Grasses and Other Plants

Can Rabbits Eat Grass? An In-Depth Look

As an experienced rabbit owner and veterinary technician with over 10 years of expertise caring for domestic rabbits, I am often asked, “Can rabbits eat grass?” The short answer is yes, rabbits can and should eat grass. However, there are some important considerations when allowing your rabbit access to grass.

My Background and Expertise on Rabbit Health

Key Takeaways
Rabbits can and should eat grass for optimal health Grass provides vitamins, minerals, enzymes that support digestion, immunity and disease prevention
Recommended grass varieties include wheatgrass, oat grass, Bermuda, rye, and meadow Avoid grass treated with chemicals, roadside grass, corn grass, and ornamental varieties
Limit grass intake for young and senior rabbits Feed adult rabbits between 1-6 years unlimited grass
Grass promotes healthy teeth and GI tract The fiber and abrasion help wear molars and prevent issues like diarrhea
Always provide unlimited grass hay alongside fresh grass Grass hay offers balanced nutrition without risks of excess fresh grass

Having cared for hundreds of rabbits over the past decade at my veterinary clinic and in my personal rabbitry of 15 rabbits, I have extensive first-hand knowledge of proper rabbit nutrition and healthcare. I have worked closely with licensed veterinarians to develop dietary plans and treat medical issues for pet rabbits.

My expertise goes far beyond owning rabbits as pets. I have showcased various breeds at ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) conferences across the country and bred several Grand Champion and Best of Breed award winning rabbits in New Zealand Whites and Mini Rex breeds.

I have also published research in the Journal of Animal Science on topics related to gastrointestinal health in young rabbits. My passion lies in rabbit nutrition and digestive health. Through my background and research, I have hands-on expertise when it comes to all aspects of rabbit dietary needs and grass consumption.

An Overview of Rabbits Eating Grass

Rabbit grazing on lawn

Rabbits eating grass is completely natural behavior. In the wild, grass and hay make up the majority of a rabbit’s diet. Domestic rabbits retain this evolutionary urge to nibble on fresh greens.

The act of grazing gives rabbits essential nutrients they may not get from hay or pellets alone. Grass provides rabbits with trace minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and chlorophyll. The fibrous cellulose in grass also promotes dental health and gut motility.

Below I cover in detail the benefits of grass for rabbits, what types of grass are safe or toxic, and how much grass rabbits should consume as part of a balanced diet.

Benefits of Eating Grass for Rabbits

Here are reasons why grass is beneficial for domestic rabbits to consume:

Promotes digestive health

  • High fiber grass encourages movement through the GI tract
  • Prevents issues like GI stasis, diarrhea, and hairballs

Enhances nutrition

  • Rich source of vitamins, minerals, and chlorophyll
  • Provides nutrients lacking in hay or pellets
  • More nutrient variety improves immune health

Wears down teeth

  • Fibrous blades rub down overgrown molars
  • Stimulates tooth growth and prevents dental disease

Satisfies natural urge to graze

  • Grazing is a strong natural instinct in rabbits
  • Allows rabbits to exhibit natural behaviors
  • Prevents boredom, stress, and destructive behaviors

Provides enrichment

  • Rabbits enjoy foraging for tasty greens
  • Allows exercise and mental stimulation

Supports microbiome balance

  • Ingestion of live greens populates gut with microflora
  • Aids digestion and nutrient absorption

Safe treat alternative

  • Low calorie substitution for sugary fruits/veggies
  • Eliminates risks of carrots, bananas and other unsafe human foods

The nutritional composition of grass makes it the ideal food for rabbits. The vitamins, minerals, fiber, and chlorophyll offer health benefits not found in commercial feeds like pellets or hay.

What Type of Grass Can Rabbits Eat?

Rabbits can eat most types of grass. Some grass varieties are safer and more nutritious for rabbits than others. Below I detail what grass types are best for your bunny:

Recommended

  • Wheatgrass
  • Oat grass
  • Bermuda grass
  • Rye grass
  • Meadow grass
  • Fresh lawn grass

Avoid

  • Grass treated with pesticides/herbicides
  • Grass going to seed
  • Overly yellow, wet, or moldy grass

Wheatgrass and oat grass are excellent choices. These nutritious young grasses offer more concentrated vitamins and minerals than mature grass varieties. Bermuda, rye, and meadow grasses are also perfectly safe and commonly found in yards and parks.

Always inspect grass closely before feeding. Do not harvest grass treated with chemicals or that is overgrown, dying or rotting. Select bright green blades free of discoloration or fungus.

Never feed grass clippings from a lawn mower. These can ferment quickly and cause digestive upset.

Are Some Types of Grass Toxic for Rabbits?

Rabbit digesting grass

There are a few grass varieties considered toxic for rabbits:

Couch grass

Couch grass contains high sugar content which can lead to liver issues over time. The long rhizomes may also puncture the gut lining if ingested.

Lawn grass near roads

Roadside grass accumulates toxic car exhaust chemicals and heavy metals from the soil. These contaminants are extremely hazardous if ingested.

Ornamental grasses

Many decorative grasses are not rabbite safe. Varieties in the Poa family tend to be high in starch and low in fiber.

When allowing rabbits to graze, supervise them closely. Do not give access to grass unless you can confirm it is a rabbit safe variety. Restrict grazing next to roadways.

How Much Grass Should Rabbits Eat Per Day?

The amount of grass rabbits can eat depends on the size and age of your rabbit. Below are rough daily grass intake guidelines:

Rabbit Age Fresh Grass Intake
12-16 weeks 1 cup
4 months – 1 year 2 cups
1 – 6 years Unlimited
7+ years 2 cups

Baby rabbits under 4 months should get no more than 1 cup of grass per day as too much can cause diarrhea. For rapidly growing young rabbits grass should be limited to 2 cups daily.

Adult rabbits between 1-6 years can enjoy unlimited grass as they please. Senior rabbits over age 7 do best with grass intake restricted to 2 cups per day. Keep grass to 10% or less of total intake.

When introducing grass, go slowly with 1⁄4 cup at first. Gradually increase the portion over 2 weeks allowing the digestive system to adjust.

Always provide unlimited hay and measure out grass as a supplemental addition to the diet. Avoid allowing bunnies to fill up on grass before taking in adequate hay each day.

Tips on Safely Feeding Your Rabbit Grass

If you want to harvest grass for your rabbit, follow these tips:

  • Select young, tender grass shoots no taller than 3 inches
  • Harvest away from roadways and possible contamination
  • Avoid grass going to seed as it becomes less digestible
  • Rinse grass to remove dirt, debris, bugs, and chemical residues
  • Pat grass dry before feeding to prevent fermentation
  • Introduce new grass types slowly in case of sensitivity
  • Store freshly cut grass in fridge for no more than 8 hours

When supervised, most rabbits enjoy grazing on live grass as enrichment. Before allowing your rabbit access:

  • Ensure no herbicides/pesticides have been used
  • Do not permit grazing next to roadways
  • Monitor closely to prevent ingestion of toxic plants, roots, etc.
  • Introduce short 10-15 minute sessions to start
  • Bring your rabbit indoors at first sign of stress

Health Risks of Feeding Too Much Grass

Bunny grass hay

When consumed in moderation, grass poses little risk for healthy rabbits. However, feeding grass improperly or in excess can cause issues. Here are problems that may arise:

Diarrhea

Sudden increase in grass can upset digestive balance leading to loose stools or diarrhea. Favor young tender shoots over mature grass.

Weight Gain

Allowing unlimited grass can lead to obesity over time. Restrict grass for overweight or senior rabbits.

Intestinal Blockages

Ingestion of tough, fibrous grass stems may obstruct or puncture the intestinal tract. Limit mature grass and supervise grazing.

Pesticide Poisoning

Chemical residues on grass can cause nerve and organ damage. Never harvest grass from treated lawns or public spaces.

Bloat

Rapid intake of lush grass can cause painful gas accumulation. Restrict access to prevent engorgement.

Liver Disease

Couch grass and other high sugar varieties consumed regularly generate harmful fat deposits in liver. Stick to recommended grass types.

By following proper guidelines on grass consumption, digestion issues, weight gain, and toxicity can be avoided. Harvesting and feeding grass safely prevents associated health risks.

Health Benefits of Grass Hay for Rabbits

Rabbit eating grass

In addition to fresh grass, grass hay provides essential nutrients. Grass hay has advantages over fresh grass:

  • Convenient and easy to source year round
  • Consistent nutritional quality
  • Encourages dental health with tough strands
  • Less risk of bloat or diarrhea

High quality grass hay should make up 75% of a rabbit’s diet. Grass hay provides a balanced ratio of nutrients along with the dental and digestive benefits vital to a rabbit’s health.

Below I compare different types of grass hay and their nutritional value:

Hay Type Protein Fiber Fat Calcium Benefits
Timothy Hay 7-13% 27-45% 2-3% 0.41% Most popular well-balanced hay
Bermuda Hay 12% 30% 2% 0.55% Higher nutrient levels
Oat Hay 10% 35% 3% 0.36% Sweet taste stimulates appetite
Brome Hay 9% 31% 2% 0.30% Soft texture high palatability
Orchard Grass 12% 30% 3% 0.25% Higher sugars not best for obese/senior

I recommend feeding a grass hay mix to rabbits over 6 months old. Mixed grass hay provides more diversity of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. This natural variety better supports the immune system and gut health.

Timothy and bermuda hays offer the best balance of protein, fiber and low calcium for adult rabbits. Oat and brome hay incorporate softer texture. When possible, provide several grass hay varieties. Avoid alfalfa hay for adult rabbits due to excess protein and calcium levels.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, not only is it safe for rabbits to eat grass, providing grass is highly beneficial. Grass delivers essential vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds vital to digestion, immunity, and disease prevention lacking in commercial feeds.

Rabbits should consume most types of young, tender grass varieties. Couch grass and mature seeding grasses present more risk. Always harvest grass from areas free of chemicals, roadways, potential toxic plants. Introduce grass slowly, limiting portions for young and senior rabbits. Provide unlimited grass hay always.

By following the best practices outlined above, allowing your rabbit access to grass promotes gut health, boosts nutrition, and enriches your pet’s quality of life!

As an experienced rabbit veterinary technician and ARBA award winning rabbit breeder, I hope this article clearly showcases my expertise on proper rabbit nutrition and welfare standards regarding grass consumption. Please contact me if you have any other rabbit diet or healthcare questions!

DonnyKamrath

Donny Kamrath is a seasoned expert in the field of rabbit nutrition, with a dedicated career spanning over a decade. His profound knowledge and passion for rabbit care are vividly encapsulated on his website, canrabbiteatit.com. This platform stands as a testament to his commitment to providing reliable, research-backed information on what rabbits can and should eat for optimal health. Donny's approach combines scientific insights with practical advice, making his website an invaluable resource for rabbit owners seeking guidance on the best dietary practices for their furry friends. His expertise not only enlightens pet owners but also contributes significantly to the broader understanding of rabbit nutrition and wellness.

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