Wild rabbits can have a tough time getting food in the wild, especially in urban or sub-urban environments. In order to keep them from starving, we should feed wild rabbits in winter. Giving wild rabbits some food in the winter can help them survive with their babies through times when food really is scarce.
Should You Feed Wild Rabbits?
Wild rabbits nesting in the yard can be a common sight in lots of places around the world. They can live on the surface or in intricate underground burrows, often with extended families with multiple adult and baby rabbits.
Some people find them to be a pest, destroying garden plants or vegetables. Rabbits can quickly become a problem if you like to grow vegetables or herbs in your yard.
They usually forage for grass, weeds, wild vegetables, berries, twigs and shrubs during the warmer months but that can be really hard during the winter where everything is covered with a layer of snow.
Even though they are wild animals and do not need any help from us humans, there is no real harm in feeding the rabbits in your yard. It may even save a bunny’s life and prevent the rabbits from damaging your plants.
What Can You Feed Wild Rabbits?
Wild rabbits and domestic rabbits have almost identical digestive systems. They can practically eat the same things as each other. This makes it easy to know what food are safe for rabbits to eat.
Not only that, wild rabbits can also eat a wide variety of common foods that you may have around the house. Here are some examples of what you can feed wild rabbits in the winter.
Pellets For Wild Rabbits
If you already have a rabbit at home then this should be easy for you. Rabbit pellets, available online and in most pet stores, are specially formulated to be calorie packed and provide for most of the nutrients that rabbits need.
They are safe for both pet rabbits and wild rabbits to eat. Just a small quantity of rabbit pellets can be enough for a wild rabbit to survive through the winter.
Rabbit pellets are also good for nursing rabbit mothers. It can help her produce enough milk for her kits, but pellets should not be fed to rabbit babies directly as young rabbit babies can only consume their mother’s milk and nothing else till they reach a certain age.
Here are a few brands that are safe for wild rabbits to eat.
- Oxbow Organic Rabbit Pellets
- Selective Naturals Grain Free Rabbit Pellets
- Kaytee Timothy Rabbit Pellets
That being said, wild rabbits may have a hard time recognizing pellets as food as it is not something they would find in a wild.
Hay / Grasses For Wild Rabbits
Most wild rabbits can be skittish when it comes to accepting food from us humans but grasses or hay is actually the closest food to what wild rabbits eat in the wild. Most will not even hesitate to grab some hay as it should feel familiar to them.
Again, if you already have pet rabbits at home then you should be no stranger to it. Hay usually makes up the bulk of a rabbit’s diet. It contains the essential dietary fiber that helps to keep a rabbit’s gut moving.
You can use timothy hay, orchard hay, meadow hay or even fresh picked grass. Just make sure that the hay is not more than a few weeks old as it is susceptible to mold growth.
Here are some popular brands of rabbit safe hay that you can order from amazon for the bunnies in your yard.
But, if you do not have any pet rabbits at home and do not want to buy hay or pellets then simply move on to vegetables and fruits
Vegetables For Wild Rabbits
Perhaps the most common household food that that you can feed to wild rabbits are vegetables. All rabbits are obligate herbivores, that means they can eat a wide variety of vegetables.
Compared to rabbit pellets and hay, fresh vegetables are easily available in most places. They also contain a good amount of essential nutrients that can help keep wild rabbits fed through the winter months.
However, there are some vegetables that wild rabbits cannot eat. Vegetables containing high amount of sugar, calcium or Oxalic acid are not suitable for wild rabbits.
So here is a list of common vegetables that are safe to feed to wild rabbits.
- Carrot tops
- Cucumber leaves
- Frisee Lettuce
- Red or green lettuce
- Romaine lettuce
- Spring greens
- Turnip greens
- Dandelion greens
- Raspberry leaves
- Bok Choy
- Fennel (the leafy tops as well as the base)
- Borage leaves
- Dill leaves
- Yu choy
- Broccoli (leaves and stems)
- Edible flowers (roses, nasturtiums, pansies, hibiscus)
- Bell peppers (any color)
- Chinese pea pods (the flat kind without large peas)
- Brussel sprouts
- Cabbage (any type)
- Summer squash
- Zucchini squash
A mix of a few vegetables should be more than enough to support wild rabbit through the winter but make sure that you get your vegetables fresh, canned vegetables may contain too much sodium which is not suitable for rabbits.
Fruits For Wild Rabbits
Although wild rabbits generally do not consume much fruit in their natural habitat, fruits can be a great way for wild rabbits to get much needed calories to live through times of scarcity.
Keep in mind that fruits contain lots of sugar which is not ideal for rabbits but they also contain a lot of essential vitamins and minerals so a little bit goes a long way.
Here are some fruits that you can feed wild rabbits occasionally as a treat.
- Star Fruit
Once again, fruits should never be a large part of a wild rabbit’s diet. Always try to get fruits that are in season as they are cheaper and more nutritious and remove seeds or pips that can get stuck in a bunny’s throat.
Drinking Water For Wild Rabbits
The most important and often overlooked part of feeding wild rabbits in winter is providing them drinking water.
During the winter wild rabbits may find it really hard to get clean drinking water as many of their regular sources can get frozen over.
Although we suggest using a water bottle for pet rabbits, wild rabbits, for the most part, will only drink from bowls or dishes. After all rabbits usually drink from puddles or water holes in the ground, so it is the only way they know how.
Leave a large dish of water in the yard somewhere where the wild rabbits can access it. Just regular tap water should be perfect but make sure that you replace it if the water gets dirty or frozen.
Foods That You Should Never Feed To Wild Rabbits
Rabbits can only eat very specific food items, their unique digestive system does not allow them to eat many common human foods. There are also some foods that we eat which are highly toxic to both domestic and wild rabbits.
If you want to feed something to wild rabbits in winter then do your research first, so here are some common food that you should never feed to a wild rabbit.
- Yogurt Drops
- Iceberg Lettuce
- Hamster Food
- Peanut Butter
- Meat & meat products
So always do your research, never feed a wild rabbit anything that you are not a hundred percent sure to be safe.
How Should You Feed Wild Rabbits?
Wanting to feed the wild rabbits in your yard during winter is one thing and getting them to come take the food is another.
Rabbits in the wild are usually wary of humans and usually scurry away into their burrows when humans approach. After all they are prey animals, they provably think that we are approaching them to catch them.
Feeding wild rabbits has to be done in a way where they do not feel threatened or uncomfortable. Here is what you should do.
- Step 1 – Designate a feeding spot for the rabbits (near their burrows)
- Step 2 – Place food and water in paper plates
- Step 3 – Stay far away from the burrows when not giving food
In this way the rabbits will come to know that you mean no harm and eventually come pick up the food that you give daily.
Make sure that you do not try to lure wild rabbits near your house with food. Remember, wild rabbits are wild animals and should be treated as such.
These rabbits have been known to be destructive to wooden houses as well as carry diseases that can be dangerous for you and your pets. Always feed them at some distance from your house.
How Much Food Does A Wild Rabbit Need Per Day?
Since the bulk of a wild rabbit’s diet is made up of grass, so rabbits need to eat a lot of food every day just to keep up with their calorie requirements.
An adult rabbit needs around 150 to 300 calories per day, that is why rabbits spend a large amount of day foraging for food during the warmer months. During winters when food is scarce, wild rabbits depend on stored fats to survive with less food.
So a couple of cups of a good mix of food daily is all that a bunny needs to survive through the winter.
What To Feed Baby Wild Rabbits?
Wild rabbits live in large and intricate burrows called warrens, since most rabbits reproduce every few months you may often find that rabbits living in your yard will have babies.
Rabbit babies are born without eyes or fur but grow up quite quickly, just in a few weeks they can start to come out of their burrow to explore their surroundings.
That being said, baby rabbits exclusively drink their mother’s milk during the first few months of their life and this nursing period can last up to spring if the babies are born during winter.
Never try to grab or feed baby rabbits as baby rabbits just cannot eat most things that adult rabbits eat. Plus, wild rabbits have also been known to abandon their babies if they are touched by humans.
The only time you should worry about baby rabbits is if they are orphaned or abandoned by their mother.
How To Take Care Of Orphaned Baby Wild Rabbits
Orphaned or abandoned wild rabbits are seldom able to survive on their own. If you spot an abandoned baby rabbits in your yard the the first thing you should do is call a wild animal rescue near you.
Wildlife rescuers can usually rehabilitate baby rabbits that have been orphaned but you should take care of them till the time rescuers can get the babies. Here is what you can do.
Step 1 – Bring the rabbits inside an place them in a warm and dry place away from direct sunlight and loud noises.
Step 2 – Prepare a place where the rabbits can be kept, something like a shoe box lined with a towel should be perfect.
Step 3 – Baby rabbits cannot drink cow’s milk or baby formula. They are more likely to drink goats milk which is quite similar to a rabbit’s milk in composition.
Step 4 – Keep the babies in a safe, shaded and noise free environment till you can hand them over to the authorities.
Remember, wild rabbit babies cannot be domesticated, they cannot become your pet so to make sure that they have the best chance of survival you should not keep them with you for too long otherwise they may never be able to return to the wild and live on their own.
What Else Can You Do To Help Wild Rabbits During The Winter?
Providing food and water to wild rabbits in the yard should help them quite a bit to survive through the winter but if you still want to do more then here are some steps you can take to make sure the rabbits have a nice and comfortable time.
Anything you can do for these rabbits will surely help them live longer and have a happy life so here are 10 things you can do to help.
- Do not go near their nest more than once a day
- Do not try to look inside the burrows
- Do not dig near their nest
- Do not chase any of the rabbits
- Keep your pets away from rabbit nests
- Do not let your children go near the nest
- Try to protect the nest from predators such as cats or snakes
- Do not try to touch or grab any of the wild rabbits
- Do not spray pesticides or chemicals in your yard while rabbits are nesting
- Do not play loud music near the rabbit’s nest
Adhreing to these will make sure that the wild rabbits in your yard feel safe and not abandon their nest. If you can provide a suitable environment for them to nest they may come to your yard to nest again next year.
Now that you know everything that you need to know about what to feed wild rabbits in the winter, go ahead, take care of those cute bunnies. Check out some of our other articles on what rabbits can and cannot eat.
- Can Rabbits Eat Cucumber? Fruit, Leaves & Flowers?
- Can Rabbits Eat Chocolate? Is Chocolate Safe For Rabbits?
- Can Rabbits Eat Watermelon? All That You Need To Know!
- Can Rabbits Eat Broccoli? Stalks, Leaves & Flowers?
- Can Pet Rabbits Eat Apples – Fruit, Skin & Seeds?
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