Saturday, September 15, 2007

Keeping Rabbits - part 3

The first part of this series is here, and the second part is here.

House rabbits eat three things: hay, rabbit pellets and fresh fruits and veggies. Let's look at them one at a time.

Hay - Rabbits need plenty of fresh hay to stay healthy, it provides much needed roughage. Timothy hay is best, and should always be given instead of alfalfa. I'm starting to sound like a broken record about this, but your local rabbit rescue will be the best source for hay and pellets. You can buy hay at the pet store, but it'll be expensive and you have no idea how long it's been sitting on the shelf or in the warehouse before you bought it. We get a great deal from our local source, paying a dollar a pound for fresh hay.

Pellets - this concentrated food provides essential vitamins and minerals to your bunny's diet. Developed by breeders to make meat rabbits grow quickly, house rabbits should be getting most of their nutrition from fresh food. No more than a quarter-cup per five pounds of rabbit should be given each day. Again, we pay about a buck a pound for pellets, which is a very good price.

Fresh Fruits and Veggies - Once a day we give our bunnies fresh food. Give your rabbits a variety every day and they'll be happy and healthy. Here's a list of what ours like:
Lettuce (anything but iceberg, which is nutritionally null)
celery (including the leafy tops)
carrot greens
snow peas
dandelion greens

The last two should be given in moderation, because just like with people, they cause gas. Unlike people, rabbits have no gag or vomit reflex and burping is uncommon. Excess gas passes through the other end, and too much can be uncomfortable for the bunny.

Other rabbits eat the following (but ours don't care for them):
radish greens
mustard greens
green pepper

Stay away from starches and carbs. Your rabbit doesn't need them and it's not good for them.

Anything else, including carrots, should be considered treats and given sparingly. Rabbits have a big sweet-tooth. The reason that carrots are on list list is because carrots turn into sugar quickly when eaten, so it's just like eating candy to a rabbit.

Carrot (not a whole one!)
slices of apples or pears
dried papaya or pineapple (organic, no sulphur!)

There is one other thing that rabbits eat, called cecotropes. Because rabbits eat so much plant fiber, they have a special pouch in their digestive system where the toughest material goes through extra processing. It is then passed through the system and excreted as soft oblong pellets. The rabbit knows when cecotropes are being excreted and immediately eats them again. This extra pass through the digestive system allows his body to get the maximum amount of nutrition from what he eats. You'll almost never see cecotropes, because the bunny eats them right away. Regular rabbit poop is shaped like small, hard balls.

So there you go. Unlimited fresh water. Unlimited fresh timothy hay. Fresh veggies and the occasional treat, and your rabbit will be loving life.

Any questions? Please leave them in the comments. Next time, I'll show you how to build a quick and easy cage for your house rabbits.


Victor said...

My guinea pigs loved carrots--including the tops, if you can find carrots with the green tops still on them. Try an organic food store or (shudder) Whole Foods.

dr kill said...


Back when I was a kid, dangerous boys didn't build rabbit cages and worry about rabbit diets. We shot rabbits, but only after the first killing frost. We skinned and gutted the rabbits, mom cooked them, and we ate them.

Back when I was a kid, a dangerous boy would never write-

'Stay away from starches and carbs. Your rabbit doesn't need them, and it's not good for them'

-because these two sentences are neither nutritionally nor grammatically correct.

They may, however, be politically correct. I can't comment on that, because I am a dangerous boy. Such considerations are beneath me.

civilly yours,

dr kill

Anonymous said...

Dr Kill,

You're on the wrong website..if you don't have anything productive to say...well don't say anything a