Wild rabbit eating grass

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat?

Wild rabbits eat a lot of different things, including wildflowers, grasses, vegetable plants, and weeds. They do not eat eggs, meat, or dairy – or any animal based products. Vegetation that is not toxic and is readily available will often be munched by a wild rabbit.

It’s not uncommon for people to wonder what wild rabbits eat, because pet rabbits tend to be given hay, or rabbit mix from the store. Obviously, wild rabbits do not get given such things, so you might well be wondering what they forage for when they can’t depend upon humans for their meals.

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat?

Wild rabbits will eat quite a range of different foods, and the food that they consume will vary depending upon what is available in their location and the season. 

Over the course of the year, what a rabbit eats will change, as different foods become available, and others become unavailable.

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat In Spring?

During the spring, when the plants start to grow, rabbits have plenty to choose from. They will munch on the foliage of the early plants, and when the grass starts to grow, they will start to eat it in big quantities.

They get a large percentage of their diet from grass, and this provides them with the roughage that they need. They will also nibble on the tender leaves of bushes as they start to sprout, and they will pick up leaves from the plants as they begin to grow.

Rabbit eating clovers from the ground

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat In Summer?

Again, rabbits tend to go for green leaves from the various different plants that are on offer. This may shift as the summer progresses, but as long as the plant is non-toxic, it will probably be on a rabbit’s menu.

Grass again remains a major component of the rabbit’s diet. In the summer, this is available in abundance, and it’s the main thing that they eat. Don’t be surprised if you see whole groups of rabbits nibbling away at fields of grass all day long throughout the summer.

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat In Fall?

In the fall, food might start to become more scarce, but they should still have plenty of plants to eat. Whatever is coming into season will also come onto the rabbit’s menu, and the rabbit will continue to supplement everything else that it eats with grass.

Once again, you might be surprised by the amount of grass that a rabbit can eat in a day. They do need to eat a lot of it, because grass is not very nutritious. In order to get enough calories and nutrients, a wild rabbit often has to eat around 300 calories in a single day.

There are only around 33 calories in 100 grams of grass, so a rabbit might need to eat almost a kilogram of grass in a day. 

Of course, it will be getting some of its calories from other plants and vegetation, so it is unlikely that it will eat an entire kilogram, but this will give you an idea of just how much wild rabbits need to eat.

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat In Winter?

You might be wondering what a wild rabbit can find to eat when it’s cold, frosty, or even snowy. Most plants don’t grow much in the winter, so how do rabbits find enough to eat at this time?

It’s important to note that most rabbits don’t eat as much in the winter as they do in the other seasons, because there simply isn’t much food available for them at this time.

Rabbits do still eat a lot of grass in the winter, but when there is snow on the ground, it is hard for them to find. Some rabbits will hop into low bushes and pieces of shrubbery in order to get to fresh vegetation.

They will also eat dried vegetation if it is available, but they have a strong preference for fresh leaves, and they will forage for these even when the weather is not good. If you’ve ever seen a rabbit digging through the snow, it is probably searching for some greenery to munch on.

If no greenery is available, they will eat roots or even tree bark if necessary. They can shred a surprising amount of bark from a tree’s trunk, which is often destructive if it happens in a garden. On the whole, one rabbit will not do much damage, but a lot of rabbits might do.

What Kinds Of Plants Do Wild Rabbits Prefer?

In general, wild rabbits go for tender, soft leaves that are easy for them to eat. Rabbits will reject tougher leaves when they have a choice of softer greens, and you might notice that the tenderest plants in gardens and fields get munched first.

Rabbits often eat several parts of the plant too. They may munch on the fruits, the leaves, the stems, and even bark and roots. They don’t usually go for anything buried deep under the ground, so they will usually only eat roots that are above the ground or close to the surface.

They will also choose plants that have a high nitrogen content, or the parts of the plant that have more nitrogen in them.

Do Wild Rabbits Eat Vegetables?

You might be surprised to learn that wild rabbits do not always choose to eat vegetables, even when they are available. While we often give pet rabbits lots of vegetables, and we see that they love them, wild rabbits are aware that they need to eat them in balance with other foods.

Carrots, berries, celery, and other vegetables might be a great treat for rabbits, but they are high in sugar, and rabbits need more nutrients than they offer. Fiber is also important, and this will mostly be got from grass and other greenery.

If a rabbit comes across fruits in the wild, it is quite likely to nibble a few, but it will usually pair this with leaves from the plant or from other nearby plants. It may eat more roots or other roughage to ensure that it can digest the food properly.

If you decide to put food out for wild rabbits, it is okay to provide some fruits and vegetables, but you need to do so in moderation, or you may make the rabbit sick.

How Do Rabbits Know What To Eat?

A baby rabbit will initially only drink milk from its mother. They will usually stop nursing at around six to eight weeks old, but even before this, they can start foraging. They may be as young as three to four weeks old when they start to eat the same things as their parents eat.

Baby rabbits may take a while to learn what to eat. It is likely that they get some of their guidance on what to eat from their parents, but baby rabbits also learn a bit about how to select foods through trial and error.

For example, it’s known that baby rabbits occasionally try to eat stinging nettles. This will cause pain, as their little noses will get stung. Most baby rabbits only need to experience this once or twice in order to learn not to try and eat the wrong plants.

In general, wild rabbits can eat most kinds of plants, without worrying too much about the toxins. They have digestive systems that are capable of dealing with many kinds of plants, and although there are certainly plants that they cannot and should not eat, they are usually pretty good at working out which are safe for them to consume.

Why Do Pet Rabbits Need Different Food?

Your next question might be why we feed different foods to our pet rabbits. Pet rabbits are not particularly different from wild ones in terms of their digestive systems, so why don’t they have the same diets?

A pet rabbit could eat the same diet as a wild rabbit, but often, it would not spend enough time grazing, and it might struggle to get enough nutrients. Remember, wild rabbits need nearly a kilogram of grass per day, and a pet rabbit might not manage to eat this much.

That said, your pet rabbit’s diet should not be very different from a wild rabbit’s diet. Pet rabbits will suffer if they eat too many carrots, or other fruits and vegetables, because of the excessive sugar.

To make life easier for pet owners, rabbit food has been formulated. It can be purchased from pet stores, and ensures it’s easy to provide your bunny with a balanced diet, without you needing access to massive quantities of grass.

Can I Feed A Wild Rabbit?

You may already be aware that wild rabbits struggle to find enough food in the winter, and this problem has been made worse by deforestation and housing developments. Many wild rabbits do not survive through the winter, because there simply is not enough for them to eat.

If you are worried about the rabbits in your area, you can put food out for them. However, you should be careful about doing so, because you do not want wild rabbits to start depending upon you for food. It is important that they continue to forage and find food for themselves as much as possible.

So, what should you feed to a wild rabbit? Hay is a good option. Remember, wild rabbits need to get most of their diet from grass, and dried grass is a great solution. You can leave hay in the garden for rabbits, and they will eat it when there is no fresh food available. Put it somewhere that will keep it dry.

You can also give wild rabbits pellets, but you should only do so in small amounts. Pellets are extremely dense in nutrients, and eating a lot of them may make a wild rabbit sick. You should try to estimate how many wild rabbits you are feeding, and only provide limited quantities.

It is also okay to give small amounts of vegetables to the wild rabbits, but remember that they should not eat large amounts of vegetables, especially without roughage and other greens to keep their digestive systems healthy. You can feed the rabbits in your garden small quantities of:

  • Dandelion leaves
  • Lettuce
  • Carrot tops
  • Spinach
  • Parsley
  • Mustard greens
  • Beets
  • Collard greens
  • Bok Choy
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Celery leaves
  • Broccoli
  • Peapods, but not peas
  • Swiss chard

Don’t give wild rabbits things like potatoes or tomatoes, as this could cause problems for them. Although they will sometimes forage for these plants for themselves, it is better to choose the safe plants for the rabbits in your garden.

Rabbit eating daisy

Do Rabbits Eat Flower Bulbs?

If you’ve found bulbs dug up in your garden, you might be wondering what has caused this, and whether wild rabbits might be responsible.

The answer is that yes, they might. Although rabbits usually forage on the surface of the ground, they are very capable of digging down to find bulbs. They will eat these if they can’t find other foods on the surface.

On the whole, most rabbits will go for greenery instead of bulbs, but they will certainly dig up your flower bulbs if they can’t find much else to eat. However, many other animals also dig up bulbs, so it may not be rabbits. Squirrels, mice, rats, and even deer will sometimes dig up bulbs to eat them.

Conclusion

Wild rabbits eat a wide range of plants throughout the year, and their diets change with the seasons. In general, they choose to eat greenery over other foods, but when fresh plants are not available, they will eat bark, roots, and dried plant matter.

Mostly, rabbits eat grass. It makes up the biggest part of their diets, and it provides plenty of roughage to keep their digestive systems working. If you decide that you are going to feed wild rabbits, make sure you are not upsetting this balance. Give them things like hay, with only a few vegetables.

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