treats–and your bunny will pick those out and skip over the pellets that have all the nutrients and fiber they need.
When considering rabbit nutrition, for adult rabbits you should look for a timothy based pellet. Alfalfa based pellets are too high in protein, calories, and calcium for adult rabbits and should only be fed to rabbits under 1 year of age. If you’re considering a new brand of rabbit pellet, look for a feed that has 20-25% fiber (18% is the absolutely minimum), no more than 1-2% fat, 12-14% protein, and no more than 1% calcium. If you don’t want to shop around, you can check out our recommended brands below for some healthy bunny food.
The standard amount to feed a 6 lb. rabbit is about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of pellets. These can be served in a bowl or crock, or spread among their cage and hidden in their hay to encourage foraging. There are also toys to help your bun get a little exercise while they eat, like this treat ball they have to push around to get the food to come out.
Recommended Healthy Rabbit Pellet Brands
Oxbow Essentials Adult Rabbit Food
In addition to their fantastic hay, Oxbow also makes two lines of quality rabbit pellets. The Adult Rabbit Food is a timothy-based pellet recommended for adult rabbits over 1 year of age. This is the brand we feed our rabbits and they absolutely love it. It was also recommended to us by our exotics vet, so that’s why it gets our #1 spot as the best rabbit pellets. The feed has large amounts of fiber while keeping fat and calcium low. And this feed is just pellets–not nuts or dried fruit in the bag.
Oxbow is available in many national and local pet stores, as well as easy to order online.
Available Sizes: 5 lbs., 10 lbs., 25 lbs.
Oxbow Essentials Young Rabbit Food
The other bunny diet option from Oxbow is their Young Rabbit Food formula. This is designed for rabbits under 1 year of age who need more protein in their diet. The base of this pellet is made from alfalfa, which rabbits love, and it helps those young bunnies grow.
Just like their adult formula, this rabbit food has only pellets in it–no additional junk. It’s a great option to great a balance rabbit diet for your young bunny. This brand is also easy to find in pet stores or order online.
Available Sizes: 5 lb., 10 lb., 25 lb.
American Pet Diner Timmy Rabbit Pellet
Though not as widely available as Oxbow, American Pet Diner makes their own timothy based bunny pellet that is great for adult rabbits. Timmy Rabbit has a little bit higher crude fiber content than Oxbow, but nutritionally they’re very similar and balanced well to provide good rabbit nutrition. As you may guess from the name, the Timmy Rabbit feed is made in the USA.
We’ve never been able to find American Pet Diner in our local pet store, but their pellets are easy to buy online. They even promise “chewing and gnawing satisfaction guaranteed.”
ZuPreem Food Nature’s Promise Rabbit Pellets
This is another brand that is tough to find locally, but many rabbit owners swear by it. ZuPreem’s bunny pellets are made from western timothy hay and include not artifical colors, flavors, or preservatives. There’s no seeds or junk in this pellet mix. It’s also fortified with vitamins and minerals to create a balanced pet bunny diet.
One thing to watch out for is this pellet does have alfalfa in it, though timothy hay is the main ingredient. I would not recommend this for overweight rabbits
Available Sizes: 5 lb., 10 lb.
Safe Veggies for Bunnies
Vegetables are an extremely important component in a balanced pet rabbit diet. Adult rabbits should be fed about 1 cup of vegetables per 2 lbs of bodyweight each day. The majority of the veggies should be leafy greens, but a variety of fresh veggies and herbs will provide an interesting and balanced diet for your pet bunny.
Just like when planning your own diet, variety is an important component to ensure your rabbit is getting a variety of vitamins and nutrients from the fresh vegetables they eat. A variety of colors is an easy indicator to consider when planning your bunny’s meals. Once you know what vegetables your rabbit enjoys, it’s good to rotate vegetables rather than give them the exact same meal every day (for example: your rabbit may get romaine, green, or red lettuce every day, and then carrots every other day alternating with broccoli stems, and some bell peppers when you have them on hand). My rabbits always enjoy when I have extra basil from making pesto, even if they don’t get to have basil every day.
Always try to buy organic vegetables and herbs whenever possible. Or if you’re a gardener, you can grow greens and veggies for your bunny yourself and avoid any pesticides. Make sure to rinse or scrub any vegetables or fruits before serving them to your pet rabbit.
A Note on Introducing New Foods to Your Rabbit: Rabbit’s stomach are very delicate and they need to be introduced to new food very slowly and only one new food at a time. When you introduce a new food, monitor their stool. If they have softer stools that persist over a couple days, do not continue the new food. Even though these lists include vegetables that are safe for rabbits, your rabbit may not tolerate it or even like the veggies! Keep a list of their favorites to make shopping easy. If you have questions or concerns about your rabbit’s diet, consult with a rabbit-savvy veterinarian.
Leafy greens should make up about 3/4 of your rabbits vegetable meals each day.
Veggies with an * are high in oxalic acid and should be rotated and limited to 1 per day.
- Bell peppers (all colors)
- Broccoli (leaves and stems only)
- Brussel Sprouts
- Cabbage (all type)
- Chinese Pea Pods (the flat kind without large peas)
- Summer Squash
- Zucchini Squash
Fruit and Treats for Rabbits
Even if your rabbit is a sugar fiend and loves to gobble down bananas faster than you can slice them, fruit should be given as a treat only and not a part of their “regular” diet. Fresh fruit should only be given to a maximum of 2 tablespoons per day (for a 6 lb. rabbit). Dried fruit should be given in even smaller quantities as the sugar is more concentrated.
Buying organic fruit is best, but if not available you can remove the peel. Make sure to wash all fruit thoroughly before giving them to your pet rabbit.
Fruit for Rabbits
- Apple (no stems or seeds)
- Banana (no peel)
- Cherries (no pits)
- Melons (peel & seeds ok)
- Orange (with peel)
- Pineapple (no skin)
- Plum (no pits)
- Star Fruit
Commercial Treats for Rabbits
Pet rabbit treats are a booming business in pet stores–but that doesn’t mean you can give your bunny any “treat” you see on the shelf. Even if it’s advertised as “for rabbits,” plenty of commercial treats are just filled with sugar and unhealthy ingredients for your little bunny. Treats like yogurt drops are not healthy for rabbits. Instead, we recommend fresh fruit as the best treat to give your rabbit.
The first option is to give your rabbit dried fruits like pineapple, papaya, strawberries, or banana. Dried pineapple is highly recommended because pineapple contains enzymes that help break down fur in your bunny’s tummy is the perfect treat during molting season. If you’re buying dried fruit for your rabbit, make sure to look for organic options with no added sugar.
If you really, really want to buy some pre-made commercial treats, you should keep the following in mind. First, look for all natural ingredients that are made from things already safe for rabbits–this includes hays, herbs, dried veggies or fruits. Then read the ingredients to check for any artificial flavors or colors and make sure there’s no additional sugar.
Many entrepreneurial rabbit owners have taken to making their own rabbit treats, many hard biscuits that encourage chewing and the natural wearing down of a rabbit’s teeth. Oxbow also sells some rabbit safe treats. Check out these recommended pet rabbit treats.
Transitioning Rabbits to New Foods & Diets
Rabbits have delicate stomachs that are sensitive to sudden diet changes, so any changes to what they eat need to be done carefully. Young rabbits are extra sensitive because their systems are still developing.
When you first adopt a rabbit, you should continue them on the same diet they had before they joined your home for at least 2 weeks. This gives them time to settle into their new home and new routine. Make sure to inquire to find out what brand of pellets, types of hay and veggies they were eating and match their meal times as closely as possible. A young rabbit should have at least 2 weeks of eating hay before any changes are made to their diet. The hay keeps their GI track working properly while other aspects of the diet are changing and helps prevent loose stools.
You should only introduce one new type of food at a time. For example, if you are transitioning to a new pellet brand, you should not introduce any new fresh vegetables until your rabbit it completely transitioned.
Introducing New Fruits & Vegetables to Your Bunny
You should only give them one new fresh fruit or vegetable at a time. Give it to them for three days in a row and monitor their stools. If you notice softer or runny stools, stop the new food. After 3 days, if there’s no change in their poop, you can add the vegetable or fruit to their regular rabbit diet.
Occasionally, your rabbit may refuse to eat or show less interest in certain vegetables. That’s just a matter of taste (we could never get our Barney to eat bell peppers!) and probably a good sign it’s time to experiment with a different vegetable.
Keep track of which vegetables are your bunny’s favorite and you’ll be able to plan a diverse fresh rabbit diet that works with seasonality. It may even give you some ideas of vegetables and herbs to grow in your garden.
Transitioning to New Rabbit Pellets
Just like other parts of the rabbit’s diet, consistency is best. Ideally, you will select a healthy brand of pellets that is easy for you to purchase and that’s what your rabbit will eat all their life. But when you first bring your pet rabbit home, you may need to switch the rabbit pellets they eat.
Changing pellets should happen as a slow transition, while no other changes are made to your bun’s diet. You may need to plan in advance to make sure you have enough of the old bunny food on hand to make the smooth transition. While you are changing from one food to another, keep an eye on your rabbit’s stool. If it starts to get soft or mushy, then your are changing too quickly.
The absolute best way to transition a pet rabbit to new pellets is slowly over 3 weeks. Follow this schedule:
- Week 1: Feed 75% of the old pellets and 25% of the new pellets each day.
- Week 2: Feed 50% of the old and 50% of the new pellets each day.
- Week 3: Feed 25% of the old and 75% of the new pellets each day.
- Week 4: If your rabbit has not problems, feed the new pellets exclusively.
Occasionally, you may have a rabbit that refuses to transition to the new food. Instead, they will pick out the old pellets and leave the new ones uneaten. In that case, you may want to continue to feed the old food (as long as it is healthy and meets your rabbit’s nutritional needs) or try a different brand.
What to do if Your Rabbit Stops Eating
If your rabbit stops eating, consider it an emergency situation. Because of their delicate digestive systems, a rabbit can go into what’s called GI Stasis. If not properly treated, your rabbit could die.
GI Stasis can be caused by a variety of issues like stress, pain, intestinal blockage, or insufficient fiber in their diet. Our rabbit Barney went into GI Stasis from joint pain he was experiencing from undiagnosed arthritis in his hind legs. Once the GI Statis was treated and the vet prescribed pain medication to help his arthritis he went on to live 3 more happy, hoppy, years. If I hadn’t taken him to the emergency vet the day he stopped eating, that story would have had a very different ending.
So what should you do in the situation? Make sure you are always keeping an eye on your rabbit’s poop and their eating habits. Sweeping out their cage and play area frequently and changing out their litter box daily will help your keep tabs on their pooping habits. If the amount of poop decreases or changes in consistency, this could be the first indication that something is wrong with your rabbit. If they stop pooping for 12 hours, you need to contact a rabbit-savvy veterinarian immediately.
If your rabbit doesn’t seem to be eating, offer them their favorite fruit or treat (bananas usually work well for this). If your bunny takes it, make sure they have lots of their favorite foods, fresh hay, and clean water on hand and keep an eye on them. If they don’t improve, make an appointment to see your vet. If your rabbit refuses their favorite treat, you need to take them to a rabbit veterinarian ASAP.
GI Stasis can often be cured with treatment, but it should be done under the care and advice of an experienced vet. Once it is treated and cured, you should identify the cause and make appropriate changes to prevent it from happening again. You can learn more about GI Stasis in rabbit on the House Rabbit Society website.
Because emergencies like this can happen at any moment day or night, it’s important to have a rabbit savvy vet near you. They are a great resource to call if you’re unsure about your rabbit’s health or behavior, and they’re the first place you need to go if your rabbit shows symptoms of GI Stasis If you need to find a vet near you, check out this list on the House Rabbit Society site. DO NOT WAIT FOR AN EMERGENCY TO FIND A GOOD RABBIT VET.