One of the most common questions people have is what they should feed their rabbits. There's no one right answer. Each rabbit is an individual and will respond differently to different foods. Some rabbits can't have veggies, others can't have alfalfa pellets, some gain weight easily while others always lose weight at the drop of a hat.Hopefully this will help answer some of your questions and help you learn how to make your rabbit's diet the best it can be for him. If you'd like to read up more on rabbit nutrition and feeding recommendations, check out the threads in Bunny 101: Feeding Your Rabbit Pellets Hay: All About It (And how to get your rabbits to eat it) Vegetables General guidelines - Rabbit intestines are designed to process large amounts of fiber. Too little fiber can result in problems with diarrhea or GI stasis. The best sources of fiber are hay and good quality pellets. - Growing and breeding rabbits need more energy than non-breeding adult rabbits. However, young rabbits are more sensitive to carbohydrates so foods such as grains, fruits, and other treats should be very limited. - Small breeds tend to have higher metabolisms and often require more food per pound than larger breeds. - Long haired rabbits need more energy because of their constantly-growing fur. Too little protein or or energy could result in the rabbit using it's own muscles to provide the nutrients to grow the fur. Keep a close eye and make sure the rabbit is neither underweight nor overweight. - Sick and elderly rabbits have higher energy requirements. Hay Do I need to feed hay? Yes. Hay is very healthy for rabbits and should always be available to them. It "scrubs out" their intestines, preventing problems with blockages, GI stasis, and diarrhea. It also helps to wear down those constantly growing teeth and keeps bored bunnies busy. Breeders do not always feed hay because it's very difficult to clean up, especially with a large number of rabbits. In this case, it's more important to keep the rabbitries clean and prevent the spread of disease. What hay should I feed? Young, growing rabbits can be fed alfalfa, although be cautious because it is very rich. Rabbits of all ages should be given a grass hay such as timothy, orchard grass, oat hay, or one of the many other types. Some rabbits will like certain types more than others. It's a good idea to feed multiple types if you can, because it encourages them to eat more. Feed loose hay, not cubes, for a daily diet. Hay cubes often have sweeteners added and also might not wear the molars down as well as long-strand hay. A small amount of alfalfa hay or a piece of hay cube can be fed as a healthy treat. Where can I get hay? Many pet stores carry small bags of timothy hay. However, these are expensive and are often dusty due to the extra handling and shipping. Or you can order hay in bulk online from Oxbow, American Pet Diner, and other hay companies. This often costs less per pound, even after you add in shipping, and it might be more fresh than a bag that's been sitting in the pet store for months. An excellent option is to buy hay in bales from feed stores or farmers. Always inspect the hay to make sure there's no mold, it's not too dusty, doesn't have too many weeds, and is an appropriate grass hay. In some areas most of the hay available has a lot of alfalfa mixed in and might not be appropriate for rabbits. If you're having trouble finding hay locally, check these sites: http://www.hayexchange.com/ http://content.fsa.usda.gov/haynet/default.asp My rabbit doesn't seem to like hay. How can I get him to eat more? Some rabbits prefer fresher, less dusty hay.If you're buying small bags of hay from a pet store, try buying better-quality bales or ordering in bulk from a company such as Oxbow. It's also a good idea to feed multiple types of hay. Some just aren't that thrilled with timothy, but might go head-over-heels for oat hay, brome, or one of the other types. Mixing several types of hay allows a rabbit to "forage" and often encourages them to eat more, plus since different hay types have different nutritional values (even hay grown indifferent soil types have different nutrients) it is a great part of a balanced diet. Also, many rabbits love having hay in toys or different containers. Try putting it in cardboard boxes and tubes, tied up in paper lunch bags, stuffed into wicker balls or baskets, etc. Some rabbits prefer hay racks while others would rather have hay in their litterbox or on the floor. Pellets Do I need to feed pellets? Almost always yes, even if only a small amount to balance the rest of the rabbit's diet.. Pellets are designed to provide all the nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, that rabbits need. It's very difficult to provide a balanced diet without pellets. If your rabbit needs to have his pellets cut back due to health problems, keep feeding at least a tablespoon or two a day so he gets a little bit of the necessary nutrients.Also, switching from an alfalfa pellet to a timothy pellet can help manage many health problems for which pellet reductions are recommended such as obesity, cecotrope problems, and bladder sludge and stones. If you're interested in a no-pellet diet, I'll cover that later. What type of pellets should I feed? There's all sorts of different brands and types of rabbit pellets, some good, some decent, some horrible. Again, each rabbit is different. One rule is to only feed plain pellets, no treats added! Rabbits that are growing or breeding should be fed a pellet with 16% protein and at least 18% fiber. More fiber is better as it will help keep the intestines moving properly. A lot of the best brands for this type of pellet are found at feed or farm stores. Adult rabbits can be fed the same pellets as babies, but it's probably best to reduce the amount as they are rich. Some feed stores carry 15% protein maintenance pellets designed for that adult rabbits. Again, go for something with a decent amount of fiber. Some adult rabbits become sensitive to the extra, unneeded protein and get excess or mushy cecotropes (cecals).Other rabbits are prone to urinary tract infections, bladder sludge or stones, or need more fiber in their diets to help prevent intestinal problems. These rabbits should be fed a timothy-based pellet because they have less protein and calcium and more fiber. Senior rabbits and those with chronic illnesses sometime have difficulties maintaining their weights. They may need alfalfa pellets again to help them keep their weight up. How much pellets should I feed? Growing rabbits should be allowed unlimited pellets. For breeding rabbits, it's best to consult a knowledgeable breeder. Some recommend a larger amount of measured pellets, others free-feed. I use the HRS guidelines as a basis for adults. They recommend feeding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pellets per 6 lbs of body weight,depending on how much veggies are fed and the rabbit's metabolism. Keep an eye on your rabbit's weight and adjust the pellet amount as needed. Also, reducing pellets slightly can encourage a rabbit to eat more hay. Vegetables Do I have to feed vegetables? As long as you are feeding pellets, vegetables are not essential, although a rabbit diet with a large volume and variety of vegetables, unlimited hay and only a very limited amount of pellets can promote healthy GI tracts and teeth among other benefits. However, some rabbits are sensitive to certain veggies, while others can't tolerate any. Vegetables are crucial if you are not feeding pellets, and it's very important to feed a large amount of several different types. Important tips: -Start slowly. Only give a small piece of any new vegetable, once a day for several days before you increase the amount.Even rabbits that are fine with other vegetables may get problems such as gas or diarrhea from certain veggies. Not all rabbits will be able to tolerate vegetables either. Each rabbit has different dietary needs. - Be especially careful with rabbits under the age of six months, as diarrhea in young rabbits can quickly become fatal. Many owners wait until their rabbits are older before they start introducing vegetables. - Just because we can eat it doesn't mean a rabbit can or should. Print off one of the many safe vegetable lists available (such as The Rabbit Menu) and use it to help you shop. When in doubt, don't feed it! - If you are feeding veggies as large part of the daily diet, try to feed at least three types of leafy greens a day. If you can, rotate some of the vegetables so they're not eating the same few things week in and week out. Don't make big changes, just small ones such as switching one veggie at a time. - Carrots are high in sugar, so feed them sparingly and more as a treat. - Some veggies have high calcium levels. Although the amount of calcium in fresh vegetables is much lower than in dried foods such as alfalfa, these vegetables may not be appropriate for rabbits with bladder sludge/calcium sensitivity problems. As long as they're on a safe list, does it matter what veggies I feed? It depends. Obviously you shouldn't feed something that you know your rabbit is sensitive to. And if he's prone to gas problems, avoid veggies like broccoli that are common culprits. If vegetables are a regular, significant part of your rabbit's diet then you should feed at least three different leafy green veggies per day, plus occasional non-leafy veggies like carrots, snowpeas, broccoli, etc. Also, it's a good idea to feed at least one veggie a day that is a good source of Vitamin A. Leaf lettuce, parsley, canned pumpkin, and carrots are good examples, and there are more on this list: http://www.rabbit.org/care/veggies.html If your rabbit has problems with bladder stones or sludge, it's still okay to feed veggies with high calcium contents (kale, collard greens, mustard greens) as the water content helps to flush it out of the system. However, you might want to feed them in smaller amounts to be sure. This list shows the calcium content of many veggies: http://www.carrotcafe.com/f/calevel.html I heard lettuce is bad for rabbits. Is that true? For the most part, this is a myth. Iceberg lettuce does often cause problems, but that's because it's essentially crunchy water. Even if your rabbit tolerates Iceberg lettuce it's not a good idea to feed it because it doesn't provide much nutrition at all. Dark green lettuces such as green or red leaf, romaine, and endive are fine. They provide essential nutrients such as Vitamin A and are usually available year round, so they make great additions to a rabbit diet. Treats What treats can I feed my rabbit? For one, I don't recommend buying treat sat a pet store except for alfalfa hay or hay cubes. Pet store treats are usually crammed full of sugar and many of them, such as seed-laden treat sticks, are larger than what a Flemish Giant should get in a week. Most rabbits love small treats like rolled oats (Quaker Old Fashioned Oats), raisins, canned pumpkin, safe fruit, alfalfa, or hay cubes. Feed only a small amount at a time, no more than once a day but preferably less often. Be very careful with young, growing rabbits as they are more prone to upsets. List of safe fruits: http://www.rabbit.org/care/fruits.html Be aware that some rabbits are sensitive to sugars and should not get any treats at all. Usually they end up as excess or mushy cecals. Supplements Does my rabbit need a salt block or mineral block? No. Your rabbit's necessary salt and minerals should come from it's pellets, or if you're not feeding pellets then from the large, varied amount of veggies you are feeding. Many rabbits do not even like salt licks, although some will eat them to the point of dehydration. Does my rabbit need a vitamin supplement? No. The vitamins should come from the pellets and/or the veggies. As in humans, vitamin supplements are often not absorbed as well as naturally occurring vitamins. It's far better to ensure that the rabbit is getting adequate nutrition from it's food. The No-Pellet Diet I read that pellets can be bad for rabbits. Is that true? For the most part, no. Some rabbits with health problems need temporary, or even permanent, no-pellet diets. However this is not to be undertaken lightly. Feeding pellets ensures that your rabbit is getting at least some of all the necessary vitamins and minerals.It's very difficult to feed a rabbit properly without any pellets. How should I feed my rabbit if I'm not going to feed pellets? First, do lots of research. Talk to a good rabbit-savvy vet who understands nutrition and read up on rabbit diets, their needs, and the nutrient content of different vegetables. If your rabbit is sensitive to vegetables or is very picky, then you can not do a no-pellet diet. There's no "magic vegetable" that will provide all the necessary nutrients so you'll need to feed a large number of several different vegetables every day. Common recommendations are to feed the rabbit a pile of veggies as big as it's body every day. The veggies should be mainly leafy greens, at bare minimum three different types of leafy greens. More variety is better, and it's also better to choose from different families of plants. Make sure you're feeding at least one veggie that is a good source of Vitamin A, and also feed some veggies with a decent calcium content. A diet too low in calcium has been linked to weak bones in rabbits which increases the likelihood of a broken bone. This is can happen in both young rabbits and adults. You should also look at feeding a small amount of fruit daily to add more vitamins and antioxidants. Berries such as blueberries and strawberries are good vitamin sources, and citrus fruits like oranges provide Vitamin C. It's also important to feed several different types of hay.Different types of hay, and even hay grown on different soil types,will have different nutrition. Feeding several types balances out any deficiencies that one might have and also encourages the rabbit to eat more. It might be a good idea to feed a small amount of alfalfa too. What about a hay-only diet? No. It is not possible for a rabbit to get all his necessary nutrition from hay. It's just like a human living off of only rice. Nutritional deficiencies will occur. Do you have any questions? Please ask!