I don’t have any human children, but some of my friends do. When they were pregnant, several of them made certain (totally unrealistic) plans for the baby. Cloth diapers, organic-only food, hourly use of hand sanitizer. On paper these things sound like a good idea, but in practice they’re just an expensive unnecessary nuisance that are in all likelihood going to make the kid kind of a pansy. Let them eat a bit of dirt, I say, and fortify that little immune system!
Bunnies are physiologically nothing like humans (closer to horses, in fact), but they’re way tougher than humans give them credit for. I’ve seen GHRS bunnies pull through too much awfulness to believe otherwise. But like humans, bunnies do have their own little food pyramid, and it looks like this:
When I first got Russell, I was measuring out with painstaking accuracy exactly one eighth of a cup of whatever pellet he was eating. I would compress his chopped greens to make sure it was precisely a quarter cup worth. He got one (no more) papaya treat per day, no fruit and definitely not as much hay as he needed because he wouldn’t eat it. It finally dawned on me that the pyramid is just a suggestion. It’s a strong suggestion, sure, but it can’t possibly take into account the needs and circumstances of every rabbit. That’s up to you, human. Here’s some food for thought:
Portion size: Russell, Jane and Bear would be miserable if they each got only an eighth of a cup of pellets and a handful of greens. Why? Because they’d be starving. They’re free-run buns and are extremely active. They run around, chase each other, jump and climb and explore the apartment. They don’t sit in a cage all day waiting for their HRS-recommended two to three hours of exercise. Therefore, just like active humans, they need a little extra fuel. Listen to your bunnies. If they gobble down what you give them and do the frantic nosing-around thing in their bowl, they’re probably still hungry.
Food type: This one is trickier. In my humble opinion, you must get to know your buns before you can say definitively what’s best for them. Just like people, bunnies aren’t going to eat what they don’t like. Sure, you can be a jerk and force your bunny to eat food she hates out of desperation, but is that really the kind of relationship you want with her? Russell, for example, started out with romaine and parsley. I added cilantro and he ate around it. I tried turnip greens and broccoli and carrot heads and he turned his adorable little nose up at all three. It takes time and, yes, money to figure out what works best for your bunnies, but it’s worth it. Now I know that Russell’s ultimate favorite is dandelion greens, that he loves Belgian endive (it’s like five bucks for one sprig, so of course he does) and that he absolutely will not eat Oxbow pellets.
Balance: If you try to strike a perfect balance between hay, pellets, greens and treats, have fun on your stroll down the path to certain madness. In a perfect world, bunnies would stuff themselves with timothy hay and high-fiber pellets and refuse all but locally sourced organic blueberries. As this is not the case, give your bun high-quality hay, greens and pellets that she likes and eats willingly and forget about it. Keep the bunny pyramid in mind, but ask yourself: Is my bunny eating? Is my bunny pooping? If the answer is yes, you’re probably fine.
Treats: Give them sparingly (one per day, max. Okay, two. But ONLY if they’ve been extra cute that day.) and stay away from anything that looks lab-made. Those yogurt drops they sell at Pet Supermarket? Yeah, no. If you’re in the area, go to GHRS and get the tubs of unsulphured papaya, the Probios cookies or the flavored timothy biscuits. Certain fruits are fine, too. Russell, Jane and Bear go absolutely insane over banana, so I save that for once every couple weeks. Their lagomorph excitement is indescribably cute.
The bottom line with food, as with just about anything else bunny-related, is this: Listen to your bunny. Also, here is an article from the House Rabbit Society on suggested fruits and vegetables.