Feeding your rabbit

This is what they eat naturally, so it should make up the bulk of the diet and be offered all the time.

A small quantity of pellets – nuggets, rather than muesli type mix – and fresh greens can also be added to their diet.

A guide to feeding your rabbit is:

  • Good quality hay. Your rabbits should get at least their own bodyweight of good quality hay each day. As a rule, either fresh hay or growing grass (not grass clippings) should always be available.

  • Fresh greens. An adult-sized handful of suitable fresh greens should be fed morning and evening.

  • Pellets or nuggets. A good general rule is to feed a maximum of 25g of pellets each day for each kilogram that your rabbit weighs.

Hay and grass provide essential fibre that keeps the teeth and digestive system in good health and nibbling throughout the day will keep your rabbit occupied and prevent boredom.

Good quality meadow hay should be sweet smelling and not dusty. Dried grass products that retain the green colour and are highly palatable are also now available.

Overfeeding dry foods to adult rabbits is a common cause of diseases such as obesity, heart and liver problems, chronic diarrhoea, dental and kidney disease.

A large number of rabbits will only eat certain components of mixed muesli type feeds, risking an insufficient uptake of protein, calcium and phosphorous. This is why high-quality dry pellets, where all nutrients are present in each individual pellet is the preferred option.

Water should be available 24 hours a day and water bottles or bowls should be cleaned daily to prevent the build-up of bacteria and contamination.

You can feed your rabbit limited amounts of fresh vegetables, fruit and greens daily. Wild plants are also greatly enjoyed.

If your rabbit is not used to getting fresh food though, it's best to begin by feeding green leafy vegetables, adding a new type of vegetable every two or three days. If the addition of any item leads to diarrhoea within 24 to 48 hours it should be withdrawn.

Fresh foods should not make up more than 15% of the rabbit's diet. Items to try are Chinese cabbage, watercress, kale, parsley, spinach, radishes, celery, bramble, raspberry leaves, dandelions, chickweed, plantain, groundsel and clover.

Do not feed your rabbit chocolate, biscuits or other sugary treats like honey sticks, bread, or fatty, salty foods like potato crisps. Be careful with feeding treats generally as they can lead to obesity and digestive upsets.

Treats your rabbit may like include strawberries, pineapple chunks, apples, pears, melon slices, banana slices, raspberries, peaches and dried fruits.

However, fruits are high in sugar and should only be fed very occasionally as they can lead to dental problems. For good tooth wear you may provide your rabbit with twigs or tree branches and he or she will enjoy gnawing and stripping the bark.

A general rule is that you can offer branches from any tree that we eat the fruit from such as apple, pear or plum but do make sure that the tree has not been sprayed with chemicals.