The Wild Rabbits Diet, Eating Habits And Digestion System
The rabbits diet is far more complex then most people think. Understanding it can be a big help to controlling their numbers. By removing a supply of food or by making it tricky to eat or reach can really damage a colony! It’s best to understand the animals digestive system to then understand what it needs in terms of food.
The Rabbit’s Digestive System
Unlike a human, it’s key to the rabbits diet that is only eats the correct balance of fibre. This is so food can move at the right speed though the gut. If the food moves too fast it won’t be digested, leaving important nutrition in the fecal pellet (more on pellets soon). On the other hand, if the food moves too slowly it can lead to a misbalance causing the pH of the gut to favor aggressive bacteria. In layman terms, it makes the bunny ill and can lead to Myxomatosis or other diseases. This fibre also controls the rabbits continuously growing teeth as it wears at them during near endless chewing seasons.
The fecal pellets or “droppings” are very important to a rabbits diet. They are re-eaten to absorb all of the healthy protein and carbohydrate that was missed the first time. If the pellet is large and hard, it will not be eaten again. It’s the small, round and iconic shaped droppings(like in the picture below) that are re-eaten. That’s why you always find them in piles on flat, hard ground.
The Wild Rabbits Diet
Being one of the most destructive herbivores on the planet means the fluffy tailed foe can really damage ecosystems! The main bulk of the pest’s food is grass, but they will also eat anything green. This includes wild herbs, leaves and any crops they can find. It’s not uncommon for rabbits to eat mushrooms, fruits from trees and I have even seen them eat walnuts.
If other foods aren’t available, rabbits will strip the bark off from tree trunks and twigs. This is a sign that they are having a hard time finding food and is common around winter. This is one of the most destructive traits to the rabbit’s diet, as it can really damage trees.
Grazing is usually in the afternoon, from about 4:30 pm to 6 pm depending on the weather. The grazing area is often away from the warren and will be used until depleted. Grazing will last for a couple of hours before returning to the warren to rest and ingest the food.
So How Does This Help Control Rabbit Numbers?
If you cut off parts of the rabbit’s diet it will find survival much harder. This can be done by:
• Removing high value foods (such as apples and mushrooms)
• Protecting trees with chicken wire, which can also save the tree
• Cutting and removing grass (highly affective for gardens)
• Removing/crushing rabbit droppings
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