As an owner of adorable newborn bunnies, you may be wondering: what should I feed these tiny fluffy creatures to help them grow into healthy, happy rabbits? Proper nutrition is essential for baby rabbits to thrive. From their first sips of mother’s milk to transitioning to solid foods, there is much to learn about meeting rabbits’ dietary needs during each stage of development. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the feeding fundamentals for your kits, from birth through adulthood. You’ll learn exactly which foods to offer your bunnies during weaning and beyond. Get ready to discover the keys to robust growth and vigorous vitality for your baby rabbits!
What Do Baby Rabbits Eat and Drink?
Baby rabbits, also known as kits, have different dietary needs than adult rabbits. Kits up to 4 weeks old should only be fed their mother's milk. The mother rabbit's milk provides all the nutrients and hydration kits need in their first weeks of life.
Around 3-4 weeks of age, kits can start eating solid foods in addition to nursing. Their mother's milk should still make up the majority of their diet until 6-8 weeks old. Good starter foods for weaning kits include alfalfa hay, pellets made for juvenile rabbits, and some washed leafy greens like romaine lettuce and spring mix. Introduce new foods slowly and monitor kits to ensure they are eating and digesting properly.
Kits 6-12 weeks old should continue to nurse as they are weaned onto solid foods. Good foods for kits in this stage include alfalfa hay, high-quality pellets, leafy greens, and fresh grass. Limit fruits and vegetables high in sugar. Provide a bowl of fresh water in addition to nursing. By 12 weeks old, kits should be fully weaned and eating mostly hay, pellets, greens, veggies, and healthy treats.
What to Feed Pet Rabbits
The optimal diet for pet rabbits consists mainly of unlimited grass hay, limited pellets, and plenty of leafy greens. Hay should make up at least 75% of an adult rabbit's diet. Grass hays like timothy, orchard grass, and oat hay work well. Hay provides fiber for healthy digestion and helps wear down rabbit teeth.
Commercial pellets made for rabbits are a good way to provide concentrated nutrition. Look for pellets that are high-quality and free of seeds, nuts, and colored bits. Feed adult rabbits 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pellets per day.
Leafy greens should make up about 20% of a rabbit's diet. Good options include kale, lettuces, spring mix, spinach, cabbage, and bok choy. Introduce new veggies slowly to check for digestive issues. Limit high-sugar veggies like carrots. Always wash greens thoroughly before feeding.
Fruit can be given as the occasional treat. Some healthy options are blueberries, cranberries, and chopped apple. Avoid fruits high in sugar and carbohydrates. Fresh water should be available at all times in a bowl or bottle.
Baby Rabbit Feeding Guide
Here is a quick guide for feeding rabbits from birth through adulthood:
- 0-4 weeks: Mother's milk only
- 3-4 weeks: Introduce alfalfa hay and pellets made for kits
- 4-6 weeks: Continue nursing while offering some greens, pellets, hay
- 6-8 weeks: Slowly wean off nursing, increase greens and hay
- 8-12 weeks: Finish weaning, eat solids of pellets, hay, and veggies
- 12+ weeks: Diet of unlimited hay, limited pellets, leafy greens and veggies
Transition slowly between stages, watching for proper growth and health. Provide fresh water at all times once eating solid foods. Consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about a kit's development or nutrition. Pay attention to stool consistency as an indicator of digestive health. Adjust diet if soft stool, diarrhea, or lack of stool occurs.
Baby Rabbit Food List
Here are some specific foods to feed growing baby rabbits:
- Alfalfa hay – Provides protein and calcium for kits
- Pellets for juvenile rabbits – Look for alfalfa-based pellets with 18%+ protein
- Oat hay – More gentle on sensitive digestive systems
- Romaine and green leaf lettuce – Offer in small amounts first
- Spring mix – Mix of young lettuces good for kits
- Kale – Chopped finely for young rabbits
- Timothy hay – Provides fiber once older than 6 months
- Orchard grass hay – More nutrients than timothy hay
- Limited alfalfa pellets – Continue providing some alfalfa along with timothy pellets
- Carrot tops and some peeled carrot – Higher in sugar so feed sparingly
- Celery leaves and parsley – Leafy parts provide more nutrition than stalks
- Berries like raspberries, blueberries, blackberries – High in antioxidants
Avoid iceberg lettuce, which contains little nutrition. Restrict high-sugar fruits like grapes, bananas, and melon.
How Can I Tell if My Baby Rabbit’s Diet is Healthy?
Monitoring your baby rabbit's growth, energy levels, and stool provides good indications of whether its diet is healthy. Healthy kits will be energetic with bright eyes and a curiosity to explore. Look for steady weight gain and proper proportions as the kit matures. The stomach should not appear bloated or distended.
Check that the kit is eating and drinking normally. Watch to see it actively consuming milk, hay, pellets, and greens. Droppings should be somewhat firm and formed. Diarrhea or very soft stool indicates digestive upset. Constipation and small, dry droppings can mean dehydration or diet issues.
A diet with proper nutrition also supports healthy skin, fur, eyes, teeth, and immunity in a growing kit. Get your rabbit vet's input if you have any concerns about the suitability of your baby rabbit's diet. They can recommend adjustments to get your kit's nutrition on track.
My Baby Rabbit Eats Too Fast
If your baby rabbit bolts down food quickly, this can lead to digestive issues. Here are some tips to slow down your kit's eating:
- Scatter pellets in hay to encourage foraging
- Place greens inside cardboard toilet paper tubes
- Put heavy ceramic bowls in pen to limit tipping
- Hand feed small pieces of greens to enforce taking time
- Use multiple small bowls rather than one large one
- Limit pellets to set mealtimes rather than free-feeding
- Remove uneaten veggies after 20 minutes
- Divide daily pellet portion into 3-4 small meals
- Evaluate diet to ensure proper nutrition is being received
Eating too fast can also signal a health problem. Have your vet examine your rabbit if rapid eating persists. It’s important to identify and address the root cause of over-eating.
My Baby Rabbit is Not Feeding
If your baby rabbit has suddenly lost interest in nursing or eating solid foods, a vet visit is needed to diagnose the underlying cause. Reasons may include:
- Illness – Gastrointestinal or upper respiratory infections can prevent eating
- Pain from injury or teeth problems
- Stress from environment or relationship changes
- Too much sugar or carbs upsetting digestion
- Dehydration from lack of proper water intake
- Overheating causing lethargy and appetite loss
- Introduction of inappropriate foods kit won't eat
- Nursing problems due to mastitis in mother rabbit
Try offering the kit favorite foods by hand or syringe feeding recovery food. Keep the kit hydrated by subcutaneous or syringe feeding water. Maintain proper environmental temperatures and housing. Isolate the kit if siblings are bullying during feedings. Use stress-reducing techniques like a soothing voice and gentle petting. Seek veterinary advice as soon as possible if your baby rabbit is not eating.
Alternative Food for Baby Rabbits
If you need an alternative food source for a baby rabbit, either as a supplement or complete replacement, consider the following options:
- Goat's milk – Dilute 50/50 with water for young kits
- Meat-based formula for kittens or puppies – Only short-term
- Commercial rabbit milk replacer – Brands include Wombaroo and KMR
- Pedialyte – For hydration via syringe feeding
- Freshly juiced vegetables – Like carrot and celery juice
- Organic non-dairy milks – Soy, almond, oat milk for older kits
- Recovery food for herbivores – Ensure Herbivore by Oxbow Animal Health
- Vegetarian puppy formula – With probiotics for balanced nutrition
Work closely with your veterinarian to determine the right supplemental or replacement food for your baby rabbit's needs. The goal is to provide complete nutrition as similar as possible to the mother's milk during this crucial growth phase.