Rabbit diet, no matter what species, is simply vegetarian. They enjoy a variety of green plants including bark, wood shrubs and twigs. Their appetites are quite ravenous and while the will eat all day long, their peak eating times are early morning after the sunrise and in the evening just after sunset.
The food of the rabbit diet is quite consistent through the species, less the necessary differences due to where in the country they reside. As with any wild animals they will share in any type of green vegetation but they do have some favorites.
In wild spaces they will fill their bellies with grasses including bluegrass, rye, sagebrush, and savannah panicgrass when available and switch over to bark and twigs during the winter months. Trees and shrubs preferred are the Juniper bush and berries, willows, poplars, cherry, apple and citrus trees, almond and pistachio trees and nuts, dogwoods, sumacs, and birch. Maples and ash are normally only eaten when the trees are young. Rabbits are not known to enjoy in walnuts and oaks too often.
As for your vegetable gardens the rabbits will diet on a great many backyard garden staples. This includes, leaf lettuces including reds and black seeded simpson’s and more compact varieties such as iceberg. They will also eat eggplant, green beans and lima beans, radishes, spinach, beets, peas, broccoli, and watermelons. Your berry patches are not immune to the dietary requirements of rabbits either. They can most certainly do heavy damage to strawberries and those thorny raspberries are not safe either!
Much to the dismay of many gardeners the rabbit will not stop at the vegetable garden; rabbits have been known to spend much time in the flower garden, too! Here you will see your zinnias, petunias and snapdragons snipped off clean. Any small ornamental trees will become delectable fare for the rabbits, or hares, that you may have living in or around your property.
Rabbit Diet-Physical Attributes
Eating the bark and twigs throughout the winter makes ultimate nutrition a difficult task to accomplish. To help the rabbit get the nutrients it needs from the diet it has they have a physical process within called caecal fermentation. Certain required nutrients are created inside the rabbit’s digestive system and must be reabsorbed. These created nutrients are rereleased through the rabbit’s anus and eaten by the animal. Rabbits have two (2) types of excrement. The first, called fecal pellets, contain waste materials and the second, termed cecotropes, contain those nutrients. These nutrient pellets contain bacteria and fungi that hold essential nutritional elements that are not only needed for proper nutrition, but may actually help to protect the animals from diseases.
Those big teeth are quite helpful with the rabbit diet, too; especially when they are trying to get bark of the trees in the winter time.
Rabbit Diet-Benefits and Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem
When populations are high rabbits and hares can have a very negative impacts on both backyard and commercial growers. They have been blamed for nearly completely destroying plantings in yards and gardens as well as some agricultural crops, and rehabilitated rangeland. Occasionally their ravenous appetite is in direct competition with grazing cows.
From their affinity for common garden crops to the bark of a pistachio tree most of the plants found beneficial to the human diet is a staple for the rabbit diet.