Young rabbits have different nutritional needs to adults. They need higher protein levels to support growth as well as high fibre to promote healthy digestion. Young rabbits are very vulnerable to digestive problems, especially around weaning sudden changes in diet can be dangerous. Moving away from their littermates into a new home can be stressful for a baby rabbit, which can also cause digestive problems. You should allow four weeks settling in period before making any major changes to a young rabbits diet.
The first step is to introduce hay. Unlimited, good quality hay as well as a fresh supply of clean water is an essential part of every rabbit’s diet and should be freely available. There are many varieties of rabbit foods available from muesli to pellet type foods. Muesli based foods are not ideal as they are very low in fibre and often contain additives which can play havoc with your rabbits gut. Burgess Supa Rabbit is a popular diet for your rabbit; as it is a pellet based food it prevents “selective eating” which happens with a muesli type mixes it also helps them maintain a balanced diet. Young rabbits should preferably be offered Burgess Junior/dwarf twice a day until they are 8months-1year as it contains higher protein which helps young rabbits as they grow. Then you can gradually change onto the Burgess Excel and start to decrease feeding to once a day to allow them to fill up on hay which is ideal to keep their teeth in good condition.
Introducing new food
Preferably wait until your rabbit is about 12 weeks old before you start introducing any fruits or vegetables, as too much too quickly can cause problems; it’s a lot for a small bunny’s tummy to cope with and leads to diarrhoea. If any soft stools, constipation or anorexia occurs contact Parkside as soon as possible.
When introducing any new food, always do so slowly to avoid digestive upset. It is recommended to only introduce one new food at a time, so if it does upset the rabbit it can be removed from the diet. Only give small amounts and wait for 24hours, if it isn’t well tolerated (i.e. soft stools produced) withdraw it and wait till things are back to normal, then try again. Allow 5-7days before making any other additions.
The exact quantities given often depend upon the rabbit, so you may need to test your buns individual limits. As a rule, an average 2-3kg rabbit should get 1.5-2.5 cups of fresh veg a day.
What not to feed your rabbit…
POISONOUS – NEVER FEED!
- Most types of lettuce
- Runner beans/leaves
- Rhubarb leaves
- Tomato leaves
- Frozen/wet greens
POISONOUS plants In the garden
Most houseplants are also poisonous; keep them all out of reach and always make sure fruit/veg is washed before giving to your rabbit.
Finally, rabbits love crisps and sweets – we all do but high sugar foods are extremely bad for them in many ways and should not be given under any circumstance. Put it this way, you don’t see wild bunnies nibbling on a piece of Battenberg!
Poor diet – poor teeth – shortened life!
What foods are safe to feed your rabbit…
- Artichoke leaves
- Baby Sweetcorn (but not full-size ones)
- Beetroot (care with leafy tops as high in oxalic acid)
- Broccoli and leaves
- Brussel sprouts
- Cabbage (can sometimes cause digestive upsets)
- Carrots and tops
- Cauliflower and leaves
- Celery and leaves
- Courgette and flowers
- Chickweed (astringent)
- Clover (leaves and flowers)
- Dandelion (diuretic properties)
- Goosegrass (cleavers) may stick to coat
- Curly Kale
- Green beans
- Peppers (green, red and yellow)
- Radish Tops
- Romaine lettuce (not iceberg or light coloured leaves)
- Spring greens
- Squash (e.g. butternut)
- Mint (peppermint)
(Fruits should be fed in moderation, due to their high sugar content – feed only up to 2 tablespoons per week)
- Banana (high in potassium)
- Blackberries (and leaves – excellent astringent properties)
- Kiwi fruit
- Oranges (not peel)
- Strawberries (and leaves)
- Tomatoes (not leaves)