What Can Bunnies Eat and Not Eat?

Since we have owned our cute bunny Grooty, we are constantly asking ourselves “can Groot eat this?” “What can bunnies safely eat and what can’t they eat?”

What we learned from Bugs Bunny when we were kids isn’t exactly the truth. It may come as a surprise that bunnies don’t live off just carrots and lettuce and shouldn’t to be the healthiest they can be. Carrots can make a great treat though!

Most of a bunny’s diet should consist of hay, followed by vegetables, then pellets, and finally treats such as fruit. However, not all vegetables and fruit are okay for a bunny to eat. Your bunny’s dietary requirements will change as they age so what you feed them now may have to change as they grow older.

At What Age Should My Bunny Eat Vegetables?

As your bunny grows and ages, the food requirements for your bunny change with it. What your bun eats during their first few months on Earth are much different from what they’ll eat when they are a few years older.

This is an important distinction to know as feeding your bunny the same things as they ate when they were young could lead to malnutrition and health problems. Here are some guidelines by age:

Birth to 3 Weeks
  • Mother’s milk
3-4 Weeks
  • Mother’s milk
  • Nibbles of Alfalfa hay and pellets
4-7 Weeks
  • Mother’s milk
  • Access to Alfalfa hay and pellets
7 Weeks – 7 Months
  • Usually advised to give unlimited pellets, but in our experience, pellets in the morning and evening (approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup each meal per 2.5 kg bodyweight) is a better option.
  • Unlimited Alfalfa hay
  • At 12 weeks, introduce vegetables. One at a time in very small quantities.
7 Months – 1 Year
  • Introduce Timothy, grass, or oat hay.
  • Decrease pellets to ½ cup per 2.5kg (6lbs) bodyweight.
  • Introduce daily vegetables gradually.
  • Fruit treat in very small quantities less than 2 Tbsp 2.5kg (6lbs) bodyweight.
1 – 5 Years
  • Unlimited Timothy, grass, or oat hay.
  • ¼ to ½ cup of pellets per 2.5kg (6lbs) bodyweight depending on proportion to veggies.
  • Minimum 2 cups of chopped veggies per 2.5kg (6lbs) bodyweight.
  • Fruit treat no more than 2 Tbsp per 2.5kg (6lbs) bodyweight.
Over 6 Years
  • Continue diet if weight is being maintained.
  • Older bunnies may need unrestricted pellet access to keep their weight up.
  • Alfalfa hay can be given to underweight bunnies if calcium levels are normal.

What Hay Should My Bunny Eat?

Hay is the staple food for a bunny and makes up 80-90% of their diet which is why it is at the bottom of the bunny food pyramid. They should have unlimited access to hay all day and night to allow them to graze and play as they please.

Hay serves a dual purpose for a bunny. One – it is high in fiber which helps push things through the gut such as ingested hair and other indigestible bits and keep the GI tract working properly. Two – it helps grind down the teeth to prevent overgrowth.

As you see above, hay is eaten throughout the majority of the bunny’s life. What you may notice though is the type of hay changing as the bunny grows older.

Young buns are recommended to be fed Alfalfa hay. This is because Alfalfa hay is high in calcium and protein and calories which is perfect for a growing bunny.

As bunnies get older, the high protein, calcium and calorie count may lead to unwanted weight gain and bladder problems. That’s why it is better to feed hays that are still high in fiber but lower in calories such as Oxbow Timothy hay (link to Amazon) which is the gold standard for high fiber hay brands.

If you have a nice backyard, your bunny can roam and eat grass as a substitute for hay. As long as it hasn’t been treated with chemicals your bun can have a field day! Just make sure grass is introduced gradually as you would with all new food.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT feed your bunny lawnmower clippings as they can upset your bunny’s stomach.

Hay TypeProteinFiberCalcium
Different types of hay and their nutritional profile

What Pellets Should My Bunny Eat?

Pellets provide nutrients that your bunny may not get from hay and some fresh foods. In the early stages, fresh foods can only take a very small portion of the bunny’s diet so pellets must be supplemented until the bunny gets older.

A good pellet brand should not contain dried fruit, seeds, nuts, or other colored flakes. Rather, it should have at least 22% fiber and approximately 14% protein, 1% fat, and 1% calcium.

This Oxbow Adult Pellets (link to Amazon) fit these criteria. For baby bunnies, this Oxbow Rabbit Young Pellets (link to Amazon) is a perfect choice.

While it is recommended to give your bunny access to unlimited pellets at a young age, most commercial pellets are very calorie-dense and may inhibit the consumption of hay which should make up the most of the bunny’s diet.

After consulting with the pet shop bunny expert, we fed our bunny twice a day with pellets during the 7 weeks to 7 months age range. She has unlimited hay access and a small number of vegetables every day or so to get her used introduce her to a variety of veggies.

What Vegetables Can My Bunny Eat?

Fresh vegetables should take up approximately 10% of your bunny’s diet once they are old enough. Make sure you introduce new greens to your bunny one at a time each day. This way you will know which agree and which disagree with your bunny.

Pro Tip: Serve your vegetables wet to help increase your bunny’s water intake and keep their guts moving.

Of the vegetables you feed your bunny each day, leafy greens should make up 75% of them. Here’s a definitive list of leafy green vegetables you can feed your furry friend [1].

  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Beets tops/greens
  • Bok choy / Pak choi / Pak choy
  • Borage leaves
  • Cabbage – Too much can cause enlargement of the thyroid and digestive problems.[2]
    • Red cabbage
    • Savoy cabbage
  • Carrot tops
  • Chicory greens
  • Collard greens
  • Coriander / cilantro
  • Cucumber leaves
  • Dandelion greens
  • Dill leaves
  • Endive
    • Escarole
  • Fennel – leafy tops and base
  • Fenugreek
  • Gai choy / Gai choi / Mustard greens / Kai choi
  • Goutweed
  • Ka lan / Gai lan
  • Kale
  • Komatsuna / Mustard spinach
  • Lamb’s quarters / White goosefoot
  • Lettuce
    • Butterhead
    • Cos
    • Frisee
    • Green leaf
    • Red leaf
    • Romaine
    • Lollo rosso
    • Lollo
  • Mache / corn salad
  • Mint – some plants in the mint family may be toxic
    • Apple mint
    • Chocolate mint
    • Orange mint
    • Peppermint leaves
    • Pineapple mint
    • Spearmint
  • Mustard greens
  • Napa cabbage / Pe tsai
  • New Zealand spinach
  • On choy / Water spinach / Kangkong / Kangkung / River spinach / Water morning glory / Water convolvulus
  • Parsley
  • Purslane
  • Raspberry leaves
  • Radicchio
  • Radish tops and sprouts
    • Oriental radish / Daikon
  • Rucola / Rucculo salad
  • Rutabaga greens
  • Spinach
  • Spring greens
  • Sprouts
    • Alfalfa
    • Lentil
    • Pea
    • Mung
  • Swiss Chard
  • Thistles
  • Turnip greens
  • Watercress
  • Wheatgrass
  • Yu Choy

Non leafy greens should make up the other 25% of your bunny’s vegetable intake. Here is a definitive list of non-leafy greens for your bunny. [1]

  • Artichoke leaves
  • Asparagus
  • Baby sweetcorns – not the full-size ones
  • Beets – high in sugars.
  • Banana peppers
  • Bell peppers / Sweet peppers – high in sugars.
  • Broccoflower
  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Caraway
  • Carrots – high in sugars.
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery – cut in 1″ pieces due to concern about choking on the strings or having them wrap around teeth; high in water content.
  • Celeriac – celery root.
  • Chinese pea pods (the flat kind without large peas)
  • Courgette
  • Cucumber – high in water content.
  • Fresh legumes – high in protein and calcium.
  • Garden pea pods
  • Globe artichoke / French artichoke
  • Green beans
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Kohlrabi – high in water content.
  • Okra
  • Peas / Mangetout
    • Green peas – Do not feed dried peas as they may cause a digestive blockage.
    • Snow peas
    • Sugar snap peas
  • Parsnip – high in sugars.
  • Pumpkin
  • Radish
  • Squash – high in sugars.
  • Tomato – high in water content; ripe fruit only, unripe and greens are toxic.
  • Turnip

Starchy vegetables should be fed in moderation.

What Vegetables Can’t My Bunny Eat

rabbit eating vegetables

There are certain vegetables you should not feed your bunny. These being:

  • Bamboo shoots – consists of compounds that kill nutrients.
  • Cassava – consists of compounds that kill nutrients.
  • Coffee plants – consists of compounds that kill nutrients.
  • Corn – rabbits cannot digest corn, and they can get blocked in the small intestine if not properly chewed.
  • Iceberg lettuce – safe for rabbits to eat, but low in nutrients and higher in water content than other darker lettuces. Large amounts can cause diarrhea.
  • Maize – consists of compounds that kill nutrients.
  • Garlic and onions
  • Potatoes
  • Raw Anasazi, broad, common, lima, black, fava, horse, runner, garden, pinto, navy, kidney, soybeans and sprouts – consists of high profiles of lectin which can damage intestinal walls and hamper the absorption of nutrients. However, lectins can be destroyed by cooking and reduced by soaking, sprouting, or fermenting.

What Treats Can My Bunny Eat?

Fresh fruit is considered a treat for bunnies. These should be fed in very small quantities. A general guideline of two tablespoons a day for a 2.2kg (5lb) bunny is acceptable.

Fruits should make up no more than 10% of the bunny’s diet. However, feeding your bunny treats every day probably isn’t the best eating habit!

It’s important that you stick with pellets, herbs, vegetables, or fruit as your bunny’s treats. Commercially made bunny treats are often very high in calories with not much in the way of nutrients.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT feed your bunny any treats if they are under 12 weeks old. This can be potentially fatal.

Here is a list of safe fruits you can spoil your fur baby with:

  • Apple (any variety) – remove the core with stem and seeds
  • Apricot
  • Banana – remove the peel; no more than about a 5cm slice a day for a 5lb rabbit
  • Blackberries + leaves
  • Blueberries + heath
  • Cherries (any variety)
  • Cowberries + heath
  • Cranberries (fresh or dried)
  • Craisins
  • Currants
  • Kiwi
  • Grapefruit – can include peel
  • Grapes
  • Lemons – can include peel
  • Mango
  • Melons (any) – can include peel and seeds
  • Nectarine
  • Orange (any) – can include peel
  • Papaya
  • Peach
  • Pear – remove the seeds
  • Persimmon
  • Pineapple – remove skin
  • Prickly pear – remove small spines at the base of pads.
  • Plums
  • Raisins
  • Raspberries + leaves
  • Star Fruit
  • Strawberries + leaves
  • Watermelon

Wrapping Up

Stop the guesswork with what you can feed your bun. Use the list above to know exactly what you can introduce into your bunny’s diet. Always make sure you introduce one vegetable at a time in very small quantities to see how your bunny digests the food. Remember, hay makes up the bulk of your bunny’s diet. Treats should be used very sparingly!

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