Lettuce talk about rabbit food
When we use the phrase ‘rabbit food’, we often think ‘salad' but, when it comes to rabbits, this is not the right diet to follow. It’s important to feed your rabbits a good mix of high-quality grass and hay, as well as a variety of vegetables, weeds and leaves. Hay and grass contain indigestible fibre that is vital for your rabbit’s gastro-intestinal health, and it will also keep your rabbit’s constantly growing teeth in good shape. If you have a lawn, pop your rabbit outside (as long as they are vaccinated and have been treated against parasites) to have a graze which will provide them with not only a good source of fibre but exercise too!
Do not feed your rabbit lawn mowing clippings however, this will cause digestion problems. Fresh grass instead should be offered.
Complement the daily intake of grass and hay with small selections of carefully chosen vegetables, weeds and leaves:
- Cruciferous vegetables – cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts
- Spring greens
- Kale and parsley
- Carrots tops
- Green beans
Appropriate leaves and weeds include:
- Fruit-free leaves and twigs
- Hazel leaves
Meanwhile, you should avoid feeding your rabbit the following:
- Iceberg lettuce
- Sugary treats
These items are low in fibre and high in sugar, which makes them almost the opposite of what your rabbit needs. And it should go without saying that rabbits need continuous access to clean drinking water. You should change their water twice a day, and more during the winter months, to make sure it doesn’t freeze.
Run, rabbit run
Rabbits need space to run, hop and move around. They are used to the great outdoors and warrens that stretch far and wide. The PDSA sadly shows from their research* that 25% of rabbits in the UK are kept in small hutches with minimal or no space to run. Rabbits need to stretch, jump, hop and run so they don’t sit still and gain weight.
A minimum of three hours' exercise (but more is always better!) is recommended for our bunnies to stay fit and exercised. There are plenty of ways to encourage your rabbit to take the exercise it needs. Those in the wild are used to looking for food, so keeping active is second nature to them as they run, hop, forage and explore.
- Digging. Rabbits enjoy time to dig! Living in burrows in the wild, which they have dug themselves, means it’s intuitive for your bunny to want to dig deep. You probably won’t want your rabbit digging up your lawn so perhaps get a shallow planter filled with soil to have fun with instead!
- Foraging. This isn’t something our domestic bunnies naturally do, given that we are their primary food provider. However, the PDSA suggest you can encourage this at home by making up ‘forage trays’ A big part of a rabbit’s day would usually be foraging for food. You can hide their food in amongst scrunched up newspaper or grass, freshly pulled from the ground (avoid lawn clippings as these can cause an upset tummy). Scattering some food across a clean area of their hutch or box filed with hay, outside, will help with that foraging instinct.
- Exploring. Exploring is instinctive to rabbits as they are naturally curious. You can help stimulate this with providing rabbit-safe toys and create tunnels which rabbits love to explore! While they’re in our gardens, they can’t really explore new places, so make sure you give them lots of rabbit-safe toys they can have a look at. You can also cut holes in a cardboard box for them to run through and explore or get them a rabbit-safe tunnel, to keep that curiosity going.
- Jumping. Jumping is a natural part of rabbit life so you might want to experiment with giving your rabbit different levels in their run to climb and jump from.
- Gnawing. Rabbits’ teeth continually grow so it’s important to provide them with things that are safe for them to gnaw. Small branches from apple, maple, birch and willow trees would be good for them.