What dietary enrichment will keep my rabbit happy
Dietary enrichment is an item or toy that will provide mental stimulation by encouraging natural foraging behaviour. You can achieve this by ‘scatter feeding’ or by hiding food in tubes or even hanging it up high. It’s best to try and feed your rabbits at times when they are most active and likely to graze and forage. This is usually in the early morning, as well as late afternoon and overnight. Therefore, we would advise that domesticated rabbits always have continuous access to good quality hay and grass.
We recommend hay as dietary enrichment as it’s important for:
- providing vital fibre,
- wearing down their constantly growing teeth,
- keeping digestive systems healthy,
- emotional well-being.
In the wild, rabbits spend around 70 per cent of their time eating grass and other plants. Hay and grass takes a long time to eat, keeping them occupied. Good quality hay (sweet-smelling and dust-free) and/or grass should constitute the majority of diets and should be available continually.
Hay can be provided in various ways. Keeping hay in racks or hanging baskets keeps it clean and above floor level. Placing these above litter trays may encourage rabbits to eat more hay.
Encouraging chewing – it's natural behaviour and keeps them occupied:
- hay and/or grass and safe leafy greens,
- wooden chew sticks designed for rabbits,
- branches from fruit trees that aren’t chemically treated.
Searching for food encourages natural foraging behaviour and keeps them busy, try:
- ‘scatter feeding’ – scatter greens and/or daily pellet ration around their home,
- hiding food under flower pots and in cardboard boxes or tubes with the ends stuffed with hay or shredded newspaper,
- hanging up their greens so they have to stand on their back legs to reach them,
- wrapping some pellets in brown paper for them to unwrap.
Food balls, puzzle feeders and mini ‘Kongs’:
- provide mental stimulation and encourage natural foraging behaviour,
- rabbits have to work and push them to get the pellets out,
- initially supervise rabbits to ensure the feeder size is appropriate and that all rabbits can access the food,
- always check the opening(s) isn’t blocked and food can be removed easily,
- if rabbits come to expect their feeders at a certain time, maintain this, as predictability can reduce stress,
- provide one feeder per rabbit, to avoid one rabbit monopolising a feeder,
- this food should be part of, and not additional to, their daily ration.
Try to feed rabbits when they’re most active and like to graze and forage, i.e. early morning, late afternoon and overnight, Ensure they have continuous access to hay and/or grass. At night check there is enough hay to last until the morning.