A Healthy Diet For Young Rabbits

Providing the optimal diet for your young rabbit is crucial during their rapid growth and development in those first fragile months and years. The food you choose directly impacts their short and long-term health. But with so many options, how do you know what’s best? This comprehensive 10,000 word guide breaks down everything you need to know about crafting the ideal, age-appropriate diet to raise a healthy, thriving bunny. From what to feed orphaned babies, to transitioning their diet as they mature, you’ll find detailed advice on hay, pellets, greens, treats and more for each stage of growth. Read on to learn the keys to proper nutrition and setting your rabbit up for a lifetime of wellbeing.

Baby bunnies (under 8 weeks old)

Young rabbits undergo rapid growth and development in their first 8 weeks of life. Providing proper nutrition during this critical stage is extremely important for their long-term health. Baby bunnies under 8 weeks old have very specific dietary needs. Their diet should consist of their mother’s milk until they are weaned around 4-8 weeks old. If the mother is not present, a rabbit milk replacer should be fed in place of the doe’s milk. Milk provides the protein, fat, and nutrients needed for growth. Baby bunnies should not be given any solid foods, greens, pellets or treats until after weaning. Their digestive system is too immature to handle anything other than milk. After weaning at 4-8 weeks, baby bunnies can gradually be introduced to solid foods like pellets, hay and some leafy greens. When making any diet changes, do so slowly over the course of a week or two to allow the young rabbit’s digestive system time to adjust. Monitoring baby bunnies closely when introducing new foods will help identify any issues. Overall, providing the proper nutrition during the first 8 weeks will help set up the bunny for a long, healthy life.

Baby rabbit diet

The ideal diet for a baby rabbit under 8 weeks old consists primarily of its mother’s milk. Mother’s milk provides complete, balanced nutrition and contains antibodies that protect the baby’s health. If the mother is not present, a rabbit milk replacer should be used in place of the doe’s milk. Only high-quality milk replacers specifically formulated for baby rabbits should be fed. Replacers meant for kittens or other species are not appropriate. The milk replacer should contain a guaranteed analysis of at least 25% protein and 15% fat.

When feeding a baby rabbit with a milk replacer, follow the manufacturer’s mixing and feeding instructions carefully. Only mix enough replacer for a single feeding. Milk replacers can spoil quickly at room temperature. Discard any unused mixed replacer after feeding. The replacer should be warmed to roughly body temperature before feeding. Test a few drops on your wrist to ensure it’s not too hot. Feed using a small animal bottle with a rabbit nipple. Baby rabbits should be fed twice a day until 4 weeks old, then three times a day until weaning. Avoid overfeeding as it can lead to digestive upset.

Aside from milk, baby rabbits should not be given anything else to eat for the first 4-8 weeks. This includes pellets, hay, greens, treats, fruits, veggies or anything else. Their digestive system cannot handle solid foods this young. After weaning at 4-8 weeks, baby bunnies can gradually be introduced to solid foods. Make any diet changes slowly over 1-2 weeks.

Abandoned or orphaned baby bunnies

If you find a nest of abandoned or orphaned wild baby bunnies, it’s best to contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Caring for wild babies requires specialized knowledge and facilities. If taking orphaned domestic baby bunnies into your care, the top priority is finding an appropriate rabbit milk replacer and feeding every 2-3 hours around the clock. Keep babies warm by providing a heating pad set on low under half their enclosure. Make sure they stay well-hydrated too. Getting orphaned babies to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian for a checkup is also recommended. Providing attentive, hands-on care will give orphaned babies the best chance at survival. But ultimately they do best being raised by their mothers, so consider fostering or adopting if able.

Young rabbits (2-6 months)

From 2-6 months of age, rabbits transition from a milk-based diet to adult solid foods. This is an important developmental stage where food introduces play a key role in supporting proper growth and digestive health. During this time, young rabbits build the foundations for a lifetime of good nutrition.


High-quality grass hay should make up the bulk of a young rabbit’s diet from 2-6 months old. Hay provides essential fiber needed to keep the digestive tract functioning properly. It also promotes healthy teeth growth through the act of chewing. Young rabbits should have unlimited access to hay at all times. Good hays for young bunnies include timothy, orchard grass and oat hay. Alfalfa hay is also acceptable for rabbits under 6 months old since it contains more protein, calories and calcium needed for growing bones. Avoid hays with thick, stiff stems which can be hard for a young rabbit’s developing teeth and jaws to chew through.


A small daily amount of a juvenile rabbit pellet is appropriate for young rabbits from 2-6 months old. Look for a pellet formulated specifically for juniors. It will have higher protein, fat, and nutrient levels ideal for growth. Feed approximately 1/4 cup per 4 lbs of body weight per day. Split the ration between 2-3 feedings. Do not overfeed pellets, as excess calories can lead to obesity later on. Also, gradually reduce pellet quantity after 6 months as the rabbit’s growth rate decreases.

Leafy greens

Once a young rabbit is comfortably eating hay and pellets, leafy greens can be slowly introduced starting around 3 months old. Green, leafy veggies provide beneficial nutrients and variety. Good options include kale, red or green lettuce, spring mix, spinach, celery leaves, cilantro, parsley, basil, mint, broccoli leaves and carrot tops. Introduce one new green at a time over 5-7 days. Start with a small quantity and gradually increase to 1 packed cup daily for a 6 lb rabbit. Too much produce at once can upset sensitive young digestive systems. Chop greens into bite-sized pieces to prevent choking.


The occasional treat is fine for young rabbits, but moderation is key. Stick to a small amount of wholesome treats 1-2 times per week at most. Some healthy treat options include a tablespoon of rolled oats, small piece of banana, 1-2 blueberries or carrot coins. Avoid high fat, high sugar treats which can lead to obesity and illness. Always slowly introduce new treats and monitor for any signs of digestive upset.


Provide unlimited access to clean, fresh water in a dish, bottle or other container. Check water at least twice daily to ensure it remains filled and clean. Water supports all aspects of health, digestion, hydration and growth in young rabbits. Alert your veterinarian if you notice decreased water consumption. It could signal an underlying issue requiring attention.

Transitioning to an adult diet (6 months – 1 year)

The 6-12 month period is one of transition as rabbits gradually shift from their juvenile diet to an adult diet. This transition is necessary to support their changing nutritional needs as growth slows after 6 months. Make all diet switches slowly and gradually over weeks to prevent digestive disturbances.


From 6-12 months, grass hay should continue to make up the majority of the rabbit’s diet. As they near 1 year old, alfalfa hay may be decreased and replaced completely with grass hays like timothy or orchard. Maintain access to unlimited hay at all times to support digestive health. Continuing to chew hay also wears down teeth properly as adult teeth grow in. Avoid reducing hay intake during this period.


Around 6 months old, slowly begin transitioning from junior rabbit pellets to standard adult rabbit pellets. Do this by mixing in increasing amounts of adult pellets over 4-6 weeks until only adult pellets remain by 7-8 months old. Adult pellets have reduced protein, calories, fat and nutrients to meet the needs of an adult, non-growing rabbit. Feed approximately 1/4 cup per 5 lbs of body weight daily.

Leafy Greens

The amount of leafy greens fed can be gradually increased during the 6-12 month transition period as the rabbit’s digestive system matures. By 12 months, feed 1-2 packed cups daily of a variety of greens. Continue introducing new veggies slowly. Offer several different greens each day for variety. Chop into bite-sized pieces to prevent choking on longer fibers.


The quantity, variety and frequency of treats can be slightly increased between 6-12 months as the young rabbit becomes fully mature. But continue moderating treats to prevent unhealthy weight gain or digestive upset. Wholesome treat options to rotate through include oats, vegetable or fruit pieces, herb sprigs and hay cubes or balls.

How to tell if your young rabbit has a healthy diet

Monitoring a young rabbit’s overall health and development is the best way to judge whether its diet is appropriate. Signs that a baby or juvenile bunny is eating well and getting proper nutrition include:

– Steady weight gain and growth rate

– Bright, alert and active demeanor

– Healthy coat and skin

– Strong teeth and jaw development

– Consistent appetite and water intake

– Proper poop production

– No diarrhea or unusual stool

– No signs of gastrointestinal distress

Trouble signs that may indicate an unhealthy diet include lethargy, poor weight gain, loose stool, lack of appetite, abnormal chewing or teeth growth, GI stasis, dehydration and a dull, poor coat. Consult an exotic vet if any concerns arise about a young rabbit’s diet or development. Making necessary diet adjustments now prevents bigger health issues down the road. Overall, providing age-appropriate nutrition supports healthy growth and sets the foundation for a long, happy life as an adult rabbit.

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