You’ve probably seen rabbits happily munching away in a field of grass. As rabbits do most of their eating at dawn and dusk, it can be difficult to see what attracts them. So what do wild rabbits eat?
Wild rabbits are herbivores and they will eat by grazing on grass, weeds, and plants. Rabbits will also eat flowers and vegetable plants from urban gardens. When food sources are scarce in winter rabbits will eat trees bark, twigs, and pine needles.
Although rabbits can be quite fussy eaters they do have a variety of foods in their diet. Depending on the availability rabbits may need to eat what they can to survive.
This guide will take you through wild rabbits eating habits. You can use this to find out what attracts them or even to keep rabbits out of your yard.
Let’s get started.
What do Rabbits Eat in the wild?
1. Grasses and Weeds
Rabbits are grazing animals which means they feed freely on grassy areas. A rabbit’s diet is around 80% grass and weeds. As rabbits eat from the ground they will also eat vegetation mixed in with the grass including weeds and clover plants.
The fact that rabbits mainly eat grass means they have a food source available to them all year round. This means they don’t have to hibernate in the winter.
Rabbits will eat most types of grass, yet they appear to enjoy:
- Meadow grass
- Timothy grass
- Bermuda grass
Wild rabbits eat a lot of grass every day. That’s because it’s full of nutrients they need to keep their digestive system working well. By eating lots of grass, rabbits can naturally keep their teeth trimmed with constant chewing.
Despite rabbits eating so much grass every day, they are quite fussy about the bits they eat. Rabbits will rearrange a bit of grass with their noses to get to the cleanest and tastiest parts.
2. Twigs and Bark
Rabbits need to slightly adapt their diet when winter comes around. They will eat much more tree bark, twigs, and pine needles.
Rabbits don’t hibernate in winter so they still need to find a food source in winter weather. Woody plant matter is much easier to find than grass or green vegetation. If there is a heavy covering of snow or the ground is frozen, then eating a large volume of grass can be a challenge.
Twigs and bark provide rabbits with nutrients and fiber which keeps their digestion healthy. The toughness of these foods also helps to naturally trim the rabbit’s teeth. As these food need to be chewed more it can give rabbits the same chewing feedback as eating large volumes of grass.
Rabbits can easily kill young trees and bushes by stripping them of supporting bark and leaving them vulnerable.
Rabbits will use flowers to supplement their diet. Most flowers a rabbit eats will be wildflowers they come across as they graze on the grass.
Rabbits really like to eat flowers as they can provide them with a sweet or fragranced treat. Not all flowers are suitable for rabbits and can cause stomach upset. Usually, if this happens to a rabbit they will avoid eating them again. A good example of this is when rabbits eat certain species of marigolds.
If a wild rabbit is in your yard, they’ll likely graze on some of your lovely flowers. Young rabbits are particularly curious and will give most flowers a nibble. Although the shoots and buds may be attacked just as much as the petals.
The flowers that rabbits like to eat include:
If you got these in your yard, just be aware that they may attract rabbits. If you have damage is low down on your plants it’s most likely rabbits are the culprits. New shoots and buds are vulnerable to hungry rabbits, so keep them protected.
Some flowers claim to be rabbit-proof. Adult rabbits may not go near certain plants which will cause them upset. Young rabbits may not have learned that lesson yet and so no plant can be totally rabbit-proof.
4. Vegetables and Herbs
Contrary to popular belief rabbits don’t live on a diet of carrots!
In fact, rabbits don’t eat root vegetables in the wild. The types of vegetables that rabbits eat are leafy greens or legumes such as:
- Swiss chard
Rabbits will mostly eat the leaves rather than the actual vegetables. Farmyard crops and backyard vegetable gardens are most are risk from rabbits grazing at night. A group of rabbits can easily ruin a small to medium vegetable crop overnight.
Rabbits will also eat a variety of herbs that are full of vitamins and nutrients. They do not appear to be repelled by the strong scents or flavors of some herbs.
Herbs that rabbits like to eat are:
5. Rabbit milk
Baby rabbits (kits) will drink rabbit breast milk from their mothers for the first 4 weeks after they are born. Baby bunnies will start to eat solid food on their own around this age.
When a rabbit is nursing they only feed once per day for around 5 minutes. This is usually done in the early hours of the morning.
The reason for such short feeding periods is to help avoid attracting predators to the nest. Female rabbits are also often pregnant with their next litter when feeding young rabbits.
Yes, you read that right, rabbits eat their own poop.
Rabbits make two different types of poo. The first type is a full digested hard dropping. These are the tiny balls that are distinctly rabbit droppings.
The second type is a cecotrope. These are clusters of partially digested food. These makeup around 80% of a rabbit’s waste output.
A rabbit will eat their cecotropes as a way to get the full nutrients from the food they’ve eaten. Cecotropes will provide a lot of vitamin b and vitamin k for rabbits. It also provides rabbits with a source of protein and healthy bacteria.
Can you feed Wild Rabbits?
Feeding wild rabbits in your backyard is a personal choice.
The truth is that you don’t need to feed wild rabbits and it can ultimately be harmful to them. Feeding rabbits the wrong food can give them nutritional deficiencies. It can also reduce their natural instinct by relying on you for food.
You may be tempted to leave out scraps from your kitchen or even piles of hay. Don’t try to feed a wild rabbit like a domesticated one. This will more than likely attract other animals and wild rabbits will stick their nose up to hay.
The best way you can encourage rabbits to your yard is to have as much natural grass, vegetation, and flowers to eat. This ensures the rabbits come around, but you don’t run the risk of harming them by feeding them the wrong things.
Do wild Rabbits eat fruit?
Rabbits do not naturally eat the fruit in the wild. Fruit is high in acids and sugars which can be disruptive to a rabbit’s digestion. Some fruit seeds can also be toxic for rabbits to eat.
A rabbit may nibble at some fruit crops you grow in the yard. But, it’s likely they are trying to get to the leaves and vegetation rather than the fruit itself.
During times of scarce food supplies, rabbits may be seen eating berries. Yet this is not a natural part of their diet and merely a survival strategy they need to adopt short term.
Wild rabbits should stick as close to their natural diet as possible to help them thrive.
Wild rabbits are herbivores that primarily eat grass. Yet they have a few other food sources that use to supplement their diet. A rabbit will mainly eat vegetation such as grass, weeds, twigs, bark, flowers, and vegetable leaves.
Baby rabbits will nurse until they wean at around 4 weeks old. They will then learn to forage on their own.
Rabbits are also known to eat special bacteria-filled poop which is mostly undigested foods. They’ll do this to extract as many nutrients from the food as possible.
It’s essential wild rabbits stick to the natural diet. Otherwise, they may become ill or have nutrient deficiency.
If you want to attract rabbits to your yard, make sure you offer a wide selection of native flowers and vegetation they can select to eat from.