Children’s books and movies have given us the impression that rabbits only eat lettuce and carrots. But it may change when you want to adopt a pet rabbit and wonder: do rabbits eat grass?
To be quick, the answer is yes! And if you want to know the place of these green plants in the diet of rabbits, keep reading to find out.
Rabbits are herbivores with a digestive process called hindgut fermentation. This means these animals have adapted to a high-fibre diet like grass.
Domestic rabbits, including indoor rabbits, could consume as much grass as their wild cousins, whether it’s fresh or dried grass (hay).
In extreme conditions, rabbits could even live just on water and hay, even though this is not recommended.
Grass has a high fibre content, an essential carbohydrate in the diet of many animals, including rabbits. It plays an essential role in keeping the teeth and digestive system of rabbits in good condition.
Fibre is critical to the healthy gastrointestinal (GI) tract of all rabbits. Without it, the GI tract and the whole digestive system won’t function properly.
This tract is a complex system in humans and other animals like rabbits. It’s responsible for processing and digesting food, mainly thanks to a vital role in a massive amount of bacteria.
To keep the food going through the digestive tract quickly and help rabbits absorb nutrients, the gut (intestine) must stretch and contract constantly.
Indigestible fibre from grass has no nutritional value. But it can stimulate the GI tract and has a vital role in this movement of the gut (gut motility).
Having an insufficient amount of fibre is among the most common reasons causing GI stasis in rabbits. It occurs when the gut motility slows down, and rabbits lose their appetite and stop eating.
The best way to prevent this slow passage of food through the digestive system is to feed your rabbits a high-fibre diet in addition to green vegetables, fruits, and pellets.
Unlike humans, rabbits’ teeth keep growing through their lives, making overgrown teeth a common health problem in these animals. In the wild, the chewing happening when eating grass can prevent issues.
Fresh grass has a lot of phytoliths – microscopic structures that plants take up from the soil. Made of silica, they are very rigid and strong, even though we can’t see them with the naked eye.
These silica layers in fresh grass wear down rabbit teeth and prevent them from overgrowing. If you don’t feed your rabbits enough grass or other fibrous plants, their teeth can reach excessive lengths.
Rabbits with overgrown teeth have difficulty swallowing and chewing. They could even die of starvation if you don’t notice and leave this issue untreated.
Do Rabbits Eat Grass? You’ll find out the “surprise” answer in the video.
Wild and domesticated rabbits can eat most kinds of grass, including but not limited to:
- meadow grass
- timothy grass
- oat grass
- orchard grass
- fescue grass
Some of them are not commonly found in lawns and gardens as they tend to grow very tall. If you want to plant grass in your garden or a window box to feed your rabbits, try different varieties of grass.
Unlike adult rabbits, younger ones don’t have an adequate population of beneficial bacteria in their digestive system. E. coli, Clostridium, and other species can break the balance of bacteria in the hindgut of those youngsters.
If you feed grass to rabbits (and other leafy greens and vegetables) too soon, they may get diarrhoea and even die.
Residues from insecticides and pesticides in the grass can harm the health of rabbits. Therefore, grass that has been sprayed with those chemicals should never enter its diet.
Grass has high water content and starts fermenting within hours. This process gives off a sweet smell, which comes from the ethanol produced during this duration.
When your rabbits eat these clippings from lawn mowing, the fermentation will occur again in their gut. This could upset their digestive system and cause GI stasis.
This timing depends on the food history of their mother. The point from which your young bunnies can start eating fresh grass can be as soon as 2 weeks if she has got exposed to grass and can efficiently digest it.
If you’re unsure about the food she has been eating, simply wait for about 10 to 12 weeks to feed green stuff like grass to your young bunnies. This should give the bacterial count in their digestive system to become normalized.
A balanced diet for a healthy rabbit should consist of 85% grass (or hay), 10% green plants and vegetables, 5% nuggets or pellets, and many freshwaters.
This high-fibre diet mimics what wild rabbits usually eat, keeping your domestic rabbits healthy and allowing them to display their natural behaviours.
With its high fibre content, grass brings many benefits to the teeth and digestive system of rabbits. It’s also a cheap and natural food source if you can start growing grass for rabbits yourself.
So do rabbits eat grass? Totally. Just remember to slowly introduce grass into the daily diet of your baby bunnies.