You have just acquired a lovely little furry bundle of joy from your local pet shop or rabbit fancier and the BIG question is:
What shall I feed him on to keep him healthy and happy??
You can’t just go, willy nilly, down to the local supermarket and buy a box of rabbit food! … Rabbits have delicate digestive systems! They will get sick very quickly, if you suddenly change their diet! So… what do you do???
Firstly, find out what he has previously been eating with his rabbit family. Purchase the same products, even if you would prefer a different brand or type of food. This will have to last at least 1 or 2 weeks as you have to GRADUALLY mix in the type of food you want him to eat. Don’t be surprised if your bunny is ‘picky’ just like a young child, avoiding his new food in the MIX. Eventually, he will get the idea; there won’t be anything else – so, be strong and don’t increase the percentage of the old type of rabbit food, or feel sorry for him and give him his extras or YOU will become the bunny and relent.
Personally, we like to feed our boys and girls, a commercial rabbit pellet, twice a day, as it has a good base with all its vitamins & minerals, protein, fat and fibre.
To further increase the fibre content, they are given unlimited grass hay and fresh grass which is essential to prevent hair balls and promote good digestion and it helps to keep their teeth down.
In the wild, rabbits are used to nibbling on things all day. We allow some of our own yard grass to grow long, then it is hand cut with a carving knife and bagged up for a couple of days worth, for easy feeding. The Bunnies love it: they suck it up like pasta!
NOTE: ALFALPHA HAY is no longer recommended for bunnies as it has been found to be too high in calcium and carbohydrates. Unhealthy symptoms for bunnies are crystals or milky urine, if the get too much of it.
Keep the pellets and hay nice and dry. Offer a ¼ cup of pellets (per bunny) at a time. When he as had enough, he will have a drink, go away or even have a sleep. Remove any uneaten food and offer a lesser amount for his evening meal, as fresh hay (grass or oat) is always there for them to nibble on.
For dessert, after they have finished their pellets, you can provide them with extras like carrot, rose flowers, apple (remove seeds as they are toxic), dandelion leaves, half a pear, raspberry leaves, spinach, mint leaves & branches, grape vines, Jerusalem Artichoke stems & leaves (a personal favourite of our bunnies), fennel, blueberries, blackberries: fruit & leaves, chard, broccoli, fresh pineapple – it prevents hair balls.
FOODS TO AVOID:
Lettuce, rhubarb, potato, raw beans, avocado, beetroot tops.
Corn is hard to digest.
FOODS TO LIMIT:
Too much cabbage or cauliflower will cause ‘bloat’ and should be kept to very small quantities only.
LIMIT fresh treat foods with high sugar content, to very small quantities. This would include most fruits.
E.g. Banana – 1 tablespoon per bunny
Unlimited FRESH WATER should be available at all times as dry foods make them very thirsty. A large heavy ceramic or stainless steel bowl is ideal as bunnies have a tendency to put their feet on the sides. Replace the water, at least, daily.
Personally, we found that the small self dispensing water bottles are inadequate. The water gets too hot in it and it is very hard to clean. Our bunnies prefer the pottery bowl best, as it insulates the water from the heat as opposed to metal or glass. Give them two different types of bowls and see which one they prefer as they are individuals just like us. It will soon become apparent which is emptied first!
To easily clean a plastic or glass storage bottle:
Add some river gravel (like the fish tank variety) and shake vigorously.
All the ‘hard to get’ areas are cleaned easily
A rabbit’s teeth are growing all the time so this is essential to keep them down!
Fruit wood such as apple and pear, also willow and birch are OK.
AVOID stone fruit wood such as peach, plum, apricot, and privot which is poisonous