Your rabbit’s diet is essential to making sure they have a long and healthy life. It is so important to get it right but unfortunately this can be difficult. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and a lot of products on the market which are really unsuitable for rabbits.

Rabbit expert and bunny bonding coach, Fiona Murphy, tells us more about the ideal rabbit diet.

We are what we eat and the right species-appropriate diet is a cornerstone of good health. Rabbits are no exception. It will save you a lot of vet bills if you get their diet right. The wrong diet can sadly, over time, erode your rabbit’s immune system and cause issues with their health.

Getting the balance right

The ideal rabbit diet should be made up of at least 80% hay, with 10% pellets and 10% vegetables if you choose to feed the latter. If you don’t choose to feed vegetables, the balance should be 90% hay and 10% pellets.

Hay eating

Your rabbit should be eating a ball of hay the size of their body each day. If they don’t eat that much, the issue is usually that they are filling up on pellets or vegetables and / or the hay may be boring to them or of poor quality! Hay should either be good quality timothy or meadow hay. Only ever give alfalfa hay to rabbits under six months or if your rabbit is pregnant or ill. It is too high in calories (so is too fattening) and too high in calcium which can cause health issues such as bladder sludge or kidney issues.

Inadequate hay eating can lead to gut issues because a lack of fibre leads to a sluggish gut.

It is vital to ensure that a rabbit’s guts are constantly moving.

Gut stasis where it isn’t moving fast enough, or at all, is one of the most common health issues in rabbits and can be fatal. Another key problem are teeth issues. Eating good quality, nutritious hay helps wear down their teeth which are constantly growing.

Grass does the same for a rabbit’s gut as the hay does. However, it doesn’t wear down the teeth in the same way, so they should always have hay too. I recommend giving hay BEFORE they have access to the outside as they will fill up on the grass otherwise. Also it’s sensible to limit grass time if they aren’t eating enough hay until they start to eat more.  Wild rabbits would naturally eat mostly grass in a similar percentage to the hay recommended here. They would also self select particular plants of benefit to them, some of which would help wear their teeth down. Please note, that domestic rabbits have lost this ability to self select and may not be able to distinguish plants which are not good for them or poisonous**.

Rabbit tucking into good quality hay

Pellets / dry food

Your rabbit’s pellets should not be the main part of their diet. It is a small part of it, supplementing the hay eating, and must be nutritionally balanced. First of all stay well away from any kind of muesli mix. They look attractive and colourful, but they are made up with lots of different artificial fillers such as variously-coloured flavoured pieces with little or no nutritional benefit. The problem with a muesli is that your rabbit will select feed, which means they’ll pick out the bits they like, and they won’t eat the bits they don’t like so they’re not getting all the nutrients that they actually need from their food.

On the other hand, with a pellet feed, although it looks more boring and unappetising, each individual pellet contains all the nutrients that rabbits need. With these they will get all the things that they require in their diet. There also tends to be fewer unnecessary fillers in a pellet feed.

An egg cupful of optimally balanced pellets once a day for Simba the Orange Rex

What should a good pellet food contain?

Adult pellets should have at least 18% fibre and 12 to 14% protein. Pellets for young rabbits under five months of age should contain the same amount of fibre but around 16% protein to support their rapid growth. They should also be made with hay or grass as the main ingredient (the one listed first in the ingredient list), either timothy or meadow hay. Pellets containing alfalfa hay should only be used for baby rabbits under six months. As highlighted above, adult rabbits shouldn’t have alfafa hay in any form unless pregnant or ill.

Very few pellets on the market actually contain the right amount of the nutrients required. Some of them are way lower than that. Turn the packet over and have a look at the ingredient list and the analytical constituent list which outlines the percentages of fibre, protein and so on.

If you discover your rabbit is on a food which doesn’t contain optimal nutrition, you can change them over to a new, better food. You need to do this very gradually over the course of about a week to ten days. Each day add a little more of the new food and a little less of the old food until they have transitioned over completely. If you swap too suddenly you can cause an upset stomach or gut stasis. If this is the case, return to more of the old food and replace with the new even more gradually.

How much to feed your rabbit

Overfeeding your rabbit can lead to:

  • Obesity
  • Bladder / urinary issues
  • Poopy bum (where your rabbit having is stomach problems with poop stuck to their bottom)

Quite often the issue is that we have to give our rabbits more feed while they are young and growing, and then we don’t always realise that they have stopped growing and so don’t cut back the food accordingly. Please do stick to an egg cupful or a very small handful once a day. This is plenty once they are fully grown at around 9-12 months for a standard size rabbit. While they are still growing, feed this amount twice a day.

Introducing vegetables

Vegetables shouldn’t be introduced before four months of age unless they have been eating vegetables alongside their mum from when they start eating solid foods when they come out of the nest at 10-14 days old. If you haven’t been told your rabbit is used to vegetables, it is best to assume that they haven’t had them yet and just wait until four months of age to introduce them.

Vegetables need to be introduced very slowly, one vegetable at a time so if they have an adverse reaction, you know what has caused it. Think of it as a similar process to weaning a baby onto solid foods. Start with something mild such as a herb – suitable herbs include parsley, basil, coriander, thyme, and mint. Note that chives are from the onion family so don’t feed them. Introduce one and then just leave it for a couple of days – don’t even keep feeding it every day, i.e. don’t let it build up in their system. Observe your rabbit for any changes to behaviour, energy levels, poop, or urine. If after a few days, all is well, introduce the next thing.

Rabbit eating vegetables

Vegetables safe for rabbits include beets, bok choi, celery, cucumber, green beans, parsnip, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, courgettes, tomatoes, peppers, radish, romaine and kos lettuce, mange tout and baby sweetcorn (the tiny ones used for stir fries).

Corn on the cob is not safe!

Everything in moderation

The secret to feeding vegetables is to vary them a lot with everything in moderation as most vegetables in large quantities will cause some sort of problem for your rabbit. For example, carrots are really high in sugar. Broccoli can cause bloat if they have too much. Likewise, kale and spinach are very high in calcium which can cause bladder/kidney/ urine issues. Don’t feed them the same vegetable every day just because they love it. Remember, you do not need to feed vegetables at all as they get everything they need from their pellets and their hay. If you do, they should only make up a maximum 10% of the rabbit’s diet. Alternatively, you can feed the ones you have tested and they can tolerate as a treat.


The healthiest treats you can give your rabbit are herbs, vegetables, forage (dried flowers, herbs or vegetables especially prepared for rabbits**) or hay-based treats – i.e. as close to their natural diet as possible. A lot of treats available to buy are very unhealthy or even dangerous as they are based on things like corn or yogurt drops. The corn just comes out the same way it goes in same as it does with us. They just can’t digest it and it can cause a blockage in your rabbit’s tummy. Yogurt drops are high in sugar and also contain dairy, which rabbits really shouldn’t have as they are lactose intolerant.


Always ensure that your rabbits have access to water at all times.

It’s very important to get your rabbit’s nutrition right. Then he or she is going to have a happy, healthier life. Do take a look at your rabbit’s diet. If it’s great, brilliant. If not see if there’s some way that you can improve it.

Useful links

An Easter Bunny – look at how herbs and homeopathy helped rabbits – includes information on gut stasis

**Find out more about which health boosting plants are safe to pick for your rabbit

A bunny is for life ~ not just for Easter. Please think carefully before buying a rabbit. Fiona Murphy has also written a great blog  10 Things to Consider Before Getting a Bunny to help you make that decision.

To check if your rabbit is a healthy weight use a condition score like the UK Pet Food’s Rabbit Size-O-Meter

If you think your rabbit is unwell, for example, with gut stasis, please consult your vet.

Fiona Murphy

Fiona Murphy has been a bunny and guinea pig slave for over 30 years! She is the owner of The Rabbit Rooms Small Animal Boarding in Dublin and cares for hundreds of small furries every year. Her services include:

  • Holiday boarding
  • Grooming 
  • Ireland’s only bunny bonding service

Her experience means she gets asked a lot of questions about rabbit and guinea pig care from pet parents of the furry guests that stay with her and through the Facebook groups she moderates. 

Knowing there is a lot of misinformation out there, Fiona is passionate about empowering pet parents to be the best carers they can be by giving them the most correct and up-to-date information. She also uses her experience to run online classes and write e-books that can be accessed at any time. 

If you’d like to know more about any aspect of bunny care, check out Fiona’s classes, courses and Ebooks on or for Bunny Bonding help check out The Bunny Bonding Coach. You can also join her Happy Bunny Club to gain confidence in rabbit care and develop a closer relationship with them. She also does one-to-one consultations. 

FaceBook links are as follows:

For classes, courses and Ebooks

For bonding help

For boarding and grooming in and around Dublin

Disclaimer – Where blogs have been created by a guest author, CAM4Animals has reproduced this in good faith but cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies of information in it or any use you make of this information

This blog may also contain an element of consumer opinionWhilst CAM4animals welcomes positive recommendations for holistic healthcare products, we don’t necessarily endorse the product or the author’s opinion. We acknowledge that each animal is an individual and may react differently to the highlighted product/s. There may also be other products available that produce similarly positive results.

The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health. *For full details visit the RCVS website