Is it Okay to Let Your Rabbit Eat Grass From Your Yard?

For rabbit owners, a tempting treat during the spring and summer months is to let pet bunnies nibble on fresh grass from the yard. But is this practice safe? Does grass provide good nutrition or pose any risks? What types of grass can rabbits eat and how much is okay? This article will cover everything you need to know about incorporating grass into your rabbit’s diet. We’ll discuss the benefits of grass, how to transition to grass gradually, which grass varieties to choose, and precautions to take with lawn care, wet grass, and grass seeds. You’ll learn handy tips for growing rabbit-safe grass indoors too. Read on to get the full scoop on feeding your bunny grass from your lawn or garden!

The benefits of grass in a rabbit diet

Grass can be a very beneficial part of a rabbit's diet when fed in moderation. Here are some of the key benefits of offering grass to pet rabbits:

  • High fiber content – Grass is very high in fiber, containing up to 30% fiber on average. Fiber is essential for good rabbit digestive health as it helps promote gut motility and prevents issues like gastrointestinal stasis.
  • Rich source of vitamins and minerals – Fresh grass can provide rabbits with high levels of vitamins like vitamin E, A, and K, as well as minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. These vitamins and minerals support overall health.
  • Natural grazing behavior – Rabbits are natural grazers in the wild, designed to nibble on grasses and other plants throughout the entire day. Allowing them access to grass in their enclosure lets them engage in natural foraging activities.
  • Prebiotics – Some research indicates the indigestible fiber in grass may serve as a prebiotic by encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria in a rabbit's gut.
  • Wear down teeth – The abrasive nature of grass wears down teeth to help prevent overgrowth of the molars and incisors.
  • Variety – Grass introduces more variety into the diet which can increase appetite and prevent boredom.
  • Enrichment – Grazing on grass provides rabbits with environmental enrichment. It allows them to interact more in their enclosure.

The high fiber and enrichment benefits of grass make it a great addition to a pet rabbit's diet. Grass hay and fresh greens should still make up the bulk of the diet, but allowing rabbits to graze on grass is an excellent supplement.

Can rabbits eat grass instead of hay?

It is not recommended for pet rabbits to eat grass instead of hay as their main source of fiber. Here's why hay is still essential in a rabbit's diet:

  • Higher fiber – Good quality hay provides more fiber per gram than fresh grass. Fiber should make up at least 25% of a rabbit's diet.
  • Less calories – Hay is lower in calories than grass, so eating only grass could lead to obesity in rabbits. Hay helps meet fiber needs while still restricting calories.
  • Wears down teeth – The tough, abrasive stems of hay wear down rabbit teeth better than soft grass blades. This helps prevent dental issues.
  • Boosts digestion – The coarse fibers in hay keep the digestive tract moving. Grass does not provide the same digestive stimulation.
  • Provides consistency – Having unlimited access to grass could lead to imbalanced nutrition. Hay offers a steady and consistent food source.

The best diets for rabbits contain a foundation of unlimited grass hay, supplemented with a measured amount of fresh grass, greens, herbs, and a small portion of pellets. Feeding grass alone is not enough to meet the nutritional and dental needs of rabbits. Grass makes an excellent addition to the diet, but it should not replace hay as the primary source of nutrition. Hay should always be available 24/7 to promote good rabbit health.

Transitioning a rabbit to a fresh grass-based diet

When transitioning a rabbit onto more grass in the diet, some adjustments should be made slowly and gradually to prevent digestive upset. Here are some tips for safely transitioning to fresh grass:

  • Start slow – Introduce just a small handful of fresh grass once a day for the first week, gradually increasing the amount over 2-4 weeks.

  • Keep hay steady – Do not decrease hay while adding in more grass. Hay should remain free-choice.

  • Pick softer grasses – Choose tender, leafy grasses. Avoid tough, mature grass and stems at first which are harder to digest.

  • Monitor stool – Watch for loose stool that indicates the grass is not digesting well. Slow the transition if this occurs.

  • Cut pellets – Pellets are higher in calories than grass, so the pellet ration can be decreased slightly when grass intake rises.

  • Portion greens – Since grass has more calories than hay, cut back somewhat on other greens and vegetables when grass increases.

  • Ensure variety – Feed grass from different areas of the lawn and rotate grass types for balance.

  • Check for pesticides – Never harvest grass from lawns treated with herbicide or insecticide.

  • Introduce slowly – After a gradual transition, rabbits can safely get 25-50% or more of their diet from fresh pasture grasses.

With a mix of unlimited hay, measured grass and other greens, and limited pellets, rabbits can thrive on a largely grass-based diet. The transition just needs to be made slowly over time.

Access to hay vs. grass

When allowing pet rabbits access to grass, it is important to still ensure unlimited access to hay as well. Here is a comparison and some considerations for feeding both hay and grass:

  • Hay is essential for more fiber, digestion, and dental health, so should always be freely available. Grass can be limited to certain times of day.

  • Feed grass in a separate area from hay. Rabbits often prefer fresh grass and may ignore their hay if grass is always accessible.

  • Hay maintains consistency and balance in the diet. Grass intake can vary day-by-day based on yard conditions.

  • Rotate grass from different areas of the lawn to prevent imbalances from consuming grass from just one spot. Keep hay steady.

  • Hay in racks tends to stay fresh and clean. Grass gets walked on and soiled more quickly. Discard grass that is stepped on or soiled.

  • Introduce new grass gradually over 2-4 weeks. Sudden large amounts of fresh grass can upset digestion. Hay can stay at a steady amount.

  • Limit grass time if rabbits are overweight. Grass has more calories than hay, so the grass ration may need to be restricted in obese rabbits.

With some planning, rabbits can have access to both consistent hay for balanced nutrition, and fresh grass for enrichment at limited times for a healthy and varied diet. Monitor grass consumption and stool quality, and contact an exotic vet with any diet concerns.

Considerations for lawn care when feeding grass to rabbits

Pet rabbits can safely graze on grass from a home lawn if some precautions are taken with lawn care and maintenance. Here are some key considerations when allowing rabbits to eat yard grass:

  • Never apply insecticides, herbicides, or other chemicals on the lawn if rabbits will be eating the grass. Always check packaging to ensure lawn products are rabbit safe.

  • Avoid using manure or compost that may contain herbicide residues. Compost should only come from rabbit safe sources.

  • Allow at least 1 week after mowing before letting rabbits graze. This allows time for any lawn clipping discharge to dissipate which could irritate their respiratory systems.

  • Do not let rabbits graze until several days after any applications of fertilizer. Read all fertilizer labels carefully first.

  • Irrigate the lawn as needed to avoid drought stress. Drought stressed grass can accumulate higher levels of nitrates, oxalates, and other anti-nutrients.

  • Check grass for any mold, fungus, or plant toxicity. Rabbits should not ingest grass with any visible mold, mushrooms, or poisonous plants.

  • Remove and discard any grass clippings, debris, rocks or sticks from the lawn area to prevent ingestion.

  • Rotate areas for grazing. Do not pen rabbits in same grass area constantly as urine/fecal buildup can contaminate the spot.

With some careful precautions taken with yard maintenance, rabbits can enjoy safe access to fresh grass without ingesting any harmful chemicals, debris, or toxins. Monitoring their direct environment is key.

Growing your own grass inside

For pet rabbits without access to a safe outdoor lawn area, fresh grass can also be grown indoors in pots as part of their diet. Here are some tips for growing indoor grass:

  • Choose a low, wide container at least several inches deep. Drainage holes are essential.

  • Use organic potting soil or coconut coir as the growing medium. Grass needs very fertile soil.

  • Select grass seeds suitable for indoor growing. Wheatgrass, oat grass, and barley grass are good choices.

  • Soak seeds for 8-12 hours before planting. Sprinkle evenly over moist soil. Cover seeds lightly with 1⁄4 inch more soil.

  • Cover container with plastic wrap or a seedling dome lid to retain moisture. Remove promptly once sprouts emerge in 4-7 days.

  • Place container in bright, indirect light. Grass will grow lanky and pale in poor lighting. Rotate pots for even growth.

  • Water soil daily to keep moist but not soaked. Good drainage prevents root rot.

  • Harvest grass once it reaches 3-4 inches tall. Cut blades 1-2 inches above soil level. Regrow and rotate pots for continuous supply.

  • Refrigerate harvested grass in sealed container for up to one week. Rinse and pat dry before feeding.

Growing trays of fresh grass indoors provides pet rabbits with a nutritious supplement to enjoy year-round.

What kind of grass can rabbits eat?

Not all types of grass are safe and suitable for pet rabbits to consume. Here is an overview of the best and worst grass varieties to feed rabbits:

Best Grass Types:

  • Wheatgrass – Very popular. Mild flavor and smooth texture. Rich in vitamins and minerals.

  • Oat grass – Similar benefits to wheatgrass. Lower in oxalates than some grasses.

  • Bermuda grass – Mild tasting common lawn grass. Lower protein levels than other grasses.

  • Timothy grass – Nutritious grass with high fiber. Used in many rabbit hays.

  • Orchard grass – Low oxalates and high antioxidant content. Common in cool weather lawns.

Grass Types to Avoid:

  • Ryegrass – Very high protein levels not suited for rabbits. Also may contain alkaloids.

  • Fescue grass – Coarser texture and higher oxalate content. Can be harder to digest.

  • St. Augustine grass – Issues with prickly seed heads getting caught in rabbit fur and feet.

  • Crabgrass – Minimal nutritional value. Can also accumulate nitrates and oxalates.

  • Most wild grasses – Unknown nutrient levels. Could contain excess proteins.

Stick to proven greens like wheatgrass, bermuda, and timothy for raised rabbit beds or potted grass trays. Always research safety before offering any new grass variety.

Can rabbits eat wet grass?

Allowing pet rabbits to consume wet grass after rain, irrigation, or heavy dew is not recommended. Here are some issues with wet grass:

  • Can cause digestive issues – The high moisture content increases gut risk. Diarrhea or gas can occur.

  • Risk of bacteria and mold – Wet grass can harbor more pathogens like E. coli or listeria. Dampness also promotes mold growth.

  • Altered nutrient content – Moisture changes the fermentation and nutrient breakdown of grass.

  • Potential bloating – The high water content combined with fresh grass creates a bloating risk. Free-choice hay is safer.

  • Contains lawn chemicals – Any recently applied chemicals will be diluted on wet grass, making ingestion easier.

  • Loss of certain vitamins – Water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins are partially dissolved and depleted in soaked grass.

While a nibble or two will not harm them, it is best to limit rabbits to eating only crisp, dry grass. Provide unlimited hay until grass dries thoroughly before extended grazing periods. Avoid grass that feels heavy, limp, or soggy to the touch.

Can rabbits eat grass seed?

It's best to avoid allowing pet rabbits to consume large amounts of grass seeds, either as loose seeds or seed heads on mature grass stems. Here are some potential risks:

  • Choking hazard – Loose grass seeds can be inhaled into lungs or block the throat. Rabbits have very narrow airways.

  • Excess carbohydrates – Most grass seeds are very high in carbohydrates which rabbits do not digest well long-term.

  • Anti-nutrient chemicals – Some grass seeds contain enzyme inhibitors or chemicals like oxalates that block nutrient absorption.

  • Imbalanced calcium levels – Grass seeds are extremely high in phosphorus and low in calcium. This disrupts the calcium:phosphorus ratio needed for health.

  • Stomach upset – The high fat content in most grass seeds can irritate sensitive rabbit digestive systems. Diarrhea or soft stool can occur.

  • Obesity risk – Seeds are very concentrated in calories. Overconsumption can lead to weight gain in rabbits.

While the occasional grass seedhead will not harm a rabbit, it's best to remove and discard any mature seed heads before feeding grass to rabbits. Avoid offering loose grass seeds.


Leave a Comment