The great rabbit diet debate: are greens and fruits vital or dangerous?
In all my years of owning rabbits, I've heard so many different recommendations on the proper diet for a pet rabbit. What most seem to agree upon is that fresh hay (dried grass such as timothy hay, orchard grass, or oat hay...avoiding alfalfa hay since it's so rich) should make up about 80% or more of the rabbit's diet. The debate regarding the remainder of the diet is whether it should be veggies and greens, quality pellets, or a combination of these.
Dr. David Sherwood, a microbiologist and owner of Sherwood Pet Health, along with several veterinarians and experienced breeders I've consulted feel that hay and quality grain-free pellets with minimal fresh greens and fruits are ideal for a balanced gut flora and good digestive health. The House Rabbit Society as well as some veterinarians and other rabbit owners are adamant that leafy greens be a daily part of a rabbit's diet and that this does not place gut health in jeopardy.
So, what is the CORRECT diet for a domestic rabbit? Honestly, I think that it depends highly on each particular rabbit's gastrointestinal health and genetic predispositions as well as quantity and selection of leafy greens. After feeding my own bunnies greens and having subsequent bouts of GI stasis or changes in poop consistency, I am convinced that some rabbits just can't handle much more than hay and a modest amount of quality pellets. In general, however, greens and occasional fruits are usually tolerated if fed in moderation and very slowly increased over weeks and months AND with a diet consisting mostly of hay.
Rabbit Safe Veggies & Fruits
Based on my research and experience, the following guidelines are generally safe when choosing to feed a rabbit veggies and fruits as about 10% of their daily diet (80% being hay and about 10% a high quality rabbit pellet like Sherwood brand).
Offering a variety of leafy greens daily is ideal. Due to leafy greens like spinach, kale, parsley, chard, beet greens, and mustard greens being high in oxalates, feed these sparingly and no more than one type of high oxalate green per day.
Bunny's Leafy Greens Menu (up to 2 cups per 4lb. bunny daily)
Treats for Baby Bunnies:
Baby bunnies have VERY sensitive digestive systems as a general rule, especially those around 2 to 3 months of age and recently weaned. Do NOT feed a bunny less than 5 or 6 months of age rich treats such as fruits, carrots, or moderate amounts of vegetables.
The smartest option is to abstain from feeding a young bunny anything but hay, quality rabbit pellets, and fresh water. However, since most people want to please their new bunnies and bond with them, I will share what treats I have found to be generally well-tolerated. Again, I am only sharing what has worked for my bunnies, please consult your veterinarian before following my suggestions.
In summary, please keep the following in mind when deciding what greens, veggies, fruits, and treats to feed your pet bunny:
*Disclaimer: Always consult your rabbit-savvy veterinarian regarding your bunny's diet! I am not a veterinarian, though I am fairly rabbit savvy. :)
♥ Welcome! ♥
Hook's Hollands is a small hobby rabbitry on our Ohio farm and is operated by me (Diane) with the help of my family. All of my bunnies are pampered pets whom I adore.
This blog serves to spotlight various bunny care topics and share a bit about my 365-days-a-year-with-no-vacations experiences raising bunnies.