What Do Wild Rabbits Eat?

For wild rabbits, finding food is a non-stop adventure full of surprises, danger, and discovery. Unlike humans who simply go to the grocery store, rabbits must use their wits and senses to locate nutritious plants in the changing seasons. Spring brings tender new growth, while summer overflows with herbs and blossoms. In fall, nuts and seeds are plentiful if you know where to look. But winter means eating bark and twigs when most plants disappear under snow. Through it all, rabbits rely on their keen senses of smell and taste to guide them to delicious greens, fruits, veggies and flowers. Join us as we explore the exciting and varied wild diet of rabbits!

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat In Spring?

In the spring, wild rabbits begin eating fresh, tender new plant growth as it emerges. During this fertile season, rabbits can find plenty of nutrient-rich wild greens and flowering plants to munch on. Some spring favorites include clover, dandelions, violets, clover, wild mustard, plantain, chickweed, and young grasses.

As the weather warms up in spring, rabbits will also nibble on emerging vegetable plants, including lettuce, cabbage, beans, and peas. They seem especially fond of young bean sprouts and pea buds. Rabbits get most of their moisture from the vegetation they eat, but will also drink water from rain puddles and dew on grass blades.

In early spring when food is still relatively scarce, rabbits supplement their diet with bark, twigs, buds, cones, and other tree parts. These woody foods provide extra fiber and nutrients. Rabbits also continue to eat their preferred winter foods like bark, twigs and buds if greens are not yet abundant.

By late spring, tender new grasses, legumes, and flowering plants emerge in abundance from the thawing earth. This is when wild rabbits transition to eating mostly green vegetation again. They focus on consuming high-protein sprouts, shoots, stems, leaves, blossoms, and seed heads.

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat In Summer?

In the summer, wild rabbits are inundated with choices as herbaceous plants fully leaf out and flower. There is plenty of lush green vegetation, allowing rabbits to be picky and only eat the most tender, nutrient-packed parts of plants.

During the warm summer months, rabbits feast on grasses, clovers, alfalfas, vetch, restharrow, trefoils, wild lettuce, dandelions, plantains, mustards, and an array of flowering plants. Favorite summer blossoms include daisies, sunflowers, marigolds and squash flowers. Rabbits also nibble on vegetable plants that thrive in summer like beans, peas, tomatoes, and peppers.

In addition to greens, rabbits eat tree bark and woody twigs when they need more fiber. Tree leaves and fruits are also occasional summer foods. Rabbits have been observed standing on their hind legs to reach leaves and fruits of shrubs and small trees.

Baby rabbits are weaned during the summer, and adult females carefully choose digestible greens, legumes, and blossoms to feed their offspring. Nursing baby rabbits also begin nibbling tender vegetation alongside their mother.

With an abundance of succulent plants to eat, wild rabbits fulfill most of their dietary moisture needs from the vegetation they consume. But during hot, dry periods they will drink from water sources like streams, puddles and dew on leaves.

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat In Fall?

As temperatures cool in fall, many herbaceous plants die back, which reduces the availability of tender greens and blossoms for wild rabbits. But rabbits are resourceful foragers and continue finding nutritious foods.

In autumn, rabbits eat large amounts of wild grains, seeds, and nuts. Rabbits nibble on grass and flower seed heads, and also eat dropped seeds, mast, nuts, and fruits scattered on the forest floor. Acorns, beechnuts, hazelnuts, black walnuts and hickory nuts are dietary staples when available.

Leafy plants that stay green through fall or late into winter are also very important for rabbits in autumn. Edible leaves include clover, alfalfa, vetch, dandelions, wild lettuce, plantains, chickweed, mustard greens, kale and chard. Rabbits also munch on wild berries and fruits like rose hips, blackberries, and apples.

As vegetables gardens die out, rabbits may raid the remaining carrot tops, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, cabbage and brussel sprouts. And rabbits nibble the bark, twigs and buds of trees and shrubs when other vegetation is lacking. Favored trees include maple, birch, poplar, apple and cherry.

Overall, rabbits shift to higher fiber woody foods and store up body fat for winter. Good fall foraging prepares wild rabbits for the coming cold season when food is scarce.

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat In Winter?

In the winter, herbaceous greens, vegetables, and berry-producing plants are gone, and snow covers fallen nuts and seeds. With limited food available, wild rabbits rely heavily on bark, twigs, buds and other woody vegetation to survive the winter.

Rabbits gnaw the nutritious inner bark of trees and shrubs, favoring apple, sugar maple, poplar, cherry, sumac, blackberry, and rose. Conifers like pine, fir, hemlock and spruce provide vital nutrients and calories in the form of vitamin-rich inner bark and sap.

Winter is a difficult season, and rabbits conserve energy by staying huddled in sheltered areas. But they venture out to feed when needed, browsing on twigs and gnawing woody bark for sustenance. In particularly harsh winters, rabbit browsing can completely girdle small trees and kill them.

When snow is not too deep, rabbits paw down through it to get to dried fall grasses and seeds. And rabbits will eat any greens they can find, like kale, chard or leftover vegetable plants. Some woody shrubs retain their leaves in winter, which rabbits will eat. Rose hips and frozen fruits also provide food if available.

With plant food so scarce, rabbits lose weight over the winter. But their soft fur coat and habit of huddling together in dens, burrows or brush piles help conserve heat and energy until spring brings fresh vegetation again.

What Kinds Of Plants Do Wild Rabbits Prefer?

Wild rabbits have eclectic tastes when it comes to vegetation. As herbivores, they feed on all kinds of grasses, herbaceous plants, vegetables, shrubs, tree bark and fallen seeds, nuts and fruits. But there are certain plants and plant parts rabbits seem to prefer due to their flavor and nutrition.

In general, rabbits favor young herbaceous plants that are more tender and digestible. They like to eat newly sprouted grasses rather than tough, mature grasses. And they prefer younger leaves and shoots to older growth. Among their favorite greens are clover, dandelions, plantains, mustards, lettuces, and young grasses like bluegrass.

When available, flowering plants provide an excellent source of nutrients for wild rabbits. Rabbits dine on flower heads, buds, shoots and seed pods. Some enticing blossoms come from clover, alfalfa, beans, vetch, sunflowers and squash plants.

In autumn and winter, rabbits switch to eating more woody plant material. They favor the nutritious inner bark of trees and shrubs, especially from apple, maple and various conifers. Rabbits also gnaw on woody twigs and buds for food when herbaceous plants are not available.

Overall, rabbits forage for a diverse mix of grasses, forbs like clover and dandelions, young tree shoots, vegetables, berries, seeds, nuts, flower blossoms and bark to meet all their nutritional needs. This varied plant diet provides protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals and all-important fiber.

Do Wild Rabbits Eat Vegetables?

Yes, wild rabbits absolutely feast on vegetable plants, especially in spring and summer gardens. Rabbits seem to view vegetable gardens planted by humans as an all-you-can-eat salad bar!

Some favorite vegetable treats for rabbits include peas, beans, lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and soybeans. Rabbits also delight in munching the tops off young carrot, beet and potato plants.

The tender green leaves, stems, shoots, buds and flowers of vegetable plants are nutritious and full of moisture, making them very appealing to rabbits. Vegetables provide vital nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and minerals like calcium and potassium. Rabbits will raid gardens and nibble vegetables right down to the ground.

In winter when greens are scarce, rabbits will snack on any remaining cold weather vegetables like kale, cabbage and root vegetables. And freezing temperatures make vegetables like Brussels sprouts and broccoli sweeter due to the conversion of starches to sugars.

To protect their precious vegetable crops from hungry bunnies, many gardeners erect fences around their gardens. Wire mesh and chicken wire fencing at least 2 feet high can effectively exclude wild rabbits. Row covers and garden cloches also prevent access.

How Do Rabbits Know What To Eat?

Wild rabbits have excellent sensory abilities and instincts that help them locate nutritious vegetation to eat. Their senses of smell, taste and sight all guide them to potential plant foods.

Rabbits possess a keen sense of smell that allows them to detect the aromas of edible greens and plants. They use their mobile lips to grasp plants and analyze them closely. If the plant passes the sniff test, the rabbit takes a small bite and tastes it.

Taste buds coupled with prior experience help rabbits discern which plants are good to eat. If the plant tastes pleasant, the rabbit will continue eating. But if it tastes bitter, acrid or dangerous, the rabbit spits it out. Young rabbits learn which plants are safe by following the example of their mother.

Sight helps guide rabbits to potential plant food sources. Rabbits will spot a patch of clover and hop directly over to graze. And mother rabbits monitor their environment closely to bring their babies to the best eating locations.

Through sight, smell, taste and learning, rabbits gather excellent knowledge of which vegetation in their habitat provides the most nutrition and safety. This allows them to thrive on diverse foraging.

Why Do Pet Rabbits Need Different Food?

Domesticated pet rabbits have different dietary needs than wild rabbits and require specialized commercial diets as well as hay. Wild and pet rabbits evolved to thrive on different diets.

Wild rabbits consume a diverse array of fresh grasses, leaves, shoots, fruits and bark. But pet rabbits no longer have access to this varied wild diet. Pet rabbits rely on humans to provide a complete diet balanced for their needs.

Commercially formulated rabbit pellets provide balanced nutrition not found in the average human diet. Pellets are made of compressed hay, grains, vegetables, seeds and supplements. This combination ensures pet rabbits get the fiber, carbs, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals they require.

In addition to pellets, pet rabbits need unlimited access to grass hay like timothy or orchard grass. Hay aids rabbit digestion and provides vital fiber missing from human foods. The fiber in hay promotes dental health by wearing teeth down naturally as rabbits chew.

While pet rabbits enjoy treats like carrots and kale, these human foods should only be occasional. Produce lacks the full nutrition rabbits require. And compared to wild rabbits, pet breeds have more sensitive digestive systems. Sudden diet changes can disrupt gut flora and cause diarrhea.

For good health, pet rabbits should eat mostly pellets and hay. A consistent diet based on commercial rabbit foods, not human produce, gives pet bunnies the right nutrition.

Can I Feed A Wild Rabbit?

It is generally not recommended to feed wild rabbits unless they are orphaned babies or injured adults who temporarily need human assistance. Healthy wild rabbits are best left to their natural diets and foraging behaviors.

Supplemental feeding can make wild rabbits too dependent on unnatural foods. This could lead to malnutrition if the additional food is suddenly withdrawn. And animals can become aggressive about seeking more treats if humans regularly feed them.

Feeding wild rabbits also encourages them to keep returning to the same location for more food. They may cross roads more often, increasing their risk of getting hit by vehicles. And contact with humans makes wild animals more susceptible to diseases.

Instead of feeding wild rabbits, the best way to assist them is to provide natural shelter and native plant foods. You can landscape your yard with flowers, vegetables, shrubs and trees rabbits like to eat. And leaving brush piles gives wild rabbits safe spaces to hide and build nests.

With a little planning, you can create an ideal habitat filled with foods and resources to sustain wild rabbits without supplemental feeding. This allows healthy rabbits to maintain their normal foraging, feeding and sheltering behaviors.

Do Rabbits Eat Flower Bulbs?

Yes, rabbits love munching on tasty flower bulbs and will voraciously dig them up in gardens for food. Tulips, crocuses, hyacinths, lilies and daffodils are all fair game to a hungry rabbit. The protein-rich flower bulb provides essential nutrients rabbits seek.

Not only do rabbits eat the underground bulb portion, they will also nibble the green shoots, stems, leaves, buds, and flowers of flowering bulb plants. This can completely destroy a gardener's emerging bulb plants and lead to disappointment when no flowers bloom.

Rabbits seem particularly attracted to crocuses and tulips in early spring when food is still scarce. But later in spring, no bulb is safe from rabbits seeking the nutrition bulbs provide. Hungry bunnies can wipe out an entire garden's worth of bulbs overnight.

To protect their investments, gardeners must take measures to shield flower bulbs from rabbits. Wire mesh cages over planted bulbs are very effective. Raised garden beds with rabbit fencing also deter rabbits. Things like pepper sprays, predator urine and aluminum foil may temporarily repel rabbits.

But the only sure way to prevent rabbits from devouring treasured flower bulbs is to use physical barriers the rabbits cannot penetrate or circumvent. Otherwise gardeners may have to resort to simply planting extra bulbs as an edible sacrifice to the rabbits. At least that ensures some flowers will survive the spring rabbit onslaught.



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