Hay is probably the best form of dietary enrichment for rabbits. Not only is it important in providing vital fibre, helping to wear down rabbits’ constantly growing teeth and keeping their digestive system healthy, it is also important for their emotional wellbeing.
In the wild, rabbits spend around 70 per cent of their time above ground feeding on grass and other plants. Hay and grass take a long time to eat and therefore keep rabbits occupied. Good quality hay and/or grass should make up the majority of your rabbits' diet and should be available at all times. Good quality hay is sweet-smelling and dust-free. Find out more about rabbits’ dietary needs and discover more about these amazing animals in our rabbit factfile.
Hay can be provided in a variety of ways. Keeping hay in a hay rack or hanging basket keeps it clean and above floor level. Placing a hay rack above your rabbits’ litter tray may encourage them to eat more hay.
Providing food and objects that encourage chewing is also important in encouraging natural behaviour and reducing boredom. Including hay and/or grass and safe fresh leafy greens as part of your rabbits’ diet will encourage chewing. Wooden chew sticks designed for rabbits are also available commercially. Branches from fruit trees that have not been treated with chemicals can be provided for rabbits to chew and scent mark.
Getting your rabbits to search for their food is a great way to encourage natural foraging behaviour and gives your rabbits something to do. The easiest way to do this is by ‘scatter feeding’; simply scatter their greens, and their daily ration of commercial pellets (if you provide these), around their home. Rabbits may also enjoy searching for food that is hidden around their home. Try hiding their greens or their daily ration of pellets under flower pots or in cardboard boxes or tubes with the ends stuffed with hay or shredded paper. You could hang up their daily greens at the top of their shelter or enclosure, so they have to stand up on their back legs to reach them. You could even wrap some of their pellet ration in brown paper as a parcel for them to unwrap!
Food balls, puzzle feeders and mini/small ‘Kongs’ are designed to provide mental stimulation and also encourage natural foraging behaviour. As a rabbit pushes the feeder/ball/’Kong’, a small number of pellets fall out, meaning the rabbit has to work for his/her food and it takes longer for him/her to eat this part of their diet. If you provide food in this way, supervise your rabbits initially to make sure the size of the feeder is appropriate and to check that all your rabbits can access food from it. Each time you provide the feeder, check that the opening(s) is not blocked and that food can be removed easily. If your rabbits come to expect their feeders at a certain time each day, try to ensure this always happens, as a predictable routine can reduce stress and help rabbits feel more in control of their environment. Provide one feeder per rabbit, to avoid one rabbit keeping a feeder all to him/herself. Any food provided in this way should be part of your rabbits’ normal daily ration and not in addition to it. For further advice read our guidance for using enrichment.
Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are most active in the early morning, late afternoon and overnight. This is when they like to graze and forage for food so try to feed your rabbits during their active periods (i.e. early morning and late afternoon/early evening). Ensure your rabbits have access to hay and/or grass at all times. Before you go to bed, always check your rabbits have sufficient hay to last them through the night.