Nutritional Recommendations

Young rabbits

Young rabbits (8 weeks to 8 months of age) are rapidly growing and require diets high in energy, minerals and protein to support that growth. Young rabbits should be fed a diet of unlimited pellets and unlimited hay. After about 12 weeks of age, fresh vegetables can be introduced. Any treats should consist of fresh vegetables or herbs. Young bunnies can be fed a handful of alfalfa hay daily in addition to unlimited grass hay.

Teenage rabbits

“Teenage” rabbits (8 months to 1 year) are still growing, although not as rapidly as when they were younger. Pellets can be decreased to about a 1/2 cup per 6 pounds of body weight. Continue feeding unlimited grass hay and slowly increase the amount of vegetables in the diet. Fruit can be introduced as a treat but in limited quantities, such as 1 to 2 ounces per 6 pounds of body weight.

Adult rabbits

Adult rabbits (older than 1 year) need sufficient calories to maintain energy levels and body weight, and sufficient vitamins and minerals to maintain proper body functions. Their caloric needs are less than when they were growing, so pellets and high-calorie foods should be limited. Approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup of high-fiber, low-fat pellets per 6 pounds of body weight, 2 to 3 cups of vegetables and unlimited hay should meet an adult rabbit’s dietary needs. A minimum of three different vegetables should be fed. Weight should be monitored; a rabbit that is losing weight, in the absence of any health problems, may simply need more calories in its diet. Increases in weight should be met with an increase in hay and a decrease in pellets. Older rabbits may have problems maintaining their weight and can be fed additional pellets and, in the absence of bladder sludge, alfalfa hay.

Special Cases

Angora and long-haired rabbits

Angora and other long-haired rabbits should receive 1/4 to 1/2 cup of high-fiber, low-fat pellets per 6 pounds of body weight, 2 to 3 cups of vegetables and unlimited hay. Because of their higher protein requirement, angoras can be fed small amounts of alfalfa hay if calcium intake is not a problem.

Ill rabbits

Ill rabbits have an increased caloric requirement as their body fights the infection or tries to heal from an injury. Sick bunnies will usually require more vitamins and minerals. In many cases, increasing the amount of pellets will supply these needs. Vitamin supplements may be required if a bunny cannot reach around to ingest its cecal pellets. Very ill bunnies may not willingly eat on their own and will need to be fed special foods from a syringe.

Overweight rabbits

Overweight bunnies need fewer calories. Pellets should be restricted to 1/8 to 1/4 cup per 6 pounds of body weight, or eliminated completely. Treats should be restricted to fresh herbs and vegetables. Grass hay should make up the bulk of an obese rabbit’s diet until sufficient weight loss has occurred. To add variety without extra calories, offer 2 to 3 cups of fresh greens per 6 pounds of body weight. Fruit and carrots should be fed in limited amounts, if at all, due to their high sugar content.