If you’ve recently got yourself a Rabbit, you may be wondering if they can eat grass. This may seem like a strange question at first because wild rabbits are so often seen eating grass. But is wild grass different? Where does the grass from your lawn stand? Having questioned this myself, I decided to put some time into research the topic. Here is what I have found.
So, can Rabbits Eat Grass? Rabbits can eat grass. In fact, it’s completely safe and natural for Rabbits to consume it. However, you need to ensure that the grass has not been sprayed or treated with any products or chemicals (like Weed Killer). It is also advised that you limit grass consumption at first and enable your Rabbit to get used to consuming it in larger quantities.
Rabbits love grass within the right context, but there are some things you are going to need to consider.
Let us now look at some of those factors so that your Rabbit can consume it safely and enjoy it for years to come.
Should Rabbits Eat Grass?
Grass is one of the best things that a Rabbit can eat. There is a reason why wild Rabbits live almost entirely off it. Its natural for them and it contains a lot of vitamins and minerals that are required for good health. This is why you will likely find that your pet Rabbit naturally and regularly tries to consume it at any opportune moment.
The majority of the time, this will cause no issues for your Rabbit and will be something that should only provide benefits to them.
However, there are specific things you need to watch out for. These are the things you need to consider to prevent it from becoming a negative activity which poses risks:
- Has the grass been treated with any products or chemicals? Weed Killer and other Pesticide and Herbicides products can be fatal to a Rabbit if consumed.
- Have other animals, pets been grazing or using the area in which the grass grows? Could they have urinated/excreted on it?
- Have any wild animals been on/or use the grass?
- Have you recently mowed the grass, or cut it down using a lawnmower?
- Has your Rabbit consumed grass before? Has it been a significant part of their diet?
Considering that none of the above conditions are met, your rabbit should be able to enjoy the grass without any concern. In fact, you should find that they do a lot better because of it.
Alternatively, if you have any reason to believe that any of those conditions above are met, thankfully there is something that you can do to proactively manage and protect your Rabbit.
To do so, you can get an Exercise Pen (like this one on Amazon). You will want to set this up in an isolated and protected area – preferably where naturally growing grass exists. This way, if you place your Rabbits in the Pen, they can eat Grass as they play without consuming any that could harm them.
The other benefit of this approach is that if you do not have an area of fresh grass available, you can provide a pot/try of freshly cut grass that your Rabbit can eat from. Or failing that, you can scatter some freshly cut and safe grass across their pen. Just be careful here. You need to provide grass that has been cut with scissors and not clippings from the lawnmower.
Lawnmower shavings can be problematic to Rabbits. This is because the way the grass is cut (at an angle) which causes the grass to ferment very quickly. This can cause gastrointestinal issues if your Rabbit has a sensitive stomach.
Should Rabbits Eat Grass Instead of Hay?
If you look at any expert recommendations or talk to your Vet, you will routinely see and hear that Rabbits should be consuming Hay within their diet. You’ll likely be told that hay has to make up a significant portion of what they consumed.
Now you may or may not know this already, but hay is dried and aged grass. Therefore, the question naturally follows: is it possible to feed your Rabbit grass instead of Hay and keep them healthy and spritely?
The answer is no. Rabbits can and should eat a combination of grass and hay, but grass should never be used entirely as a hay substitute.
This is because hay provides considerably more Fiber; an essential component of a Rabbits diet that is required for effective digestion, nutrient absorption and assimilation.
Secondly, the dense nature of hay provides benefits to Rabbits formidable teeth. It serves as a mechanism that protects and strengthens their teeth (which are constantly growing).
Thirdly, it is rarely practical to provide enough fresh grass to meet all your rabbit’s needs.
With this in mind; you can feed your Rabbit Grass – but never at the expense of hay. If you find your Rabbit opting for grass over hay, and hay starts to be substituted or your Rabbits get too full up on grass; its time to intervene and reduce their consumption.
Ultimately, a Rabbits diet should consist of 80% hay at a minimum.
Therefore, it is recommended to purchase hay in bulk; to ensure that you never run out. Its also a lot more easily stored.
That means that grass can be a great addition to your Rabbits diet. If you can grow it primarily for consumption by your Rabbit then you’ll be in a much better position to control and ensure it is as good as possible.
If you find that your Rabbit is not consuming much hay; then it’s a good idea to investigate to find out why. Vets can help diagnose the potential problem here so it’s a good idea to speak to them if you have any concerns. Sometimes it can be a medical issue so its always best to check.
Encouraging Hay Eating
Hay is critically important, yet some Rabbits can refuse to eat it. You may notice this with your Rabbit. If this starts to happen, it is usually the result of providing too much highly palatable dry food. This essentially leads to poor eating habits that are difficult to break.
You’re going to want to overcome this issue because Rabbits that do not eat enough hay are a lot more likely to experience dental disease and illnesses relating to digestion.
By encouraging your Rabbit to eat hay you will be ensuring that they will be in the best health possible. Here are some things to try to help your Rabbit consume more hay:
- Limit the dry food you provide. Dry food is very palatable to a Rabbit, and if it is always available they will likely opt for it over Hay. Therefore, if you want to get your Rabbit to eat more hay you need to reduce the availability of dry food.
- Feed nicer hay. Hay can taste very different depending on the type of grass it came from, how it was dried etc. Spend some time testing different hay to see what your Rabbit likes best. Also make sure that you are keeping your hay dry and storing it correctly.
- Provide hay at regular meal times. Try to ensure that your Rabbit(s) have hay to eat when they are hungry, and ensure that it is easily available and accessible at all times.
- Mix It In With Other Foods You can add dry food and vegetables to hay. This ensures your Rabbit is getting some hay with the other and tastier treats.
How Much Grass Can Rabbits Eat?
If your Rabbit has spent some time eating grass, and has built up their digestive capacity to consume it in larger quantities, there is no real limit to what they can eat. This is one of the reasons why hay is provided; because its tough to get Rabbits to eat enough grass to meet their nutritional needs.
You do need to introduce grass slowly into your Rabbits diet however. This is particularly important if your Rabbit is new and has not eaten grass from your lawn before.
One of the major problems new Rabbit Owners have is feeding their Rabbits too much grass too soon. This can cause digestive upset.
Therefore, it is better to add grass to their diet instead of letting them graze freely at first. By doing so, you can build up their tolerance over time.
You’ll also want to look over your Rabbits during and after they first start to consume grass. Observe any negative reactions in their behavior or bowel movements.
A clear sign is diarrhea; which often means their stomach is upset. You’ll want to avoid this from happening because it can be dangerous to the health of your Rabbit. Dehydration usually occurs in this context.
Ultimately, start feeding small amounts of grass to your Rabbits diet. Then build up over time. This way you should only notice positive effects.
Potential Dangers of Grass
The two main dangers of grass that I would like to further elaborate on here are Fermented Grass and Grass Carrying Chemicals.
Fermented Grass will only be a concern if you were to feed your Rabbit grass that was cut from a lawnmower.
The way a lawnmower cuts grass dramatically increases the chance of the grass fermenting. If this process begins, by the time it enters your Rabbit(s) digestive system it is going to cause a number of issues.
Gas and bloating is perhaps the most dangerous. This is very painful and can cause constipation or a gastrointestinal blockage which can be fatal if not treated by a Vet in under 48 hours.
Therefore it is important you do not expose your Rabbit to these risks.
The best way to do so is to never feed lawnmower grass clippings to your Rabbit. Also be sure to collect any grass leftover on your lawn following mowing, if you intend to let your Rabbit roam freely.
Grass Carrying Chemicals
The other thing to look out for are chemicals which can pose a significant health risk. Rabbits will not be able to detect chemicals on grass naturally, so are likely to consume even the most dangerous and severe without knowing.
If you own a Rabbit, then it is best to completely stop the use of all chemicals, weed killer or any other forms of pesticides/herbicides anywhere in close proximity to them. Also prevent the use of any other product(s) that may be used to prevent unwanted visitors or animals in your yard/garden space.
If your Rabbit does consume any type of toxic chemical, the main symptoms include but are not limited to: drastic changes in body temperature, fatigue, refusal to eat and the more severe seizures and convulsions.
You’ll need to get your Rabbit immediate medical attention at the earliest opportunity. Any time delay can be fatal.
Rabbits cannot vomit nor remove the toxin by themselves so you’re entirely reliant on medical attention.
It is imperative that you do not try to provide this assistance at home; as the use of intravenous fluids will be required to flush the chemicals from your Rabbits system
Can A Rabbit Eat Weed and Plants?
One of the other factors to consider if you let your Rabbit graze freely are wild weeds and plants. A lot of weeds and plants carry natural defense mechanisms to stop predators from eating them. You therefore need to be vary careful of what your Rabbits potentially eat.
For the most part, Dandelions, Nettles and Thistles are safe.
However, there are a lot of other plants and weeds that can be very dangerous to your Rabbit(s) and naturally grow and occur within a yard/garden setting. These include:
- All plants that grow from bulbs
- Apple (seeds)
- Apricot (all parts except fruit)
- Tomato (leaves, vines) Tulip (bulb)
- Macadamia Nut
- Tomato Plant
- Rhubarb Leaves
- Wild Carrots
- Arum lily (cuckoo point)
- Convolvulus (bindweed)
- Deadly nightshade (belladonna)
- Delphinium (larkspur)
- Fools parsley
- Most evergreens
- Potato tops
- Rhubarb leaves
- Woody nightshade
- Wild Carrots
- Wild Cucumbers
- Wild Parsnip
- Wild peas
As you can see there’s a lot that can pose a danger to your Rabbit. And there’s many more weeds not included here.
For the most part, its important you reside over your Rabbit and never let them wander and graze freely without your knowing. This is why a Pen is so effective and why they come recommended.
Grass can be an excellent component to your Rabbit(s) diet. However, you are going to want to make sure it is a healthy addition, and not an overwhelming dangerous one.
Hay is without doubt the best food source for Rabbits; its what they truly need to thrive. Unfortunately grass cannot, nor should not, every truly replace it.
If you do decide to feed your Rabbit(s) grass, and so you should, just make sure it is naturally grown, not cross-contaminated and has not been cut by a lawnmower. Then you and your Rabbit(s) should be fine!