Rabbits love to chow down on a huge variety of vegetables and other plant matter. From grass and hay to leafy greens and even a few fruits, rabbits are some of the most prolific produce eaters in the animal kingdom. And they are also persistent garden pests, just ask any gardener!
Jokes aside, it makes sense that rabbits should be able to eat pretty much any veggie, right? But in truth, there are some veggies out there that can cause issues for them despite their seemingly great nutritional content. Let’s look at broccoli. Is it safe for rabbits to eat broccoli?
Yes, broccoli is safe for rabbits but only occasionally and in small quantities. Despite being highly nutritious, broccoli may cause them gas, a condition which is painful for them and can, in some cases, be fatal.
Talk about a rude surprise! Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables around, and rabbits can definitely benefit from that nutrition in their diet, but you should never let your rabbits eat freely from broccoli or deliberately serve them too much.
Doing so is going to set them up for a devastating disruption of their digestive system…
You don’t need to be afraid if you’re going to give broccoli to your rabbits, but you do need to know how much you should give them, and when. I’ll tell you everything you need to know below…
Do Rabbits Like Broccoli?
Generally, yes, but some rabbits avoid it from what I’ve seen or else they will be pretty picky with the parts that they eat.
If your rabbits will eat it, and you serve it to them responsibly, great, but you don’t need to go overboard and force them to have it when they have so many other, better choices.
Is Broccoli a Healthy Food for Them?
Yes, broccoli is definitely a healthy food and it can be a good source of nutrition for rabbits but it is one that has some serious drawbacks you’ll have to account for.
I’ll talk about those in the next section, but for now, let’s break down the macro and micronutrient content of broccoli.
Up first, we find that broccoli is a surprisingly good source of protein for rabbits and also carbohydrates, carbs being mostly in the form of fiber but it has a fair bit of sugar, also. Broccoli has very little fat, though as you’d expect.
And looking at the vitamins this is where broccoli really starts to show off, because it has a huge assortment and a tremendous amount concerning several of.
Broccoli has vitamin A and beta carotene, a big variety of the B-complex vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and folate, choline, a humongous amount of vitamin C and vitamin K, backed up by a little bit of vitamin E.
Truly impressive, and broccoli is deserving of its reputation as a vitamin-rich vegetable.
Looking at the mineral content we see that it’s nowhere near as impressive as the vitamins but still substantial for our rabbits. Broccoli has calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and zinc along with a little sodium.
All together, these nutrients will definitely help boost the health of your rabbits but that won’t make much of a difference if you give them too much broccoli because it can make them dreadfully sick and it isn’t anything close to a mainstay of their diet.
Caution: Broccoli Could Cause Gas in Rabbits
The biggest issue with broccoli concerning the diet of rabbits is that it has a tendency to cause gas.
Now, if you don’t know much about rabbit biology that doesn’t sound like that big of a deal: if your dog or cat gets gas, you’ll just have to put up with farts that can wake the dead, but it won’t hurt them. But it isn’t the same thing with rabbits…
Rabbits cannot expel gas like people and other animals can and that means it becomes trapped in their digestive tract in one location or another. At best, this causes discomfort and usually a loss of appetite.
At worst, this gas buildup can kill them! In any case, it will cause pain for your rabbit and that pain can be agonizing.
Gas usually forms in a rabbit’s digestive tract from ingesting foods that are high in starch or sugar, and many veggies certainly fit in that category. Broccoli, as you’d expect, is one of them, though not all parts of the plant are likely to cause this issue in the same way.
The bottom line is that you should always limit the amount of broccoli that your rabbits get. It is only a supplemental food to their usual grass or hay, and even as a supplement, you should be rotating it out with other produce periodically to keep their diet varied.
Are Broccoli Leaves Okay for Rabbits?
Yes, broccoli leaves are just fine for rabbits and are actually the ideal part of the plant that they should eat. The leaves are easy to eat and generally desired by most rabbits, and are far less likely to cause gas.
Are Broccoli Florets Okay for Rabbits?
Yes, but only in very limited amounts. The florets are healthy and easy for rabbits to eat, and most rabbits seem to prefer them more than the stalks, but they have a tendency to create that gas buildup we are worried about.
Are Broccoli Stems Okay for Rabbits?
Yes, broccoli stems are edible by rabbits and safe in very limited quantities as I’ve already detailed. But, most rabbits seem to avoid the stalks and they, like the florets, can result in gas buildup.
How Often Should Rabbits Eat Broccoli?
Rabbits can have broccoli only a couple times a week assuming they are getting it as part of a well-rounded diet, and then only in rotation with other safe vegetables that they can have.
A good rule of thumb is to only give them about one tablespoon worth of broccoli for every 2 pounds of body weight, and even then be alert to any potential problems or changes in behavior. I’ve found that many rabbits show an individual sensitivity to gassiness.
If you notice any problems whatsoever, reduce the amount of broccoli that you give your rabbits or the frequency with which you feed it to them, or just discontinue it entirely.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Broccoli to Rabbits?
In all cases, thoroughly wash and dry broccoli before preparing. The best way to give them broccoli is just as leaves: rabbits love the leaves, and they are much easier for them to digest without worries of gas buildup.
If you’re going to give them stalks and florets, chop them up into small tidbits that are easy for them to eat, and this will also make it easier for you to measure a precise amount.
Remember, one tablespoon for every 2 pounds of weight is all they should have in a serving and that amount should be deducted from the total amount of non-leafy vegetables they are having as part of their diet.
Also, if you’re going to try to feed them the stems pick the smaller, tender ones that fork and branch into the crowns; most rabbits will more readily eat these than the hard, rubbery main stalks.
Never Give Rabbits Spoiled Broccoli
Broccoli can already be problematic enough for rabbits in the best of times, so you don’t need to exacerbate the risks by giving spoiled broccoli to them.
Any broccoli that has started to turn brown, go slimy, or grow mold should be thrown out. Never feed this stuff to your rabbits if you care about them!
It is highly likely to make your rabbits sick and even if it doesn’t it can disrupt the contents of the cecum which rabbits rely on to help process and digest their food.
This can lead to a sort of vicious cycle where a rabbit’s digestive tract gets worse and worse, and without medical care, it’s likely that they will die… You don’t want to risk it, trust me, so only give your rabbits fresh broccoli that you’d have no objection to eating yourself.
Is Broccoli Safe for Bunnies, Too?
Yes, but with major reservations. Broccoli comes with a major catch for bunnies in that they are even more sensitive to gas buildup and their digestive tract is even more fragile compared to adult rabbits.
I wouldn’t give any broccoli whatsoever to a bunny that was any younger than 14 weeks of age, and even then, I would only give them the smallest amount for starters. Perhaps a teaspoon for every pound of body weight.
If you really want to give them broccoli, I would stick to giving them the leaves alone until they are completely mature and start with only a small amount.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.