New to owning a rabbit? The question of "What type of bunny food should you be feeding your rabbit?" is more than likely at the front of your mind.
A house rabbit's diet should be made up of mostly of grass hay, with a mix of fresh vegetables and good quality pellets. They also need to have constant access to water, whether in a bowl or bottle. Any other kind of food is considered a treat, like fruits, and should be given in limited quantities.
The best way to determine what type of food is best for your rabbit, consider and factor in the age of your rabbit.
Baby Rabbits (Birth to 8 Weeks)
Baby Rabbits, or kits, between birth and 3 weeks old should be fed solely on their mother’s milk.
By 3 to 7 weeks of age, rabbits should still feed on the mother’s milk as well as very small helping of Alfalfa Hay and Pellets.
When rabbits are about 7 weeks old, they should have access to unlimited Alfalfa Hay and Pellets. Kits are usually weaned from their mother’s milk by eight weeks of age, depending on the breed.
Juveniles (8 Weeks to 7 Months)
Between weaning and 7 months of age, the juvenile rabbit can have an unlimited amount of Pellets and Alfalfa Hay.
At 3 months of age, start introducing small amounts of vegetables into your rabbit's diet. Introduce one vegetable at a time, if any vegetable seems to cause digestive problems, avoid feeding it in the future.
Young Adults (7 Months to 1 Year)
Young adults should feed mainly on Timothy Hay. Timothy Hay is extremely important for rabbits at this age because it keeps the rabbit healthy and at the right weight.
At this time in their life they should be eating fewer pellets (½ cup of pellets per every six pounds of rabbit’s body weight daily).
Because of the decrease in pellets, along with the unlimited Timothy Hay you can increase the amount of vegetables to make up the loss in nutrition.
Fruits can be given, but no more than 1-2 ounces (2-4 tablespoons) per every six pounds of body weight daily.
Mature Adults (1-5 Years)
By the time rabbits reach one year old, they should be fed an unlimited supply of Timothy or grass hay.
You should decrease the amount of pellets to be ¼ cup per every six pounds of body weight daily.
As vegetables are introduced and after your rabbit has deemed them tolerable, you should feed them 2 cups per every six pounds of body weight daily.
Fruits can be given sparingly (a max of 2 tablespoons per every six pounds of body weight daily).
Seniors (6 Years and Older)
Senior rabbits can be fed the same as mature adults but keep an eye on their weight. If they begin to have weight loss issues and can’t maintain their weight, you can increase the amount of pellets they have.
Alfalfa Hay can also be given to underweight rabbits in order for them to gain weight, but only if their calcium levels are normal.
To determine senior’s calcium levels and other components of their blood it’s recommended that they receive annual blood workups.
Food for Rabbit's and Other Small Pet's Diet: The Importance of Grass Hays
Grass hay is an important staple in the diet of rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas. For rabbits 7 months and older and guinea pigs 6 months and older, grass hay should make up 80% of their diet. For chinchillas older than a year, grass hay should make up 75% of their diet. The constant foraging and grazing encouraged by hay helps to keep them physically active and mentally stimulated. It also helps to wear down their teeth while the long strand fiber helps to keep their digestion regular and functioning properly.
Timothy Hay, Orchard Grass, and Mountain Grass are high in fiber and low in both protein and calcium content, which is ideal for keeping the digestive tracts of rabbits and other small animals functioning properly. Timothy Hay can be fed free-choice to your rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and other small animals, and should be a mainstay of any small herbivore's diet. Free-choice feeding means that the hay is constantly available and the animals can balance their own diet, without increased risk of weight gain or digestion issues.
Alfalfa Hay has a thicker stem and lots of elliptical leaves compared to the long thin leaves found on grass hays. The leaves run all along the thick and pliable stock. While it’s commonly referred to as Alfalfa Hay, it’s actually a legume (beanstalk). Full of protein and nutrients, it’s perfect for growing rabbits between the ages of 3 weeks and 7 months. Mature rabbits can only eat a limited amount of Alfalfa due to the high levels of protein and calcium. It’s crucial that you transition your small pet to a grass hay as soon as they are old enough, otherwise they’ll end up facing major health issues such as obesity, digestion and urinary tract issues, along with an increase risk of bladder stones.
Play With Hay for Rabbits: Fun Ways to Provide Bunny Food for Rabbits
Offering Timothy Hay, Orchard Grass, Mountain Grass or Alfalfa Hay for your rabbit or small pet in fun and innovative ways can increase consumption if you having issues with them eating enough. Here are two ideas you can try:
Placing a cardboard tube, basket, or safe toy filled with hay in your rabbit or small pet’s favorite spot.
Putting a layer of hay on the bottom of their cage/hutch or hiding other food or treats in it for them to find along the way.
Hay is the most important part of what rabbits eat when it comes to bunny food, but rabbits do enjoy many different kinds of vegetables, fruits, and pellets in their diets. A diverse diet allows your rabbit to experience other tastes and foods while allowing them to get other nutrients into their system. Find the right hay for your rabbits or small pets and watch how much they enjoy eating!