Role of Fiber in Rabbit Nutrition


  1. Drives digesting food through the digestive tract (breaks digested food/feces into smaller masses)
  2. Is the best source of energy for bacteria living in the cecum (eg. fiber isconverted into volatile fatty acids)
  3. Protects against diet induced enterotoxemia (maintains the cecal bacteria balance)
  4. Protects against GI stasis and helps prevent blockages due to hair
  5. Adds water and bacterial bulk to the feces (makes defecation easier)
  6. Helps retain water in the digestive tract.


Fiber is composed of simple sugars (monosaccharides) that are linked in such a fashion that they are undigestible by the rabbit’s own enzymes. Some fiber can be degraded by bacteria in the cecum. Products of this are absorbed by the rabbit and provide about 30% of the rabbit’s daily energy need.


  1. The undigestible parts of plants (lignin, cell walls, etc.)
  2. Hay, straw and branches all contain high percentages of fiber.
  3. Fruits and vegetables contain some fiber, however because of their high water content they are not as good a source of fiber as hay.
  4. Pellets also contribute fiber to the diet.


Because of the above reasons, bunnies should be allowed free access to all the hay they wish to eat.

Feeding Considerations

Mature house rabbits

Should receive fresh grass hay or straw on a free choice basis. Alfalfa and other legume hays are high in protein, calcium and energy, and should be avoided. However, some rabbits are very picky and alfalfa hay is better than no hay at all.

Angoras and other long haired rabbits

Same as for mature house rabbits especially when considering their potentially long hair length. Due to their increased protein requirements, the richer protein of a legume hay will not be harmful to angoras, however, the extra calcium may be a concern.

Growing rabbits

Because of their higher protein and energy requirements alfalfa hay can be given to growing rabbits. However, grass hays are also suitable for young, growing bunnies.

Sick rabbits

Hay is extremely important for sick rabbits. If a rabbit seems uninterested in grass hays, alfalfa hay is a reasonable alternative.