Many people think rabbits live on carrots, just like they think mice live on cheese. In truth, maxims and classic cartoons have caused huge misconceptions about the diets of small pets.
I’ve worked in rabbit rescue for two decades. The public is so convinced that rabbits eat orange root vegetables that I’ve seen well-meaning pet parents adopt baby bunnies and plan to give them nothing but carrots and water! This is so far from a rabbit’s natural diet that it would probably kill a bunny – especially a baby.
So what is a rabbit’s natural diet? Do carrots have a place in a healthy salad for bunnies? How many carrots can rabbits eat daily as a treat? We’ll dive into the answers in this article.
Can Rabbits Eat Carrots?
Rabbits can eat a slice of carrot as an occasional treat. Carrots are so high in sugar that they should be treated like fruit for rabbits, rather than vegetables. You can give your adult bunny two 1” square pieces of carrot or some carrot peels daily if it’s not also getting other treats.
Most veterinarians recommend a diet for rabbits that’s 20% -30% fiber, 12% -15% protein, and 3% -4% fat. You can achieve this by offering unlimited grass hay plus a handful of green vegetables and a sprinkling of commercial pellets for vitamins and minerals. High-carb treats like carrots, apples, or blueberries should be minimal.
Can Baby Rabbits Eat Carrots?
Recently weaned baby rabbits have extremely sensitive digestive systems. The switch from being lacto-vegetarians who eat milk and veggies to strict vegetarians requires a huge shift in a rabbit’s gut microflora. During this period, sugary treats like carrots or fruit can cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria that can lead to weaning enteritis or “fader baby syndrome.” Any stress, like moving to a new home, increases this risk.
If you adopt a baby rabbit, you should wait until it is at least 12 weeks old, fully transitioned to a hay-based diet, and has settled into your home for a month before introducing sugary or watery treats.
Nutritional Value of Carrots
Carrots are mostly water. Up to 90% of a carrot’s weight is moisture! Since carrots are full of water and electrolyte minerals, some people give their rabbits carrots to help them stay hydrated during heat or travel. This is a great use of carrots for bunnies, as long as the amount is small enough that it won’t “spoil their dinner” and cut into the amount of hay they eat. Rabbits need huge amounts hay to keep their guts moving, especially during travel or stress.
The edible portion of a carrot root is largely complex carbohydrates (including some fiber). Carrots have these nutritional values, per 100g.
- 0.9g of protein
- 10g of total carbohydrate
- 2.8 g of fiber
- 4.7 g of sugar
- 835 micrograms (16,706 IU) of vitamin A (source)
Carrots come in a rainbow of colors besides orange: red, white, yellow, and purple are common. The color of a carrot does not greatly affect its nutritional value; rabbits can eat all colors of carrots.
Risks of Feeding Carrots to Rabbits
Carrots are not toxic or poisonous to rabbits. Rabbits can safely eat all parts of the carrot plant. However, since carrot roots are high in sugar, bunnies that eat too many carrots can become overweight. They also won’t get as much fiber as they need from hay if they are filling up on treats.
Fiber is the most critical nutrient for keeping a rabbit’s gut healthy. Carrots have some fiber – about 3% – but that’s not much compared to the 35% found in timothy hay! If rabbits don’t chew enough fiber, their teeth won’t wear down correctly and could grow out of control. Even worse, their digestive systems can slow down, leading to fatal blockage or diarrhea.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin – meaning extra vitamin A isn’t excreted in urine with water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C. This means that rabbits can get vitamin A poisoning if they eat too many veggies rich in beta-carotene or other vitamin A sources.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, rabbits need between 5,000 IU/kg and 75,000 IU/kg in their diets. Excess vitamin A primarily affects pregnant rabbits and developing fetuses, but it’s good to keep this number in mind even if you just have a pet.
Remember that carrots aren’t the only veggie rich in vitamin A! Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens have lots of this nutrient as well.
How to Feed Carrots to Rabbits
Carrots are simple to feed to bunnies. Simply scrub the dirt from them and cut off any parts that are gray or starting to spoil. Rabbits definitely enjoy organic or farm-fresh carrots, but they’ll be happy with ones from the grocery store, or whatever you have on hand.
Do you need to peel carrots for rabbits?
No, you don’t need to peel carrots for rabbits as long as they are cleaned first. In fact, my bunnies love to eat my carrot peels! Even if you don’t want to feed your rabbits the peels, using a peeler to cut carrots into long strips is a great way to prepare them for bunnies. It’s so fun to watch the long carrot “noodle” disappear into your rabbit’s little mouth, and it keeps your bun busy for a while.
If you prefer to cut your carrots into chunks, that works, too. You can give rabbits one or two 1” pieces of carrot for every 5 pounds of body weight every day, as long as they aren’t also getting other sugary treats.
Should Rabbits Eat Carrots Every Day?
Rabbits can eat a small amount of a carrot daily. But they don’t need to! In fact, rabbits don’t eat root vegetables at all in the wild.
Spoiled pet bunnies love to indulge in treats like carrots, and feeding them can help you bond with your rabbit. But rabbits that get adequate nutrients from pellets, hay, and veggies don’t need carrots to stay healthy.
Can Rabbits Eat Baby Carrots?
Baby carrots are just regular carrots that are cut down to snacking size. Rabbits can eat baby carrots in the same portions as regular carrots.
Can Rabbits Eat Carrot Tops?
Yes! Rabbits can eat the green tops of carrots that you get from your garden or the farmer’s market. (And people can eat them, too!) Carrot tops are rich in fiber and much lower in carbohydrates than carrot roots, so consider them a “leafy green” as you plan your rabbit’s meals.
Just keep one thing in mind: Carrot tops have moderately high oxalic acid content. Oxalic acid can cause kidney problems in rabbits, so don’t feed carrot tops along with spinach or other veggies high in oxalate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Wild Rabbits Eat Carrots from Gardens?
Not in my garden! Wild rabbits sneak into my garden to eat green bean leaves, not carrots – and I think this is typical. Wild rabbits in America don’t dig burrows like European rabbits, and they definitely don’t go through the work of digging out root vegetables. They may munch on carrot tops in a garden but are more likely to go for sweeter greens like lettuce, peas, or beans.
How Many Carrots Should a Rabbit Eat Each Day?
Rabbits should eat less than one carrot every day. One medium-sized carrot weighs about 60 grams. Rabbits should eat only 5 to 10 grams of carrot per day, or 1/12 to 1/6th of a medium carrot.
Can Rabbits Eat Other Root Vegetables Like Parsnip?
Carrots are one of the safest root vegetables for rabbits. Other root vegetables come with more caution. Parsnips are high in phosphorus and starch, as well as having moderate amounts of oxalic acid. Beets have lots of great nutrients but are also high in oxalate and sugar. (And they’ll turn your rabbit’s pee pink!) In short, wild rabbits don’t eat root vegetables, and domestic rabbits shouldn’t have large amounts of them either.
Conclusion – Carrots are Okay in Moderation
The pet rabbit community is very vocal about the risks of too many carrots for rabbits, but this is out of necessity. It’s important to push back against the public’s misconception of carrots as a dietary staple for bunnies and advocate for healthy hay-based diets.
But as long as your bunny is eating a healthy diet rich in leafy greens, adding a small serving of carrot won’t hurt it! In fact, the natural sugars in carrots are much healthier for rabbits than packaged rabbit treats like yogurt drops.
Check out our other rabbit nutrition guides to learn how to craft a complex and nutrient-dense diet for your pet bunny!