Unfortunately, what we thought was a normal rabbit weight in the past has often been an overweight rabbit. Obesity is a problem with rabbits that eat a diet too high in calories and that don't get enough exercise. A healthy rabbit should be slim and sleek. The house rabbit should have a diet high in fibre and fairly low in calories (especially fats and starches). Over time pellet diets have been sold as the mainstay of a rabbit's diet, but pellets were originally formulated for non household rabbits (i.e. laboratory or farmed rabbits).
Some of the problems associated with rabbits fed unlimited pellets are:
Green foods are the next most important food in the rabbit's diet. Feed at least 3 types of leafy green vegetables daily in a total minimum amount (all types of greens together) of 1 heaped cup per 1.8kg body weight. This is a minimum, as the bunny adjusts to this diet more can be fed. Greens are an important addition to the diet, but should never be the total diet.
These food products contain fibre, vitamins e.g. A & C, minerals and carbohydrates as well as providing mental stimulation for your pet.
Broccoli (leaves and top)
Cabbage (red, green, Chinese)
Celery (leaves are good)
Dandelion greens (and flower)
Parsley (Italian or flat leaf are best)
Swiss chard (any colour)
Since these items do not make up the majority of the diet, we recommend feeding these treats in limited quantities. Another reason for limiting the amount is because some rabbits like these foods so well that they will eat them to the exclusion of all others, thereby creating a potential for health problems. Foods from this list can be fed daily and you may even wish to use them as part of a reward or training system.
*TIP: Find at least one food in this list that your rabbit likes and feed a small amount daily to check on how good your rabbit's appetite is. If your rabbit will not eat her treat food, then there may be other problems brewing and you need to keep a close eye on your pet for health problems.
These treat foods are far healthier (and less expensive) than the commercial treat foods sold for rabbits. Commercial treat foods should generally be avoided because many are loaded with starch and fat and if fed in quantity can cause serious health problems.
Bean or alfalfa sprouts
Edible flowers from the garden (organically grown and NOT from a florist) such as roses, nasturtiums, day lilies, pansies and snap dragons.
Green or red bell peppers
Pea pods (flat, NO peas)
Avoid starchy foods or high sugar content foods such as; legumes, beans, peas, corn, bananas, grapes, oats, wheat, crackers, chips, bread, nuts, pasta, potatoes, chocolate, cookies, rolled oats and breakfast cereals, beans (of any kind), breads, cereals, corn, refined sugar and seeds.
We know that bunnies love starchy foods, and these can be fed in very small amounts for adult rabbits - yet it is easy to overdo, and may result in soft stools or serious stomach upsets.
This is seen where the bunny has stopped eating pellets, but eats all the newspaper in their enclosure or hutch. These rabbits are craving fibre, as they are not on unlimited (or usually any) hay or greens.
These products do no harm, but are usually unnecessary when the rabbit is eating a more natural diet.