Welcome to the wonderful world of Rabbitry! We are homesteaders and farmers who also do heritage rabbit breeding and run a rescue for bunnies and wild Cottontails. Needless to say, we have a Lot of rabbits at most times and wanted to learn how to keep things natural, as well as keep our food costs down.
It has been quite a journey in learning all the things that rabbits can and can not eat, proper ratios, what is easy to forage or grow, and a million other adventures along the way. I stressed myself out So Incredibly Much and I am a researcher and compiler by nature, so I started writing manuals and curriculum for our classes we teach here on rabbitry and homesteading.
This is just a little portion of our book “A Guide To Raising Rabbits Naturally.” ™ curriculum that we teach here but hopefully it can help you gather food for them easily! I can almost guarantee that in your own yard, you are sitting on a goldmine of edibles for bunnies.
We will also post more curriculum bits on natural caging and bedding, colonies, watering systems, wild Cottontails, breeding, natural antibiotics, and lots more. For now, here’s a tidbit on food! (I categorized them for my own sanity, and still have plenty to add in, but here are some good starters! I will also add in a printable PDF version and alphabetical list without descriptions…. when I have time, I’m a full time farmer ad parent so cut me some slack here. Ha!) Feel free to comment with any extra information or questioning! I am still adding to it, so by all means if you know more, lay em’ on me. 🙂 ENJOY!
There are so many different ways to feed your bunny, depending on your preference. Some people go the more store-bought approach, and others go towards a foraging and growing, self sustainable route. (Both ways are fine, whatever works best for you.)
Depending on how many rabbits you raise, your routine, and where you keep them will help you make these decisions for your own home.
For instance, if you have one rabbit in an inside pen, you would be fine with just a small bag of hay and pellets that you can order on Amazon along with a few fresh greens from your garden. Now, if you are raising 30 rabbits in outdoor colonies and pens, you would probably want to take a different avenue for costs and practicality.
Many folks prefer a mixed method, so I will allow you to make your decisions on ratios for foods which we will go through. There are a few things you do need to keep in mind when it comes to your ratios though.
What kind of rabbit do you have? How big is it? What is their fur density? What time of year is it, and how does temperature affect these things? How about your rabbit’s digestion process?
You might even be asking yourself by now- “What do you mean by their food ratios?” Well, to sum it up; rabbits need different types of foods to acquire the proper nutrients they need for body maintenance, also to keep their teeth worn down, and keep their gastrointestinal tract moving. Different types of rabbits need different things sometimes (I.E, our Angoras need a protein rich diet for all of that hair!)
This can simply be broken down into a few categories:
Hay Grasses / Greens / Grains or Pellets / Snacks. (And that is the order of my preference as well.)
From what I have both experienced and researched, Fresh Grass, Hay, and edible weeds should be the main part of their diet. Give or take an 80/20 ratio of fresh or dried grasses and greens, and 20% pellets (if you do them at all; this can be substituted with greens and grains) and snacks/veggies. Shocking, right? But boy will this help your costs as well if you can do it right! And it is generally ok to mix up ratios, don’t torture yourself with exacts.
Hay and Grass keeps their teeth healthier and worn (which we will go into more detail in further discussion) and it is full of fabulous fiber that keeps their gastrointestinal tracts working properly to avoid stasis, enteritis and bloat (which we will also discuss in more detail and both are very important to know.)
In the wild, rabbits most of the time have the most access to grasses, weeds, leaves, buds, bark, and branches. During warmer seasons, and depending on their region, they will graze on many different green goodies out in nature (which I have a detailed list of foods in sections below).
This goes for both wild rabbits and domestic free range rabbits, of which we have both and wild rabbit diet will be a separate blog but it similar to domestic. So let’s hop into a few! Again, there are many more, but this is a great starter guide.
Hays & Grasses
Timothy Hay- this one is pretty top notch. It has a high protein content, is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It is usually their personal preference as well, and believe you me, I have tried many kinds! It is also a hardy perennial and grows beautifully, so you can definitely grow your own! (It gets pricey to buy as hay for large groups of rabbits.)
Wheat grass- this is a good one to grow in flats, vertical gardens, given in moderation, they love it.
There are also many more I’ll keep adding, but here are some great staples to start with that are so easy to grow and preferred by our rabbits. Local Hays, Coastal, Bermuda, and a few others can make for good fodder and bedding, but not always my favorite to grow at home. Those we purchase if need be.
You can always cut handfuls of your yard grass (not lawn mowed, it ferments quickly) but not all grasses have the best nutrient content, it’s best to look it up. 🙂
Seeds, Grains, & Legumes
Seeds, Grains, and Legumes you want to keep to a minimum, (the 20%) and they cannot eat every kind, but they are a great way to supplement, or to replace pellets. I love mixing things up in equal parts (weight) of whatever we have at the moment, usually rolled barley, rolled oats, boss, safflower seeds and flaxseed.
Alfalfa- a great perennial cover crop and super easy to grow! Sprinkle seeds around the cages, fencing, perimeters, go wild, it’s absolutely adorable and you won’t regret it. High in protein, vitamins, and best used for baby bunnies.
Barley- grow your own and serve fresh, or dehydrate freeze for later. If you are purchasing, look for stream rolled barley. I’ve also fluffed up some barley pearls with warm water and they Love them.
Farrow- an ancient grain similar to barley, this can be served the same way, lightly soaked
Indian Ricegrass- This perennial North American native (Oryzopsis hymenoides) was a major staple to indigenous peoples of the west. Discovery of a non-shattering clone allows it to be grown today on a commercial scale in Montana, producing a specialty gluten-free flour marketed as “Montina”. High prices make up for low yields, and about 3,000 acres are in production. Little breeding work has been done of this remarkably drought- and cold-tolerant perennial grain. If you can grow it- go for it!
Oats- they love them in mixes and oats have been used as fodder for many years. You can grow your own and serve fresh or dehydrate for later. If you are purchasing, look for rolled oats. No instant oatmeal, folks.
Pumpkin Seeds- Now, who doesn’t love pumpkin seeds?! Not only are these things delicious and nutritious, but they are also anti-parasitic and natural dewormers. Score! If you have space, grow a few pumpkins and dehydrate the seeds for later or serve fresh. If purchasing, make sure you get plain and raw seeds.
BOSS (Black Oil Sunflower Seeds)- these are great for their coats and highly nutritious
Edible Plants, Weeds, and Flowers:
Cabbage (can sometimes cause digestive upset or gas so keep limited)
Cholla (edible cactus)
Clover (red and white. I’ve heard mixed perspectives on these, but my free range rabbits love them, so, i choose to feed the others them as well, leaves and flowers)
Dandelion (diuretic properties and packed with vitamins)
Day lily (flower and leaves)
Echinacea- they loooooooove the whole plant, a yard favorite for sure
Goosegrass- (the cleavers might stick to their fur, just for the record)
Kudzu– they will eat up all the vine which is beneficial for you both!
Nasturtium (the leaves and flowers)
Pigweed (also known as redroot pigweed)
Plantain (the weed, not the banana plant. These are one of our Favorites to propagate and the bunnies adore them)
Prickly Pear (edible cactus)
Rose (all parts from the ground up they can eat)
Sow Thistle (annual, prickly annual, and perennial varieties)
Violets– flower and leaves/stems
Wingstem/ Yellow Ironweed (great perennial, all parts edible)
Safe Herbs For Bunnies
Coriander (also known as Cilantro)
Mint (But never to a pregnant or nursing doe, it will dry up their milk production)
Parsley not too much as it is high in calcium
Oregano (amazing antifungal & antimicrobials, this helps great with respiratory issues and boosting immune system.)
Rosemary (amazing antifungal & antimicrobials, this helps great with respiratory issues and boosting immune system.)
Safe Fruits and Vegetables
As a rule of thumb, please don’t feed the pips (pits), stones, of any fruit or plants etc unless you check it first because many can be toxic! Rabbits also love sugary fruit and don’t always know when to say no, so use your judgement with how much you give them.. You are the moderator 🙂
Apple (fruit is ok, seeds are toxic)
Arugula (also known as rocket)
Baby Sweet Corns
Banana (high in potassium)
Beetroot (limit the leafy tops though, they are high in oxalic acid and can cause gas)
Broccoli (leaves as well and purple varieties, limit since it can cause gas)
Brussels Sprouts (any of the plant is fine, keep limited for gas)
Carrot (tops anytime, fruit itself in rations since it’s high in sugars, no seeds though)
Corn (in moderation, but they do enjoy some corn, including the husks, cob, and leaves. Indian Corn is the best bet to grow!)
Courgette (and flowers)
Coconut shell & Coconut
Crabapple (no seeds)
Grapes (fruit and vine)
Peas (including the leaves and pods)
Pear (no seeds, and the wood must be cured first)
Peppers (red, green, and yellow)
Pumpkin (seeds as well, they are anti parasitic and natural dewormers)
Radish (root and tops, keep tops limited for gas)
Romaine Lettuce (no iceberg or light colored leaf, they lead to runny stools)
Spinach (keep limited for higher levels of oxalic acid
Squash (Butternut, spaghetti, yellow, zucchini etc)
Stinging Nettle (dried)
Edible Woods & Leaves
Apricot (only when dried for at least one month, no fresh twigs)
Maple (sugar and silver)
Pine (kiln-dried white only, sometimes I do use needles for bedding, they aren’t into eating them though, white dried pine wood is ok to chew on)
Peach (only after dried for at least one month, no fresh twigs)
Toxic Plants & Woods for Rabbits
Almond (can produce cyanide)
Apricot (freshly cut branches are toxic)
Citrus (all citrus woods including lemon, orange, etc.)
Peach (freshly cut branches are toxic)
Pine (fresh pine is toxic as are pine cones, a little bit isn’t going to kill them, but I avoid it unless it’s dried pine needles mixed into the bedding)