Rabbits are one of the best pets a person can have. However, they tend to come with some pretty strict dietary requirements. If you are adopting a baby rabbit, make sure to provide it with a diet that maximizes nutrients and minimizes the chance of stomach upsets.
As such, you should mainly feed baby rabbits a diet consisting of hay, pellets, and fresh vegetables.
If your rabbits are too young and need milk, you should give them Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR) or goat milk. But since mother rabbit milk is far more nutritious than milk from other animals, you will also need to mix in a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream (sugarless) to each can of KMR.
This provides the necessary combination of fats and other nutrients to growing bunnies.
This article will explain why each food is necessary and what purpose it serves in the diet of domestic rabbits. So, here’s our take on – “what do baby bunnies eat?”.
Types Of Foods
As seen above, there are three different food groups that all rabbits need - namely, hay, pellets and vegetables.
There are several types of hay that rabbits should eat, like grass hay, alfalfa hay or oat hay. Hay is the most critical part of a rabbit's diet, be they wild babies or domestic. Hay serves a number of important functions. While they do provide nutrition, they also serve to wear down rabbit teeth. Rabbit teeth never stop growing - if they are not worn down via a proper diet, they will grow too long and cause discomfort and eating problems.
When baby rabbits are a little older, they should be weaned off alfalfa hay and moved completely on to a diet of grass hay. To ease the transition, baby rabbits should also be fed grass hay. This replicates the diet of wild babies, and is good at filing their teeth down too.
A point to be noted is that rabbits also use hay for bedding. They urinate and defecate in the hay, which will lead to mold growth. As such, the hay in the hutch should be replaced regularly.
Baby rabbits should be fed alfalfa hay. While it is technically a legume, alfalfa hay contains a lot of protein, which is superb for baby rabbits. It also contains some calcium, which promotes bone health. Grass hay contains fewer nutrients but is nutritionally complete. Older rabbits can subsist on a diet of grass hay, with a few supplementary pieces of vegetables or fruits.
Where To Buy
Good quality hay can be bought online. As it is dried out before packaging and shipping, it lasts a long time. If you prefer local suppliers, you can purchase hay from local farmers, usually from nearby farmer's markets.
On average, most types of hay go for around $12 per sack.
While a number of people consider pellets to be empty calories, the truth is that they are great for feeding baby rabbits. However, you must carefully manage the quality and quantity of the pellets. If you feed your rabbit too many pellets as a baby, it will get used to them. As your baby bunny grows older, you will need to reduce or remove pellets from its diet. To minimize stress, it is best to keep pellets as limited as possible.
Pellets are usually made of alfalfa, and contain a good number of fats, proteins and calcium. Ideally, pellets should be 22% fiber with no more than 14% protein. Calcium limits should also be below 1%, otherwise, it may harm the rabbits.
Where To Buy
Pellets are easily available in all pet shops, as many kinds of animals eat them. Large chains like Petsmart carry them.
Alfalfa pellets are relatively inexpensive and usually cost around $15-$40 per 40lb (ca. 18 kg) bag. These bags last quite a while, as the quantity of pellets is quite high.
3. Fresh Veggies
Fresh vegetables are an excellent addition to a baby rabbit's diet, and should be introduced at around 2-3 weeks.
Wild rabbits grow up exclusively on a plant based diet including vegetables. Baby rabbits often nibble on their mother's food around this age.
The best vegetables to feed your rabbit are fiber-heavy, leafy vegetables like romaine lettuce, bok choy, mustard greens or watercress. However, you should avoid giving them fruits, except as treats for training.
Bunnies can have a tablespoon of fruit a maximum of twice a week. Too much fruit leads to obesity.
Green leafy vegetables usually have high levels of fiber, along with minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. These minerals serve to improve the health of baby rabbits. However, an excess of calcium can cause calcium-based bladder stones, so a balanced diet is recommended.
Where To Buy
Vegetables are widely available at grocery stores, health food stores, pet stores, farmers’ markets, and the like.
Prices vary, but vegetables are quite inexpensive.
Rabbit Diet Myths
There are many myths about what rabbits eat - three of them are particularly common and pretty harmful.
Myth 1 - Rabbits Eat A Lot Of Carrots
This particular myth is pretty old and is attributed to Bugs Bunny cartoons. While rabbits should eat tough and fibrous vegetables, carrots should not be a regular part of their diet. They are high in sugar and should only be fed to rabbits in small amounts as a treat. They may also cause stomach upsets in baby rabbits, so it's safest to avoid feeding them even small quantities of carrots.
Myth 2 - Hay Is Only For Bedding
As seen above, hay comprises a major part of a baby rabbit's diet. While it is also used as bedding, hay has to be the main source of food and easily available.
Myth 3 - Rabbit Should Eat Lettuce
Only specific types of lettuce are good for rabbits, for example, romaine lettuce. Other types range from useless to actively harmful.
Baby bunnies, in particular, should never be fed light-colored varieties. They are high in water and low on nutrients, which may cause malnutrition. Iceberg lettuce contains lactarium, which is harmful in large quantities.
Dietary Changes As Per Age
The best diet for baby rabbits changes according to how old they are.
Birth - At this age, they should only be drinking mother's milk. If unavailable, KMR or goat milk serve as substitutes. Under no circumstances should you give them cow milk, as it is toxic to baby rabbits.
2-3 weeks - At this age, they should be drinking mostly mother's milk, but you can start supplementing their diet with bits of alfalfa and pellets. Their eyes open at about ten days, so you should notice an uptick in activity around this time.
4-7 weeks - At this age, the baby rabbits will slowly stop drinking mother's milk and move over to alfalfa and pellets.
7 weeks to 7 months - At this point, the baby rabbits will have grown into teenagers, and their diet should reflect that. They should have access to unlimited amounts of hay, and limited amounts of pellets, depending on requirements.
Whether you're adopting a baby bunny with its eyes closed or a young, energetic teenager, it is important to know how to feed them properly. Rabbit stomachs are sensitive, so it is important to monitor their digestive health.
We hope your rabbits live a long and healthy life!